The beginning of senior year at Middlebury might be the only time in our entire college careers when all of the Class of 2012 has the same assignment: write your thesis proposal. While theses are not required in every department, almost all seniors either complete a thesis or take part in a high-level project as part of the senior seminar class in their major. “So what are you writing about?” or “how much d’you think I can ask for from the Senior Research Fund?” are common questions at dinner, and my friends seem suddenly much busier than usual as they meet with their thesis advisors to revise their proposals. And the proposal is only the tip of the iceberg!
My thesis is a little unorthodox by Middlebury standards. I don’t have a thesis carrel in the library. I’m not preparing myself for a Jterm of constant writing. Instead of making scientific discoveries about the floor of Lake Champlain, researching an era in art history, or analyzing the historiography of Japanese-Chinese relations in a 100-page paper, I’m starting the process of making Art. (Yeah, it’s not intimidating at all.)
Each year, Dance majors at Middlebury contribute their work to an evening-length senior thesis concert, one that showcases the pieces we’ve been working on all year—which in turn showcase everything we’ve learned in our academic and artistic careers at Middlebury. We’ve all choreographed work before, but this is a bigger deal—we have much more freedom to direct our own artistic visions, and many more resources with which to do so. We get first pick of the student dancers who come to auditions. We get priority for rehearsal space. We have a budget with which to buy costumes, props, sets—anything we can dream up and justify artistically. (No really, anything—this semester one senior is working with a trapeze. Like the kind you’d find in a circus.) We meet with the lighting designer once a week to discuss the technical production of our concert, and meet with our thesis advisors regularly to check up on our dancers’ progress and the development of our choreographic ideas.
Yeah, it’s a little scary—“I thought I was a student! Suddenly I’m a real artist? When did that happen?”—but really… it’s kind of… fun. My academic work is my passion is making dances, and I get tons of time and support with which to do it. What more could I ask for from my senior year? (I think it’s certainly better than sitting in a thesis carrel and writing for the next eight months!)