Choreomundusly Yours | My Story of #ProudtobeRoey

People dancing in the Portrait Room, Grove House

Students in the Adam Room, Grove House
Choreomundus students don’t have an ‘official’ graduation, so we held our own. Complete with robes, of course!

My choreo family, aka Cohort 6, and I are the recent graduates of the University of Roehampton and Choreomundus MA program. Soon the university will welcome the next cohort of lucky and talented students to the programme. Writing this post is my humble way to welcome them, reunite with my group mates and teachers through memories despite the miles, and hug them all and the University of Roehampton with my gratitude.

I think it would be hard for me to put impressions about my Choreomundus experience in general and at the University of Roehampton in particular into the usual word count allowed for this blog… or even a book. But I will go for it. That’s what Choreomundus taught me – to dare and accept the challenges. This will be a long read. And actually writing a book about Choreomundus is a great idea. Noted.

Choreomundus is an International Master in Dance Knowledge, Practice, and Heritage.

The programme investigates dance and other movement systems (ritual practices, martial arts, games and physical theatre) as Intangible Cultural Heritage. This amazing journey that is officially called a Master’s programme is a miraculous gift from a consortium of four universities: University of Clermont Auvergne (Clermont-Ferrand, FR); Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU, Trondheim, NO); University of Szeged (SZTE, HU); and the University of Roehampton (London, UK). Each country was a unique experience and brought a lot of friends and dance adventures.

Cupcakes with decorations for each of the four universities involved in the Choreomundus programme

Representatives of the partner universities cutting a cake

London is the final city students attend for the programme, so it’s where we actually celebrate the graduation with lots of both joy and sadness. Because ‘Yes, we have gone this!’, but our journey together is technically over. Technically, because this absolutely doesn’t mean we won’t meet again or keep in touch. Quite the opposite.

We all miss Professor Andree Grau who we were happy to meet at the beginning of the programme in 2017. Sadly, we didn’t have a chance to get to know this amazing human being and dance researcher more as she passed away. I am sure she would have been the one giving us the warmest welcome at the University of Roehampton.  

Montefiore Hall on Froebel Campus

But in a way in spring it felt like she did welcome us at Roehampton with blooming trees by the Department of Dance where she would enjoy sitting and chatting with her students.

Four academics in an office

Let me tell the story of freezing in admiration and jumping in love with the University of Roehampton from the very beginning.

A student doing a handstand by the 'Rainbow R' mural

We arrived at Roehampton at the beginning of January 2019 right after Christmas and New Year holidays. At first, we were welcomed with a tour of campus, library and some preliminary meetings. Not all of my group mates chose to reside on campus for different reasons. But as for me, I really wanted to submerge into the Roehampton community and did my best to be as close as possible – literally and figuratively. Roe campus is definitely a city-within-a-city; in the case of Choreomundus we talk about a city of dance. There’s an amazing dance department and remarkable dance artists and researchers. I was shown Davies and Michaelis dance studios by my friend and group mate Emmanuel Ndefo, a Nigerian dance artist, who arrived to London a bit earlier and knew the campus well. At that moment I didn’t know how special those studios would become over time.

Since it was the end of our two-year programme, we had obligatory and optional courses to facilitate in writing our thesis – something I later called my first little book about dance. But an additional benefit to audit courses was a really great opportunity. We could join both theoretical and practical courses. Jackpot.

Students celebrating on the terrace steps of Grove House

Quite a few of my group mates, including myself, couldn’t resist joining the courses. Irrespective of a scary thesis deadline – which we all successfully met, by the way.

Despite having a more street dance background, I was lucky to join courses on Cunningham, Limon and even Graham technique. I felt welcomed by both teachers and students. Dance has a lot of facets, layers and colours, and I am blessed to approach and explore the rainbow this deeply.

I am grateful to Elaine Thomas, Erica Stanton, Gemma Donohue and Georgia Tegou for their amazing dance classes, openness and patience. Certain movement characteristics – like Cunningham arms – joined my dance vocabulary and are frequently used in different styles. My thanks to Geraldine Morris for making each student feel like a ballet dancer with all the beauty and hardships of ‘Classicism and Power’, and to Rowan McLelland who let us vogue, lindy hop and explore other joys of ‘Popular and Urban dances’ in what was inaccurately described as a purely theoretical course!

