Connecting art and science . . . The DNA Dance

From: Public Affairs

By Jacquelyn Walsh ('09)

Neon orange, blue, yellow and red shirts crowded the Quad Thursday, Aug. 26, as this year's freshman class, split into two groups of 2,000, joined members of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange for "The DNA Dance." Onlookers watched from the Forbes Center, buildings on the Quad and Main Street.

This year, faculty members hope the Class of 2014 will experience a connection between science and the arts and relate back to their required summer reading of "The DNA Age," a series of articles written by Amy Harmon for The New York Times.

Nearly 300 student orientation leaders, who, in conjunction with members of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, created dance moves that represent differences in people attributed to DNA, led the two dances.

"It's a lot of people," said freshman Eddie Olson of Chesapeake, Va. "The feat comes in organizing so many of us."

Freshman Gavin Holdgrewe of Annandale, Va., Olson's roommate, had a strategy for the dance. "I'm going to try to kind of follow everybody so that if I mess up it's not as obvious," he said with a laugh.

Having never met before their room assignment together in Eagle Hall, Holdgrewe and Olson, along with most of the freshmen, seemed pretty comfortable breaking it down with new friends in the middle of the Quad.

Emily Northup, Kolbie Owens, Valerie Hewitt and Emma Johnson strolled out to the Quad together. The four freshmen live in Hillside Hall. "This is a way to get everyone together and help us find ways to get to know each other," said Owens.

Hewitt added, "It helps make it easier for everyone to meet people. My friends at other schools don't have something like this. It's great."

Trudy L. Cole, professor of graphic design, headed the design of the shirts used during the dance. The four designs on neon colored shirts represented the four different bases of DNA, explained Cole. "It's all just a big fat metaphor for getting freshmen to know each other better," she said. "The transition at JMU is fabulous."

Before they began the dances, Liz Lerman addressed students from near Wilson Hall. "You are about to be part of a cultural phenomenon. Feel the power of the JMU Class of 2014," she shouted.

Quick learners on the ways of the JMU Nation, the freshmen finished off the dance with a resounding cheer that brings all Dukes together: "J M U Duuuuuuuuuuuukes!"