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Connecting on campus: Get to know Dance Instructor Berline Thermidor

Berline Thermidor, who instructs Pop Pilates Dance. Photo submitted by Berline Thermidor.

For students, exercise is key to a balanced schedule. They are asked to perform and have a clear mental state so they can absorb information consistently. Furthermore, exercise can be key to maintaining a positive ministate.

The kind of exercise that suits each person’s lifestyle is different. For some, lifting weights early in the morning may be the most energizing, while for others, having a relaxed stretch routine in the afternoon feels better. At times, the best thing is to do it with others, be it playing a sport or joining a group class.

Thankfully, UMass Boston Recreation has a variety of options so students and staff alike can find an opportunity to move their body in the way that feels best for them. These include a free membership to the Beacon Fitness Center, intramural leagues and group fitness classes.

The group fitness classes range from Strength and Conditioning workouts to Vinyasa Yoga. Yet the most eye-catching is Pop Pilates Dance, taught by Berline Thermidor. Thermidor sat down to talk about her experience as a group fitness instructor and how her dance minor supported her development of classes.

Thermidor is a third-year Sociology major with minors in dance and Education Studies. Beyond being an instructor, she is a member of the dance club, the cheer competition and game teams. She has been a game cheer captain since her freshman year.

The dance minor program is composed of six courses, two of which must focus on the progression of either ballet, jazz or modern dance. Thermidor took Ballet I and II, composed of 45 minutes of strengthening and stretching, then transitioned to jumps and turns across the dance studio floor. “Ballet I was a little easy, but Ballet II was actually really hard. But I still got through it, and it was good.”

The other three core classes equip students with the tools to be advocates for dance. Starting with DANCE 130: Understanding Dance, where students learn the history of dance and develop a critical eye for dance. Continuing with DANCE 330: Pedagogy of Dance, where students learn educational theory so they can develop a progression others can follow to teach others how to dance.

The last core class, DANCE 325: Dance Theatre Workshop, brings their skills to a test, requiring them to choreograph their own piece, teach it to others and understand how to add light and costume design components to bring the routine to the stage in the annual spring Dance Concert.

Thinking about her experience in the dance minor program, Thermidor lights up with a smile. “Those were the best classes I ever took at UMass Boston.”

The knowledge she gained through her dance minor lets her bring a pilates lesson and a structured dance class. Understanding dance gave Thermidor a clear idea of the different musical styles.

Thermidor explained that from ballet came modern dance. Modern was an act of rebellion against ballet. “Like saying we don’t have to be perfect all the time,” she noted. Then, contemporary dance developed from modern as a more intuitive and independent style.

Additionally, there is hip hop and jazz. “Hip hop is its own thing that originated from people of color as well as real jazz.” Since hip hop and jazz are more energetic, Thermidor keeps these routines for the beginning of the week. “Since Thursday is the end of the week and you are tired, I try contemporary, or modern is more flowy, and it helps get out the bad vibes […] Contemporary is my favorite style; I could do it forever.”

However, the pedagogy of dance equipped her with the tools to develop her dance routines. “We learned backwards design which is taking parts of the dance you are going to do and implement them in the warm up, stretching and conditioning […] you start with the dance and then you work backwards to everything you are going to do.”

For instance, she recently did a routine based on New Jeans’ new release “Super Shy.” The routine she created had steps where the dancers needed to move their arms and hold them out. In order to prepare them for the strenuous task, Thermidor had the dancers do a similar movement during their warm-up. “I made them hold their arms up for a good amount of time so that they can see [the difference] between not straight and when I have it nice and straight because like it makes it look better.”

Pop Pilates Dance takes place every Tuesday and Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the Beacon Fitness Center group fitness room. In order to attend, be sure to register through the UMass Boston Recreation Portal prior to the classes starting.

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