Final Week: Fourth of July – July 7, 2017
Did you know that Denmark hosts the largest Fourth of July celebration outside of the United States? Rebild Bakker National Park turns red, white, and blue for a day – hot dogs, American flags, National Anthems, everything a group of American exchange students could have wished for to celebrate this holiday away from home. However, the best part was the fact that we were finally able to perform Daniel Robert’s “Reverb” in the venue it was produced for – we were celebrating America the best way we knew how!
After a semester of preparation and multiple rehearsals at Gerlev, we were ready and excited to perform. Despite some minor alterations to the stage, everything was set and all that was left was for us to go out and do what we knew best. We walked down the pathway to the stage, which was located near the bottom of some hills. As we walked the path, we were surrounded by the flags of all fifty states – something that I have never even seen at a Fourth of July celebration in the US! The audience extended up into the hills, including our peers who were eager to cheer us on in this final Dance Denmark performance. We ventured backstage, listened to a speech from the former Prime Minister, and were welcomed to perform with ample applause and many smiles.
Performing “Reverb” was something I will never forget. The wind was blowing. The stage was slightly unstable. The audience was intently watching. A few fellow buckeyes were in the corners of the stage recording. But most importantly, I will never forget the way that we performed with pure joy. As a quartet, we smiled at one another, aware that we would not be perfect but trusting that we were each putting our best and whole self into the performance. We were connected both physically in our grasps and emotionally through our eye contact and presence. It was a feeling that cannot be topped and an amazing way to end our performances in Denmark.
The rest of the week became a blur shortly after, as our time quickly came to a close in being with one another. We celebrated the Fourth at Sofie’s family’s summer home; we ate ice cream; we left Gerlev; we revisited Copenhagen; we laughed; we cried; and we left each other with hearts that were both full and broken at the same time. These people, this place, I am so thankful for all of the memories that I am now sitting with as I type this blog post on my couch at home, and I cannot even begin to imagine the blog post to come in which I will sum it all up – not to mention the fact that I cannot seem to gather the right words for when I explain my travels to my family at dinner tonight! Regardless, I am blessed and I am feeling so thankful for this journey, and I cannot wait to see where it takes me next.
Week Five: Landsstaevne 2017 – July 2, 2017
Finding the right words to describe this fifth week is probably the hardest time yet that I have experienced while blogging. This week, we journeyed to Aalborg as International Guests at Landsstaevne 2017, the largest sports and culture festival in Denmark. For lack of better comparison, we were practically performing in the Danish Olympics: I am shook.
After traveling three hours by bus to get to Aalborg, we arrived at a school where we would be sleeping together in classrooms. With that plan, we knew that this was going to be a week full of fun and laughter, as we have grown closer throughout our time here and are always looking for new ways to make memories. We traveled with Formosa Circus Art (Taiwan) and Police-Citizens Youth Club (Australia) throughout the week as we went sightseeing, attended a Mads Langer concert, trained for the International Gym Night performances, attended shows, and hung around the school. From marching in the parade behind our American flag to representing our school (and country) as performers in the International Gym Night show, we were part of something so much bigger than ourselves – and so much bigger than we expected.
International Gym Night placed us in a four-sided arena, performing in front of 5,000 energized audience members. The performance was a thrill, both as a result of the atmosphere and due to the fact that it was our first time performing our new group piece, “Rise.” The energy of the arena was incomparable to any other performance I have experienced, not to mention the fact that we were performing in the same set list as the National Danish Performance Team, Keone & Mari, and artists from Finland, France, and so many more! I still do not have the words to describe the feeling that I experienced while dancing with my peers, nor am I able to explain the immediate joy and excitement felt when our wonderful friends from Gerlev cheered for us the moment that we stepped out onto the floor.
After performing at both International Gym Night and the next morning on an outdoor stage by the harbour, we were able to continue to sightseeing, participate in Landsstaevnet activities, and attend both “Efterskolenholdet” (performance by 6,300 boarding school students) and the National Danish Performance Team show, “Imani.” Not to mention the fact that we had the chance to meet up with some Gerlev friends in our free time and grow the relationships which we have developed over the past weeks.
