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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Knox Honnold Lecture Dance Residency: A Week of Movement and Connection

The 2024 Knox College Honnold Lecture Dance Residency brought a whirlwind of movement to campus. Led by acclaimed dancer and choreographer Brandon Avery (Paraharm) ’12, the residency was a unique opportunity for students to explore dance in new ways and connect with a vibrant community.

Hilary Lehmann

Throughout the week, students delved into the intricacies of dance, exploring how movement can be a powerful tool for expressing identity. Workshops were held in the Breitborde Dance Studio inside the Ford Center for Fine Arts.  

For many, this experience was not just about learning dance steps, but about discovering a new perspective on the art form and themselves. Through Avery’s personal approach to meaning through the art form, students learned to trust themselves, their peers, and the process of creation, leading to personal and artistic growth.

“My time during the Honnold Lecture Dance Residency gave me a new lens through which to view dancing. Brandon's teaching brought me a new style of dancing and approach to choreography that has been transformative as a dance minor here at Knox,” Lexi Sendall ’27 said. 

Hilary Lehmann

On Friday, April 12, 2024, the residency concluded with the Honnold Lecture. Avery took to the stage in Kresge Recital Hall to discuss his personal growth as a dancer, learning the art form at Knox, and founding his dance class “Hips and Heels.” His lecture was followed by a preview of "Fall to Rise," a dance piece featured in the upcoming Knox Spring Dance Show on May 23-25, 2024. This piece showcased the students' work over the course of the residency, having only started on the piece less than a week prior following auditions with Avery. 

“He was just as interested in our experiences as we were interested in his. Performing his choreography was very cathartic for this reason. By the end of the week, there was a sense of ownership over the story being told, it wasn't just someone's work we were performing, it was an experience we were sharing that centered our own identity,” Aicha Chemani ’24 said. 

Chair and Professor of Dance Jennifer Smith was impressed with Avery’s presence throughout the week. She felt his unique perspective as a black, queer male artist provided a new lens through which students could see themselves in the world of dance. By sharing his experiences and background, Avery opened doors for students to explore new forms of expression and connect with their own identities.

In many ways, for students who took part, Brandon provided an outlet that isn’t always there for students,” Smith added. “I thought that was really powerful.” 

Hilary Lehmann

Avery shared positive reflections on the week, feeling reintegrated into his alma mater. Having spent time on campus reconnecting with organizations he took part in—like Beta Theta Pi, TRIO, and Knox Dance Squad—he felt reminded of the dance legacy he left behind after leaving campus over a decade ago.

“The students—those who attended the courses I taught, took my extracurricular workshops, and were cast in my piece—all spoke on how much they have learned about dance, how to navigate their Knox experiences, how they have increased their tool kit for their creative process, and how there has been a recharge in the community since I came to the campus for this residency,” Avery said. 

About the Honnold Lecture

The Honnold Lecture at Knox College was inaugurated in 1929 with a speech by pioneering journalist Ida Tarbell. It was permanently endowed in 1936 by William Lincoln Honnold, who established the Honnold Fund. The lecture series aims to bring accomplished leaders from diverse fields to the College for public talks, informal discussions with students and faculty, and classes related to their areas of expertise.

Honnold lecturers have included U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, anthropologist Margaret Mead, and, most recently, acclaimed scholar of world religions and best-selling author Reza Aslan.

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Printed on Monday, May 20, 2024