Dancing in the ‘Secret Garden’

Against a city and nature background, dancer in a blue shirt, blue mask, and black leggings touches tree bark with hands while looking up toward branches.

By Amelia Martinez

I had the pleasure of observing the freshmen Improvisation class taught by Christine Colosimo. The talented young dancers were creating and learning in a new environment that was a beautiful nature filled area, filled with warm sunlight through the trees on this October day. With masks on, the class transitioned to an outdoor classroom to allow for safe distancing in the pandemic, as well as providing Zoom for those who choose to attend class from their homes.

Dancers in masks, hoodies, and athletic pants are spread across a field of grass. One dancer stands in a light blue hoodie, has their back to the camera with arms spread out to the sides, and head tilted slightly to the right.

Christine led them through many peaceful and experiential exercises, allowing them to observe the natural space around them. She related these exercises to Avatar the Last Airbender’s elements: Water, Earth, Fire, and Air. There were dancers who chose to dance based on the observations they found from the brick wall, the trees, the expanse of the space, and even the grass.

Dancer in a white hoodie lays down on grass. Their hand gently touches the green grass and newly fallen yellow leaves.

Throughout the class there were opportunities to create movement and share them with the class in groups. The Zoom classmates were not left out at all, as the outdoor class circled around the screen, a safe distance away from each other, to see the movement discoveries that were being made. After they showed their improved movement, they shared in discussion about their learning. One student on Zoom danced in their kitchen with a chili pepper and found that they were relating to nature in a new way. Thinking about the growth and agricultural process it takes for that chili pepper to make it to their kitchen right then and soon to nourish their body, inspired a movement that was new and exciting for them.

Professor Colosimo sits on the grass with a black shirt, grey pants, and white mask with a clear barrier over mouth. Christine is holding the Zoom class on her silver computer toward the outdoor class to watch their movement and listen to their reflections

The dancers had some time to reflect with paper and pen about their experiences dancing in nature and they came up with unique drawings and poems! These helped them to have a tangible record of what they were experiencing in this class that will hopefully continue to inspire them in their dance creations for the future.

Dancer in a grey and white striped zip up sweater and red mask, shows an orange drawing made as a reflection to their improvisational movement that was shared in class.

Finally, the dancers moved across the expanse of the “Secret Garden” to engage all their discoveries in a full-bodied expression of movement. Seeing their movements come alive in their own unique way was a beautiful experience and it makes me so hopeful for this new generation of Temple dancers!!

Dancers in masks, hoodies, and athletic pants spread out across a brick wall in various dance poses or mid movement, while being socially distanced.


Amelia Martinez, MFA in Dance Candidate. Amelia is in a grey shirt against a white background and offset black shadow of her body while her face looks past the camera.

Walking The City

Temple’s dance department has a mix of graduate students working towards an MA, MFA, or PhD.  The MA’s and MFA’s take many classes together.  One of the courses that is a core course for MFA’s and an elective for MA’s is “Choreographing Philadelphia” a site-specific course often taught by the professor Jillian Harris (link: https://www.temple.edu/boyer/about/people/jillianharris.asp )

One of the first assignments for this class is to take a walk and explore an area Philadelphia that is new to us.  Here is a video that current MA student Kalila Kingsford Smith created along the water front in Philadelphia (Penn’s Landing and the Piers).  Enjoy her exploration of this dynamic city, her dancing, and her contemplation of our dance lineage through her references to Leah Stein, an accomplished Philadelphia site-specific dance artist.


“As I walk I notice I’m drawn to patterns, lines, frames, stones. I’m also drawn to circles, pathways coming to a point.”


“I think about Leah Stein walking similar paths.

She would notice her body, the concrete, the weeds poking through, the water”



— Alissa Elegant, MFA Student

Temple Dance at ACDA

Congratulations to our Temple Dance students who performed at ACDA at the University of Maryland College Park on March 8-11 2017! M.F.A. student Muyu Yuan presented her duet, Trio, and senior B.F.A. student Meghan McFerran presented her work, Vignette For You, at the Adjudicated Concert. M.F.A. Chrissy Eltvedt presented her work, L’Angelus, at the informal concert.

Both adjudicated pieces were chosen to perform at the Gala on Saturday night! Each piece received excellent feedback and impressed many students and faculty members from other universities. Temple was the big name all around the conference! Congratulations to the dancers, choreographers, and Temple Dance!


Professor Merían Soto Awarded 2016 Leeway Transformation Award

Congratulations to Professor Merìan Soto for being awarded the 2016 Leeway Transformation Award and for her feature in Contact Quarterly! Read about Soto’s commitment to the Philadelphia dance community and her recent artistic explorations HERE!

Soto’s work Todos Mis Muertos (1996) is inspired by life, death, and memories of her treasured Mamita. The piece was recently reconstructed and performed for the Fleisher Art Memorial. Read more about Soto’s choreographic process and spiritual endeavors HERE!


