Teaching students in two locations, separated by over 250 miles, can be more than challenging when your teaching schedule is full and you’re also the chair of a department at a major university. For Nina Nelson, professor and chair for the Department of Dance at Western Michigan University (WMU), the challenge was simplified by using Internet2.
In Spring 2006 Nelson, who has been recognized by the American College Dance Festival for excellence in choreography and performance, was invited to teach her dance “Fields of Motion” to undergraduate and graduate dancers at Case Western Reserve University (Case) in Cleveland, OH. Because of her limited availability, Nelson and the faculty at Case decided on a process that would involve some in-person teaching and a couple of rehearsals via Internet2, which WMU accesses via Merit Network.
First, Nelson traveled to Cleveland for the initial rehearsal to introduce Case students to the new dance. After her return to Kalamazoo, one of the Case faculty members, Gary Galbraith, assumed the role of rehearsal director for the dance. Nelson then conducted two rehearsals via Internet2 before returning to Cleveland the week prior to the concert for some final rehearsals with the dancers.
Like learning a new dance, the process of using Internet2 to facilitate a dance rehearsal took some practice.
“Since this is the first time I had used Internet2, it took me a while to learn some of the idiosyncrasies of the system,” Nelson said. “For example, there was a slight time delay in the transmission. Since rhythmic accuracy is so important to dance, I had to adjust my expectations regarding having a good picture of the dancers’ rhythmic accuracy.”
“A similar experience happened with the music. Case was having trouble playing the music from their sound system. When we played the music in Kalamazoo, the transmission time lapse created problems for the dancers. Spacing was another interesting challenge. Spatial accuracy (where the dancers are located in the stage space) is another area in dance that is very important. Though I had a view of most of the Case stage space in one frame, there were some areas of the stage I couldn’t see. Of course, this makes it difficult to see ‘the whole visual picture.'”
The lessons learned from the first Internet2 experience made the second rehearsal much easier.
“The second Internet2 rehearsal went much better,” Nelson said. “I knew to adjust my expectations, understood the strengths and limitations of the technology, and learned to maneuver the cameras better. Internet2 allowed us to have an artistic exchange that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.”
“Because the dance program at Case has done several projects using Internet2, this project went very smoothly. It couldn’t have happened without the technology.”
Nelson taught her dance “Fields of Motion” to the students at Case Western Reserve University. The music accompanying the dance was created by WMU composer and faculty member Richard Adams. The dance was commissioned in 2003 by the WMU School of Music’s Symphonic Band in celebration of WMU’s centennial. The dance’s first performance was at Miller Auditorium at WMU and was performed live by the School of Music Symphonic Band under the direction of Robert Spradling.
For the eighth consecutive year, Western Michigan University was included on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the nation’s top-100 public universities. The 2007 list of America’s “Best National Universities” cited WMU’s academic reputation, retention and graduation rates, student/faculty ratios, class size, faculty resources and student test scores.
Western Michigan University’s main campus is located in Kalamazoo, covering more than 550 acres and including 125 buildings. The university has branch campuses located in Battle Creek, Benton Harbor-St. Joseph, Grand Rapids, Holland, Lansing, Muskegon, South Haven and Traverse City.
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching places WMU among the 76 public institutions in the nation designated as research universities with high research activity.
WMU became a member of Internet2 in March 2000.