by Jessica Etemadi
It’s only the first quarter in which modern dance has been offered as its own class at Whatcom Community College, both classes and all 40 spots are filled up with students interested in learning “the nuts and bolts of modern dance,” says Hannah Lindberg, teacher of the new course. Lindberg is also a key supporter of modern dance club, formed spring quarter and led by drama instructor Gerry Large.
Modern dance was birthed in the early 1930’s, by dancers who “took their shoes off and started to rebel against what they were taught, creating their own techniques,” Lindberg explained. “Now it has transformed into an art form around the world.”
Early pioneers shed the domineering technical aesthetic and instead focused on self-expression through their movements. Thus, modern dance became a more casual and ‘free’ style of movement, with the dancers themselves choreographing steps, compared to the strict limitations of classical ballet.
“Modern dance is both a physical practice and an art form,” noted Lindberg.
Lindberg herself has an extensive dance background, and has “danced my whole life, since I was 3,” she said. She has danced with numerous teachers all along the West Coast, and recently attended the prestigious Bates Dance Festival at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.
“I am teaching these students what I think is valuable to have as a dancer,” Lindberg added.
Recently graduated from Western Washington University with a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance choreography and performance dance, Lindberg taught modern dance at Whatcom winter and spring quarter of 2010 as part of the learning contract program. Both courses, graded as pass/fail, were wildly successful.
This quarter it’s being offered as a letter graded, 3 credit course, and when the first section filled up within the first two days, another class of 20 students was added.
“It seems there are already people who want to dance,” says Lindberg.
One such student is 17-year-old Sara Rojsza, who has taken one other dance class before – Swango, a cross between West Coast swing and Argentinian tango.
“Yeah, it’s fun,” Rojsza said. “You’re not just sitting inside a classroom.”
Another student, 19-year-old Briana Gagnon, agrees, this quarter being her second in the class. Gagnon took the course last quarter when it was offered as part of the learning contract program.
Even though the course is comprised mostly of females, there were three males enrolled last quarter and two this quarter. Gabe Ketcham, 20, is working on becoming more graceful and hopes it translates onto the field.
“I’ve been wanting to take ballet for soccer,” Ketcham said. This is his first dance class.
And with a supportive and willing group of interested students, turnout for the new club is sure to be a success as well. The club has received financial support for performances, dance events, and possibly a guest teacher spot. A portion of the funds also went towards hiring student musician Logan Browning, 21, who brings a funky backbeat to the Black Box Theatre with hand drums, cymbal, and a colorful ukulele.
“I’m fresh out of learning and still learning out of every class,” Lindberg adds. Of the possible expansion of a dance program at Whatcom, Lindberg explains, “I hope that it can just grow and grow.”