Dance Major Turns Her Craft into
For Amy Nicole Peters, the project that earned her a first-place award at the Undergraduate Student Symposium was as much a personal journey about self discovery as it was an academic exercise that changed the way she looks at research.
The dance major and new graduate of the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences was awarded first place at the 2012 symposium for her oral presentation titled, “A Journey Brought to You in Part by: Improvisation.”
In addition to her symposium award, Peters was selected this spring as one of the 2012 Outstanding Students. These graduates are recognized at Commencement for their academic achievement and service to the community.
After taking a dance improvisation class and completing an independent study, Peters became intrigued with the idea of researching the subject and how it had made a difference in her life.
Using personal journals and outside sources, Peters detailed her “journey of dance improvisation” in a reflective essay. Although at first uncomfortable with dance improvisation, she found that focusing on her practice of this free-form dance technique challenged her to look inward and become a more confident dancer.
“I believe this research helped me because it was personal,” said Peters, who teaches dance at the Broward Dance Academy and plans to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree in dance. “The research I did was about me. I needed to look at myself in a lot of different ways.”
This personal approach led to “breaking old habits” and finding new ground; developing an awareness of self, space, and other people; taking risks and exploring new forms of movement; and navigating what she calls “organized versus unorganized improvisation.”
“Every dancer has a specific way of moving within his or her body,” Peters wrote in her research paper. “The more I improvise, the more I realize that these habits—our beloved and comfortable movements—are a hazard to my dance technique [and] my mental technique (intelligence).”
Through her research, she sought to remind herself that “it is okay for me to try that jump that I just thought of...When I started to let go, I began to experience new movement that I would not have known before.”
In studying areas of awareness—self, space, and other people—Peters also discovered new learning exercises, such as closing her eyes to help her stay focused on her body and what she was experiencing at a given moment.
“As I have discovered more of what my body is capable of doing, I have become more confident than I ever was before,” she said.
“This was not easy for her in the beginning,” said Elana Lanczi, M.F.A., assistant professor at the college, “but her ability to stay open to new ideas coupled with her desire to learn, pushed her forward to a place of real growth—both personally and creatively. I think this is what she was able to communicate so well in her presentation [at the Undergraduate Student Symposium].”
While pursuing her Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance, Peters earned the Dean’s List for five semesters. Under Lanczi’s guidance, she completed an internship at NSU’s University School and an independent study course with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and Dance Improvisation. She also volunteered at NSU events such as Community Fest and the NSU Health Fair, as well as served as secretary of NSU’s iDance society.
During the past three years, Peters performed in every Dance Concert, Dance Works, and Festival of Student Works performance hosted by the college’s Division of Performing and Visual Arts.
“I admire Amy for asking lots of questions and constantly striving for excellence,” said Lanczi, who worked closely with Peters. “I have seen her grow from novice dancer to the confident leader she is today.”
During this journey, Peters discovered something unexpected.
“I learned that research can be fun,” she said. “I never liked research until now. I also learned that maybe I can make a small difference if I express my findings to other people. I feel like I have gained more confidence as a public speaker and as a professional.”