Time is simply passing by too fast and now, back at Gerlev, I am saddened by the fact that this week will be our last. However, I am so thankful for everything that we have been able to experience thus far and I am confident that this week will live up to the hype that is Dance Denmark. Stay tuned!
Week Four: Dance ‘Til We Drop – June 25, 2017
Week Four was full of dance – which I suppose makes sense because we are, in fact, here for Da[n]ce Denmark. From rehearsals, to taking class, to watching performances, to performing ourselves, we have now found ourselves exhausted as we travel to Aalborg for our fifth week (Landsstævnet).
This past week, we rehearsed the two pieces which we had spent the Spring Semester of last year choreographing: “Ride” choreographed by Joshua Manculich and “Reverb” choreographed by Daniel Roberts. Taking the time to clean and build up the performance quality of these pieces was extremely beneficial and led us to feeling both proud and accomplished after a short, informal performance of these works for the students at Gerlev. In between such rehearsals, we developed a new group piece incorporating all 15 of us, “Rise Above,” using material from Sofie and the re-staging/organization/new perspectives from our peer, Hazel Black. This piece, as well as “Ride” will be performed here in Aalborg, while “Reverb” will not be performed until the Fourth of July.
However, the week of dance did not end there. We had the incredible opportunity to travel back to Copenhagen and be a part of the audience for the 10th Annual Copenhagen International Choreography Competition. I think I can speak for everyone in saying that we were simply in awe of the pieces that we saw. Ten different works from ten different countries, all absolutely incredible, innovative, and diverse. I found myself intrigued and inspired from the start of the show until the very end, and I feel bad for the judges who had to pick a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner because the works were too wonderful to judge!
The week finished off with the final Gerlev party, a fun night spent with the students whom we have truly come to know and love. Though we will see them briefly throughout the next week, our time with them at Gerlev has come to an end as they have finished their courses and will be moving on to new things. It has been a joy to get to know them and we are so thankful for their kindness and enthusiasm – we don’t want to leave Denmark and that is largely thanks to them!
This next week will be quite another busy one, but in its own way as we are International Guests for Landsstævnet, the largest sports and culture festival in Denmark. Here we will rehearse and perform for the International Gala, as well as a few other performances throughout the week. Stay tuned for more updates – though there might not be much time to spare!
Week Three: #neverleaving – June 18, 2017
I have said it many times throughout the week, but the offer still stands: If you know how to stop time, please teach me quickly because this trip is passing by all too fast. Already, we are headed into week four of our five-and-a-half-week experience here in Denmark. I have met so many people and seen so many things, yet I know that there is so much left to do and experience!
This week was unique in comparison to the past few, as we spent the majority of the week in Copenhagen. It was a chance to be true tourists – see the sights and experience the city, and, of course, buy the cheesy souvenirs that we all secretly love. From canal tours to shopping centers to biking the streets in sunshine and rain, we did everything I was hoping for. Among the many sites, we saw the Marble Church, the Royal Palace, the Black Diamond, The Little Mermaid, and the Cisternerne – and we have the memories, the journal entries, the pictures, and the souvenirs to prove it. We navigated through the streets on bikes, buses, and on foot, and immersed ourselves into Copenhagen as we attempted to hide our tourist nature, though we were all too enthusiastic about all that surrounded us. On our final day, we spent the night in Tivoli, an amusement park that had a firework show like none other. It seemed that the more things we did, the more amazing the city became.
However, we did not just explore the city while there. In fact, we also took master classes at Dansehallerne and Dansekapellet. While dancing, we engaged in a variety of genres: Flying Low, Contemporary, Locking, and Hip Hop, to be exact. It was truly a blessing to learn from new professionals and really engage in the dance culture that exists within this amazing city. Personally, I felt as though each class challenged and grew me intellectually, physically, and artistically, and I wish that I could have stayed in Copenhagen longer to learn from other individuals within the somewhat small, but growing, dance community. However, I am so thankful for all that I have gained and I am looking forward to applying new knowledge and perspectives to my craft as I continue on this trip and in the future.
