Undergrad Juggles Physics, Astronomy, And … Rings

By Melissa Greco Lopes
Univ. Communications

As a Take 5 scholar at the University of Rochester, Adam Lanman augmented his education in physics and astronomy with the study of equilibristics and manipulation. While these may sound like terms heard in a science lab, they’re actually the nomenclature of a different venue: the circus stage. And, thanks to Take 5, a program that allowed Lanman to spend a fifth year at Rochester tuition free conducting an independent study with the Department of Dance and Movement, he was able to immerse himself in the art of circus performance. His work culminated on Saturday, April 27, during No Elephants Allowed, a performance of skills and tricks he acquired during his year-long study.

A four-year member of the University’s Strong Jugglers, Lanman parlayed his interest in juggling into a research project that sent him to Bristol, UK for fall 2012. There, he studied with Circomedia, a school that specializes in four areas of circus performance: physical theater, partner acrobatics and tumbling, aerial skills including the trapeze, ropes, and silks, and equilibristics and manipulation, which includes juggling and balancing on unicycles and stilts. During his three months at Circomedia, he trained extensively to prepare his body for the twists, turns, and balancing moves required of a circus performer. After five weeks on basic skills, he focused on juggling, equilibristics, and manipulation.

For Lanman, the connection between circus performance and dance was obvious. “There’s a movement in contemporary circus performance that has shifted from the spectacle and awe you might see in Barnum & Bailey to a more aesthetic, artistic appeal that has similar goals to dance,” says Lanman, noting the rise in popularity of shows like Cirque du Soleil. When he returned to Rochester for the spring semester, he enrolled in courses that taught choreography, improvisation, and playwriting.

During Lanman’s performance on Saturday, he showcased a variety of juggling tricks, including a two-stage pirouette, in which he tossed three objects into the air, spun once, caught two of the objects, spun again, and caught the third. He also performed acrobatics and dance routines and showed off some newly acquired clowning skills.

A native of White Plains, N.Y., Lanman will finish his Take 5 year this May, and head to Brown University to pursue a doctoral degree in physics.

Dance Conference Gets Students Moving

Univ. Communications – The University of Rochester’s Program of Dance and Movement has for years been a small but vibrant community. Perhaps many of you are unfamiliar with the academics of the dance program but the presence of dance as an integral part of campus life cannot be denied.  There are nine extracurricular dance ensembles and regular performances by invited groups. Within the program, however, students find even more opportunities to explore new styles and connect with dancers from other universities.

The weekend before Spring Break, 10 dance students, along with program director Missy Pfohl Smith and dance instructor Courtney World, traveled to Penn State University for the annual American College Dance Festival Association’s Northeast regional conference.  The enthusiastic students kept a blog chronicling their experiences of conference, which consisted of workshops on different dance techniques and principles of motion. There were also performances by dance ensembles from various colleges, including Rochester.

“Since we all come from very different backgrounds in regard to styles of dance and amount of experience, the conference gave us a chance to come together and grow as dancers individually and as a group,” said Emily Hart ’12, a chemistry major and psychology minor. “Keeping the blog was a way to remember the little moments we loved and to stay connected with everyone on the trip and the members of our groups back in Rochester.”

Dance workshops ranged from more traditional jazz and tap instruction to contemporary styles such as house and hip-hop. The students were free to choose which classes to attend and they enthusiastically recounted their social and educational experiences through blog posts.  The instructors also had an opportunity to partake in the workshops as students.   The weekend was “a whirlwind of information, inspiration and connection,” blogged Smith.

The Rochester students gave two performances, one informal called Alien Nation and a formal performance titled Time/Save/Loss/Return. Afterward, Smith wrote: “I just want to share how proud I am of Alaina, Nichole, Lauren, Sydney and Robert, who performed with conviction, honesty and intention today. The fullness of their movement and their connection to one another was very moving and many colleagues; both those I know and those I met this weekend sought me out to congratulate me on what a meaningful and impressive commitment they showed in the work.”

Since their return the student participants have been eager to implement the new techniques they learned into their personal dance and performances with groups like Indulgence, Louvre Performance Ensemble, and Ballet Performance Group. “I’m incredibly thankful that the administration at UR is supporting the dance community on campus. There are a lot of students with plenty of passion for dance,” said Hart, who is a member of both Louvre and BPG. “Dance has been the biggest factor in making my undergraduate experience as fulfilling as it has been,”

“The weekend literally felt like one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ moments for me. I never had the chance to experience so much dancing and actually [be] able to watch live performances,” blogged Octavia Rhim ’15, a member of Sihir Bellydancing Ensemble and Indulgence, at the end of the weekend. “I think that any college student passionate about dance or even just interested, should have the opportunity to go to ACDFA.”

Article written by Maya Dukmasova, a Take 5 Scholar at the University of Rochester and an intern at University Communications. She majored in philosophy and religion and focused her Take 5 year on researching the way American media covers current events in the Muslim world. An aspiring journalist, Dukmasova has freelanced for Rochester Magazine, the Phoenix New Times, and the Daily News Egypt in Cairo. She also maintains two blogs, one devoted to culture and society in Russia (www.out-of-russia.com) and the other to photography (www.myorientalism.com).

In The First Photo: From left to right are students Sierrah Grigsby ’13, Sydney Robinson ’14, Robert Chen ’11, Nicole Zizzi ’14, Octavia Rhim’15, and Emily Hart’12. Photos courtesy of the student participants.