D.O.S.E. of Dance

This fall, a troupe of Pomfret dancers made it their mission to bring the healing properties of dance to the screen.


Fun fact. Moving your body to the beat activates brain pathways that release feel-good, trust-boosting neurochemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. Experts who study the relationship between movement and emotion often refer to these chemicals as D.O.S.E.

So, it should come as no surprise that a troupe of Pomfret dancers has made it their mission to share the healing properties of dance with others this term. Through screendance, a hybrid arts form that combines movement with camera work, this group has been choreographing, performing, filming, and sharing unique dance sequences that have brought a smile to our face and a rhythm to our step. 

"This is proof that connection, creativity, hard work, collaboration, and pure joy is still alive and kicking at Pomfret," says Nina Joly, who directs the dance program, "even during these weird times."

When the fall term began, Joly was thrilled that students were being invited back to campus for in person classes, but she was concerned with how this "new normal" would translate to the arts. The answer came in the form of a request from Director of Spiritual and Ethical Education Bobby Fisher. “Bobby approached me and asked if I would be willing to create a short student dance performance video to share at the start of an upcoming chapel service,” she said. "Historically, students were able to perform live in the chapel during services, but when we moved to a streaming model, where students attend chapel remotely with their advisory groups, performing in person was no longer possible."

Nina loved Bobby’s idea of incorporating video performances, so she got to work with her students creating what would be the first in a series of screendances. “It turned out beautifully,” she said. It went so well, in fact, that she decided to reimagine her course to incorporate screendance into the curriculum. “I realized that rather than working all term to build a huge show that would likely present logistical issues when it came time for a live performance, I could instead break the class down into smaller segments and have students work to create several screendances throughout the term.”

Nina pulled from her own personal experience, which has focused more and more on dance made for film in recent years. “Making video requires a lot of foresight and a lot of logistical planning,” she says. “The fact that two of the students in the class are learning from a distance created even more challenges.”

Each student had the opportunity to act as project leader on a video, either on their own or collaboratively with another student. Project leaders acted as director, primary choreographer, and producer for their video, and were responsible for every aspect of the project — from costumes and props to logistics and set up. Students were also responsible for creating rehearsal videos for the other students and working with distance learners to incorporate their segments into the video.

“If you had asked me six months ago, I would have told you this would never work,” Nina said. “But it has worked, and it's been such an amazing process to witness. It’s not just about learning moves and regurgitating them. Students develop their ideas and then find ways to translate their vision from beginning to end and communicate it to the other students — many of whom may not move like they do. It’s been really fascinating to see them grow.” 

So what are you waiting for? Kick off your shoes and dance!


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