Week Two: High Ropes, High Hopes – June 11, 2017
It is hard to believe that in the blink of an eye, our second week of Dance Denmark has come to an end. As we kicked off our second week with some new challenges, we knew something great was coming. This week was definitely one for the books, as we embarked on our first performances abroad and even choreographed an entirely new body percussion piece to add to our repertoire. That being said, rehearsals were in full swing and we had the chance to take more classes throughout the week. Additionally, as I mentioned in my last post, a few of us also had the opportunity to teach at a local school – allowing us to share our own knowledge while also learning from the students in our classes. Week two surely lived up to the name Dance Denmark and I am excited to find out what will be next for our crazy bunch, especially as we head to Copenhagen next week!
Check out my recap video below to get in on all of our fun and experience a bit of the beauty that is Denmark – and remember to check out my Media Gallery for updated performance videos, photos, and more!
International Instructor – June 8, 2017
Over the past two days I have had the pleasure of teaching at a school similar to Gerlev, Sorø. The students at this particular school study sports, while also taking academic classes. They are between the ages of 13 and 17 and truly a joy to work with – even despite being in the height of their teenage years. The opportunity to teach internationally and learn from them was truly incredible and something that I will remember for years to come.
On Wednesday, I taught a hip-hop class to a group of 11 students, all female. They were very focused throughout the entirety of the period. It was almost odd to have students so quiet but it was very clear that their quiet demeanors were a result of their desire to learn. They picked up material very quickly and with ease as we transitioned from warm-up, to a few hip-hop tricks, to learning a small combination. After learning the combination, they were excited to perform it for their teacher as well as film it on their own personal phones!
Thursday (today), however, is where things really got to be fun. Today, I taught my very first Zumba® class – INTERNATIONALLY! For those that may not know, it has been a goal of mine over the past couple of years to become a Certified Zumba® Instructor, and within the last few weeks of my Sophomore Year, I was able to do so! Training was an absolute blast, but I have been itching to teach a class up until today. The students were phenomenal and I had a wonderful time working with them. I taught a class of around 30 students and we were housed in the new Springcenter facility – a large, open space in which the students train in gymnastics. They were very eager to get up and get moving. Even as they became a bit fatigued, they were excited by the chance to challenge themselves as we moved throughout the class. Though I was a bit nervous to engage in this exciting, but tiring, new role, I was thrilled to be up there instructing the class and I loved every minute. Even more, I am excited to teach again next week at a similar school and I look forward to using today’s class in order to improve upon my lesson plan for next week, and classes in the future.
It was interesting teaching a group of students whom had different trainings than me, as well as different perspectives and lifestyles. Truly, the students at sports academies such as this are extremely in touch wit their bodies and I feel as though this helps them to pick up material much more quickly than I am generally used to. They seem to have a deeper understanding of the way their bodies function, and I am interested to bring this back to the states when I continue teaching. I think that this is an important perspective to have as a student, one that is engaged in the body intellectually and physically throughout the entirety of a class period.
Ultimately, the opportunity to teach while on this trip abroad has reminded me how much I love educating younger generations in both realms of dance and fitness. Moments like these reassure me that the time I spend teaching and the desire I have to focus on Dance Education are the necessary steps for my future. Though my goal is to perform, I hope to continue teaching in years to come because I can honestly say that it fills my heart and fuels my passion – yes, very cheesy.
Feeling Full: Double Post – June 5, 2017
I am well with my soul.
Normally, I try to keep my journey in faith to myself. I try to make this blog about dance and solely dance. However, dance is so very much a part of me, as is my faith – so why separate them? And especially on a day like today, it is right to share.
I like to think that there are times in our lives when we begin to feel right with the world. Regardless of all that is going on around us, we feel full: full hearts, full soul, full self. It is something that no words can truly describe and a feeling like none other, but it is real and it is genuine. And it is unforgettable and unimaginable, but it happens.
Today, we performed the works which we had choreographed last week. As for me, I performed a lyrical/contemporary small group work to a favorite song of mine, “Sort Of” by Ingrid Michaelson. We performed outside near the Legepark – the blue sky, the soft breeze, the people I danced with, the warm hearts of the audience watching, all fell into place so nicely and so perfectly…something that truly could not have been arranged by human hands. The feeling and emotional connection I experienced while dancing was something I had been craving and wanting since the end of the school year, but most definitely something that cannot be forced. But then the music played and I danced with a whole heart and my whole self. I was not dancing for the audience. I was not dancing for my peers or professors. I danced for myself. I danced for what is greater than me. However, this performance and feeling was simply the beginning of the joyful tears and overwhelmed mindset.
