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Movement as Communication

Posted: July 15, 2011

Movement doesn’t need translation. This past May, Buffalo State and Capital Normal University (Beijing) faculty, staff, and students celebrated 10 years of cultural and academic collaboration and discussed further plans for the partnership.

Joy Guarino, assistant professor of dance, was part of the Buffalo State delegation. While there, she enjoyed family-style dining, friendly colleagues, and the beginning of a new era in Buffalo State’s dance program.

“Everyone was so welcoming,” Guarino said. “Language was a challenge—not a barrier. Being in China wasn’t as different as one would think.”

One of Guarino’s major contributions to the trip was a six-minute video of a dance piece, choreographed around the word “transformation.” Guarino gathered four of her senior dancers (Lindsey Bessman, Kate Shaffer, Eriketa Cirulli, and Syidah Sabir), and combined movement from previous pieces and original movement inspired by "transformation” to create a performance that would transcend continents.

The performance was filmed at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in three different locations from three different angles. Lou Rera, assistant professor of communication, helped film and edit the production. It was shown at an art gallery exhibition of visual art created by Buffalo State and Capital Normal students, along with a similar production from Capital Normal dancers.

“The exhibition opening was a highlight of the trip,” Guarino said. “It was very well attended and well received. President Podolefsky and Capital Normal’s president both emphasized the significance of our artistic exchange.”

While at Capital Normal, Guarino had the opportunity to observe a modern dance class and teach a small class on American dance vernacular.

“Chinese modern dance is very dramatic and theatrical, which is very different from our abstract version of modern,” said Guarino. “And they’ve never heard some of the words we use in our dance vocabulary.”

For Guarino, the most exciting part of the trip was meeting with Tian Peipei, Capital Normal’s dance department chair and educational artist of Chinese dance, to establish a relationship between dance programs. They met twice during the trip to discuss objectives, goals, and hopes for the collaboration.

“It was exciting to meet Tian, who has the same interests in dance and education as I do,” said Guarino, whose research focus is kinesthetic learning and dance/movement integration with youth development. “This partnership will be a very positive learning experience for everyone involved.”

In May 2012, Guarino intends to take several students to Beijing to further build the relationship between Buffalo State and Capital Normal. Buffalo State students will learn traditional Chinese dance techniques, share tips on American vernacular, and visit schools to see how movement is incorporated into Chinese education. The students will work on choreography together in the studio, learning each others’ techniques. Once the piece is finished, they will perform it in a celebrated setting—Guarino hopes in front of the Great Wall of China. Then they will all travel back to Buffalo and repeat the whole process.

Buffalo State’s dance minor has grown tremendously since its inception almost 30 years ago, and Guarino hopes this new collaboration will enhance the minor even further.

To learn more about the dance program, visit the Theater Department.


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