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How to dance 1,500 miles in seconds

By David Gonnerman '90
October 29, 2010

Shannon Denzel '12 demonstrates a move to a California dancer while Gregory Kraemer '11 monitors the equipment.

The St. Olaf Dance Department recently presented a unique "telematic" dance event that allowed St. Olaf dancers on campus in Dittmann Center to teach and demonstrate dance — using networked videoconferencing and reactive technology — to participants of the Annual Meeting of the Association of Lutheran College Faculties (ALCF) some 1,500 miles away in Irvine, California.

Using Skype videoconferencing software, camcorders, and projectors, the event began with St. Olaf student Betsy Gaasedelen '13 introducing herself and establishing communication by reciting a list of words (“reach,” “hand,” “forward,” “heart,” “elbow,” etc.) for the ALCF participants to repeat back to her. The words related to a simple arm gesture movement combination that another student, Shannon Denzel '12, subsequently taught the California viewers.

Gregory Kraemer '11 and Zachary Teska '12 then joined the students to help teach additional elements of their dance. “I wanted to incorporate a participatory component for this presentation so that the ALCF faculty participants would have the opportunity to experience telematic dance rather than passively observing,” explains Anthony Roberts, the Dance Department’s artist in residence who organized the event and moderated it from California.


“There's so much more to dance than live performance or technique classes, and this telematic exchange was an opportunity for me to step outside of how I normally look at dance,” says Gaasedelen. “There is potential for the importance of dance in education to grow, and also for the techniques of how dance is taught to grow.”

The event stemmed from research that Roberts conducted with Kraemer, a dance and math double major, on the viability and practicality of telematics. The research was made possible through the college’s centralized program known as Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry.

“When working with the group in California it was easy to give feedback and direction because
we could see everything that they were doing,” says Denzel. “I think we are looking at one of the newest and most efficient ways to learn.”

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or