Waking up for a 9 a.m. dance class may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a perfect way to start the day for Brianna Weber ’24, a double major in dance and American studies who appreciates the chance to wake up her brain through movement. Below, Weber discusses the ways she combines her interests in the arts, education, social justice, social science and cultural studies in the classroom and onstage, and she describes her experiences creating and performing a work at a dance festival through the American College Dance Association. She is the recipient of Dickinson's Weiss Prize for the Arts.
Clubs and organizations:
Dance Theatre Group, Hypnotic (events coordinator), Dig Drop Devils (co-founder/co-president) and American Studies Majors Committee.
National Society of Leadership and Success and the 2024 Weiss Prize for Creative Arts.
Best thing about my Dickinson experience so far:
The people I have met on campus are all incredibly authentically themselves. My suitemates, the people in my dorm and club members are like my family here. When someone on campus, whether it be student, faculty or staff, asks you how your day is, they all genuinely want to know. Every event I’ve been to on campus has been packed with students and faculty coming to support their peers, standing room only.
Underground Airlines by Ben Winters.
Best thing about my major:
Being and American studies major allows me to study anything I want. I have written papers on topics from football history to tap dance. In the dance major I have grown in both creative and intellectual capacities. I’ve had dance classes about choreography, modern dance technique and human anatomy. Dickinson’s liberal-arts education is interdisciplinary. My dance major pairs perfectly with my American studies major.
On choosing Dickinson:
Opportunity led me to Dickinson. Here, students have the ability to become involved with any group, organization or major, so long as they apply themselves. The community here fosters a spirit of hard work, because students are supported in their successes and learning experiences.
Favorite place on campus:
Reading a book and sipping a coffee from the Quarry in a red Adirondack chair on the academic quad.
Favorite Dining Hall food:
The beer-battered cod at lunch time. I’ll mix ketchup and vegan mayo together to make what my Irish mother calls “pink sauce” to go with my fried fish.
Favorite class/learning experience so far:
Modern Dance III, led by Visiting Instructor in Dance Erin Crawley-Woods. Waking up for a 9 a.m. dance class might not sound appealing, but it is the best way to start your day—waking up your brain through movement. This past fall we spent the majority of the semester dancing outside around different parts of campus, focusing on site-specific movement. This is a course that many dancers take multiple times while they are on campus, because it is so enlightening and enjoyable.
I also really enjoyed taking Biopolitics: Make Live and Let Die with Professor of American Studies Cotten Seiler. Reading an entire year's worth of philosophical lectures from Michel Foucault in the first two weeks of the semester was a challenge, but from there, my classmates and I were able to have riveting conversations about complex issues in modern society. We became so interested in each other's thoughts about the material that we would show up to class a half hour early, always before our professor, to pick each other's brains on the most recent reading and catch up as friends. I can't think of any other class where you would find Wall-E on the syllabus, but Professor Seiler found lighthearted ways for us to discuss daunting issues like climate change through the lens of biopolitics.
If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be …
… Merce Cunningham. He was a famous modern dancer who worked as a choreographer, even after he could not dance because of his arthritis. As a fellow dancer with arthritis, I would love to have a conversation with him about what it is like being a dancer with a genetic condition that limits your movement. I’m sure we would have a lot of the same feelings, but he probably has more wisdom on the subject than I do.
Proudest accomplishment so far:
This past semester I choreographed a piece for the Dance Theatre Group’s 2022 mainstage production, Freshworks. My piece, Pace of Life, was an exploration of the concept of disability. I was able to use my skills as both a dance major and an American studies major to create the piece. I did research into disability studies and developed movement to reflect the concepts I learned. I got great reception from Professor of Dance Sarah Skaggs, who advised me in this process; my cast who danced in the piece; and audience members. I am incredibly proud of my work as a choreographer, and I’m grateful I was allowed to put my work on the Mathers Theater stage.
Since then, I have had the opportunity to bring this piece to a college dance festival through the American College Dance Association, where I received very generous feedback from a panel of adjudicators. I will be taking the knowledge from these experiences with me into my senior year as I embark on a choreographic project as winner of the 2024 Weiss Prize.
Advice for younger students:
Get involved on campus! Being a member of a club is like getting a new group of friends. If there’s an event on campus that piques your interest, go. Even if you don’t have a friend to go with, chances are you’ll end up making friends while you’re there.
Most important thing I’ve learned so far:
There are no bad ideas, just ideas that are working and ideas that need to be worked on. In both of my majors I have the freedom to explore my interests in intense detail, and with the support of my professors.
Read more Student Snapshots.
Published June 21, 2023