Jennifer Petrie graduated with her B.A. in Dance in 2009. During her time as an undergraduate student she also earned a B.A. in History, a B.A. in Russian and later completed her Masters in African Studies.
Jennifer is currently working towards her Doctorate in Educational Administration here at OU. She has travelled to Ghana, Africa to complete research in high schools on three separate occasions. Jennifer is currently working as the Graduate Assistant for Programming at the Walter International Education Center. For two years she has worked part time with VSA Ohio, teaching cultural dance at two local schools for children with disabilities. After graduation Jennifer plans to continue her work in policy development for dance and the arts. She hopes to make dance and the global arts more available to children on a regular basis in all parts of the world.
Has your dance education been helpful in your current life/studies?
Yes, my dance education here at OU was helpful in my current life and studies! The OU dance program gave me the confidence to continue to study dance and dance education in my MA program and doctoral program. When I started the dance program as a freshman, I didn’t realize dance was a form of intelligence. I always thought the dance side of me was actually a hinderance to my intelligence in other subjects and a negative to my future professional goals because so many people told me, “you will never go anywhere with dance, ” or “good luck finding a job!” I had never taken a non-studio dance class and I didn’t realize that dance could blend and intertwine with my “academic” side.
The dance program altered my thinking about dance and what can be done with it. Having a dance major is an asset. Dance reveals innovative ways of thinking and problem-solving that is beneficial to a variety of fields. Biology, math, computer science, cultural studies, education, political science all benefit when dancers are thinking about these subjects. My knowledge of dance has helped me to receive academic fellowships and scholarships in graduate school in-part because I have unique ways of thinking about research with my dance background.
The dance program also helped to make dedication a habit of mind for me. I have John B to thank for this one. Learning to keep your word and show up to rehearsals and classes on time over and over again helped build a work ethnic that I have found to be incredibly valuable in the professional world. Sometimes you have to run to get to something on time because you are accountable not just for yourself, but to a group. Learning to communicate and work together with the same group of people for four years also prepared me for project work in group-settings.
As far as life goes, understanding the strength of women in modern and African dance instilled in me confidence in my body and self that I am forever grateful for. Being around other women and men that were exploring women’s body-politics or gender-politics through movement also makes you think differently about the world we live in. Do you conform? Do you not-conform? These are huge issues in life and being able to explore them openly and creatively in the dance program forever changed my thinking about being a woman.
What do you miss most about being an undergraduate student?
I miss the friendships. I miss living so closely with people that have similar interests. I loved being able to walk only five minutes to grab dinner with a class-mate and chat about dance and life. I also miss being able to enter a studio space so easily and just explore movement and dance by myself, especially on a warm spring night when the windows were open. There is something about Athens in the spring time that stays with you.
Is there anything you would change if you could go back?
There isn’t much I would change. I learned the most from the mistakes and falls I made. The one thing I will say though is that as a dancer, it’s very easy to put you first, and there are times when you should do this, but, for me, some things in life are more important than dance. I didn’t realize that as an undergraduate.
What is one of your favorite memories from your undergraduate days?
This is a tough one, there are so many!! So, I will give two. I was involved in a piece my first year called “For Josephine” by Shawn Curran that looking back, just had a cast filled with amazingly creative people. It was so refreshing to see so many different ways of thinking about movement and dance. The experience of the upper-classmen in the piece also inspired me to work harder and think more creatively. Shawn’s quote, “There’s nothing to it, but to do it,” also sticks with me through-out life. I still think of that quote when I’m having a difficult run or training-hard for a performance.
Getting involved in the AZA concert in 2007 with Zelma and Paschal was also a favorite moment for me! The energy in the rehearsals and performance was incredible! I felt like everyone involved was giving 110% and more! It was refreshing to dance alongside non-majors and majors. Dancing to the live music was incredibly invigorating and that feeling of excitement and boundless energy that I got while performing is why I continue to be involved with African dance in Azaguno today.