In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on distinguished members of the Class of 2022 from a wide array of disciplines.
The Lumen Prize-winning research project by Katie Fulks, an Elon College Fellow, explored the ways dance choreography responds to and influences politics.
A double major in dance performance and choreography and arts administration with a minor in business administration, Fulks is planning a career as a performer and manager of the arts. She used both her majors to help plan and implement the dance program’s first Discover Dance at Elon program for high school students curious about majoring in dance.
While at Elon, she worked at Moseley Center all four years, which she said was an integral part of her undergraduate experience. Fulks was the center’s training and hiring manager during her senior year.
What made you decide to complete multiple majors in the arts?
I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the arts in some capacity. I wanted to perform if possible, but I also love the administrative side of the arts. I love being able to work behind the scenes, planning and making everything you see on stage possible. The arts have been a huge part of my entire life, so this was a natural path for me to take. I also want to show others that pursuing a career in the arts is not only possible, but important and necessary.
What did your Lumen research project entail?
I started research with my mentor, Associate Professor of Dance Jen Guy Metcalf, informally my sophomore year and then officially all through my junior and senior years. My topic focused on the use of ballet for political propaganda, specifically looking into ballet in the Soviet Union and the choreographic techniques used by choreographers to subvert the Soviet regime. I used my analysis of these techniques to choreograph my own 25-minute ballet in an attempt to study whether or not ballet could still be used to change or confront political ideologies of audience members in America today.
I selected this project in the middle of my sophomore year because I have always been passionate about dance, and specifically ballet, history. As an artist, I am constantly trying to understand the role of the arts in society and show people the importance of the arts in affecting how we think and feel. I presented my choreography April 1-2 and then the results of this performance on SURF Day.
How did working with your mentor make your time at Elon more rewarding?
Professor Jen Guy Metcalf is incredible and has greatly impacted my Elon experience in the best way. She taught me how to view dance and the arts through a scholarly lens and question what we consider to be the norm in ballet and the arts. She encourages discovery and encouraged me to take charge of my own learning and growth. She is so supportive and there to offer a hand at any moment, but she also gave me the space to explore what I thought was important. Jen is responsible for so much of my growth as a dancer, choreographer, scholar, and artist.
What are your plans after graduation?
I am planning on working for a professional theatre company this summer as a dance captain and performer. After that, I will be joining the West Virginia Dance Company for their 2022-2023 season.
As you reflect on your undergraduate years, what experiences were the most valuable to you?
There are three specific experiences that occurred this year that exemplify and tie together my four years at Elon. The first was the presentation of my research thesis in the beginning of April. I worked on my project starting the second semester of my first year, so it was a constant throughout almost every aspect of my undergraduate experience. The same weekend I presented my research thesis, the senior dance majors presented our senior thesis production. This consisted of an evening-length show that was completely designed, choreographed, performed, planned, funded, marketed, etc. by me and my classmates. We worked all year on this show and put our whole hearts into it, so it was beautiful to be able to see all of our work come to fruition and end our time at Elon the same way we started it: together.
Finally, this year the arts administration senior class planned the first annual Discover Dance with Elon program. This is a program created in collaboration with the Elon dance and arts administration programs that connects area high school students with what it is like to study dance as an undergraduate. The high school students took classes with Elon professors, toured campus, had an info session with current students, and attended the Fall Dance Concert.
I worked on the very initial stages of this event my junior year and then had the opportunity to work on its implementation this past fall. I loved the opportunity to work on this program because it allowed me to work with students who might not have had the opportunity to go to any type of dance workshop or intensive. This program helped boost the accessibility of dance education to young dancers in the greater Elon and North Carolina community.
What advice would you give future Elon students?
I want future Elon students to know that you can always find your place at Elon. You get out of everything what you put into it. Sometimes it takes more strength to ask for help than to brave everything by yourself. Cherish the people and the hidden moments.