Choreographing Harmony

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Dancers Ariel Bowman (left) and Paige Lake work hard to make sure their fellow dance majors and minors feel supported and engaged.

You’d be hard pressed to find a senior at Radford busier than Paige Lake.

Lake is a double major in Dance and Media Studies with a minor in Public Relations. She’s also Vice President of Sigma Alpha Omega, an ambassador for both the College of Visual and Performing Arts and College of Humanities & Behavioral Sciences, an employee of the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, captain of the Radford dance team and an active photographer.

But there is one more role she is particularly enthusiastic about.

As President of Harmony in Motion, Lake can impact the experience dancers have while at Radford, bonding them to the school and each other through special events.

“It’s a way to bring dance majors and minors together outside of class to do social events, fund raise for shows, create department gear, and things like that,” Lake explained.

“We want a space outside of classes for people to have fun and not be stressed, which is very important.”

Lake first got involved with Harmony in Motion as a sophomore, serving as their treasurer.

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Angelina Moore's new mentee is first year student Charlotte Smith (left) are a mentoring pair. The program helps new students navigate college with the experience of someone who knows the ropes. (Photo courtesy of Amy VanKirk.)

Besides teaching her how to manage money, it demonstrated how vital extracurricular events are for creating a community and relieving stress in a demanding major that can keep students working 12 hours a day or more.

There are other advantages.

“When I was a freshman, I didn’t know any of the seniors,” Lake said. “When I joined Harmony in Motion, I met a lot of the upperclassmen and got to know the other classes, which is really helpful.”

Another role of Harmony in Motion is to partner with Professor Amy VanKirk to create a mentor program similar to a Big Brother or Big Sister program.

New students take a new student seminar course and are assigned a mentor, but they don't know who that will be right away.

Instead, they participate in a scavenger hunt to orient them to campus. When they return to the student center, they discover their upperclassman mentor at a "mentor reveal."

And there are other ways the Dance department makes sure the new students have an early sense of belonging and interaction.

Ariel Bowman, a sophomore from Christiansburg, is a double major in Dance and English. She organized a picnic this year hosted by the sophomore class to receive freshmen with open arms.

“The sophomores still understand how the freshmen are going to feel when they come in,” Bowman said. “The purpose is to make them feel comfortable and answer any questions they might have.”

Bowman says getting sophomores and freshmen together before other departmental events take place helps anchor the new students and makes the whole experience easier.

Ariel Bowman in the 2023 Fall Fall Dance Fest. Photo by Paige Lake.

Professor Amy VanKirk says that making sure the students are supported from the beginning is central to the department’s philosophy. By building a network of support for incoming students, the Department of Dance can build and nurture a tightknit community.

“Establishing strong connections with faculty and students early in their experience fosters a sense of belonging for students,” VanKirk explained.

“This ultimately leads to increased success throughout their time at Radford," VanKirk said.

She added that they want their students to feel like Radford is their second home.

“Our goal is that no student ever ‘falls through the cracks,’” VanKirk said. 


And based on what Bowman has seen, these strategies work. She said that the new students began interacting confidently with other students and faculty very early on.

Bowman is also impressed with the incoming class.

“Their level of focus is really going to take them far these next four years and beyond.”




Oct 23, 2023
Sean Kotz