Body in Motion

Body in Motion

“Use the legs, free the arms, toes around, down and up! Cut it through, square off the hips, challenge yourself.” These are the commands delivered by dancer and Saint Mary’s alumna Jaclyn Thompson ’04, while instructing a class of dancers in her return to the campus during a brief residency as a guest artist and professor. The students were focused, energized, and moving. “The more space you take up the easier it is to hold yourself in space,” she continues. And then to reiterate she says, “The more space you take up, the goo-ier it is.”

Thompson explains this by using mathematical concepts. She can’t sit still and has to go through the movement to illustrate what she means by “gooier” or “luscious,” another word she uses to convey how “the body is on a 3-D axis, with the framework around you. You can touch and feel the axis.”

Thompson completed a student-designed major in movement studies, integrating math, dance, and art. In 2003 she and dance professor Indi Dieckgrafe were recipients of a Student Independent Study and Research (SISTAR) grant, and the two traveled to Europe to research “Labanotation,” a discipline named for the dancer Rudolf Laban. The system records dance movement, using “math as a way to frame the movements of the body,” explains Thompson. “It’s really special to find a link between math and dance.”

Thompson has also been a sabbatical replacement for Dieckgrafe. “She is such a talented and very promising young artist, both as a performer and a choreographer,” says Dieckgrafe.

In addition to dance, Thompson was active on the track and field team during her first year at Saint Mary’s, setting a pole vaulting record which still stands (there is no longer a track and field team), and she was on the golf team her junior and senior years. Thompson also studied dance in Ireland during her sophomore year, traveling right after 9/11. “It was a really scary time to be away from your family, and in a new place,” says Thompson. Looking back on the experience she says, “It was the best year of my life.”

Today Thompson works at Movement Research in New York City. While in the Midwest, she’ll be performing in Chicago. “This is the way people work today,” says Thompson of her schedule. “Project based.”

Thompson’s return stint included two days of intensive choreography and dance instruction for dancers in the Dance Ensemble Workshop. She’ll return in February when the ensemble performs. Thompson also worked with advanced dance classes during her residency. It’s nice to see all the good here and be back to see how committed they are,” says Thompson of the students. She believes in supporting the College, and says of her return, “It’s my way of giving back.”