We appreciate Ann R. David and Sara Houston’s work, how devoted and thorough they are in explaining, demonstrating a unique philosophy of ‘People moving, people dancing’. My Choreomundus family and I are lucky to have so many mentors to guide us in this choreo-journey . We feel grateful  to our Choreomundus MA Conveners and all the teachers who supported us both academically and emotionally before and during our Roehampton fairytale-study: professors Egil Bakka, Georgiana Wierre-Gore, László Felföldi, Gediminas Karoblis, Chi-Fang Chao, Theresa Buckland, Sándor Varga, Raphael Blanchier, Géraldine Rix-Lièvre and many-many others. Choreomundus dancers like to improvise, but even a free-style should be structured, so we appreciate our administrators Elise Carraro, Maj Vester Larsen, Leila Johnson,  Juan Felipe Miranda Medina, Maria Peredo, Vivien Apjok taking care of our smooth journey and helping with different organizational issues. 

Students dance beyond the windows of a studio

During the practical courses, I met a lot of MFA students and was glad to join their performances and researches. Just like quite a few of my group mates. The dance unites indeed.

Amy Elizabeth Sheppard, Kerrie Ní Dhubhghaill and I explored how food affects movement in ‘Joyous Occasion’ by Eric LaRue Harper-Shiring and tried to find a way out in movement through ‘The Door’ by Shan Shen (Dancers: Kay Liang, Zihan Zhu, Mike Turner-Lee).

A special place among the performances for me took “In-visible” by Shahrin Johry (Dance dream team: Shahrin Johry, Maria Miguel, Luis Carlos Marquez, Ming, Ioanna Georgopoulou, Teng Guo, Shan Shen, Emma Ericsson, Juliet Mello, Angeliki Nikolaidou). I joined a month before my disso submission. Sounds somewhat crazy and risky, yet was totally worth it. We did a lot of workshops together and the creative process was very useful to get to know other styles and people. Real diversity in dance. I am grateful for a chance to represent my style, celebrate hip-hop and meet other dance cultures. As far as I know breaking and street styles are not that often represented in final performances. But I see that it is changing.

Each module I did at Roehampton together with my Choreomundus friends was memorable in its own way.

‘Music and Dance’ from Stephanie Jordan and Erica Stanton was a compulsory module I took, and its impact was way deeper than I expected. After investigating a magic relation of music and movement my choreobuddies and I were supposed to do a task for the final assessment. And naturally, most of my group mates chose a practical task. Oh, these dancers are cutely predictable. Our final assessment for the course was a real gala concert. We were lucky to investigate the most daring ideas of a dialogue of music and body. Years back I got so passionate about breaking after seeing a performance by the German breaking crew ‘Flying Steps’ dancing to works of Johann Sebastian Bach. So at Roe, I wanted to explore the way to combine breaking with the music of Frederic Chopin. Breaking Chopin was a heart-chopping choreomusical adventure indeed. I always wanted to try it and now it became my assessment task. Later Stephanie Jordan even presented my experiment at conferences in Rome and Warsaw. I appreciate Stephanie and Erica’s wish to push us to use imagination and explore as devoted researchers.

A student performs a handstand outside the Library

There are quite a few reason why my studying at Roehampton uni was so special, but one of the main ones is that I learned to exceed limits or not actually believe in them – just like in breaking. You just go for it and break through. Break free.

During the module Performance of Heritage, my choreobuddies and I got a chance to dance our heritage. Yes, it was another gala, another task where most of my group mates chose practical over theoretical. We are grateful to Emilyn Claid, Helena Hammond and Cristina Fernandes Rosa for teaching, guiding and showing us how to appreciate movement as a treasure in museum and move it way beyond the walls of the buildings. This course was definitely my way to get to know my choreofriends and myself better. It seems like we had two years together, but is it ever enough?

Students dance in the Portrait Room, Grove House (2)

During the last semester we had fewer classes since we were supposed to focus mainly on disso. But Roe library was our get-together place. Quite a few of us including myself preferred to stay at what I call the SHHHHH-floor to focus on work, but we would often go down to have coffee/dance/chat/cry over the deadline [delete as applicable]!

