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Student’s Broad Interests Come Together on the Stage

Grace Lonergan dances on the right in a yellow shirt.
Grace Lonergan dances on the right in a yellow shirt.

Who would create a dance composition called “The Logic of Appropriateness?” Grace Lonergan would. She’s majoring in dance at Keene State College – along with political science and Spanish. For a piece she’s been choreographing this year, she combined all three academic interests.

Grace, a junior from Springfield, Mass., explained her trio of pursuits this way: “My mom is a Spanish teacher, so I grew up doing a lot of traveling, which got me interested in studying languages. I also went to a performing arts charter school, which led me to have a passion for dance. Then, I came to Keene State and I started liking political science after taking a class in it.”

Grace is drawn to modern dance, the focus of Keene State’s dance program, because of its liberal, wide-open, and creative aspects – as opposed to ballet, for instance, in which the steps are set in stone. Grace said dance, for her, is an artistic outlet. “It’s very much like any other art form in that it’s expressive and you can shape it to match the image you have in mind. You don’t have to follow any rules,” she said.

Choreography is a kind of dance in and of itself, as Grace describes it. “You have to come to your rehearsal with movement prepared to teach the dancers, but then also experiment to figure out how the moves can be perfected,” she says. Sometimes a dancer offers a suggestion or moves in an interesting way, and those can become part of the finished product. It’s a collaborative process, she said. Grace also mentioned how by being in the Dance Program it has allowed her to meet various individuals from different departments, which has led her to develop connections.

Keene State dance students have many opportunities to perform for the public, in particular at the Evening of Dance performances, which happens each spring – but sadly did not take place this year because of Covid-19 precautions. Grace has performed in Evening of Dance and also in other public shows.

Much more work goes into putting on these performances than people think, she notes. In addition to keeping up with all of their coursework, the student dancers have nightly rehearsals, from 6 p.m. to midnight, before a show, and interact with costumers, stage and lighting designers, and other technical crew members.

Getting back to “The Logic of Appropriateness”: Grace uses the dance to explore international relations. “I use different dancers to represent countries in which different forces are going up against each other.” She’s using a real-life situation to inform the dance – US intervention in Latin America and the way the two countries interacted around that intervention.

It’s a topic that’s important to her, as she spent a semester last year studying in Ecuador. The dance combines her interest in global politics and Latin American history and culture into a dance routine that expresses cultural conflict. Keene State has many different opportunities that allow students to combine different topics and talents, and for Grace, the dance program was all she needed to fuel her passion in all three areas she is interested in.

Grace’s many interests mean she has many possibilities for the future. She hopes to continue dancing, but probably not as a career. She does plan to use her Spanish language skills and her political science knowledge, perhaps working for an embassy in a Latin American country. She has many dance contacts in Ecuador, having spent time at dance studios when she studied there, so that may be the perfect place for her to continue following her trio of passions.

By Hanna Quill ’20

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