Congratulations to the graduating 3rd year MFA students. They are off to do some exciting work and we are pleased to share with you their reflections on their time at the U, as well as their plans and aspirations for the future. Below follows an interview with Ching-I Chang Bigelow. Originally from Taiwan, Ching-I will travel to China this summer to work as Rehearsal Director of Sleep No More Shanghai before returning to SLC to continue her work as an artist and teacher.
Where are you from and how did you come to the University of Utah? What brought you here?
I am made in Taiwan. Before this MFA program I lived in NYC. I relocated to Salt Lake City and wanted to know the dance community here. At the time, school seemed like a great place to get to know the people in Salt Lake and to rebuild a sense of community. Also, I like to joke that my Asian mom was one of the main reasons why I got my MFA. She is a kindergarten teacher and she is a great advocate for education. Before I relocated to SLC, I was teaching, modeling, creating, and rehearsing from 10am with Susan Marshall and other projects, and performing at night with Sleep No More until 10pm, or sometimes until 1am every day. By the end of my NYC time, I was physically exhausted and intellectually hungry for knowledge and teaching what I have experienced and learned.
Spending time here as an undergrad and graduate student, how have you seen the program change? How has it felt to be a part of those changes?
I definitely think that the department is changing in a great direction with the School of Dance. I did not understand the idea of modern and ballet emphasis due to my training background in Taiwan. Dancing since 5 years old, I had to learn Chinese dance (martial art, folk and classic), ballet, modern, improvisation, and jazz. The idea of emphasizing one method is an interesting idea for me to witness. I am sincerely happy for the merging of these two departments.
What experiences have felt most important in your development as an artist/teacher/choreographer/person/etc.? What has been most important for your journey?
I think the school gives a lot of space for personal growth. I appreciate the academic classes that I get to take outside of the dance department, such as a political science course that emphasizes food justice and civil engagement, an environmental justice course that cultivates relationship building and active advocating for justice in underserved populations, and the writing dissertation course where people from different fields come together and share their research. I enjoy the freedom that I have as a graduate student to really dive into my research interests. Also, the teachings have been so inspiring. I appreciate having the opportunities to teach the non-major students, seeing them valuing their physical thinking selves, and taking embodiment sincerely to their daily life.
What will you miss?
The support from the dance school community and the live musicians! We have the best musicians in our dance classes and I have so much respect for their dedication.
I will be in Shanghai working as a rehearsal director for Sleep No More Shanghai this summer. After that, I will be teaching at Westminster College and other dance places part time in the fall. I hope to teach in college and to continue learning from my students. I want to share my love for dance.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about any part of your experience?
I so appreciate my mentors, Satu [Satu Hummasti] and Pam [Pamela Gabor-Handman]. Their dedication to education and students are beyond what words can expression. I have tremendous respect for what they are offering in this institution.
Do you have advice for current and incoming graduate students?
Stand for your own rights and trust yourself that you have the right to be here learning and exchanging knowledge. Don’t ever let anyone decide for you. Own it.