Stretching the Curriculum

by Mariah Morgan

Horizon Reporter

Students arrive a few minutes before 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday to sweep, set the drums up, and prepare for a class full of energy. This class isn’t like any other classes here at Whatcom Community College.

Hannah Lindberg is on her third year teaching modern dance at Whatcom, has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in modern dance and choreography from Western Washington University, and continues to take dance classes regularly to bring forth fresh exercises to her students.

Modern Dance 101 and 102 focuses on the fundamentals of modern dance technique, influenced by ballet, Pilates and Hawkins technique, said Lindberg. The class is intellectual too, she said, and has students write two papers.

“I get people who danced their whole life and people who never have,” Lindberg said, “that’s what makes it fun.”

She begins class by having her students circle up to stretch in unison as she teaches them how to breathe correctly with proper alignment.

“Just as Pilates would say, ‘in-de-air, out-de-air’,” Lindberg said. “In this class your body is your textbook. You need to relearn your textbook. That’s what makes it challenging.”

The soft beat of the drums and streaming guitar in the background help the dancers relax and loosen up. Logan Browning, who was the president of the music club, was asked to find a drummer for this class. “Gosh darn it, I’ll just do it,” he recalled. He is now a paid employee at Whatcom. During class, Browning beats the drums, strums the guitar, and uses the rain stick.

“Logan and I have created this community,” Lindberg said. “We want everyone to feel welcome and that it’s a safe place for growth.”

The classroom isn’t ordinary. It is located behind the stage in Syre Student Center, enclosed by curtains and lights hanging above, with black walls and floors.

Lindberg is energetic. She uses the word “imagine” a lot as she coaches her students on how to feel and move like a dancer. She gives the drummer a signal telling him to change the beat as she moves into a different exercise.

“You might be dying right now. Keep going,” Lindberg said with a stern sense of humor. “Have your legs been sore in the past couple days? Yeah? Good.”

Lindberg demonstrates new moves one-by-one with the class, then brings it all together. She asks the students if it makes sense to them, then goes around and correctly positions each one.

There is also a club for modern dance. Students don’t have to be enrolled in the dance class in order to join, Lindberg said. Each quarter the club puts on a show with student choreography, and hosts classes open to everyone, such as salsa or swing, she said.

“It’s an outlet that’s accessible to anyone,” said Madison Tiller, the president of modern dance club. “It really helped me this past year.”

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