Many students might consider taking a dance class to satisfy that ominous four PE credits requirement. Some, however, go even further and develop a real passion for the subject. This has been the case for Bel Barros Guinle ‘19, who took her first-ever ballet class at Swarthmore and is now a Dance minor.
“I didn’t have any formal dancing experience before…my first real dance class was Ballet 1 with Olivia [Olivia Sabee, Assistant Professor of Dance]. But my mom danced a lot when she was younger, and she’s an artist now and makes a lot of sculptures around ballerinas,” says Barros Guinle.
Although ballet started as a simple interest, she grew increasingly interested in the department. In addition to her Neuroscience major and Pre-Med track, Barros Guinle became a dance minor, specializing in ballet (she has also taken Modern Dance). In the middle of her busy schedule, dance has become a valuable source of relaxation and freedom.
“Schoolwork can be really stressful – this is Swarthmore,” laughs Barros Guinle. “[Dance] is a good time to disconnect from schoolwork and really be in that moment…for three hours a week, I can’t think of anything else, I just focus on what I’m doing.”
Dance also ties in to her academic work – she is especially interested in the interaction between the brain and the body. As she explains,
“One of the reasons I came to appreciate dance so much is…the more I learn about the brain, how the mind and body are intrinsically connected, the more I realize dance teaches you things sitting in a classroom won’t teach you…like, it helps me to stay focused in class. I’m also interested in working with children on the autism spectrum, and how dance therapy can be a part of that.”
For Guinle, dance ties in directly to a lot of real world issues. She recalls a performance from last spring’s Choreography class, which depicted the effects of mental illness and substance abuse; this particularly resonated with her as, once she graduates, she will be starting a fellowship researching the effects of drug addiction on the brain. But first, she has an importance dance milestone coming up – her first ever public performance, as part of Chandra Moss-Thorne’s Repertory Ballet class.
“This is the first time I’m really seeing myself as a dancer,” enthuses Barros Guinle. “No one has ever seen me dance, not even my closest friends…definitely not on stage.”
Furthermore, she has a few words of advice for students who, like her, started dance in college and have had no previous experience — go ahead and take the plunge.
“I was really scared at first to call myself a dance minor, compared to people who had invested so many years in it,” says Barros Guinle, describing the “impostor syndrome” that feels so familiar to Swatties. “But Chandra and Olivia have been so motivating, so welcoming, and they have believed in me more than I have in myself, many times. The dancers in my year…have been very welcoming and never made me feel like I didn’t belong. So if you’re without experience, go for it!”
Émilie Hautemont ’20