Poetry and dance create a homecoming

Story by Mary Ellen Sanger

Poet Seth Bodine (Journalism and Media Communication, ’18) has written one haiku a day for the past three years, publishing them on his Instagram channel @haikuaday. At more than 1,200 haiku poems written, it seems he never runs out of words to mold. Bodine was able to coax his words into new forms with the help of other student artists through funding from the SURE grant (Sponsoring Undergraduate Research in English). Co-funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research, the College of Liberal Arts, and the Department of English, SURE provides faculty mentors for undergraduates to work on research or creative artistry. Bodine’s multi-media production entitled “Crossings” is the first of three projects funded through this grant.

“Crossings” was an experimental, multimedia reading that focused on how language within poetry might shift and change with the merging of different art mediums. Bodine worked with more than 10 artists (writers, visual artists, and musicians) to recreate his poems. “Collaboration takes a great amount of generosity, flexibility, and hard work on behalf of the artists,” says Bodine. All this and vision say his mentors.

English Associate Professor Dan Beachy-Quick supported Bodine throughout the project, noting “the broadening and deepening vision never felt chaotic, but natural, organic, ordered. Seth embodies to me one of the highest ideals in English and the humanities: seeking out others to join and unfold shared vision. It is work of both deep affirmation and deep risk, all of which could be felt and seen so beautifully on the night of the performance.”

A picture of everyone involved

Seth Bodine with the team of dancers and videographers that brought "Crossings" to life. From left to right: Bri Port, Payton Lauer, Emily Wallace, Davis Bonner, Seth Bodine, Taylor Woolums, Franny Komperda.

In one collaboration for the project, Bodine’s poem “Homecoming” was set to choreography and then filmed. Students in the course Choreography I – Franny Komperda, Payton Lauer, Brianna Port, Emily Wallace, and Taylor Woolums – worked with one another and with Seth to bring out the theme of home.

“One of the larger themes is how we build a home through our words with others, in relationships, and in family,” says Bodine.

Woolums, a junior dance major, highlights the challenge and significance of this interdisciplinary project. “Although a lot of the choreography was simple, it held great value in terms of trying to portray the idea of the poem through gestural movement that could be understood by a non-dancer audience.”

The choreography took many late nights, and the filming took four hours. “We wanted to not only film the choreography as a form of documentation, but make watching the video an experience in itself. The video is constantly moving and shifting, mirroring the idea that a home is one that is always shifting and changing as we go through our lives,” says Bodine.

The end result was powerful for those who attended Bodine’s final presentation. “This endeavor was enriching and powerful to me,” says Woolums. “It shows how impactful art can be, in all its forms and its rawest nature.”

English Assistant Professor Zach Hutchins wrote the winning grant hoping to empower students to pursue projects that extend beyond the classroom. “What excited me about Seth’s project was the expansiveness of his vision—not just a collaboration with a single visual artist or a single dancer, but with a wide range of artists working in a variety of fields.”


The Dancers

Franny Komperda, Freshman dance major
Payton Lauer, Freshman dance major
Brianna Port, Freshman anthropology major
Emily Wallace, Junior dance major
Taylor Woolums, Junior dance major

Franny: This project has shown me that there is a lot more that should be explored when dancers combine their talent with other artists. I don’t think I realized how creative and amazing this project was until I got a chance to look back on it and see how all of our hard work paid off. It’s definitely a big leap into my adult dance career, but I’m excited to see where else small projects like this will take me.

Payton: This project has personally made me appreciate all aspects of art a little bit more. I have always enjoyed looking at artwork, listening to music, and reading creative pieces, but I never really thought about what would happen if we combined the different forms together. I am proud of what we were all able to come together and create, and I learned so much throughout this process. This project has opened up so many possibilities and opportunities and is something I will remember for the rest of my life.

Brianna: I had so much fun doing this collaboration project! It was an amazing experience where I was able to get to know my fellow dancers better and combine our unique choreography together. Getting to explore dancing to poetry, where we were able to know the meaning behind the words, was an amazing experience. Filming was also an incredible experience that I feel really helped me grow as a dancer. It was very interactive and a very different experience than I was use to, but I feel that I was able to learn so much. Getting to work with Seth was so fun because he was so kind and inspirational, it was really easy to transfer the passion into choreography.

Emily: This project, without sounding too cliche, was an experience I will truly take with me throughout my journey as a dancer, choreographer, and an overall creator. I loved working with people who were just as passionate about the arts as I am. I have always been inspired by poetry and fascinated with dance videography, so working with both Seth and Davis was a dream come true. My fellow choreographers are also incredibly talented. It was hard to keep a straight face throughout all our rehearsals and I believe that showed how comfortable we were with each other - it was always fun to come into our late night rehearsals. I felt like we were creating something that mattered and I believe that is the most important aspect to any project. I am incredibly proud of our work, and again, so grateful to be a part of it.

Taylor: Wow! This project was much more rewarding than I thought it would be. I had a fun time working with Seth, Davis, and my fellow dancers. We are all pretty close and through this collaboration, I have met new friends I can call upon in the future. I learned a lot about myself as a collaborator and a choreographer. Not only did we as dancers collaborate, but we also collaborated with a poet. Little did we know how great this project really was. At the presentation, Seth collaborated with so many different kinds of artists and his impact of his poetry lead to such an amazing, expressive, cohesive, holistic, collective and impactful project, bringing so many art forms and artist together. I will cherish the time I spent on this project because it was a new kind of challenge and project that I feel I was craving. This endeavor was enriching and powerful to me. Seth is an amazing poet and I wish him the best along with my dance friends. I would love to something like this again. It shows how impactful art can be, in all its forms and its rawest nature. I am thankful for this opportunity and proud of the work we all did.