A group of dancers at Murate Arts District, Florence, Italy. July 2022. PC: Robert Kearns

Dancing with Florence

Developing intercultural learning, disciplinary expertise, and understanding of place through site-specific dance

The goal of this collaborative project was to examine students’ global engagement in the context of a site-specific dance course and performance in Florence, Italy, June-July 2022. Twelve dance majors (9 rising seniors and 3 rising juniors) auditioned and were accepted to participate in the Dancing with Florence course taught by Professor Lauren Kearns. All dancers were also participants in the research collaboration.

In a presentation at the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) event in spring 2023, Kearns noted that, “I view my art making, teaching, and scholarship to be deeply entwined and interconnected. As such, this SoTL based research project and the course allowed me to simultaneously embody my identity as a teacher-scholar-artist-mentor.” Kearns and research partner Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler, Director of CRGE, also shared their SoTL research and pedagogical approaches at the Global Education Center Pedagogy Workshop in August 2023.

One finding from the project is that the dance students experienced a significant shift in their sense of self and how they perceive their identities, both personal and professional, in relation to the study abroad context. As one student noted,

“Making sure to include my identity and my culture and background into the work I’m doing, whether that’s my identity as an American or anything else…but it’s like a balancing act. The center focus is the context of the site you’re in, but also engaging your identity or your experience in the work as well.”

The work has been supported with a CRGE faculty research grant to Professor Kearns, as well as professional development support to present at two international conferences. Research partners Kearns, Vandermaas-Peeler, and global partner Elisabetta Santanni, Head of Student Life, Accademia Europea di Firenze (AEF), presented “Connecting Global and Career-integrated Learning: Opportunities and Challenges for Liberal Arts,” at the 2022 Forum on Education Abroad Conference in Milan, Italy. A second presentation of this research entitled, “Dancing in Florence: Developing Intercultural learning, Disciplinary Expertise, and Understanding of Place through Community-engaged Learning” will be presented at the 2023 ISSOTL conference in The Netherlands.

A significant creative outcome of the course was the conception and performance of “Catching Light”, an original site-specific dance film created on site at the Murate Arts District in Florence, Italy. The “Catching Light” dance film is below. Director & Choreographer: Lauren Kearns with movement improvisation by the dancers. Music: Giovanni Venosta (1961-present). Video Director & Editor: Robert Kearns. Sound Editor: Robert Kearns. Dancers: Eileena Boyce, Amanda Cousins, Phoebe Crumbine, Maggie Davenport, Caroline Irmscher, Lauren Jacobbe, Makayla Kanerviko, Lia Kelly, Olivia Lanter, Gaby Minionis, Maya Simmons, and Kayla Spalding.

The Murate Arts District featured the residency, the dance performance, and the film in their newsletter. Please visit this link to read.