Dance spurred by beauty

Janette Neuwahl Tannen, 11-28-2018

Students use art featured on campus as inspiration to create an original dance sequence.
Dancing Glass
Students from the Dance Improvisation class pose in front of the glass work titled Resurrection Angel by Pascale Monnin in the Lowe Art Museum. The piece inspired one group's dance that will be showcased in the Lowe's free Community Day this Saturday at 1 p.m. Photos: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami


There are paintings from the 1600s, beautiful glass pieces lining the walls, and towering sculptures found inside the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami.

Yet this weekend, there will also be a different form of art on display: dance.

This fall, Frost School of Music senior dance lecturer Carol Kaminsky and adjunct instructor Jorge Morejón took their students on a visit to the Lowe and asked them to find a piece of glass in the Myrna and Sheldon Palley Pavilion that inspired them. But not just because the glass was beautiful. The instructors wanted their students to find a piece that would spark them to create a dance. 

Carol Kaminsky, dance program coordinator in the Frost School of Music.

“The students learned to really look at something different, like art, and see more than what might be an immediate first impression,” Kaminsky said. “It is a process called imagine yourself as the artwork. This is the essence of dance.”

Since the museum has deemed 2018 as the ‘Year of Glass,’ there were plenty of choices for the students. And this Saturday, several groups will perform their dances at 1 p.m. as part of the Lowe Art Museum’s free community day, “The Wonder of Glass.” The dances — set to music composed by three Frost School of Music graduate students — are also the students’ final projects for the class, Kaminsky said.

The idea for the project came last spring when Kaminsky was taking her dance students to the Lowe, as she does most semesters. A staff member reminded her of a new grant opportunity through the CREATE Grants Program run by the Lowe and the UM Libraries that encourages faculty members to develop projects that engage with University’s cultural resources in innovative ways. Kaminsky designed the 'Dancing Glass' project to offer students a chance to create public art and utilize the Lowe in her class. She applied for a CREATE grant, which is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to execute the project and was awarded the grant last May.

“I hope this teaches students to face their fears of not knowing what to do, or of taking risks to try something very new, allowing themselves to be vulnerable, and coming up with something unexpected and totally original,” Kaminsky said.

Senior Valerie Francillon, a biochemistry major who danced throughout middle and high school, signed up for the course after three years of science classes in preparation for medical school. She said it was nice to get back into a dance studio through the improvisation class. Francillon’s group has created a technical dance motivated by Pascale Monnin's glass sculpture Resurrection Angel that is featured in the museum.

“It’s been a fun experience collaborating with others and it’s interesting to see how there were so many different interpretations of a piece of art,” Francillon said.

Spiral Neon
Students in front of Spiral Neon, which inspired two group's dances.

Throughout the class, students learned different elements of dance that they had to incorporate into their performance, such as changing the level of their bodies, timing their movements and the use of force, Kaminsky said. They were also asked to create a diagram or “score” of their dance, as part of the project.

On Saturday, three groups will present their dances, and Kaminsky and Morejón will also improvise a dance inspired by Janusz Walentynowicz's glass work titled Target. In addition, the community day will feature glass-inspired art projects, as well as glass-making workshops and flame-working demonstrations by glass artist and University of Miami lecturer, Jenna Efrein. If you plan to attend, RSVP here.