Skip to main content

Dance Student Discovers the Unifying Power of Dance Through Collaborative Research

BYU students traveled to Bengaluru, India to explore dance as a somatic practice

Lauren Halversen learned this summer that vulnerability and open communication allow dance to become more than a form of self-expression: if individuals from different backgrounds strive to understand one another’s personal experiences, dance can connect diverse cultures and mindsets.

Dance major Halversen, along with other students and BYU Professor Marin Leggat Roper, traveled to Bengaluru, India to research ways somatic practices are used to support mutual understanding in cross-cultural choreographic collaboration.

They taught each other choreographed solos over a two-week period. The solos were based on the prompt “a search for the sacred.”

Halversen had the opportunity to learn a solo in a classical Indian dance style, Odissi. The solo was choreographed by local dancer and teacher Poornima Kartik. In return, Halversen taught Kartik a contemporary solo.

Halversen said at first it was difficult for both of them to adapt to the other person’s style of dance.

“There were moments when we felt resistance in understanding how to relate to each other’s choreography because neither of us had had much experience in the other’s style of dance,” said Halversen. “We were also more reserved about sharing our personal inspirations for our choreography.”

Despite these obstacles, the pair eventually came together. As part of the research process they interviewed each other at the end of each daily rehearsal to better understand what the other person experienced during the rehearsal session.

“We saw ourselves becoming more vulnerable with one another and we found that even though our lives are different, we both saw searching for answers to personal questions as a sacred experience,” said Halversen.

Halversen said despite their personal questions being different, they still had the same process for searching for answers: drawing upon choreography for inspiration.

Eventually Halversen realized the solo Kartik created for her described different stages of finding answers and understanding she was familiar with in her own life.

“I saw more distinctly that the movements she created conjured up my own memories of searching, feeling lost and then finding peace in the answers found,” said Halversen. “The solo came to life; this style of dance that I had never studied before became personal and I felt as if Kartik was telling me, ‘I know what you’ve gone through.’”

That is when it clicked for Halversen.

“From this research experience, I saw that dance has the power to empathize with others across boundaries,” she said