Hania Szymczak ’16


Two Hope graduates on opposite sides of the world led a global choreographic residency to provide a bright contrast to the cloudy days of COVID-19. Over 110 choreographers and movers in more than 30 countries on six continents registered to participate in this unique 20-day virtual challenge running Aug. 11-30.

Hania Szymczak ’16 (Poland- and Mexico-based, and pictured left) created the project, “Choreography Days 2020,” to develop professional choreographers’ and dancers’ artistic practices and encourage movement artists to create, since the pandemic has resulted in fewer opportunities than usual. She invited Jazlyn Ruiz ’19 (U.S.-based, and pictured
right) to assistant manage. Bytom Dance and Movement Theatre ROZBARK in Poland (with whom Szymczak apprenticed) also agreed to be official project partners.

Participants responded to a daily choreographic prompt by choreographing a phrase a day. The aim was to practice the act of making choreographic decisions and discerning stronger from weaker choices in choreographic contexts.

Szymczak and Ruiz successfully drew a worldwide community of pre-professional/professional dancers and passionate artists. They also facilitated a residency that provided challenges for dancers performing from hometown theaters to European Opera Houses.

The two alums note that Hope provided them with tools to make the event a success, and to bridge gaps among the global dance community’s divides and provide a safe and inclusive space to create and connect. “Neither of us had experience spearheading a global residency like this, but we felt incredibly equipped by our knowledge and education thanks to our alma mater,” Ruiz said. Szymczak completed a composite major in leadership
and performance art and a major in German language and culture, and minored in mathematics. Ruiz majored in dance performance and choreography and communication with an emphasis in interpersonal studies.

Szymczak in particular thanks Steven Iannacone, who retired in 2018 after teaching at Hope since 1990, for recognizing and fostering her emerging talent in dance theory and composition. She also credits Mary Linda Graham, who taught at Hope from 1983 until retiring in 2019, for offering initial inspiration to the residency.

“She imparted that ‘to be a great choreographer, one must choreograph a dance a day!’” Szymczak said. “After several years, I decided to attempt it and invite the rest of the dance world to join.”

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