Photo Credit: Bill H

MA Program: Student Perspective

My name is Shannon O’Hara, I am a native of New Jersey and am currently working towards my Master of Arts in Dance. After graduating with my bachelor’s degree I felt that graduate school would be an integral part of my growth and development as a professional in the field of dance. After graduating with my Bachelor of Arts in Dance Education I felt that I was equipped with a solid foundation of information and experience but sensed that my research and participation in academia was just beginning. During my time at Temple I hope to continue my research in dance education while also exploring and developing my voice as a creator and scholar. As I continue through my own education I am presently most interested in developing ways to utilize multiple roles of dance to better educate and influence how I approach all experiences I have with this fine art form. Research topics I am also interested in investigating during my time at Temple are the representation of pedagogical courses in higher education as well as the content of dance teacher preparation programs in the academy. Thanks to Temple’s graduate school programs, I am able to continue my own education while working to contribute to the dance community as a whole.



Scholar-in-Residence Program 2016: Q and A with Dr. Harmony Bench

Temple University 


Scholar-in-Residence Program 2016: Q and A with Harmony Bench

Harmony Bench is Assistant Professor in the Department of Dance at The Ohio State University, where she is also affiliated faculty with Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Translational Data Analytics. Her writing has appeared in numerous edited collections, as well as Dance Research JournalThe International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital MediaParticipations, and Performance Matters, among others. Projects underway include a book in contract with University of Minnesota Press, tentatively entitled Dance as Common: Movement as Belonging in Digital Cultures, as well as Mapping Touring, a digital humanities and database project focused on the performance engagements of early 20th century dance companies.

M.F.A. candidate Amanda Keller had the opportunity to ask Dr. Bench, a few questions about her experience as a scholar and artist and her upcoming residency at Temple.

Q: What has surprised you most about the field of dance?

This is such a huge question! One thing that has really surprised me is the extent to which amateur and professional dancers and dance-makers have taken to the Web to promote themselves and share their work through studio videos, clips of performances, and even entire films. There is such a strong academic narrative of dance being “of the body” or about “liveness” or the centrality of oral transmission of dance histories that one might have been led to believe that social media would not have a profound impact on the broader field of dance. While I’m not surprised that this has proved to be untrue, I am surprised at the extent to which it has been refuted. I think dance scholars must now go through the work of deciphering what this treasure trove of continuously updated movement content means for movement and cultural literacies, for dance education, and for practices of transmission.

Q:  As a faculty member in the Department of Dance and in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department at Ohio State, how are these fields related to each other? Do you think there is a wide gap between the two fields that need to be addressed?

I think dance and feminist studies are highly complementary fields of investigation. If we look at the beginnings of what some now call critical dance studies, we see feminist inquiry as a fundamental component of that work. I’m thinking here of Susan Leigh Foster, Ann Cooper Albright, Cynthia Novack, and Jane Desmond. Of course there are many others, but these were the scholars I first encountered as an undergraduate student majoring in ballet and women’s studies. They made me feel like there was something both useful and urgent in bringing these fields together. As both areas of scholarship have continued to evolve, I think they have found even more common ground in their mutual interest in (mostly human but also non-human) bodies, and how culture shapes what bodies do and what they can be said to mean—including but not limited to questions of representation. Further, more scholars are thinking aesthetics and politics, and aesthetic practices and political practices, together. Colonization, global migration, and protest, for example, are pressing concerns for dance scholars as well as political theorists, and concepts such as choreography, technique, practice, and performance enable scholars to think about how movement emerges from or is organized in contexts other than dance. As for whether or not there is a gap between the two fields, I think that’s the place of investigation—whatever choreographic, written, or other form that inquiry might take. The point is not to seal the gap shut, but to see what previously unthought possibilities arise in trying to bridge it.

Q: How can dance fit/remain current in an ever increasing digitized world?

I hear some version of this question a lot, and I think there’s an underlying fear that dance is losing its cultural relevance, and by extension, its economic viability as a career path. But I think we really need to examine what is meant by “dance” in questions like this. If we can expand our definition beyond artistic works crafted for a theatrical context and the training systems that have developed to support those types of productions, then I think the question we need to ask is not how dance remains current in a digitized world, but what dance or movement practices have currency within a digital norm, and what digital practices facilitate access to and cultivate fluency in dance or other movement practices? Then we can also ask how dancers, dance-makers, dance educators, and dance scholars position themselves in relation to technological change, and how we individually and collectively navigate aesthetic commitments and ethico-political responsibilities under new circumstances of mediation.

The anxieties that still surround digital technologies once accompanied other media such as print and cinema, and they will similarly greet whatever paradigm supersedes the digital era. As long as dancing continues to offer a vehicle for questioning and manifesting what it is to be human and have a body, experimenting with entering into and exiting from systems of relation among human and non-human parties, and offering a way to apprehend motional and emotional (affective) ideas, it will be current. Dancing will be current as long as people find reasons to keep dancing.

Q: What excites you the most about your upcoming residency at Temple?

