“I just finished my third Senior Fulbright Specialist assignment, supporting European Union development of cross-cultural understanding for students and faculty, through development of dance curricula in universities. Funding in the form of travel and housing for students came from the Erasmus component of the EU, where emphasis is placed on projects that bring people together from different countries by offering innovative programs. My partners were faculty from Belgium, Germany, Portugal and The Netherlands, and we shared planning and teaching responsibilities.
We each selected and recruited students, with an average over the three years of ten-fifteen European students from each country and three-four Americans.
The project, “Dance Extensions” was initiated by Professor Lydie Willem, from Universite Catholique de Louvain (Belgium), and the first session in 2002, was hosted by that institution. Subsequent sessions were hosted by Deutsche Sporthocschule Koln, 2003; Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, 2004.
The program covered social and political history of each country in context with artistic work and cultural policy and diversity. This was accomplished through field trips, lectures, seminars, technique classes, performances, and choreographic projects. In Belgium we had lectures on visual art and history, and visited the major museum in Brussels. This brought us in touch with events of World Wars I and II and the after effects. In Germany we viewed a stunning new documentary based on the book “Hitler’s Dancers”, dealing with the relationship of art and politics and artists in a totalitarian regime. In Portugal we learned about the dictatorship of the Salazar regime, the censorship that ensued, and the events after 1974 when a new political regime was instituted.
No intensive American dance program exists in this format. The emphasis all three years was on creating a non-competitive environment for students and faculty. The schedule each time was intense, from 9:00 often till midnight. Included were pedagogic designs to encourage integration, and new information and experiences in theory and practice. Discussion groups met on a regular basis, consisting of six-seven people with a faculty mentor, and were designed by mixing students from different countries. Seminars emphasized student questions based on varied groupings, again allowing for a mix of cultures and backgrounds.
This year I asked a European student why he came to this Erasmus program, and he answered, “I don’t want any more wars, and this is a step in that direction.” During a field trip in northern Portugal early in the program, I saw the American students wandering late afternoon, feeling disconnected culturally. The next day they came to me excited; they had found spots with their sleeping bags and had wonderful conversations with several Dutch students. As faculty straggled to breakfast around 7:30 this year we did not identify as American, German, Portugese, Dutch, or Belgian. We identified as colleagues, working together towards shared goals. Next year, a new project begins: Erasmus has funded an intensive dance program emphasizing distance learning, and placing curriculum in partner schools, with the possibility of developing an international Master’s in Dance. Need more be said about the success and joy of being involved for the past three years as Senior Fulbright, and giving thanks to colleagues Lydie Willem, Wolfgang Tiedt, Elisabete Monteiro, Luísa Roubaud, Liesbeth Wildschut, and fellow Fulbrighter Gerald Otte.”
First US Scholar to come to Portugal under the Fulbright Senior Specialist Program, at Faculdade de Motricidade Humana, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, AY 2003/2004