To fully explore both her left and right brains, Serena Chang completed a BFA in dance and a BS in molecular genetics. Her Senior Distinction Project connected these worlds by exploring dance and cancer, funded by a prestigious Pelotonia Undergraduate Research Fellowship.
With a group of Ohio State BFA dancers, Chang created a work in collaboration with three cancer survivors, to use their stories and perspectives, and the science of cancer, as the foundation for choreography. MFA alumna and ArtsEdTechNYC founder Jessica Wilts, Pelotonia CEO Doug Ulman and high school educator Susan Zanner attended rehearsals as dramaturgs, coaches and supporters throughout the process.
Mimi Lamantia, a fellow BFA dance student also received a Pelotonia Award for her research in using tango lessons to improve balance in chemotherapy patients. Seniors Madison Girardi and Katie Greer created films of these research endeavors for their senior projects. Together the four students presented their work in the Barnett Theatre for an audience that included OSU Dance, Ohio State Colleges of Medicine and Public Health, the cancer community, families and friends of cancer survivors, and the family of Jessica Wilts, who succumbed to her cancer during the Chang project, not before inspiring the cast in profound ways.
Chang’s dance Our Hours represented OSU Dance at the American College Dance Association’s regional festival and was chosen for the gala concert. Lamantia and Chang also took first and second place in Arts and Architecture in the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum.
Chang said, “The healing process is not just limited to medicine, but spans vastly into the communities we build and the people with whom we surround ourselves. As I continue toward the professional dance world, I plan to continue my interest in medicine and research in the realm of dance, focusing on the integration of the arts and medicine through embodied research. My aim is for this project to provide a gateway for more interaction and overlap between the two fields.”