Tuesday, October 12, 2021

From studying dance as an undergraduate to working and teaching professionally to learning dance techniques in Taiwan, Juliet Remmers continues her love of dance as an MFA student in the University of Iowa’s Dance Program.

After being introduced to dance as a young child through the ballet, Swan Lake, Remmers’ parents enrolled her in a ballet class, which she continued until high school, where she explored more genres, such as modern dance, improvisation, and yoga.

“My horizons broadened quite a bit from just doing ballet,” Remmers explains. “With this influx of different ways of moving my body, and understanding my body, gave me a lot of options in how I could imagine myself in the future.”

That future included receiving her undergraduate degree in dance from University of Kansas, teaching as an adjunct lecturer, and moving to Taiwan for four years where she studied contemporary and hybrid Chinese dance forms through Cloud Gate Dance Theater’s school. Her time in Taiwan not only helped advance her Chinese language skills but allowed her to meet with experimental dance artists that brought martial arts movements into their dancing.

“There is this permeating joy and creativity that doesn’t have to be tied to any specific form but can exist through a deep exploration of movement and intense contemplative way of being with your body,” Remmers reflects.

Remmers dancing on stage
Remmers dancing on stage. Photo by Miranda Meyer

Her valuable experience of studying these interwoven dance techniques in another country aided Remmers in developing her skill, but she felt the next step in her career was to pursue graduate school.

Remmers received an Iowa Arts Fellowship from the Graduate College her first year in the MFA program in 2019. This fellowship, along with her TA positions in the following years, gave Remmers financial relief so she could focus on her research.

“The reality that I was going to be able to make a living while pursuing my research, while performing, while learning, while teaching—that was a really incredible opportunity that this university’s program offers that a lot of programs do not,” says Remmers.

She was awarded the Graduate College MFA Summer Fellowship in 2021 in support of her thesis work that involves bringing the piece, “The Moor’s Pavane,” to Iowa which she will be performing with other graduate students as part of her graduate thesis on October 13-16 of 2021 in Strauss Hall at Hancher Auditorium and March 30, 31, and April 1 of 2022 at Space Place Theatre. Remmers confirms this will be the first time this piece’s history that it will be performed by graduate students and she exudes passion for the project.

“It's an incredible opportunity to dive into what it means to have a personal identity in relationship to a role and in relationship to all of the generations of dancers who have also personally invested in the role,” says Remmers.

Her thesis also includes a duet choreographed by Josh Peugh of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance and a solo she will soon create in collaboration with her mentor, Janet Charleston. Remmers’ thesis reaches beyond the average set up of a concert where a dancer’s only role is to perform. She plans to be more interactive with her audience and will be “investigating through words with the audience on what it is the dancers are doing.” Her collaboration with other dancers and the audience extends to multiple aspects of her creativity.

For the past two years, Remmers has participated in the University of Iowa Collaborative Performance’s project that involves poets and writers from the International Writers Program working with University of Iowa dancers to create a concert in the span of two weeks. While this performance is not required for her coursework, Remmers chooses to express her love of dance and share her talent with artists from a multitude of diverse departments.

“I really want to do these things and they bring me a lot of joy,” says Remmers. “I love working with other people. I think that’s where I thrive—in collaboration.”

Her skill of collaboration has continued through the peak of COVID-19 by teaming up with fellow dance graduate student, Michael Landez, and undergraduate music student, Allyson Kegel, to create “Within the Chrysalis.” With many avenues of performance closed due to the pandemic, she was still able to perform this piece at the Iowa Dance Festival in the fall of 2020 on the tarmac of the Iowa City Airport as a drive-in show.

The same group continued their work by creating a screen dance that includes shots of Remmers and Landez dancing in areas around Voxman Music Building, which are edited in a stylistic manner that supports the English horn accompaniment. This project extended to Kegel’s senior recital in April 2021 where Remmers and Landez performed live along with the video installation they designed for the concert.

With her coursework, teaching positions, and extra-curricular projects and performances, Remmers credits her experiences at the University of Iowa for helping her flourish into a more developed dancer.

“I’ve grown as a teacher, as a creator, and I’ve really grown as a collaborator. I’m just very grateful to be here.”