After performing, we were invited to Finn’s home for coffee and cakes. A friend of the school and an old professor here, Finn’s home is located just a few steps from the area in which we performed. Tucked away from the excitement of Gerlev, he resides in a small home with his wife and two Wiener dogs. However, his home is surrounded by a magical garden with beauty that is simply indescribable. Between the small houses, green pathways, and colorful flowers and plants, so many things rushed over me and through me – but nothing compared to the view that was beyond the back fence. The sky was incredibly blue. The clouds were white. The sun was shining the perfect amount. A small plane touched down near a home. The cars in the far-off distance seemed small, white, and fast. The grass was green and divided into properties the way that it seems when you look down from the window of an airplane. I could see the bridge leading to an island in the distance – something I had seen while our plane first touched down. The breeze was refreshing. The sounds were serene. My body was chilled, but my heart was so very warm. And it may sound cheesy, but it was truly an indescribable feeling and no words can do it justice.
And so I stood by the fence looking out into the distance and let myself be overwhelmed by the beauty before me – beauty that had been created by someone so much bigger than myself. And I thought to myself: How did I get here? How did I get so lucky? Because truly, this group of people in this place at this particular moment is an arrangement that could have only been organized so perfectly by someone greater than us. It is something so very out of my control that I cannot comprehend it, yet I am so incredibly blessed to be standing where I am/where I was. And even after journaling and even after beginning this post, the feeling is unreal and I remain overwhelmed – and the words to explain it do not come any easier.
However, I can come to one conclusion and that is the statement which I began this post with, and the statement which seems to be playing on repeat in my head: I am well with my soul. I feel as though I am in the right place. I am surrounded by people that will grow me. I am in a Department which will inspire me and challenge me. I am where I am supposed to be and I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. I am part of something that is larger than myself, and something that will change me. And I believe that everything happens for a reason and that the choices which I made going into this next year and this next stage of my life are the right ones: ones that will be beneficial to my physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual self. And I am well with my soul. I am well with my path. I am.
Let’s Get Physical! – June 5, 2017
Gerlev Sports Academy is a school very different from what we would imagine at home. Though they pick majors and minors, these foci are things that push the body to incredible heights and challenge new mentalities along the way. Students here can major in anything from dance to parkour to windsurfing – oh my! The culture here differs largely from that of a University in the United States, and it is both energizing and refreshing to be engaging in these new activities with the students throughout our time here.
Individually, we each picked a different minor to try out throughout our time: yoga, beach volley, windsurfing, parkour, or natural movement. When the time came to sign up, we ended up with OSU students in four out of the five choices, leaving out only beach volley. Jordan, Mia, and I have taken on parkour: a sport in which one rapidly moves throughout urban areas and obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing. As this sport is something that is not very popular back home, we were eager to get started and quickly found it to be a strenuous activity involving much mental focus and incredible strength. To our outside eyes, it seemed as though parkour was simply running and jumping across buildings and through alleys. However, we have come to find that there are very specific techniques and methods required in order to execute parkour skills in a safe and effective manner.
Our classes take place outside on a cement and metal obstacle course, which looks much like an abandoned building. In a normal session, we usually warm-up with squats, jogging around the course, lunges, and pull-ups. On one particular day, we even ran up and down a hill near the beach volley courses in an attempt to exercise both our endurance and strength. After warm-up, we switch our focus to specific skills such as precision jumps, balance, and over/unders. In precision jumping, we jump back and forth between raised cement beams, landing only on the balls of our feet. For balance, we walk across a metal pole, in a way similar to walking on a tightrope. Over/unders require us to navigate over and under cement blocks and metal poles through jumping, swinging, or ducking – working to go through the open spaces rather than hitting the obstacles. Though it may sound like exaggerated playing on a jungle gym, it has proven to be incredibly difficult. However, we are making leaps and bounds with each session! As a group we are continuously improving upon these skills and have most definitely held our own with the rest of the students. We have even made the climb to the very top of the parkour structure!
