By Jessica Merrills
After an academic year full of extensive research during one semester and a choreographic process during second semester, Armida Portman ‘14 showcased her senior dance works on April 4-5 in the Doane Dance Building.
Graduating with a double major in East Asian studies and dance, Portman fused her love for Chinese culture and dance into a final project that encompassed both majors.
Portman’s piece “The Flow of the River,” was performed by student dancers Kristen Locey ’15, Rachel Halteman ’15, Rain Yan ’16, Hailey Bruce ’16, Martha Gutierrez ’16, Maren Berg ’16, Chelsea Chen ’17, and Hannah Zwemer ’17. Student lighting director Cubby Knox ’16 helped to enhance the show with interchanging red and blue lights.
Portman, a native of Pittsburgh, Pa. who has been dancing since she was 3, personalized her dance by reflecting on the philosophy of Daoism. Portman wanted to portray contrasts of lower and higher power, or the difference between “action” and “non-action”.
As a way to deal with confrontation and life situations, the philosophy of Daoism believes there is more than one way to accomplish something, and to be non-active or “going with the flow” is a way to live without trying so hard. For Portman, it is essential to know understand that and calmness can be strong attributes.
She explained some Daoists seek to leave the life of commotion by moving to rural areas that allow more freedom from the obligation to know information. Portman said Daoists view that “knowledge in some way is hurtful.”
She found her interest in the philosophy from a class on Philosophical Daoism in Chinese Literature. Daoism gave her a new perspective in handling life and she wanted to explore that connection through movement.
Through a difficult and intense process, Portman triumphed. When questioned by dance professors the week after spring break about the vision of her piece, she decided to change her process during her intensive weekend rehearsals two days prior to technical and performance week.
Yan from Sichuan, China said, “I love to see people bring my culture to the stage, and I love dancing with these lovely people.”
Fellow dancer Halteman of Boulder, Colo., added that “it was a lot of fun to see [the performance] come together and work with [other dancers] collaboration with Armida.”
Upon graduation, Portman is going to South Korea to teach English. Hoping to dance in South Korea, she expressed that if the opportunity to perform presents itself, she will seize the chance; she also would like to open her own dance studio.
Photo courtesy Hailey Bruce