Moving with Expressions

Joel Bateman '17A lack of formal training did not stop Joel Bateman '17 from becoming a dancer. In fact, it propelled him. 

By Gigi Kisela ‘17

Because I knew he was dancing in shows, I concluded that Joel Bateman ’17, a Kirkland House resident from Auckland, New Zealand, danced before coming to Harvard and participating in Expressions Dance Company. Wrong. “I did dance a tiny bit once when I was young,” he said. 

Bateman arrived at Harvard set on a pre-med path. While he is human developmental and regenerative biology concentrator now, he got out of what he calls the “pre-med mindset” and recognized the value in doing what he enjoys.

At the start of the 2014 fall semester, Bateman auditioned for Expressions, which is student-run and rooted in the hip-hop dance tradition. The next semester, he auditioned, successfully again, for EXP, the 20-person subset of Expressions that rehearses weekly and performs at competitions and other special events.

Joel Bateman '17How do you go from “a tiny bit once” to 10 hours of dance a week? I asked. “Just do it,” Bateman said. “People were more technically trained than I was, and I just came to terms with that.”

It’s refreshing to hear someone venturing willingly into unknown territories where failure could be part of the process.

In dance, Bateman regularly breaches his comfort zone with that just-do-it attitude that has positioned him as director of Expressions and choreographer for a new work in the fall show on Saturday, Nov. 7. “I’m super nervous,” he said. “I’ve never done this before.” But that won’t stop him.  

Modern dance also makes him nervous. But he went to a Harvard-Radcliffe Modern Dance Company audition, mostly, he explained, because he enjoyed watching choreographers such as Keone and Mariel Madrid and their group, Cookies. He felt uncomfortable during the audition (“I just tried to remember that dégagé is like the leg out thing”), but he prevailed and was in a piece by visiting choreographer, Angela Wolfrum for the HRMDC fall show Odyssey

Will he maintain a 10-hour weekly dance schedule? “That’s the plan,” he said. “I’m doing it because I love it. The fact that people can be academically strong but so trained and technical in dance always amazes me. I like being part of this community and being surrounded by that.”

And he’s not done putting himself out there: “Maybe, I’ll audition for Eleganza next.”

Joel Bateman will be performing with Expressions Dance Company in EXhale, 8:30 p.m., Saturday, November 7 in Lowell Lecture Hall.