The high intensity of movement here in Denmark does not stop when you leave Gerlev’s campus. In fact, Sofie took us to a high ropes course just yesterday and we were all able to put our new strengths and mindsets to the test. Harnessed tight and wearing helmets, we set off into the forest and climbed rock walls, swung ropes, walked across wires, and zip-lined all while being many meters above the ground. It was a great way to bond with one another as we gave all of our encouragement throughout the obstacles. Furthermore, the view from the platforms and obstacles was truly breathtaking – even when challenged by a little bit of rain.
All of this being said, it is pretty clear that Denmark is quite an active place – some would even call it intense. Though we had only really known about the dance scene prior to our arrival, we look forward to continuing to challenge ourselves both physically and mentally throughout the remainder of our trip.
**Click on hyperlinks to learn more about the places we travel on our adventures!
Week One: Done! – June 2, 2017
If every week here goes by as fast as this first one, I will be incredibly sad.
Let’s start by saying that Denmark is beautiful and Gerlev is probably the coolest place to be: great people, delicious foods, and incredible spaces to explore. From windsurfing to dance to parkour, they really do have it all and it is something truly unique. Our first week was filled to the brim with new experiences, while still offering a bit of free time to make adventures for ourselves and get acquainted with the space.
Each day begins with breakfast bright and early at 7:30 am – mind you, that is 1:30 am in Ohio…which was quite an adjustment, but we got there eventually. Breakfast usually consists of oatmeal, yogurt, granola, fruit, bread, and coffee, all buffet style. From breakfast, we then travel to Morning Assembly, which is a short meeting with all the students and faculty. In Morning Assembly, we start by singing a song – either in Danish or English – and then listen to a selected student talk about an experience of his/hers. This past assembly, we actually had the chance to share our Ohio State culture with the students, as we have come to find out that OSU is hard to explain without actually seeing/experiencing for yourself. As you may have guessed, I jumped on this opportunity and got the chance to share my Buckeye Pride with the students, discussing school spirit, our football team, the Best Damn Band in the Land, Brutus Buckeye, and Beat Michigan Week.
The remainder of the school-day is different from day to day – sometimes we have optional activities (parkour), sometimes we have rehearsal, sometimes we have dance classes. We have been spending time choreographing new pieces while also prepping workshop material to teach in the upcoming weeks. However, we always have a delicious lunch and a scrumptious dinner, so what more could you ask for?! We have really been able to immerse ourselves into the school community and we are looking forward to continuing to do so in the weeks to come. The students are incredibly welcoming and eager to talk with us – and we are excited to talk with and learn from them!
Of all experiences thus far, I think that I am most excited to have signed myself up to take parkour…yes, parkour. I am working out and gaining strength each day as I learn the technique behind precision jumps, balance techniques, wall scaling, over unders, and more. For lack of better words, we are artfully jumping on cement and metal structures at various heights. It is slightly frightening but incredibly riveting and definitely a way to pump some adrenaline. Sounds like gibberish? No worries! If you watch the video below it will all make sense.
That being said, I invite you to check out the video below which is a compilation of our experiences up to this point. We have done more than words can explain and making you read a novel-length blog post would truly just be cruel, so I figured that this would be the better option (and a bit more fun).
Be sure to follow @dancedenmark on Instagram! We will be going Live during our performance this coming Monday (June 5th) at 16:45 (10:45 am Ohio time) and you are invited to take a peek into what we have been working on throughout the week!
Buckeyes Have Talent! – May 31, 2017
It’s only the first week and I can already tell that this is going to be a trip to remember – though I wouldn’t expect any different. Although I haven’t had much time to post, I have had some time to edit some footage and have decided to make a montage-type video each week to clue you all in on all of the incredible things that we are doing. #getpumped
However, I will still be blogging periodically because some things simply cannot wait to be shared until the end of the week: things such as this…
Tonight after dinner, the students organized an event called “Gerlev’s Got Talent,” similar to America’s Got Talent (which I am sure that you may have guessed). Originally, we did not intend to participate, nervous to show our odd talents, I suppose. However, with a little push and a lack of sign-ups for the show, a few brave souls decided to join the party, including myself. The show was performed in the Assembly Hall, on a stage equipped with lights and surrounded by excited fans (students). Sofie, along with assistants Natalie and Dani, performed a magic act in which she created figures out of a napkin. What figures? Well, you’ll just have to wait for the video to see that one. However, you should know that they were incredibly impressive. In fact, so impressive that the act received first place! As for myself, I performed The Ohio State University Fight Song – because let’s be honest, what else would I do?! I can definitely say that my Buckeye pride showed and I do not think I could have smiled bigger, and apparently the judges agreed because I was so humbled to have received third place (#gobucks). Last but not least, Dani, Emily, Erin, Anthony, Alyssa, and Natalie all shared a new skill: counting to ten in Danish! Though they did not place, I am confident that the crowd was impressed, especially because they had only just learned how to do so during dinner. Hopefully they will be able to share this new talent with the rest of us, as it appears that our Danish skills are a bit lacking.
