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WMU using new Web technology to teach dance class

Nov. 10, 2005

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University is part of an innovative, two-university initiative that has tapped new Internet technology to teach a dance class.

WMU has teamed up with Case Western Reserve University to teach a dance kinesiology class via Internet2, a consortium of more than 200 U.S. universities working in partnership with industry and government to develop advanced network applications and technologies, accelerating the creation of tomorrow's Internet.

The WMU initiative is being led by Jane Baas, associate professor of dance and a graduate of Case's dance program, who is teaching kinesiological analysis to graduate students at her alma mater using WMU's videoconference facility in Kohrman Hall. It is believed to be the only project of its kind, say those involved in creating it.

"Even though there are some schools, notably the huge state schools with large technology budgets, that do use I2 for dance and in some cases dance education, I am not aware of any institutional collaboration like ours that uses I2/videoconferenceing for teaching a regularly scheduled class," says Gary Galbraith, artistic director for the Mather Dance Center and associate professor of dance at Case Western Reserve University.

The use of Internet2 is becoming more widespread in educational settings, says Galbraith, who made a presentation on the new project and I2 and dance production last year at the National Association of Schools of Dance. But he says there is very little use of I2 in dance at institutions of higher education.

"The Case-WMU connection with this kinesiology class is the only one that I know of that has anything to do with dance science and medicine," Galbraith says. "The fact that it is an applied kinesiology, where you have the students getting up and moving, makes it that much more unique. What we are doing is one-of-a-kind."

Baas has become an authority on dance kinesiology and conditioning, having learned from one of the experts in the field, Sally Fitt. In 1990, Fitt was brought to WMU to teach a three-week intensive course for graduating students. Baas sat in on the course, then traveled to the University of Utah on sabbatical and shadowed Fitt. She has been teaching kinesiology classes and conducting research in the field ever since.

The new, Internet2 course lets her share that expertise with Case students.

I'm delighted to have this intriguing new teaching experience," Baas says. "It is changing how I think about verbal and physical demonstration in kinesiology in a very positive manner. I'm especially appreciative of WMU's technical support, notably Brian Carnell, in making it possible."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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