At Whatcom, we dance if we want to

By Kaila Cove

Hannah Andersen, a professor at Whatcom Community College, runs the dance program at Whatcom.

Andersen grew up in Spokane, Washington, where she first learned how to dance.

At the age of 11, in the midst of Andersen’s dancing career, she changed from ballet dancing to competitive Irish dancing. Andersen was also the captain on her high school dance team.

“I wasn’t sure that I was going to be a dancer until I transferred to Western and took modern dance as a sophomore in college,” Andersen said.

Hannah AndersonProfessor Hannah Anderson poses with a skeleton she uses to teach.

Andersen decided that she to pursue her career as a dance instructor so she could fulfill her love for both teaching and dancing.  Combining her two passions allows her to provide knowledge to students through the means of dance.

“I attended college on the East Coast for part of the time, and I finished my dance degree at Western,” Andersen said. She also attended the University of Oregon for graduate school and graduated in 2017.

Andersen was introduced to Whatcom during her senior year of college, she said, “Part of my BFA [Bachelor in Fine Arts] project was to work with a learning contract program here at Whatcom and through that program to start offering beginning modern dance as an elective class.”

When Andersen had graduated, the modern dance classes at Whatcom had grown so that a professor was hired by the college to continue teaching modern dance. At the time, Andersen was teaching dance both at Whatcom and Western Washington University.

Throughout Andersen’s education, she received both a Bachelor in Fine Arts and a Masters in Fine Arts in dance.

“Then when I went to graduate school, I gained all the experience that I needed to be able to grow the dance program here,” Andersen said. She is part of many national dance organizations where she attends conferences and presents her research. Andersen also has a publication coming out next month on her research.

“I’ve been teaching dance since I was 16. When I went to graduate school, I knew that one of the skills that I needed to attain was the ability to write curriculum and really understand how dance can fit into higher education,” Andersen said.

Since then when Andersen returned to Whatcom last fall, she started to write several curriculums, such as Global Perspectives on Dance, which is a new five credit humanities class that is offered at Whatcom. This class uses time in the classroom as well as time in the studio. No dance experience is required.

Andersen believes that versatility is very important in dancers, “My passion is modern and contemporary dance is my specialties,” Andersen said. Andersen has taught a variety of dance styles throughout her career such as hip hop, ballet, jazz, improvisation, and modern.

Andersen has dance experience with local companies. “I was a dancer with It Must Have Been Violet Dance Productions, which is a local pick up company,” Andersen said.

Andersen also has her own dance company, Hannah Andersen Dance, where she holds auditions, workshops, and performances for the community. “I have been a member of Bellingham Repertory Dance, which is a local nonprofit dance company,” Andersen said.

Whatcom dance is putting on many events in this upcoming year. Andersen said, “We are having an African dance workshop on Nov. 28 in Syre center. I’m bringing up two guests from Seattle. It’s free and open to the public.” Andersen said that this event will occur on a Wednesday from 1:30-3:00 p.m. Whatcom’s dance program is also hoping to put on a show later in the spring.

Andersen has recently created curriculums for upcoming dance classes at Whatcom, “In the curriculum committee currently, I have a jazz class which should be running in the spring and Dance Performance and Choreography, which is a humanities class that should also be running in the spring,” Andersen said.

Andersen explained that she kept ending up back at Whatcom teaching dance throughout her teaching career, “The stars aligned for me to be back here and I am glad that they did.” Andersen said that teaching dance at Whatcom has grown her passion for dance, “Dance and myself are not separate and they never have been. Dance is my first language,” Andersen said.

Stephanie Rytter, a former student of Andersen’s enjoyed Andersen’s teaching, “I absolutely love Hannah. She brings so much to the table.”

Dance class

Kailee Kunz, a student in Anderson’s class, feels the flow of movement while practicing dance.

“She is open-minded and accepting of people as they are. She creates a safe space for everyone to grow and learn in,” Rytter said.

Alicia Silves, another former student of Andersen’s, said, “Andersen helped break down dances and made sure that everyone could do them to the best of their abilities.” She said that no two classes were the same due to Andersen incorporation of new moves or dances.

Zoe Kuchar, a student who has taken one of Andersen’s dance classes said, “She was constantly supportive, and her personality and humor made me look forward to the class.”

Minori Kosuge, who is a graduate from Whatcom Community College, also enjoyed Andersen’s teaching style, “Hannah is very welcoming to everyone even for people without dance experience, so everyone can join and enjoy dancing.”

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