Temple has a very impressive faculty, and I’m excited to exchange work and have conversations with such stellar scholars. There is incredible generosity built into the residency, and I’m looking forward to all the opportunities to share in an intellectual community with faculty and students. Additionally, every dance program has a unique profile. I’m interested to experience first hand the kinds of inquiry taking place at Temple, and the atmosphere and ethos of the program.

MFA Student Presents Work at ACDA

This past March, MFA student Maria Bauman along with fellow Temple BFA and MFA students attended the American College Dance Association. Maria’s work, “The Well,” was presented at the conference at Brockport University.



The music credit and the program note from Audre Lorde are there. Instead of Bethlehem Roberson, though, the singer for ACDA was Chelsea-Ann Jones. She is a freshman music theater major at Temple.


Maria Bauman photo credit David B. Smith

Maria Bauman, from Jacksonville, FL, is a dance artist and community organizer. Her choreography for her company MBDance is based on her sense of physical and emotional power, desire for equity, and fascination with intimacy and relationship. Bauman brings the same tenets to organizing to undo racism in the arts and beyond with ACRE (Artists Co-creating Real Equity), the body she co-founded with Sarita Covington and Nathan Trice. Her MBDance work has been showcased across the country and in Singapore. She has been Associate Artistic Director of Urban Bush Women and danced with that company for many years, and has also danced with Nia Love, Paloma McGregor, jillsigman/thinkdance,  and many others. Check out more of her videos and creative process! vimeo.com/mbdance

Complexions Performance and Master Class Review

Complexions Contemporary Ballet was the first of eight companies to perform at the Prince Theatre in downtown Philadelphia, as part of Dance Affiliate’s NextMove series.

Complexions Co-Founder Dwight Rhoden arranged seven of his works for the Philadelphia stage.

The show opened with Ballad Unto… a Philadelphia premiere. With each articulation of the spine and brush of the arabesque, seven couples poured emotions of love and heartbreak into brisk and graceful movements en pointe.  Seamless partnering and gestural unison sections made the piece successful.

Next in the program was Gone, a trio performed by Kelly Marsh IV, Greg Blackmon and Timothy Stickney that illustrated a fight for survival. The men captured this motif beautifully, transitioning with ease from soars and darts through the air to complex floor work. The choreography and concept of the piece illuminated the athleticism of these three professionals.

Addison Ector stole the stage in Choke, a male duet exploding with themes of dominance and competition. Ector’s facials remained casual and royal while he whipped out triple attitude turns followed by a series of controlled extensions.

The final piece took an enormous risk on dance and artistry and succeeded with flying colors. Strum was a full company piece set to the music of Metallica. Watching this piece was like tasting, smelling and touching a rock concert through dance. The walking pathways were one of the most powerful aspects. Timothy Stickney stole the spotlight, expressing qualities of insanity, passion and pure stardom.


Master Class with Ashley Mayeux

On Friday, I attended the Complexions master class at Philadanco!, taught by dancer Ashley Mayeux.

I was surprised to find the class was mostly filled with younger dancers, around high school age, with little training in ballet or contemporary techniques. After a standard, fairly easy ballet barre, Ashley taught us part of a Complexions finale dance. The choreography was very basic and more fun than technical. I think this was largely due to the skill level of the class. Although I was somewhat disappointed that the master class was not up to the level or rigor that I expected, I appreciated Ashley’s professionalism and willingness to cater the class to the average ability level of the room. She made the class enjoyable for all of the dancers. If nothing else, I obtained valuable information from watching Ashley in class. I observed her artistic choices and studied how I can apply these choices to my dancing.



-Meghan McFerran

B.F.A. Dance

B.A. Journalism

Carols in Color 2014

Carols in Color 2014

This past weekend, I performed as a professional dancer for the first time in Eleone Dance Theatre’s Carols in Color. We danced at  The Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Delaware. Going into the performance, I had no idea what to expect. I was nervous but incredibly excited to finally display all of the pieces we had been working on since September.

As our company arrived at the theater, we were taken down to the dressing rooms, where we each got our own chair and a mirror with twinkling lights around it. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach as I took in a moment that I had been dreaming about since I was a child. My own mirror! I felt like a movie star as I started to prepare for my performance.

Because I was playing the part of an angel, I was put into a beautiful, long white dress. Everyone looked more angelic than I imagined. We stretched and warmed up backstage and ran a few numbers on stage.
Finally, the house was full and it was time to perform. The special element about Carols in Color is that there is a live choir accompanying our dancing. We hadn’t rehearsed with the singers prior to the show, so hearing their amazing voices along with our costumes and dancing made the show a perfect dream. I became engulfed in the story we were portraying, and I really felt like I was part of the nativity scene.

At the end of the show, all of the dancers came onstage and the choir sang “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” as we swung our skirts to the famous Christmas tune. Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked out into the smiling, inspired audience and up at the shimmering lights shining down on me. I had completed my first show dancing professionally, and officially started my dancing career.

I am so blessed to be a part of the Eleone Dance family, and I cannot wait to continue performing for the rest of my life.


Meghan McFerran

2nd Year B.F.A. Dance, B.A. Journalism