MiRi Park and Heather CastilloMay 27, 2020 — The list of dance scholars asked to speak as part of the Christena Lindborg Schlundt Lecture Series in Dance Studies reads like a Who’s Who in American Dance Research.

Now taking the lecture stage (virtually) on May 29 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. are CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) Assistant Professor of Performing Arts/Dance Heather Castillo and Dance Lecturer MiRi Park.

“We were shocked and honored,” Castillo said. “Once a year they invite a guest lecturer, and this year, MiRi and I will be discussing our virtual experiences with dance education.”

“UC Riverside is such a respected program for critical dance studies. It’s hard for me to state the depth of gratitude I feel to be recognized by these folks,” said Park, who is working on her Ph.D. in Culture and Performance at UCLA.

Park and Castillo’s presentation will be called, “Towards a Mindful Preparedness: How Teaching Dance Online in a Crisis Prepares Us for Future Possibilities of Digital Dance Pedagogies in Higher Education.”

When the pandemic and subsequent shelter-at-home orders came down, Castillo and Park were among the first to pick up the virtual baton and lead a webinar designed to share ideas and methods of teaching online dance for their colleagues across the nation.

“We were ready and even a step or two ahead of the curve because we have experience with moving online in a crisis and have spent several years developing fully online courses.” Castillo said.

“I’m happy that the conversations that Heather and I have regularly have been such a help to other people in our field,” Park said. “To be asked to share our insights is thrilling.”

When the pandemic necessitated that dance classes go virtual, Castillo and Park both encountered those who thought it would be a disappointment.

“They thought it would degrade the experience for the students,” Park said. “To say you can’t learn how to dance online is just untrue.”

Park, who is the assistant choreographer for the 25th anniversary tour of the Broadway musical “Rent,” remembers a rehearsal in which a cast member began executing complicated dance moves in a style called “vogueing.”

“I asked him ‘How did you get this good?’ and he said ‘YouTube.'”

Park was impressed.

One of the points Park and Castillo plan to emphasize is that dance and technology have always intersected, and this move to virtual dance is a chance to stretch, both literally and figuratively.

“Dancing live with other people will always be magical and the best, but technology has allowed us to widen and broaden our sphere,” Castillo said. “It’s forcing us to step out of our privileged conservatories and studio spaces and look at dance as the communal and social artform it is.”

Beyond the lecture, Park and Castillo have exciting ideas for the fall semester, like a virtual master class series they are helping to create across all the CSU dance programs.

“If you are enrolled in a dance class at one of the CSUs, you will be able to participate in the master class series,” Castillo said. “We are doing that collectively at this time because we need to take advantage of the fact that we are in this together. We are trying to create some silver linings at this moment for our students.”

If you would like to hear Castillo and Park’s May 29 presentation lecture, register at: rb.gy/rfdw5t.

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