Nourishing the Dancing Soul

Some say dance is a conversation between the body and soul. And at SMC, it certainly extends to more than just a discussion between students and teachers and becomes an evolving dialogue for those who share a love for dancing inside and outside the classroom.

Dance professor Jae Lee is fostering this dialogue by contributing to the Masters of Dance Series, showcasing free lectures by artists and teachers from the world of dance. Lee used her Chair of Excellence award from the SMC Foundation to take dance students to the Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at the California Institute of the Arts in the spring. There, SMC students met with faculty and learned about the world of modern dance with Associate Dean and Professor Andre Tyson.

Tyson, a former principal dancer and company teacher at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in New York, also choreographed a piece with SMC students –presented as part of the spring performance by Synapse, SMC’s contemporary dance ensemble, at the Broad Stage at the SMC Performing Arts Center.

“Having him come here to the school was an incredible experience for the students,” Lee said. “He was very open with our students. They really enjoyed it!”

Lee chose Tyson because of his extensive dance background to help students cultivate technique, creativity, and performance skills. Tyson is an award-winning dancer who has taught at dance festivals in Asia and Europe and collaborated with distinguished master choreographers, directors and performing artists in concert dance, commercial theater, film and TV.

“It’s a great situation for students because they can learn about joining a professional company or how to transfer,” Lee said. “I want them to learn both aspects.”

Tyson called SMC students “eager and receptive.”

“They made the workshop a fun and exciting experience for me,” Tyson remarked. “Teaching at SMC provided me with a wonderful outlet not only to teach and work with talented students, but it also gave me an opportunity to explore another aspect of my creative process that was very enjoyable.”

Lee plans on bringing in two more guest lecturers in the near future.

Lee began her dance training in South Korea where she earned a degree in ballet from Han Yang University and danced as a member of the Lee Ballet Company. She holds a M.A. in dance as well as a M.F.A. in dance with an emphasis in choreography.

The driving force behind her teaching is her love of dance, something she calls the conversation between her body and soul.

“What does dance mean to me? Well, technically it is a non-verbal communication. A universal language,” she said. “It’s a way of expressing yourself…your emotions, thoughts and philosophies. It’s not entertainment.”

Lee has taught ballet, modern dance, choreography and dance history at SMC for eight years. She is also the co-artistic director of Synapse Dance Theater. At home, she is mother to two young boys named Jason and Anthony. Becoming a mother guided her towards what she calls “a compassionate style of teaching.”

“I began viewing my students in a more motherly way,” she said. “I started asking myself, ‘How can I make their lives better? ’”

For more information on SMC’s dance program, visit www.smc.edu/dance or watch this video.

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