MFA Thesis Concert I-Victorious

By Princess Tanagna Payne

My piece for my Thesis Concert on September 27th and 28th 2019, was about sexual abuse and the traumas that can occur after an attack. Often times, victims are afraid to speak up not because the abuser may get punished, but because there nothing seems to be in it for them. I wanted to focus on healing and where that could possibly begin for someone, which led me to group therapy, one-on-one therapy with a licensed therapist or simply sharing with a loved one. In the piece, I chose to focus on group therapy and the idea of how abusers can also be victims too. In the beginning of the piece, there is a small visual to give an idea of the aftermath of the rape that leads into the first group therapy section where victims are invited to share their stories, but it can be difficult. Following therapy, the abuser knew that his actions were wrong and was tormenting himself. In the next group section, the victims are working to move from victim to victor where they are learning to build confidence and rely on their group members for support. The duet follows, and this is where the abusers and his victim are communicating about their tragedies, the last scene is where they invite the abuser to come to therapy, although his actions are not excused, they understand that he too needs help.

There were many changes to my piece last minute due to cast members leaving and the challenge was to present the same idea with a new framework. The challenge was a scary one, having to alter things four weeks before the show, but it was something that brought the cast members together and it made our relationship stronger. We trusted that each person would commit to their role and come in each day ready to work. We kept an open line of communication and shared things that worked and did not work. No one took anything personal and there was always positivity in the room.

For anyone presenting work soon, I say to stay committed to your idea and use your advisor to the best of your ability. Trust that your dancers will bring your vision to life and allow them to feel like they are also a part of the creative process. There will be things that you love one day, that you may not like the following week and that is okay. Scrap it and move on. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable with your cast members, it will only make the process easier. They can offer insight that you may not have thought about. Remember to take a break every now and then, sometimes your mind just needs a moment to shut down for a few hours. Do not be afraid to go for what you want, the only way you will know if it is achievable, is if you try.

Princess Tanagna Payne MFA in Dance

Ziying Cui’s Ballet Journey

By Ziying Cui

When I was a child, I remember I begged my mother to take me to every Swan Lake performance in my hometown. I was fascinated by the dancers’ virtuosity, the orderliness of the corps de ballet, the romantic love story, and the gorgeous costumes and stage settings. My early experience of watching ballet motivated me to study this Western dance genre. Within more than twenty years’ ballet training in China and the US, my curiosity of ballet expanded beyond idealizing my body alignment and mastering dance movements. I was intrigued by the rapid development of Chinese ballet and how this Western art found avid audiences and practitioners in China.

Ziying Cui


In 2016, I began to study a PhD in dance at Temple University. This allowed me to shift my position from a dance practitioner to a dance researcher. The first two-year’s course works not only broadened my view of the English dance scholarship, but also provided me a large amount of theoretical and methodological knowledge of conducting doctoral research in dance. I have had the honor to learn with some of the most celebrated scholars around the world, and observed diverse research projects. Beyond the coursework, my endeavors out of class in the past three years, including exams preparation, attending dance colloquiums, and dance conference presentations, helped to prepare my own research in Chinese ballet. In addition, adequate ballet classes and teachers at Temple allow me to keep practicing ballet while doing research.

As a non-native English speaker, I had to work harder in and out of class to catch up the academic works. While the first year was the most challenging, my professors and colleagues helped me through the difficult time. At Temple, faculty members are always there to help students, but most importantly we have to work hard to make progress through our own efforts.

Ziying Cui, PhD in Dance Student

Reflection Response: kNots & Nests

Photo by Matthew Altea


By Mijkalena Smith

My time performing and creating in the Reflection:Response Commission, kNots & Nests, by Marion Ramirez was undoubtedly one of the most meaningful experiences I have ever had. kNots & Nests is a multi-disciplinary creative project celebrating the duet as the smallest unit of community ( This project’s artistic collaborations include Marion Ramirez (project’s director/ dance department, Boyer) Adam Vidiskis (music department, Boyer School of Music and Dance), Kris Rumman (visual art, Tyler School of Art and Architecture), and Jungwoong Kim (dance, Boyer School of Music and Dance). Student Participants included artists from Temple dance, music, journalism, film, and visual art departments.  Never before have I been surrounded by such a diverse, creative, and genuine group of people.

I think sometimes at Temple we become stuck inside our own departments, constantly working and improvising with the same people day after day. Having the opportunity to work with artists from different Music department and Tyler school of Art brought a fresh, new atmosphere of creativity that allowed for the success of this project across various art mediums. Apprehensive about working with improvisation for the first time, Marion Ramirez facilitated a connection among us artists that helped me learn that this work was more about our relationship to each other and the concepts surrounding the piece, rather than exact movements or choreography.


