How Big Move at the Hop Fosters Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration

January 31, 2022

If there’s anyone in academia who still believes that dance isn’t an intellectual pursuit, a new program at Dartmouth College has a message for them: It indisputably is. Big Move at the Hop, which launched in May 2021 at Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center for the Arts, matches choreographers with Dartmouth faculty members doing related research. Early pairings have included astronomer Elisabeth Newton with Emily Coates, and ecologist Tom Wessels with Emmanuèle Phuon.

As night falls, Emily Coates speaks into a microphone on the grass in front of a round, white observatory building, which houses
Emily Coates discusses creating movement guided by stargazing and astronomical inquiry. Photo by Michael Bodel, Courtesy Dartmouth

The result of these pairings is programming that “takes the basic concept of the master class and animates it with intellectual ideas and practices that are interesting to the choreographers,” says the Hopkins Center’s director Mary Lou Aleskie. What that has looked like so far has been as distinct as the artists themselves: Phuon led participants on a tour through the local forest while teaching them nature-inspired movement; Coates conducted a dance investigation outside the school’s observatory and discussed how her work is guided by astronomy. 

On a green lawn under a blue, sunny sky, a couple dozen people across a range of ages wearing comfortable clothes twist and turn with their arms extended slightly to the side.
Pilobolus co-artistic director Renée Jaworski leads a movement workshop exploring proprioception. Photo by Corey Fitch, Courtesy Dartmouth

“Fundamentally, this is about finding ways for everybody to feel like they’re people who can move—that they can move together, that we can know things together, that we can learn things together and that the movement actually propels us forward.” Mary Lou Aleskie

“We went into Big Move last year thinking it’s going to be a movement thing and then a talk,” says Michael Bodel, the Hopkins Center’s director of external affairs. “And instantly that didn’t fit—people wanted to do things that exploded that notion.” Bodel sees these events as a way to bridge the two disparate audiences that the school’s dance programming previously served: The dancers who go to the master class, and the “people wearing collared shirts paying full ticket price who go to the preshow talk.” 

Next up is choreographer Faye Driscoll, who will collaborate with psychology professor Viola Stoermer on a guided workshop exploring touch and sensory perception on February 2.