Throughout the entirety of the show, Sofie was filming us live on Instagram @dancedenmark – if you have not followed, go ahead and do so to stay connected and join in our experiences! It was a fabulous way to end the night and definitely foreshadows the fun that is yet to come. To see my fight song performance, simply watch the video below, and stay tuned for another update towards the end of the week!
Mama I Made It! – May 28, 2017
And just like that – it’s here…or should I say, I’m here! Denmark, OSU Dance has arrived and we are ready to adventure!
The journey to our final destination was a long, but worthwhile one. On Friday, I was generously scooped up by Kali and her family to make the drive to Canada. Our goal was to cross the border and spend the night at a hotel in Ontario in order to minimize the stress and anxiety of the long day of air travel that would be Saturday. The car ride was composed of many meaningful conversations and excitement regarding the upcoming adventures. We arrived in Canada and crossed the border with no issues (thank goodness) and headed to Niagara Falls – yes, we were tourists for the night. Originally,
we had simply planned on getting dinner, mainly so that Kali and I could order our first legal drink. However after eating a scrumptious veggie burger paired with a wonderful glass of Canadian wine (odd combo but it worked), we were informed that there would be fireworks a bit later in the night and we decided to take a walk down to the Falls, both to enjoy their beauty as is and to be a part of this marvelous firework show. To our surprise, we ended up in what seemed to be the best seat in the house, and definitely got the pictures to prove it. It was a perfect end to the night and definitely tired us all out for a great night of rest prior to our take-off the next morning.
Saturday morning, we woke up and ate breakfast around nine o’clock with the intention of leaving early so that we would not run into any airport traffic, especially given that it is Memorial Day weekend. However, we were not faced with any traffic hold ups and arrived to the airport a lovely two hours prior to our boarding time, which genuinely was a blessing because this trip was new, exciting, and definitely a bit nerve-wrecking not knowing exactly how to navigate. Kali and I walked up to the IcelandAir desk only to find that it was not even open yet! We were among the first to drop our luggage, get checked-in, and head through security, resulting in a quick and painless trip to our gate and much time for exploring the Toronto airport – though our exploring really only resulted in some Starbucks, snack foods, and bathroom breaks.
Our airborne journey consisted of two flights: Toronto to Iceland and Iceland to Copenhagen. Ultimately, we arrived in Denmark at six o’clock Sunday morning sleep-deprived, coffee-craving, and excited to be on land. After claiming our baggage, we were greeted with a smile by none other than our professor, Ann Sofie Clemmensen and her adorable pup, Ulfred. (And I think I speak for us all by saying that seeing that adorable ball of fur truly brightened up our arrival.) We were the first to arrive out of our group and spent the remainder of the morning relaxing by the harbor and welcoming the rest of our peers as they arrived.
From the airport we traveled about an hour and ten minutes to Gerlev, where we will be staying the majority of our time here. We unpacked into our dorm rooms and did some exploring, led by our peers who had arrived on Saturday and knew a bit of their way around. From beach volleyball courts, to parkour training facilities, to dance studios, Gerlev truly has it all – and more! We then headed back up to our rooms where I am now typing up this post prior to having to leave for our group meeting and dinner.
I feel truly blessed to be in this country with these people, and I cannot wait to see what amazing experiences are in store for our time here. From the students of Gerlev to my OSU Dance peers, I can already tell that I am going to learn so much and be so incredibly inspired – and I cannot wait to get started.