"Along with directing the dance program at Knox College, I have an active professional career as the Artistic Director of "Back & to the Left Productions", a modern dance based performance company. Through my work with Back & to the Left Productions, I have produced work in Dance Chicago, The Minnesota Fringe Festival, The International Festival for Dance Artists in Toronto, Canada, as well as in Avignon, France. Currently, there are several Knox College dance students, as well as a few alumni, that are performing members of my company.
My dance pedagogy has been greatly influenced by my research in somatic study, best described as the integration of the mind and body. I believe you cannot truly develop one without a connection to the other."
Years at Knox: 1997 to present
MFA, 2007, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
M.A., 2000, Columbia College.
B.A., 1995, Columbia College.
Modern dance, theory and improvisation, dance history and contemporary trends in choreography, dance composition, dance ensemble, ballet.
Philip Green Wright / Lombard College Award for Distinguished Teaching, Knox College, 2003.
Granted Dance Residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, working with New York Choreographer, Doug Elkins, 2003.
Illinois Arts Council, Art Tour Grants: 1998, 1999, 2001 & 2002.
Named one of "30 Young Show-Stoppers under 30" by the Chicago Tribune, 1999.
"Developing an Integrated Dance Curriculum." Teaching Artists' Journal, 2007.
Presented solo piece, "Scribe" (performed by Kelsey Witzling '14) at the Body-Mind Centering Association Annual Conference, Boulder, Colorado, June, 2013.
Co-Presentation with Professor Jeremy Cohen from UMASS-Amherst: "Cultural Immersion: Developing a Study Abroad Program in Dance".National Dance Education Organization, Los Angeles, California, October 23 - 28, 2012.
Co-Presentation with Professor Craig Choma: "Dance & Design: Foster Collaboration Through Curriculum." National Dance Education Organization, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 20 - 23, 2011.
"The Neutral Mask: An Approach to Kinesthetic Re-education." Workshop presentation, National Dance Education Organization, Phoenix, Arizona, 2010.
"Creating Fusion -- The Art of Collaboration." Co-Presented Panel Discussion, World Dance Alliance, New York, New York, 2010.
"Passage" - A Dance Concert: The Minnesota Fringe Festival, 2009.
"Integrating Technology in the Dance Technique Classroom": A Workshop - presented at the NDEO annual conference held in NYC, 2009.
"Dance Chicago" - Select company work presented as a part of the annual dance festival, 2008.
"Drawing Connections: Developing an Integrated Dance Curriculum." Hawaii International Conference for Arts & Humanities, Oahu, Hawaii, 2006.
"The Raven." Solo Performance. Dance Chicago (annual Dance Festival), 2010.
"(re)ACTION" in Festival Off’Avignon, 2007.
"Sight/Unseen." Directed, Dancemakers Concert, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 2007.
"Somebody's Turn." Directed by Melinda Blomquist. Dancemakers Concert, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 2007.
"V2/C" in American College Dance Festival, University of Michigan, 2002.
"Falling Up," Knox College, 2002.
"Modern Ways to Wed" in C-Pop Gallery, Detroit, Mich., and Links Hall, Chicago, Illinois, 2001.
"Still/Going" in the American College Dance Festival and in Chicago, 2000.
"Temenos," Knox College, 1999.
"Body Follows Thought," Chicago, 1998.
Presented and performed solo work, "The Raven", at the Midwestern regional modern dance festival (RAD FEST). RAD Fest, Kalamazoo, Mississippi, March 15, 2013
Presented four full concerts titled, "Call to Rise", which was performed by my professional dance company, Back & to the Left Productions, as a part of this annual performing arts festival. New Orleans Fringe Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana, November 16- 18, 2012.
Choreographed and presented a new group piece, "Heroine (disambiguation)" as a part of this mid-western regional modern dance festival. Members of the 2012 Knox Dance Ensemble performed the piece. RAD Fest, Kalamazoo, Mississippi, March 16, 2012.
Choreographed and presented a new solo work, "...you are wrong" as a part of annual Dance Chicago Festival. The work was performed by student, Rachel Lyman '11. Dance Chicago 2011, Chicago, Illinois, November 17, 2011.
"African Music & Dance in Ghana" Three-week research trip in Ghana, July 27 - August 18, 2012. In developing my new course work in cultural dance, travelled to Ghana, primarily studying and working at the Dagbe Cultural Center, located in the southeastern village of Kopeyia, Ghana. While at Dagbe, I participated daily in both group and private lessons in dance, drumming, weaving, cooking and language of the Ewe people. Other experiences included participating in master classes in both drumming and dance with the National Dance Theater of Ghana.
Campus & Community Involvement
Associate artist in residence, Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smryna Beach, Florida.
Associate Artist in Residency with Doug Elkins, Altantic Center for the Arts.
Co-Director, "Back and to the Left Productions," interdisciplinary performance group, with Tiffany VanCleaf, Chicago.
Performer with the New Music/New Dance Ensemble, Summer Festival in Pisa, Italy.
Performer with New York-based choreographer David Dorfman, Chicago's Navy Pier Celebration.
Member, International Association for Dance Medicine & Science.
Member, National Dance Education Organization.
What Students Say
"Jen recognizes her students for what they are-- dynamic humans, as well as college students-- and creates a comfortable environment in which the personal and intimate study of dance and movement can be explored. Jen shares her own experiences with her students by recounting her stories, providing honest advice about the "real world", and even includes students in her professional dance company. Jen Smith is Knox because she actively reminds her students of one of life's greatest lessons that she applies to dance and somatic creativity: the process is just as important as the destination."
-Kate Cochran, Psychology Major, Dance Minor
Michael Cooke and Ritu Gyawali are chosen for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship program, which awards up to $5,000 for costs related to studying abroad.
John Podesta, a Knox College graduate and member of the Board of Trustees, will join the White House staff as a senior counselor to President Barack Obama, according to media reports.
Music and writing students collaborated and performed with renowned bassist and composer Ben Allison, as jazz fans got a live, free preview of Allison's new album, during Knox's inaugural Mirza Jazz Residency.