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Alumni Voices

Integrating Dance Into Their Lives

Follow the stories of F&M dance alums on their paths toward integrating dance into their lives...

Rachel Baker was especially inspired by a compositional improvisation class at F&M, which taught her to really be in the moment and connect with her fellow dancers, as well as to listen to herself and find her creativity. Thanks to rigorous coursework at F&M, Rachel felt well prepared for graduate school—she is currently an MA candidate at Antioch University New England, where she is studying dance/movement therapy and counseling. During her time at Antioch, Rachel has traveled to Cuba to discover Afrocuban dance and learn about psicoballet, Cuban dance therapy, and has co-presented at the 2012 American Dance Therapy Association National Conference and the 2013 New England American Dance Therapy Association Conference. Outside of school, Rachel continues to dance and pursue numerous creative outlets.

Ben Fink is currently living in New York City, getting his masters in Urban Planning at Hunter College.  Although he is not currently dancing full time, he does manage to take contact improvisation classes sometimes at Movement Research in Soho.  The dance education he received at F&M has been invaluable.  Studying dance teaches one how to conceive, create, and complete an idea from start to finish.  This ability transcends dance and has allowed Ben to apply these skills to his current endeavors.
Christina Knipp '09 is currently living in Washington, DC and working at the National Institutes of Health.  At Franklin and Marshall College she pursued a major in economics and a double minor in Italian and dance.  In D.C., Tina takes modern and hip-hop classes at the Joy of Motion Dance Studio and the Kennedy Center.  Her yoga practice includes power yoga, yin & yang yoga, and vinyasa.  For the past year, she worked with Tori Lawrence + Company (previously Lawrence-Herchenroether Dance Company) in performances of "Awakened Ruins" (September 2011 for the Philly Fringe 2011).  
Tori Lawrence, choreographer/director of Tori Lawrence + Co., collaborates with a group of musicians, dancers, and filmmakers on multidisciplinary site-specific installations, dance films, and work for the stage.  She was recently commissioned by the Barnes Foundation to create a new site-specific work, Holding Place, that premiered in December 2012.  Her choreography has been presented nationally and internationally by the Barnes Foundation, Dance/USA, Philadelphia FringeArts, Agite y Sirva Screendance Festival, Philadelphia Dance Projects, En Route Dance Film Festival, Dances Made to Order, Cultivate Dance Festival, WestFest Site-Specific Dance Festival, K77 Studio in Berlin, Ponderosa, American College Dance Festival, Franklin & Marshall College, and the University of North Carolina.  She has taught master classes at F&M College and various studios in the Northeast.  She is the community engagement coordinator at Mascher Space Cooperative and is the co-founder of Philadelphia's newest performance venue: The Iron Factory.  She graduated with honors from Franklin & Marshall College in 2010 and holds a B.A. in both dance and public health.  Her fascination with architecture, film, site-specific art, and choreography began when she was a student at F&M. Under Professor Pamela Vail's wonderful guidance, Tori created an evening-length site-specific work, Source, at Lancaster's Eastern Market for her senior honors project; the work was accompanied by her thesis paper "Memory, Perception, and Architecture in Relation to Choreography."

Jaclyn Malat is currently living in Philadelphia attending the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine to become a Doctor of Osteopathy. It was during a research project in Pam Vail’s Kinesiology for Dance course at F&M that Jaclyn discovered her interest in osteopathic medicine. Jaclyn finds that in this profession, the connection between continued learning, movement, body, mind, and health are especially rewarding. She find herself a better writer, dancer, a student because of the education, inspiration, and support from the F&M Dance Program. Jaclyn Malat graduated F&M in 2011 with a biology and dance joint major. There she concentrated in modern dance and compositional improvisation. Today, she continues fit dance into her schedule through dance classes, improvisational workshops, and as a dancer with Tori Lawrence + Co.