Photo by Matthew Altea


An emotionally raw and vulnerable experience; I learned that pushing past one’s comfort zone with other artists creates the purest art. I learned how to reach out and express myself to people in a way I never would have imagined. It was a rich experience I am eternally grateful for and will certainly never forget.


Mijka Smith BFA Dance Student

Dance for All

Dance for All


Earlier this year, I accepted the position of Outreach Coordinator with BalletX. Our program, Dance eXchange, is partnering with three Philadelphia public schools this fall. Dance eXchange is a 13 week program that includes a field trip, mid-term performance for peers, and ends with a final performance on a professional stage open to friends, family, and the community, providing each child with a sense of pride in his or her achievement. Responsibilities with my role include leading the Teaching Artist team, administering the program, and setting future goals for the growth of Dance eXchange.

Dance eXchange is based on the award-winning pedagogy of National Dance Institute, founded by Jacques D’Amboise in 1977. This past summer, I was sent to New York City to train with NDI’s master teachers. Through dance instruction and live musical accompaniment, Dance eXchange motivates students to achieve a standard of excellence while learning basic dance skills such as sequencing, rhythm, tempo, and performance quality. Our method builds choreography sequences through repetition of simple, athletic gestures set to varying rhythms and tempos and competitive group games.

Our approach calls on its teachers to maintain a high energy level and positive attitude to support a respectful and engaging environment designed for success, with the goal to achieve a standard of excellence from all participants. Teaching Artists work to develop students’ listening skills through the use of live musical accompaniment, employing tempo and rhythm changes to heighten students’ focus and sense of timing.

This January, Dance eXchange will have its culminating performances at the Prince Theater. The event will be FREE and open to the public.

We’re off to a strong start! Teachers have already shared with me the positive ways that their students are responding to the program.

I’m grateful to BalletX for the opportunity to lead an effective and inspiring program and I’m excited about everything I’m learning. I’m proud that I get to change lives through dance for a living!


-Belle Alvarez, BFA 2014

Exclusive Interview with Complexions Contemporary Ballet Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director Desmond Richardson

The New York Times recognizes Complexions Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director Desmond Richardson as “One of the great modern dancers of his time.“ Richardson is praised for his captivating and cutting-edge work in the dance field. I had the privilege of asking Richardson about his life dedication to dance.

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When you were a young boy, you think you would be where you are today in your career?

When I was a young boy, I never thought I’d have the career I have today. Dancing has brought to me a wealth of experience and knowledge of the world, it’s exactly what I imagined it to be.

What inspires you to create new work?

What inspires me to create is my passion and how I view the world around me.

How do you recover from a bad day?

I recover from a bad day by breathing deep and realizing that I’m still standing, living and breathing and perhaps I may get another chance to explore and investigate this life a little bit more.

How would you define the word “success?”

I would define the word “success” as staying curious, on a continuous quest of exploration of myself.

What was a life-changing moment in your dance career?

Working with Michael Jackson.

What is one piece of advice you would give to young aspiring dancers?

Follow your passion. Be real, be honest and be in the moment so that your work reads across the foot lights.

You and Dwight Rhoden now offer a DVD, “Complexions Technique” in which dancers can receive Complexions training in their own homes. How has this product impacted you in the dance business, and what results have you seen after the DVD’s release?

Dwight and I have realized that it is certainly time to build a school and training ground for the next generation of formidable dancers.

What are your personal goals for the future and how to you set/achieve goals for yourself?

My goals for the future are immense, so to nail it down to one simple goal is daunting. I will tell you that a one man show for me is in the works and a lot of my energies are going toward that endeavor.

Click HERE to read a review of Complexions performance and master class in Philadelphia!


Meghan McFerran

B.F.A. Dance

B.A. Journalism

Merián Soto Awarded Pew Grant



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This year, Associate Dance Professor Merián Soto was awarded a Pew Fellowship from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage in Philadelphia. The Center has provided local artists, scholars and cultural organizations with 9.6 millions dollars worth of grants in 2015. Professor Soto was recognized by the Center for her 40-year career studying dance and performance through somatic investigations and process-oriented practices. Soto claims that she is continually working towards, “a dance of the future, a dance of healing, transformation, and transcendence.”

The Center has funded many of Soto’s creative and conceptual works, such as Branch Dance Series, SoMoS, and Wissahicken Park research project.

From studying Latino dance in New York to modern day creative explorations in Philadelphia,Merián Soto has built a name for herself and continues to inspire her students, young artists, and audiences of multiple dance and art backgrounds.




-Meghan McFerran

B.F.A. Dance

B.A. Journalism