Grace Han ’24 tapped into her South Korean heritage for Unraveling Roots, a new senior dance concert.

“It’s an ambiguous name, but we found a connection between all of us learning more about ourselves one way or another,” Han said. The seven senior dance majors each choreographed original solos, duets, and group performances for the show, which debuts March 7.

A trip she took last summer inspired Han’s choreography. She had planned to study in Japan on a fellowship focused on Asian studies when she learned she could extend her trip to another location. A Vail scholarship gave Han the means to add Seoul to her itinerary.

After the two-hour flight from Tokyo, she spent 10 days in Seoul exploring her Korean heritage, attending traditional Korean dances, connecting with the teachers, and taking a class of her own.

Her dance piece is based on that experience. It uses imagery from her time in Seoul — “riding a train at a busy train station, or being pushed around at a food street market,” she said. Han also incorporated techniques from a traditional masked dance class.

Her piece became even more personal when she included audio clips from her grandparents. Han’s parents live in Pittsburgh and will be attending her performance, and Han is especially excited to share her piece with her father. “I don’t know how he’s going to react,” she said. “I think it will be emotional for him and for me.” They plan to go on a father-daughter trip to Seoul soon so they can both reconnect with their heritage.

Han, who began dancing at the age of three, chose Denison because she felt she could focus on academics without having to give up her passion for dance. She began by taking a dance class for fun, and today she’s double-majoring in global health and dance.

“Dancing is a great way for me to forget everything else and put my whole self into something,” she said. “I get to share with my friends and family what I’m really passionate about.”

Transitioning from dancer to choreographer in this piece was another growing experience. ”Stepping out of the dancer position, into the choreographer,” she said, “makes you realize how difficult and overwhelming this process can be, and how impressive our professors do it seemingly on the fly.”

Unraveling Roots features dance performances by senior students that illuminate artistic research and interdisciplinary projects looking at intersections of dance in anthropology, science, theatre, psychology, and more. In addition to Han, the students presenting include Cat Henning, Kat Killian, Olivia Snyder, Paloma Stripling, Augus Wang, and Jules Rizzo.

February 29, 2024