Hannah Marcus (Dance BFA ‘20) is a dancer/creator/collaborator originally from Oak Park, IL. She loves working with artists across disciplines and has structured her time at Michigan by working collaboratively with other SMTD students. She is currently interested in exploring how the body can be supported and deconstructed through the employment of visual design and theatricality. Hannah has performed and/or created work at UMMA, the Power Center, Hill Auditorium, the North Campus Research Complex, Hankinson Rehearsal Hall, and of course good ‘ole Betty Pease Studio Theater. She is the Dance Student Assembly vice-president this year and is a new member of Arts in Color within the dance department.
So Hannah, tell us about your internship.
Well, I received funding from EXCEL to support an internship I did this summer in Columbus, OH with a relatively new dance company called FluxFlow Dance Project. I spent three months as their administrative intern and artistic apprentice, getting involved in the various events and classes they provide for their small community. My duties included helping manage their studio and assisting with company specific projects like press kit creation, promotional research, and content development. As a dancer, I took their company classes and worked with them on three artistic projects– a residency in OSU’s Dance Department Motion Lab and two weeks of a process-based creation period that culminated in different informal performances. I assisted the artistic director, Russell Leplely, as he created a work for Flux + Flow’s adult clients, and I accompanied him to the annual Dance/USA conference in Cleveland to network with arts presenters. It was a summer of major growth for me because I was mentored graciously and became deeply immersed in their work as a company.
Support from the EXCEL Internship Fund covered my living expenses while I spent my summer in Columbus. Without this resource, I wouldn’t have been able to work at FluxFlow for three months as an unpaid intern. I’m grateful to EXCEL for allowing me to explore my interests at a company that I admire and within a community that welcomed me with open arms.
That sounds awesome! Seems like you have been busy, because you were also studying abroad recently, correct?
Yes, I studied this past Winter semester at the London Contemporary Dance School. I took classes in ballet, contemporary, improvisation/partnering, Gaga, composition, psychoanalytic theory, and professional development. In my composition class, I built a piece with my friend from Finland and we performed it at primary schools around London. I also made and performed an improvisational solo in an informal studio performance.
I was inspired by the dancers and teachers I was around – constantly learning by observing, listening, and getting lost. My experience in a new, unfamiliar city was rich and full of self-exploration. I saw a ton of amazing shows and explored many art galleries, installations, and events. My commute to school was in the heart of the professional work commute, which was quite an experience!
What was challenging or interesting about this program?
The biggest difference about this program was the number of students that I was around all the time. Compared to Michigan’s small, tight-knit dance department, the London Contemporary Dance School had about twice as many dancers. It felt way different to only scratch the surface of getting to know everybody and their work within the conservatory, which was challenging to navigate at times. Also the fact that I was only there for one semester out of their three terms a year made it difficult to explore everything the school had to offer.
What I found to be most interesting about LCDS had to do with the specific nuances and systematic structure of the program. I found the layout of classes and the approaches of each teacher to be super logical and hugely beneficial. I also loved noticing the dancers I was around and acknowledging that many of my European peers had more experience in contact improvisation and floorwork than I had. I gained so much by observing them and understanding how they really eat up space and soar in the contemporary dance context.
What career coaching and arts leadership experience did you have on the trip?
I took one course called Professional Studies where I had to develop my CV according to UK standards, build an application for a project opportunity, refine my artist statement, and learn about different funding systems within the UK and beyond. We talked about differences between repertory companies and project-based companies, as well as how to cater my CV and past experiences to each one. I learned about different residency opportunities and festivals within Europe, as well as resources for learning about these opportunities. My professor in this class emphasized the fact that many contemporary dance companies are looking for mature artists that have at least a couple years of professional experience already. Instead of getting discouraged and not applying for a specific opportunity, she talked about using professional-calibre experiences in school as a way to talk about skills and experience you’ve gained. Through conversations like these, I learned how to demonstrate the depth of my experiences and not discount the value of what I’ve done previously.
How did your view of the dance world evolve because of this program?
This program, the people, and my exploration of the performing arts outside of the conservatory exposed me to new, multilayered ways of presenting the body. I got to see my peers’ work, the third year students’ theses, masters students’ work, and professional companies throughout London. I’ve always been curious about dance theater and the merging of theatricality with physicality, but I’m now hungrier to keep digging into possibilities of interdisciplinarity. Similarly, I witnessed different projects framing the body in relation to technology, architecture, and visual art, which has pulled my interest more in that direction than ever before.
What advice do you have for any students who are about to go abroad on how to make the most of your experience?
I kept a journal throughout my time traveling to help me collect my thoughts, and that was the biggest thing that served me in my time abroad. It was important to me to write down moments, phrases, feelings, and experiences that inspired me and that I was grappling with. I use this journal now to look back and break down my experiences, and it continues to be a great reference in my current artistic processes. I would encourage anyone that wants to travel and study in a different country to take the risk and do it alone. At times I felt a bit lost to have to fend for myself all the time, but the vast majority of my time abroad was filled with eye-opening experiences that I don’t think would’ve made as significant an impact if I weren’t on my own.
Are you taking any EXCEL classes this year?
Yes! I am finishing up my PAME minor and am currently enrolled in the DIY Marketing minicourse and the Teaching Artistry workshop. I am also enrolled in a 3-credit independent study as a follow-up to my internship with FluxFlow Dance Project this summer where I’ll be synthesizing everything I learned through a research paper.
What else is coming up for you this year?
I’m already starting to think about my Senior concert happening in April! My initial inspirations and ideas are coming straight from the experiences I had this summer and the previous semester in Europe. My physical research for this project has already begun, and I’m stoked to continue developing my ideas. Besides my thesis, I plan to work with a guest artist in the dance department (auditions are this week) for our annual Power Center shows. I also hope to follow the momentum I’ve built thus far at Michigan by continuing to collaborate and work on various projects with music students and other dance peers. Who knows what else will transpire this year!
Featured Photo by Stephen Harvey