A student in the Library

We definitely partially owe Roe Library our successfully written dissertations. Great place to focus, sit in angel-like grey armchairs and read. Sway around the moving shelves and try not to get distracted by those beautiful views out of the window.

Three students dancing in a studio

My group mates took part in many performances in Roehampton and in other dance organisations in London. It is hard to name them all and give them a proper description and tribute. All of my group mates are talented and inspiring individuals. I am honoured to have met and collaborated with them. Soon I hope to create a multimedia project with their life and dance stories “Conversations” But for now I’ll describe one collaboration that really sank deep into me and left a special trace. 

My friend and groupmate Mululu Dennis Kioli from Kenya is a deeply spiritual and open person. He is always there to help people out, support or advise.

For Mululu, volunteering wasn’t a new thing. While at school, he volunteered in a hospital; it was his way to give back to society. So having come to London he could start his own project on volunteering. And since he is a part of Choreomundus family involving dance seemed and was the most natural thing.

Mululu started a project of visiting patients in Queen Mary’s Hospital and performing for them – be it music or dance. Often just a chat and listening would be really special. I will never forget the day when my groupmates Mululu, Sam Usher (Australia), Jesus Mora Romero (Spain) and I went to visit the patients. With a great music accompaniment of Sam and Mululu Jesus and I were doing footworks and freezes in the hospital ward risking to crash into the bed. Somewhere there – when we were dancing like in the most energising hip hop jam – I realized how powerful that experience was. Sadly, many of those patients are not often visited. We brought some fun to their daily activities. We did it by simply doing what we love – dancing. That’s a blessing indeed.

Mululu also tried to volunteer for the Red Cross and says that the UK provides a lot of opportunities to volunteer compared to his country. In one of our conversations, Mululu added that he was happy to do an Erasmus + program in a multicultural city like London and in a multicultural university like Roe.

I think this post is turning into acknowledgements – just like in my thesis. Luckily the English language has a lot of ways to say thank you. And actually I have a lot of reasons to be thankful and a lot of people to thank. So let me give a few more thank yous.

A black and white photo of a student dancing in a dance studio

Dear Roehampton dance studios, THANK YOU. I have painted your floors with my steps and jumps, spins and almost-windmills, hugged your walls with my thoughts, and mesmerised your mirrors with smiles and sometimes fears. And it wasn’t just me. It is a whole world of people, who entered your exploratory supernatural element during classes and after them.

I am still there. I am still here. We are always here… Until the security guard enters the studio at 10 or better 11 p.m. and in the most polite way possible asks me/us to go home. “We are closing, dear.” But hey, there is always tomorrow… Always?

A view from Newman building of the Jubilee building, the David Bell Building and Elm Grove at sunset
The view from Newman dorm

Here I did my best to put into words how happy and proud I am to be a Roey and Choreomundus person. Thank you, Roe and the UK, a country where I did learn dance magic and spread my wings. Those wings from a graffiti by Gisella Stapleton which I could see from my window in Newman building dorm: ‘If you don’t have wings; create them’. For some reason I guess I had my wings, but learned to use them in more unique ways here.

Olga in front of Gisella Stapleton's 'Wings' mural

My deep thanks and gratitude to the program, convenors and professors, and my group mates for this amazing journey and good luck to current and future students. My friend and group mate Abanti Banerjee (India) said that this program is a fairytale. Well, I guess because that’s what it is. A dance fairytale. And I truly believe that the journey is never over. It is just a transition to a new stage. I believe in crossroads. We’ll meet. And until then let’s dance and research dance in others and ourselves.

Choroemundus students and academics

Choreomundus is my chance

To meet the world through movement.

Discover true self via dance

Each moment here is my improvement.

Unique dance beings are my friends.

Let’s move the world and let’s be moved.

Our journey never ends

And unity was sealed and proved.

We boomed in Hungary and Norway

And reunited first in France,

And then in London to find own way

To cherish anthropology of dance.

How to describe my big delight

To share adventures with the brave.

So dancing rebels blessed with light

Let’s fly and flow, for movement crave

Choreomundusly yours,

– Olga German (Ukraine/BCN)

The University of Roehampton changes lives by helping our students to develop the confidence, knowledge and values they need for a successful and fulfilling life. We produce world-class research that helps us understand the world and change it for the better.

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