Maki Nishihara ’02 is an elementary school teacher at an international school in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Since she graduated from F&M, she has been teaching at a range of international schools and occasionally choreographing dances for children in school plays and café theaters. She received certificates in teaching ritmos latinos (Latin rhythms) and started teaching dance, including zumba Latin fitness classes, in Mexico City, Mexico. Living in Brazil, she had the opportunity to intern for 3 months at a Brazilian ballroom dance school and learned various Brazilian rhythms. Currently, she is studying tango in Sao Paulo and, periodically, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for intense tango training. She is very thankful for the opportunities and skills that she acquired through the F&M Dance Company and the dance courses that she took during her college years. 
Allison Smith Parsley is a dance educator, dancer, choreographer, and director who has been involved with dance for almost 30 years. Allison is the dance teacher at Mamaroneck High School in Mamaroneck, NY. Her curriculum focuses on technique, student-created choreography, dance literacy, and teaching based on the theories of Rudolf Laban. Allison is a certified teacher of Labanotation and has completed the Stage One Fundamentals Certificate in Language of Dance® with Tina Curran. She has staged and directed masterworks from the Labanotation score including works by Anna Sokolow, David Parsons, José Limón, Helen Tamiris, and Doris Humphrey. Allison has worked closely in developing curriculum for the New York City public schools with leaders in dance education. Prior to her current position, she was the dance specialist at P.S. 506 in Brooklyn, NY. Allison holds an MFA in dance/directing-from-score from The Ohio State University, an MA in dance and dance education with K-12 teacher certification from New York University, and a BA in psychology and anthropology with a dance minor from Franklin & Marshall College, where she was a Hackman Scholar and recipient of two dance awards.  Allison has served as both a tutor for the Dance Notation Bureau and as a member of its Professional Advisory Committee. Allison writes: “It is almost impossible to put into words the effect that the F&M Dance program had on my life and my career. As a freshman entering into the dance program, I had always been taught choreography. I had never had the chance to create my own. Thanks to the guidance, support, and patience of the F&M Dance faculty, I was taught how and given the creative license to express myself through my choreography. The lessons that I learned at F&M are lessons that I share with my high school students who are also just learning how to express themselves through their choreography. As a student in the dance program at F&M, I didn't just learn how to dance. I learned to choreograph, to express, to think about dance, to analyze dance, and to write about dance. I owe so much to the Dance department at F&M and especially to Lynn Brooks who, even 10 years after I graduated, still serves as a staunch supporter, encourager, and friend.
Maungsai Somboon graduated from Ohio State University in 2011 with an MFA in dance. He recently moved to New York where he has danced in a few projects by contemporary choreographers Larry Keigwin and Jackie Buglisi, and then was hired as a dancer in the ensemble of The King and I in Beverly, Mass., at the North Shore Music Theatre. At the time of writing, Maungsai was in a small Off-Broadway show called Little House on the Ferry. At the same time, he was also cast in Sleep No More, a physical theatre/interactive show that takes place in an abandoned hotel in Chelsea.  It's loosely based on the story of Macbeth and the dancing is spectacular: lots of partnering, contact, Viewpoints, gaga. He writes, “It's tiring, but hey, I'm dancing in NYC! Couldn't ask for more.”
Michele Trumble ’08—After graduating from Franklin & Marshall with a geology major and dance minor, Michele spent a year in New Mexico choreographing, dancing for professors and graduate students at the University of New Mexico and teaching dance to adults with disabilities. Michele is currently pursing her Masters of Fine Arts degree in Choreography at the University of North Carolina Greensboro (graduating in 2013). Her choreographic research and writing interests are in looking at body knowledge and its role in society. She received a Graduate Fellowship for Academic Excellence for the 2011-2012 school year. Michele writes, “ I credit Lynn Brooks and Pam Vail’s incredible passion and dedication to their students as the reason I am pursuing my dreams of choreography and dance research today. While I have always been a good writer they pushed me to be a great writer. They each gave me a foundation of belief in my abilities and then demanded more from me each year. Through a delicate balance of support and challenge, they taught me how to find and expand my physical range in performance and technique, personal creative process in choreography and scholarly voice. Besides the professors’ obvious passion for teaching, the Dance Program’s greatest strength is the opportunity it provides to become involved in and experience the arts in a myriad of ways. Throughout my F&M career I not only participated in concerts and dance classes, but precepted a course on dance and the community, served on the Dance Co. executive board, choreographed works for two concerts, took dance classes in downtown Lancaster, and worked in the Theater, Dance and Film office. I was also fortunate to have been cast in two reconstructions while in the Dance Company—a baroque piece reconstructed by Temple professor Joellen Meglin, and Isadora Duncan's Schubert's Ninth Symphony reconstructed by Lori Belilove. I found participating in the outreach work during Belilove’s residency at F&M to be one of the most rewarding ways I’ve experienced to access inspiration and creativity. Through work in the classroom, studio, and community, the F&M dance department helped me find my true potential in both body and mind.”

Rachel Baker

  • Rachel Baker (F&M alumna)

Ben Fink

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Christina Knipp

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Tori Lawrence

  • tori lawrence photo

Jaclyn Malat

  • Jaclyn Malat '11

Maungsai Somboon

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Michele Trumble

  • micheletrumble