May 03, 2018
Hope Kenmore ’20 Biology and Dance Double Major
  • Hope and her dancers before the performance of Bilayer. Costumes by Mondo Morales.

My name is Hope Kenmore, and despite MMC being a tiny school, I have the unique privilege of studying in two very separate departments. I’m currently working towards a BA in Biology, while at the same time training as a BFA student in the conservatory-style Dance Department. Essentially, this means I’m constantly challenging my brain and body equally, but I never would have chosen this path unless I loved it. I was so fortunate to come to MMC for their renowned dance program, and find they had such a strong science program as well. I added Biology as a second major soon after I started here and took my first class with Dr. Aguanno that spring. In the face of doubts that I was taking on more than I could handle, and friends and mentors who were concerned that I wouldn’t graduate on time, Dr. Aguanno’s class was the saving grace that reminded me just why I love biology so much, and why it was worth pursuing both my passions with full force.

One of the most frequent responses I get when I tell people my two majors is a kind of surprised, “Wow those are really different interests, huh?” Except that I don’t see it that way at all. There are many obvious connections between dance and biology, as in the studies of anatomy, kinesiology, physics, even nutrition. But I also see more subtle concepts of natural science that I can draw inspiration from, which is what I chose to focus on as I made a dance project this semester based on the beautifully effective structure of a phospholipid bilayer. This semester was my first opportunity to choreograph a dance piece of my own on my fellow student dancers. I knew this was a chance to blend my two interests, the chance to show how beneficial it can be to have a passion outside of dance that can inform my artistry. With this goal, a brand new work called Bilayer was born. Throughout the process of creating this piece, I discussed with my dancers how we could relate the concepts of dynamic/fluid boundaries to the movement. I referred to some different types of physical bilayers and we had fun recalling high school biology classes, how we all still remembered that most important chant, “The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell!” From this discussion, we abstracted the idea of borders and boundaries, and then talked about how we could break them within the context of a dance performance. Before each show, I spoke to the audience about how impossibly complex and amazing a cell membrane was, and that it had the unique capacity to hold everything necessary for life. Finally, I invited the audience to consider the more abstract boundaries we impose on our lives.

As I juggle so many responsibilities and classes in my own life, I know it can be necessary to draw boundaries for yourself. Sometimes you have to be careful not to overstretch yourself and burnout, but sometimes you have to soften a boundary to accept help when you need it. There are so many infinite ways I have discovered to work with this concept, and I hope to use these ideas to someday expand and develop my piece even further, but none of it would have been possible without the initial inspiration of a cell membrane’s bilayer.