Associate Professor and Chair of Dance
At Knox Since: 1997
Jennifer Leigh Smith directs the dance program at Knox College, where
she has taught since 1997. She teaches dance history, theory and
improvisation and won Knox's 2003 Philip Green Wright-Lombard
College Award for Distinguished Teaching. Smith has choreographed and performed extensively in Chicago and at the American College Dance Festival, the Dancemakers Concert in Milwaukee, and the Festival Off in Avignon, France. She earned B.A. and M.A. degrees at Columbia College, and an M.F.A at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.
My favorite story about Knox is actually when I came out here for my interview. I was pretty much a city kid - having spent my years in Chicago, and as I was driving out here, past all the cornfields, I kept thinking, "no way will I take this job!" One of the first things I did as a part of my interview was teach a dance class. I was blown away - the students were amazing! I had never before taught a room full of people so hungry to learn. As a was driving home my thoughts turned to "I have to have this job!" I came to Knox because of the students who were here that day. I stay because the caliber of students has never wavered.
What is your most memorable moment at Knox?
On that same trip I had dinner with the faculty of the Theater Department. That night, as it turned out, happened to be when Craig Choma got the news that he was hired on a three- year contract. He apparently had spent the last year working as a visiting instructor and the dinner turned into a party of sorts. I remember thinking these people are great - a little crazy - but great! The funny thing is that I don't remember talking much to Craig that night. Who would have known that I would find myself marrying him three years later!
Describe your current research/creative work. What is most interesting about this work?
This summer I will be taking my choreographic work to the Minnesota Fringe Festival, which is a ten-day event that occurs every year. Last year the festival included the work of over 150 performing art companies and had a combined audience total of 40,000 people. At this year's event I will present a series of five evening concerts. The Knox College dance program has grown so much within the past few years and is now recruiting students who already have really strong dance skills. What this means for this show is that I have chosen to work with seven dancers who are both alum and current students of the dance program. This is not just a great opportunity for me, but for them. Along with this event I am presenting a workshop this summer in New York City as a part of the National Dance Education Organizations Conference. The workshop is on integrating technology into the Dance Curriculum.
If you weren't a professor, you would be a . . . ?
I would be an adventure travel guide. I would be the person on the camel leading a group through the Valley of the Kings. Oddly enough, a location I went to when I celebrated getting hired at Knox.
What is your favorite thing about Galesburg?
After being such a city kid, I have really grown to love the small town community. I live in a place that makes it easy for my kids to make friends. I can get to work easy, and I love my house!
What were the last three books you read?
Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
What did you do to celebrate receiving tenure?
I haven't had a chance yet!