Artist-in-residence brings new ideas to dance department

Lauren Crist

Puerto Rican faculty member is merging poetry, choreography

Stacie Morgan and Kallie Loudon take turns being moveable mannequins in an improvisation dance class. Lauren Crist | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Inside the Gym Annex, Alicia Diaz brings her own Latin American culture and techniques to students as they learn the art of dance.

“I came from a very specific background,” said Diaz, an assistant professor of dance, “and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to also bring some of that life into this work as well.”

Diaz is the new artist-in-residence for the School of Theatre and Dance. Originally from Puerto Rico, she received a master’s degree in dance and choreography from New York University.

After years of dancing with different dance companies, Diaz applied to Kent State.

“This is a really wonderful way to enter the world of academia,” she said. “I don’t have all the administrative responsibilities that a full tenure track position would have, which means that I spend more time in the studio.”

Diaz is introducing new ideas to the department.

“I’m very interested in collaboration and in making bridges,” she said.

In her Dance Composition III class, Diaz is combining choreography and poetry. Along with David Hassler and the Wick Poetry Center, she is organizing a poet and choreographer workshop.

“We can discover new things about one art form in our collaboration with another,” Hassler said, program and outreach director for the Wick Poetry Center. “Professor Diaz’s project builds on the unique strength of a university, like Kent State, where students and faculty can easily come together and take advantage of this rich opportunity for collaboration.”

The workshop will give dance students the opportunity to perform to the spoken word.

“I’m very interested to see what’s going to happen,” Diaz said. “That’s probably the highlight right now in terms of creatively thinking about how to enter a class.”

Diaz said she wants to teach techniques outside the classroom. One activity would include choreographing a sequence and then performing that sequence in a different location.

“If you did something that is very expansive, I may ask you to do it under the desk,” she said. “So I was thinking of that, but outside between two trees or in the garden.”

Diaz teaches a range of classes from beginning fundamentals and advanced modern dance.

One class, Improvisation, has students acting as moveable mannequins. One student acts as the choreographer, directing the “mannequin” to form dramatic poses.

“I’m new to improv,” said Kallie Loudon, freshman dance performance major, “but (Diaz) makes you feel really comfortable and allows you to explore what you can do with the human body.”

At the end of class, students journal about what they experienced.

“I come in this class every Friday,” said Stacie Morgan, first year dance education major. “I think it’s the perfect ending to a stressful week.”

Diaz said she tries to bring variety to each class.

“Every class is different, and that is challenging both in its difficulty, because I have to be on my toes,” she said, “and then also challenging in the very good, exciting way of the unexpected.”

Contact College of the Arts reporter Lauren Crist at [email protected].