Beyond the Classroom: The Association of Graduate Students in Dance

 

Dance Studens
Photo Credit: Amy Masters

Introduction

 

UNCG Student Affairs advises and supports over 250 active student organizations across campus. From club sports and sustainability to media and performing arts such as dance, student organizations provide countless opportunities for networking and collaboration. Perhaps most importantly, these student organizations offer a surefire way of creating long-lasting connections even after graduation.

 

For graduate students, this can also lead them to their niche community on campus, and students can build camaraderie and good rapport with other graduate students who are not in their cohort. Thus, in continuing our celebration of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, The Graduate School recently spoke to members of the Association of Graduate Students in Dance (AGSD) and asked them about their research interests and their membership in the association. 

 

These graduate students have wide-ranging interests from interdisciplinary collaboration to social justice and community involvement. They are artists, scholars, educators, colleagues, peers, and creators who come from diverse backgrounds; in fact, many students have traveled extensively prior to enrollment in their programs at UNCG. 

 

The Graduate School had the honor of talking to members of the AGSD, including Allison Beaty (President), Caitlyn Schrader (Vice President). Allison McCarthy (Treasurer), KT Williams (Secretary), and first-year member, Marissa Finkelstein. The AGSD members have come from all across the United States, and they have an impressive repertoire of experience.

 

Dance Association
Photo Credit: Amy Masters

 

Allison Beaty is a current MFA candidate in her third and final year in the School of Dance at UNCG. She received her BA in Dance from Texas Tech University, which is where her passion for a career in dance was ignited. Now at UNCG, she is a Graduate Instructor of Record teaching courses in contemporary, jazz, ballet, and dance appreciation.

 

Caitlyn Schrader is an MFA Candidate and Graduate Teaching Associate in the School of Dance at UNCG. She holds a BA from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a MS from the University of Rochester. Originally from New York, she has since lived in Boston, Massachusetts, Northern France, and most recently spent a year living in Australia. Prior to UNCG, Caitlyn has performed with various companies and independent artists as well as taught, collaborated, produced, and presented her own work widely across the Northeast. She is also the School of Dance’s inaugural Minerva Scholar.

 

Allison McCarthy is an MFA Candidate and Graduate Teaching Associate in the School of Dance at UNCG. She has a BFA in acting with a dance minor from SUNY Fredonia. Her background is in musical theater and dance, and she has had opportunities to perform regionally with Blue Gate Musicals, nationally with The National Theater for Children, and internationally with Missoula Children’s Theater.

 

KT Williams is a second year graduate student in the School of Dance. In 2015, she earned her BFA in Dance from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she received the Donald Carducci Memorial Scholarship Award for overall excellence in dance performance. Prior to attending UNCG, KT has taught, choreographed, and performed with various dance companies and projects throughout Chicago, IL. She is currently an Instructor of Record in the School of Dance, teaching introductory courses in dance to non-major undergraduate students.

 

Marissa Finkelstein is a first-year MFA student originally from New Jersey, and she has trained in dance styles such as ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz, and tap since she was nine-years-old. She received her BA in Dance and Arts Administration from Muhlenberg College in 2018 and, prior to coming to UNCG, she worked as an educator, choreographer, and arts administrator throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. She is also pursuing her K-12 licensure in dance at UNCG.

 

Dance Students
Photo Credit: Amy Masters

The Association of Graduate Students in Dance

 

The members of the Association of Graduate Students in Dance “believe in human expression through movement, and seek to redefine and refine education about somatic, performance, and choreographic theory, and creative processes.”

 

When we spoke to members of the AGSD, several graduate students described their experience as one where they could help build new programs and events, find professional development and research opportunities, present at conferences, discover amazing funding resources, collaborate with peers, and practice leadership skills.

 

“My involvement in AGSD has provided me with integral resources and funding for diving deeply into my research, and has provided me with an accessible platform to share my creative and scholarly research with the UNCG community and beyond. In addition, my involvement in AGSD has provided me with opportunities to attend and present at national conferences and network with other professionals in my field,” Allison Beaty explained.

 

AGSD members have also had opportunities to connect with other students and the larger Greensboro community through their program and student-led organization: “One aspect I enjoy about being a part of AGSD is that we have the opportunity to not only benefit our School of Dance community, but our collaborations and efforts in sharing our knowledge of dance creates a positive impact on the UNCG campus at large,” KT Williams said.

 

For example, in the past, members have been able to bring in guest artists and host events. Most recently, in October, members of the AGSD developed the first “Improv Crawl” and coordinated with local musicians, dancers, art galleries, and businesses for an evening of live dance and music performances engaging the local community in downtown Greensboro.

 

“I am interested in bridging my interests in dance education with choreography to create work that is accessible and community-oriented. I would say the Improv Crawl was a way to explore types of spaces I might be interested in showing dance work,” Marissa Finkelstein explained.

 

For other members, the AGSD is a platform for graduate students to come together and exercise their leadership skills while presiding over events, building connections between students, and deciding how to best support graduate students. The AGSD provides leadership opportunities to all its members, and each member has the chance to propose ideas for the organization, and this can include everything from planning fundraisers to larger dance-related events. 

 

“For me personally, being a board member of AGSD has allowed me to take on a leadership role as a graduate student while also acting as a platform to help bridge connections between me as a graduate student with the undergraduate and local Greensboro community, beyond our UNCG campus. AGSD has been a key to my community building,” Caitlyn Schrader said.

