St. Louis, Missouri
Self-Designed Major in Dance and Movement Therapy, Philosophy Minor
This past June, Kelsey Witzling performed at the Body-Mind Centering's
28th Annual Conference at Naropa University in Boulder, Coloraado. She performed a solo, "Scribe," choreographed by Associate Professor of Dance Jennifer Smith, and attended classes and workshops on somatics, movement, and the body. Kelsey, a self-designed major in dance and movement therapy with a minor in philosophy, recieved funding through a Richter grant.
Describe your experience at the conference you attended.
As a conference attendee, I was able to take classes during the day that introduced me to Body-Mind Centering® (BMC), which is "a somatic education and therapy modality" with the premise that the mind is centered in the body and cannot be separated from it. One of the classes I took was taught by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, who developed the Body-Mind Centering approach and helped lay the groundwork for many techniques that I intend to use in my dance/movement therapy career.
For my performance, I met with the technical crew and other performers 24 hours before the show. We worked together to set lights and transitions for the entire show in under an hour. The next evening I performed the piece for the conference attendees. The audience of about 100 people was not large, but it was a new experience for me to perform a piece in front of so many people who are experts in fields related to dance and the human body.
Can you cite an example of how your experiences at Knox have benefited you at the conference?
Both the atmosphere of student life on campus as well as the atmosphere of the dance program at Knox have made me feel comfortable reaching out to strangers and creating a community atmosphere wherever I go. Being a Knox student made it easy for me to sit down with several BMC practitioners and learn about their work. Furthermore, Knox's dance program has taught me to be physically comfortable with others, which is so important when using the body as a communicating tool. For example, there were moments in some of the workshops I attended where I created strong physical bonds with other participants because we were moving freely and were able to use physical contact and share each other's weight as we improvised. Many dance programs do not teach dancers to communicate with their bodies on such a natural, raw level.
How do you think this experience will benefit you in terms of your education, future career plans, personal development, etc.?
Performing at and attending the conference introduced me to many professionals in the BMC and dance/movement therapy fields, who I now have as professional contacts. My introduction to BMC helped open my eyes to professional fields related to but different from dance/movement therapy, which will help me plan which direction I'd like to take my future career.
What was the best part of your experience at the conference?
Taking a class from Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen was absolutely inspiring. Bonnie was a delight to work with, and she has done so much for the somatic practicing community. Body-Mind Centering may still be a small field, but she has changed lives with her work. Many of the conference attendees were her students, and working with them as well as Bonnie made me realize how lucky I was to be learning from the woman who developed a technique that is sure to have a great impact for years to come.
What did you learn through your experience?
The most interesting thing I learned from this experience was how movement changes on a dancer's body over time. I have spent the past year strengthening my understanding of my body and my personal movement style. I was lucky to be able to perform "Scribe" at three different times during the year, because each of the performances felt and looked completely different, even though the choreography never changed.