Starting in early February, I was a part of a workshop group working with Maia Draper-Reich on her dance honors thesis on non-verbal communication through dance movement and improv. This essay is a self-reflection of the entire process.

My movement history has mainly been sports-related. I played soccer until I was 17, even playing on a club team for a couple years. I began running track in 6th grade, and I haven’t stopped since. I did do ballet and gymnastics when I was younger, but competitive sports have always been my movement, my performance and my way of expressing myself.

But I always have loved dancing.

As a child, whenever my mom had business meetings and my sister and I were left with my dad, he would put on old classic rock CDs and we’d swing dance around the living room; I think that’s where the core of my dance movement comes from. I’ve noticed, through this workshop, that how I like to move is leaning forward, stepping backwards, and twisting and turning.

Since being at Conn, I’ve had the most exposure to modern dance I've ever had in my life. I guess being paired with my freshman roommate, Emily, was the best thing that could have happened to me dance-wise. I’ve been to just about every dance performance put on by the College's Dance Department for the last four years. It has come to the point where I know the dance professors, the dancers, and I'm able to go to performances and appreciate dance so much more. Due to all this exposure over the last few years, when I heard that Maia needed some non-dancers majors to participate in her honors thesis, I jumped (literally and figuratively) at the opportunity.  

While the finagling of scheduling took some time to figure out, we finally solved it and I was part of a seven-person group who would be working with Maia on her honors thesis. As a “non-dancer,” I was so incredibly nervous going into this. I love dancing, but most of it is done in the privacy of my own room to music I love. Also, to be put in a space with dancers who I had seen dance before—wonderful, beautiful dancers—also made me terrified. Even though there were other “non-dancers,” I was sure I would be the most awkward of them all.

While this certainly might have been the case, it definitely didn’t feel like it. One of our first exercises was to find a space and dance with our eyes closed. Perfect—I could get in my head, turn off the world and just dance. I couldn’t see what anyone else was doing; I felt completely alone, safe and free to just dance how I wanted.

As our workshops went on, I began looking forward to the dance sessions the way I got excited about pole vault practice. It was something that was very individual to me, and I got so much joy out of doing it.

Through this experience, I made some incredible connections with my dance collaborators. I was not very close with most of them before this workshop, but I got to know them and how they move very well. Our interests and majors span a wide range of topics at Conn and, without working on this project, I might not have met them and gotten as close to them as I am now.

One of my final contributions to this project was during the last workshop. Each of us had to bring in an improv or dance exercise to share with the class. I reimagineded an improv exercise from my high school drama class, with five or so dancers dancing together with two dancers watching. At any point, one of the watching dancers could call "freeze," and they would replace one of the dancers. Maia called it “Marina Freeze Score" and included it in the final workshop at the end of the semester.

Coming from being so nervous in the beginning to having a dance piece I created being used in our finalé was truly amazing.