 

Caitlyn Schrader
Photo Credit: Snovian Image

Research Interests

 

The AGSD has also opened exciting platforms for creative expression, collaboration, and interdisciplinary explorations. Moreover, the organization is focused on inspiring the Greensboro community and creating a positive impact. For some members, that means bridging their research interests to create work that is accessible and community-centered.

 

In many cases, the AGSD has been an important resource in finding opportunities to contribute to conversations about the research and personal interests that its members value. There are also avenues for accessing important funding and other resources to further those passions. 

 

Allison Beaty explained that she is conducting dance research at the intersection of artmaking and scientific inquiry: “My current choreographic research focuses on interdisciplinary, collaborative creative processes with other dancers, composers, and visual artists in the exploration of neurological concepts from the disciplines of cognitive neuroscience and psychology.”

 

Allison is also focused on how we store and recall memories; specifically, in how our current experiences change and evolve according to the different ways that we conceptualize our memories through recollection and embodiment.

 

AGSD Leaders
Photo Credit: Amy Masters

 

Likewise, Caitlyn Schrader’s research involves designing environments that reframe, rethink, and reconsider ideas from interdisciplinary perspectives. 

 

“I am deeply influenced by the power of transformative environments that open new possibilities for relationships and my current works blend together movement, conceptual art, performance art, and design,” Schrader said.

 

Caitlyn strives to understand how art is made, and her methods have utilized stage, film, architecture, new media, and social practices: “By offering and inviting new opportunities to see and design, my goal is to invite the possibility for more experiential engagement for the audience and performer, making dance as a shared human experience,” she explained. 

 

AGSD members have also expressed how their research interests often coincide with or connect to larger community concerns. In fact, Allison McCarthy is using dance, and the process involved in choreographing dance, for important social change. “My current project investigates the experiences of previously incarcerated women in North Carolina,” she said. 

 

Her membership in AGSD has allowed her to apply for grants and funding to further pursue her research interests while providing performance opportunities to share her work.

 

Allison McCarthy
Photo Credit: Hannah Long

 

For others, dance is a form of healing, and a site for transformation. 

 

“My embodied practice revolves around contemporary dance forms, paying specific attention to release techniques, somatic practices, anatomical awareness, improvisation, and interdisciplinary collaboration. Choreographically, I question traditional codes of contemporary dance performance; pedagogically, I encourage safe and efficient movement practices as a way to maintain a sustainable dancing body,” KT Williams explained.

 

KT Williams
Photo Credit: Adam Carlin

 

The College of Visual and Performing Arts

 

The College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) has over 1,500 students and an internationally recognized faculty of well over 100 members. The CVPA is an inclusive learning community and part of a campus-wide culture that embodies access, equity, diversity, excellence, and collaboration. The CVPA consists of four different schools, including art, music, theater, and dance.

 

For Graduate Students in the CVPA, the curriculum offers flexibility and customization for coursework based on your interests

 

Additionally, students across all four schools are in frequent collaboration with one another, sparking amazing interdisciplinary focuses that produce transformative experiences. For many students, interdisciplinary collaboration has elevated their performances, and provided countless research opportunities.

 

“I love how many arts disciplines are included in the CVPA, and how easy it is to collaborate across departments. Myself and other members of AGSD are in the school of dance, but we often collaborate with students in theater, music, visual art, etc. Interdisciplinary collaboration is important to me, and the CVPA sets us up for success!” Allison McCarthy said.

 

Graduate students are also able to work side-by-side with amazing faculty members, who provide mentorship and support. 

 

“I most appreciate the dedicated mentorship of the faculty, specifically in my case the support and guidance I receive from my thesis committee, Dr. Teresa Heiland, B.J. Sullivan, and Robin Gee, and my faculty advisor for my psychology research, Dr. Peter Delaney. Their mentorship continually pushes my thinking forward, helps me dive deeper into my learning, and encourages me to be who I am as an artist, educator, researcher, and whole person,” Allison Beaty said.

 

Allison Beaty
Photo Credit: Yilin Wang

Leaving an Impact

 

For all members of the AGSD, being a part of a graduate-level organization has opened new paths to explore their passions and interests. Not only do they have the ability to work with their peers outside of the classroom and required coursework, but the organization gives them the agency to create programs and events that excite them as dance artists! The organization has also been able to help members connect the UNCG and Greensboro communities with dance that is innovative and accessible. 

 

For current and prospective students who might also be interested in joining a UNCG organization, the members of the AGSD spoke about the importance of finding your people, of refining your research and leadership skills, and connecting with disciplines outside of your own. 

 

“I see joining organizations during your time at UNCG as yet another layer to your educational experience – a time to connect with others either from your own discipline or other disciplines across campus – it’s an opportunity to build community and connect with like-minded individuals,” Caitlyn Schrader said.

 

Graduate Students can also find a space to learn from others and listen to different perspectives from those outside of their chosen field. There are also numerous opportunities for personal and professional development, and students can access incredible resources, including a breadth of knowledge from like-minded individuals.

 

Think about what can really support your goals and research and how your involvement in an organization can be useful in preparing you for the future – and also think about if involvement in an organization brings you joy and moments of being in community with others,” Marissa Finkelstein concluded.

 

Marissa Finkelstein
Photo Credit: Caroline Haidet

 

 

Check out more from the UNCG AGSD on their Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/agsduncg/

And find more interesting stories featuring our students and faculty here on our blog!

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