HHS students celebrate International Dance Day

Alyssa Arreola poses for a picture during a rehearsal in a Purdue dance studio.

Public health junior Alyssa Arreola choreographed “Navigating Through Sickness and Good Health,” a work that challenged her dancers to explore the emotions of health. The piece debuts at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 29 and 30, and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at Hansen Theatre inside Pao Hall.Tim Brouk

Written by: Tim Brouk, tbrouk@purdue.edu

From stress relief to informing their studies, Purdue University College of Health and Human Sciences (HHS) students have choreographed dance into their busy college careers.

Some took on Purdue’s Division of Dance minor to go along with their HHS majors. Some have been dancing since they could walk. All have found artistic movement to enhance their Purdue experiences mentally and physically.

A trio of HHS students will celebrate International Dance Day on Friday by performing in the Purdue Contemporary Dance Company’s Spring Works concert at 7:30 p.m. and again at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Pao Hall’s Hansen Theatre.

Psychology of dance

As a psychological sciences senior, Sarah VanBuskirk is a firm believer in dance enhancing mental health. She joined the Purdue Contemporary Dance Company to meet friends and explore a new hobby. The more she danced, however, the more she saw a link between her studies and her passion for dance.

“I say that there is a big mind/body connection with dance,” VanBuskirk said. “Dance is where I get physical activity, and it helps with my mental health.”

VanBuskirk will perform in guest choreographer Joy McEwen’s piece, “Moments Lost: Found.”

“It’s all about time,” VanBuskirk said. “It’s about how you utilize your time, like the idea of carpe diem.”

The performance will mark her last time on stage at Purdue — until the spring commencement May 14.

“After I graduate in May, I’m planning on getting some work experience for a year as a mental health technician before deciding on applying to grad school for either clinical psychology or school psychology,” VanBuskirk said.

Biomechanics in motion

A dancer since age 3, Abby Sullivan quickly found a home in the Purdue Contemporary Dance Company. With each semester, she realized a correlation between her health and kinesiology studies and her passion for dance.

“Kinesiology seemed like the perfect fit,” said Sullivan, whose career aspirations so far include athletic training or physical therapy. “I have a whole new mindset coming into class.”

Kinesiology classes stress the importance of taking care of injuries, which has helped improve her dance enjoyment.

“In the past, I’ve been bad about dancing with injuries,” said Sullivan, who will perform in Purdue Dance Professor Sally Wallace’s piece “Drawing Lines.” “Now I have a new appreciation for listening to my body for when I need to take a break and stretch.”

Public health pliés

Alyssa Arreola, a junior studying public health, choreographed “Navigating Through Sickness and Good Health,” a work that challenged her dancers to explore the emotions of health. They had plenty to draw from the last two years.

“I challenged my dancers to be like patients navigating through the healthcare system,” Arreola explained. “I really wanted to emphasize the emotional component of health. Reflecting on my public health classes, I realized that health isn’t ‘one size fits all.’ It’s important to understand that we all have these individual factors that impact how we act and how we have access to care.”

The piece features a voice-over discussing diagnosis and dramatic health experiences — the hardship or elation of a diagnosis, for example. The beeping of a electrocardiographic (EKG) heart monitor keeps time in a dramatic fashion.

Like Sullivan, Arreola went from toddler to dancer at 3. Performance has been a huge part of her life. Choreography is an extension of her passion for dance.

“I take a lot of science classes where I’m in labs. I think it’s really important to have a balance, where I’m not just sitting; I’m moving,” Arreola said. “It allows me to destress at the end of the day. I value a dance studio that I can turn to.”