March 24, 2020
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No stranger to the Fulbright program, Kenyon took part in one of the scholarship’s newest initiatives this January when the College hosted Turkish dance professor Ayrin Ersoz for several days.
Professor of Dance Julie Brodie spearheaded the initiative to bring Ersoz to campus by applying to the Fulbright Outreach Lecturing Fund (OLF), which helps interested colleges and universities across the country bring Fulbright Visiting Scholars to their campuses. Ersoz currently serves as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Rutgers University.
According to Brodie, the OLF facilitates a mutually beneficial experience. “Not only do we take advantage of the Fulbright scholars in the United States, but these scholars then get a broader exposure to the different kinds of institutions in the United States,” she said.
Ersoz’s Fulbright project is titled “Muslim Female Students in Higher Education in the United States: Approaches to and Experiences of Dance and Embodied Performance.” Her interdisciplinary research sparked the interest of not only the dance department, but that of the Asian studies and Islamic civilization & cultures programs as well.
“Her visit was a way of integrating different programs because she overlaps with dance and Islamic studies,” Brodie said. “That was fantastic for all of us.”
During her visit, Ersoz taught one of Brodie’s “Advanced Modern Dance Technique” courses, and she also lectured in Associate Professor of History Nurten Kilic-Schubel’s upper-level seminar “Women and Gender in the Modern Middle East.” Ersoz challenged the advanced dance students to work with emotion-based improvisation, asking the students to show her how it would look to dance with anxiety or happiness.
Ian Edwards ’17, a dance major from Alexandria, Virginia, said the dance class with Ersoz was an interesting change from his more technique-based classes. “Even if I didn’t personally think that what I produced was good in terms of the shape, I had to think, ‘Is it true to the actual emotions?’” he said.
Phoebe Carter ’17, a modern languages and literatures major from Fairfield, Iowa, is a student in Kilic-Schubel’s seminar and also studies dance and Arabic. Carter said Ersoz’s lecture, which talked about the translation of the word “dance” as well as the interrelation between dancing and Islamic identity in young women, fused interests she had never thought about in conjunction with one another.
“She brought an interesting and a nuanced perspective. It is such a niche thing that she studies,” Carter said. “I don’t think a lot of people are talking about it, and I don’t think there is a lot of scholarship on dance [in Islam].”
The Department of Dance, Drama and Film, the Asian Studies Program and the Kenyon Campus Community Development Fund all contributed to Ersoz’s visit. Ersoz also gave two public lectures during her visit that further explored the relationship between dance and Islam.
Brodie was pleased with Ersoz’s reception at Kenyon and hopes to be able to sponsor scholars like this in the future. “We’re very interested, in the dance program, with internationalizing our curriculum as much as possible,” she said. “This is another step toward doing that and finding other ways to bring outside people in, to bring other voices.”
—India Amos ’17