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OHIO’s Summer Dance Institute comes 'Full Circle'

This year’s Summer Dance Institute (SDI) was once again a rousing success based in part on a unique long term partnership between the resident dance company and OHIO Professor of Dance Travis Gatling. Full Circle Dance Company of Baltimore, MD spent a week on campus this June to work with pre-college artists at SDI, a connection that has been in motion with Gatling for over two decades.

Each year the School of Dance invites a dance company to visit Athens and provide a unique opportunity to study dance from instructors that students wouldn’t normally have access to learn from, while also providing an easy transition to campus for some incoming first year students. Previous SDI guest artist companies have included the David Dorfman Dance and the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company.

Full Circle Artistic Director Donna L. Jacobs reflects that the opportunity to lead SDI this year originates many years ago, when she first reached out to a family friend, then Dean of the College of Fine Arts Raymond Jones, for assistance.

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“I wanted our students [at Full Circle] to see what dance might be like on a college campus,” Jacobs said. “He put me in touch with the chair [of the School of Dance] who said that they had a new professor, Travis Gatling. Travis and I had one conversation and we’ve been friends now for 24 years.”

Jacobs explains that Gatling visited Full Circle first and he saw a need for a summer intensive for their students in Baltimore. Jacobs agreed, but Gatling recalls she said to him “if I do this, will you come back to teach?” Gatling has since returned every summer to lead the dance intensive at Full Circle’s Morton St. Dance Center, as well as having served as a choreographer multiple times for the company, with several of their most lauded pieces having been set by Gatling.

So, when planning OHIO’s SDI this year, it felt natural for Gatling to suggest an invitation to Jacobs to bring her company to Athens. Jacobs reports that this is her third time in Athens, the company visited many years ago and on another occasion for auditions, but that this is the first time the current company has visited OHIO and taught at SDI.

The teaching philosophy at SDI is to envelope dancers with technique classes from the perspective of the resident dance company, challenging students to step outside of comfort zones and to take risks.

“They are transformed dancers from Monday to Friday,” said Jacobs, explaining that in addition to technique classes that evolve into a final performance piece, students also work on professional industry standards such as “resume writing, how to present yourself as a dancer, and personal statements.”

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Incoming first-year Rylanne Jervis from Wayne, WV who has studied at Huntington Dance Theater and learned about SDI from her instructor (an OHIO alum), says that “working with Full Circle has been a dream.”

“As someone who's taken a lot of classes at OHIO…it's made many other people interested in OHIO because of just how wonderful they are,” Jervis explained. “They are constantly encouraging and building you up while also giving you the kind of corrections you need to truly step up your dance career.”

Jada Covington, an incoming student from Cleveland who dances at the Beck Center for the Arts, agrees.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn from other people that you don’t see on an everyday basis,’ she said. “You get used to your studio, how you get taught, and your specific patterns and you get complacent.  So going to an intensive like this, you get exposed to different teachers and different ways of thinking so you can continue to grow and evolve as an artist.”

Of the most significant lessons this summer at SDI, Jervis says she learned to “embrace myself as not just a student but as an artist. I am just learning and growing.”

“It’s been great, I’m used to a lot of ballet, so here I’m able to do a lot more modern and jazz and to dance in different styles and be more versatile on the dance floor to help me grow,” Covington noted about the varieties of dance she has been able to work in.

Jervis encourages prospective students to be sure to consider this a serious opportunity.

“I would say SDI is something you can't miss. This is my second time coming. And one thing about having different companies every now and then to teach is it brings a unique experience every single time. If you come to this intensive, you will learn something new, something bright, colorful, unique, and creative,” Jervis said.

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From the teaching perspective, Jacobs encourages students considering SDI to just stay open to the experience.

“Because every teacher, every company brings something different and it's going to be different than the background that you've grown up in. And that's what is so marvelous about these students. Their maturity, their collaborative spirit, they've been entirely supportive of one another,” Jacobs noted.

For more information about OHIO’s School of Dance Summer Dance Institute visit or to learn more about Full Circle Dance Company and their work, visit

July 8, 2024
Josh Coy