Department of Dance

Departmental Honors Spotlight

Each quarter, the University Honors Program showcases the remarkable work done by Honors students and faculty within their majors. While the programs vary from discipline to discipline, most typically conclude in a major research or artistic project and all challenge the students to bring their work to the next level. We hope that you enjoy discovering the many and diverse Honors programs in the departments around campus!
Jennifer Salk
Jennifer Salk

Associate Professor and Director

The Department of Dance Honors was shaped by our desire to encourage students to pursue scholarly and creative research in this emerging field. In addition, we wanted to encourage our double majors to find ways to combine interdisciplinary interests. We ask students to develop a research project that could result in a 15 – 25 page paper or in a 30 – 40 minute performance project. We invite students to think creatively and expansively about these projects, which may include: original choreography, performance, the creation of a site-specific work or dance for camera, or a dance reconstruction. Some of our students have conducted scientific research and presented that research in a symposium format as well as in a research paper. Honors students have free rein to create projects that interest them and push the boundaries of the field.

Rachel Morin
Rachel Morin, '13

B.A. with Honors in Dance, '13
B.S. in Biology, '13

Though finishing up a double degree in Dance and Biology, the Department of Dance has always been my home at the University of Washington. The community created by both the faculty and students is one that inspires creativity, collaboration and encourages people to pursue their own interests. From the very beginning of my research process my faculty advisor, Jennifer Salk, helped me narrow my idea, find resources, and connect me with colleagues who might be interested in participating in my study. Once the initial research was finished she encouraged me to present my work at the university’s Undergraduate Research Symposium this past spring, which I found to be an incredibly rewarding experience.

Due to the dance honors program’s small size I was able to adapt my project to fit my interests and my future goals - a physical therapy doctorate with a focus in dance medicine. Through my honors project I have been able to connect with many different practitioners, artists and teachers who have given me a new perspective on how we teach technique in the dance classroom. I am excited to take not only the knowledge I have gained from my research but the confidence and tools I have gained from Department of Dance in to my future professional and educational career.

Kyle Easterly
Kyle Easterly, '13

B.A. with Honors in Dance, '13
B.A. in Comparative History of Ideas, '13
Recipient of the Mary Aid de Vries Scholarship for artistic merit and service excellence in the Department of Dance in 2012-13

Being a Dance major at the University of Washington means exploring what it is to be both an artist and a scholar. The Department of Dance calls on students to bridge the intuitive to the analytical, the aesthetic to the theoretical, and the ponderous to the empirical. Through Departmental Honors, I was given an opportunity to pursue a research project that examined how gender is embodied and performed in daily life and dance. The project examined how onlookers perceive gender in the movement of animated figures when all other visual markers are removed. The Department of Dance prepares students to work as artists by encouraging them to gather a diverse set of skills, and this project allowed me to engage with choreography, movement analysis, data analysis, motion-capture technology, and with the process of doing research in a scholarly environment.

Now that I have graduated and I am moving on to the next stage of my life, I find myself using the broadest imaginable palette of those skills on a day-to-day basis. Whether I am programming lighting sequences for theatrical productions or self-analyzing my own performances for issues of gender and representation and while I prepare for a future career in healthcare, I find myself cherishing the knowledge I have gained in this department about the body and what it means to perform.

Jürg Koch
Jürg Koch

Assistant Professor

The Dance Honors option has the capacity to bridge creative and scientific academic research for projects and study trajectories that go beyond a traditional approach.

Kyle began a course of study in the Department of Dance in 2009. Already at this point it was clear that both her movement practice (acrobatics and Circus skills) as well as her academic interests, combining majors in CHID and Dance, made her a non-traditional student. Up to her graduation in June 2013 I was part of a team of mentors and was able to witness Kyle’s trajectory in the Honors Program, carving out the research topic, method and eventual output. Starting from an interest in the effect and implication of touch on psychological wellbeing, the project developed into an investigation on the performance and ‘reading’ of identity through the physical performance. Kyle’s research involved multiple research methodologies, and with its interdisciplinary scope, from the outset there were challenges to find appropriate support from all the units and disciplines involved. Kyle set up a creative research practice with individual students, collected and analyzed survey based data, collaborated with DXARTS and learnt to work with green screen technology to create abstracted, visual material that her test group had to categorize according to markers of femininity and masculinity. Kyle presented her process and findings as part of the undergraduate symposium as well as in a fully developed choreographic work. It was always my conviction that Kyle’s topic has the scope to be MFA if not PhD level research.

The dance honors program fully supported the complexity and interdisciplinary nature of Kyle’s research process. The nature of her investigative and artistic processes also raised the quality, range, and experience of her cohort and added greatly to the community of learners involved.

Siena Dumas Ang
Siena Dumas Ang, '15

Dance, Mathematics, Computer Science '15

Entering the University of Washington through the Robinson Center’s early entrance program, I didn’t know what I wanted to major in. I was drawn to the Department of Dance because of the incredible faculty, graduate students, and other undergraduates. Rehearsing weekly for performances as well as taking technique, choreography, anatomy and history classes in the department, I found that dance was my emotional escape; UW Dance provided an intellectually stimulating environment to craft my artistry as a dancer as well as examine emotional expression and integration of mathematical patterns into my choreography.

Currently a senior pursuing a triple major in Dance, Mathematics, and Computer Science, I spend most of my free time either in the CS labs or in the studio. My departmental honors project explores the role of emotion in dance, stemming from research involving theoretical texts, analysis of choreographic works, and experimental procedures during rehearsals. Abstractly, I am working with groups as algebraic structures and permuting the groups, with a particular focus on prime divisors of the group. While doing background research, I am preliminarily investigating intimacy and connection between the 11 dancers I am choreographing on for this year’s upcoming Dance Majors Concert. I am planning on staying a fifth year to complete my three degrees and extend this seven-minute work to a forty-minute piece, challenging my dancers to embody many emotions along with executing complicated group patterns.