Campus News

Teaching in the New Normal: Holly Handman-Lopez

April 28, 2020

Communications Staff

student in brown jacket and dark pants dances in front of a pond with ducks.
Student Kierra Nguyen.
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Oberlin College Department of Dance

These days, the classroom has taken on new meaning for both faculty and students at Oberlin.

In this series we are sharing stories from faculty on how they are navigating this new normal. How have you adapted instruction to a remote learning environment? How have students shifted how they learn and participate? What’s changed, what’s stayed the same, or what has come as a pleasant surprise?

Please share an example or anecdote that addresses one of these areas.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Holly Handman-Lopez shares how, even in the challenging circumstances of these times, students have been able to find ways to express themselves and stay connected to their creative community. Through a collective screen dance project, 17 dance majors and minors continue to pursue creative projects because, “Learning how to keep going even when the ground beneath your feet is shifting—this is what artists do,” says Handman-Lopez. 

From Handman: 

Moving with other dancers, rehearsing in preparation for concerts, and performing for audiences—these are the things dancers love to do. This semester, our students lost opportunities to experience the joys and challenges of creating and performing new choreographies. Senior majors who needed to complete their capstone projects have had to revise their plans numerous times as circumstances changed. Live performances with sizable casts scheduled for various campus venues have been reimagined into screen dances and other interdisciplinary projects. One senior dance major chose to work with two small groups of students who are quarantining together; one pod has three dancers, the other has two. In this instance, what had been a sextet scheduled for performance in Fairchild Chapel will become a screen dance featuring a trio and a duet.

In an effort to support our students and to give them a way to express themselves and stay connected to their creative community, I devised a collective screen dance project inspired by the Exquisite Corps by Mitchel Rose of Ohio State University. His project featured many superstars of contemporary dance. We are featuring superstars of Oberlin, 17 dance majors and minors who continue to pursue their creative projects, no matter how many times they are thwarted or redirected by our ever-changing circumstances. Learning how to keep going even when the ground beneath your feet is shifting—this is what artists do.

Despite time zone differences, intermittent Wi-Fi, and quarantine challenges, every single student who signed on to the project persevered and contributed a unique clip to the piece. My only request was that they begin where their classmate had ended and keep it within a short timeframe. Each student designed their segment and recruited a camera person or made it work on their own. Our student editor, fourth-year Clarissa Heart, connected the clips seamlessly, and TIMARA’s Tom Lopez created the sound score.

I’m excited to have it completed for International Dance Day on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, and I’m so pleased that dance can offer something to our community during this time of separation.

Woman leaning against dark wall wearing a dark blouse.

Holly Handman-Lopez

  • Assistant Professor of Dance
View Holly Handman-Lopez's biography

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