Holly Williams

Photo Credit: Isabella Palacios | Daily Texan Staff

The College of Fine Arts will host a lecture series to better relate how degrees in the fine arts can be applied to health care reform.

The lecture series is intended to expand the ways in which art degrees can be applied to health care, according to Holly Williams, associate dean for College of Fine Arts. Each speaker will address applications of art, such as design, dance and music therapy, to different fields of health care reform.

“With the Dell Medical School coming up, it seemed like a smart and interesting idea for our students to start thinking about the kinds of things that intersect these areas,” Williams said. “A lot of them are interested in these areas anyway. They just don’t know that there are applications.”

Guest lecturer Stacey Chang, an independent strategic advisor to entities trying to change health care, will discuss how design affects the health care environment, such as the psychological effects of hospital lighting on patients, according to Williams.

“He believes there’s potential for rethinking a lot of things that we just take for granted,” Williams said.

Guest lecturer David Leventhal is the program director for Brooklyn-based dance studio Dance for PD, which he helped found to better treat people living with Parkinson’s disease. Patients partake in therapeutic dance classes which help alleviate the pain the disease causes, according to Williams.

“Parkinson’s patients feel so trapped in their bodies, that this is a way for them to feel like their bodies are still working with them as opposed to against them,” Williams said.

Dance and economics freshman Lizzy Tan said she has an interest in health reform as a fine arts student. In 2013, she hosted a dance benefit for the Alzheimer’s Association, and she has volunteered at nursing homes throughout her life.

“I have always had a strong interest in nonprofit work, and I am very interested in how the arts can be used to provide therapy for certain people,” Tan said.

Douglas Dempster, dean of the College of Fine Arts, said the lecture series is meant to inform students of the possibilities to apply their art degrees to practical fields, such as health care.

“We are looking into ways that enhance health care,” Dempster said. “We’re not rushing into them, but this lecture series will help explore those possibilities.” 

The series will begin next Wednesday at the Bass Lecture Hall.

Holly Williams, theatre and dance professor, began dancing as a child and continued the art throughout her life. Williams has worked with various dance companies and operas such as The Austin Lyric Opera and the Mark Morris dance group. 

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

For dancer and choreographer Holly Williams, dance is a lifelong process of exploring creativity and continuing perseverance.

Williams, a professor of dance at UT since 1995 and the associate dean of Graduate Studies and Accreditation in the College of Fine Arts, trains her students in contemporary and modern dance, ballet technique and choreography. 

Williams first began dancing as a child and pursued it through college and her career.

“It’s a long, evolving process and there was no ‘Eureka’ type of moment,” Williams said. “It’s a difficult profession so you are constantly evaluating yourself — whether I’m good, whether I’m going to be good enough, you are always asking those questions. For me, it was a long process of peeling off layers to get to the center of ‘this is who I am.’” 

The Austin Lyric Opera, Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Mark Morris dance group are just some of the dance companies and operas that Williams has worked with. She also served on the board of directors for the American College Dance Festival.

Yoav Kaddar, assistant director of dance at West Virginia University, met Williams when they both served on the board of directors. Williams has since choreographed a piece for Kaddar’s students. 

“We come from a somewhat similar modern dance background, so we share similar pedagogical as well as creative philosophies,” Kaddar said.

Williams gives her students the freedom to suggest their own approach to the dance narrative. 

“It’s what makes them different from just being a dancer,” Williams said. “It’s about interpretation, it’s about bringing personality to the performance.”

Rebecca Bagley is one of Williams’ students who is training in contemporary dance and ballet technique. Bagley began dancing when she was in middle school and she is now in her third year in UT’s three-year dance program. She will perform in Williams’ latest piece, “Orchid,” premiering Friday. “Orchid” is one of five major works presented at the event, organized by the department of theatre and dance.

“It was really inspiring for her to ask us to create our own narratives for this piece because a lot of times professors will say ‘here’s the story and this is how you portray it’,” Bagley said, “For me, the first movement is more happy and joyful, it’s a tropical island and the movement is more about me exploring the community and the people around me.”

Williams said “Orchid” evokes feelings about community, loss and wistfulness. She recreates the Hawaiian landscape through traditional music and special projections on stage.

“It’s culturally really interesting and beautiful and evocative,” Williams said. “These are traditional Hawaiian songs and they are sung in Hawaiian. It wasn’t something I was familiar with, but I’ve been to Hawaii and it captured my imagination.”

Williams finds her inspiration for dance in everything around her. She never strives to tell a definitive story through her dance. 

“My experience as a dancer was always one of fascination, curiosity, passion for it and dedication to the incredible work it takes,” Williams said. “That’s what I help our students try to understand and experience themselves.”