Featuring dozens of dancers and cast members alongside live musicians, William Smith senior Kaitley Wozer’s honors project, “Viral Bodies,” was a visual representation of the human immunodeficiency virus’ (HIV) progress in a host T-cell, as well as an educational tool and a tribute to the dancers infected during the early years of the AIDS epidemic.
After taking microbiology with Associate Professor Patricia Mowery, Wozer was gripped by the devastating impact of HIV and the mechanism of infection. A biology and dance double-major, she sees the subsequent evolution of her Honors work — the choreography as well as a written Honors thesis — as a natural union of her two passions.
“While the project still relies on the structure that the viral lifecycle sets up, it has become about so much more as the project has moved forward. It has become about being a movement-based education experience and about raising awareness for the research that is still necessary to find a more global solution to preventing and treating this particular viral infection,” explains Wozer, who infused her choreography with West African and modern influences, a choice motivated by the disease’s origins in forests of eastern Senegal and Ghana.
On Thursday, April 30 at 6 p.m. on the Hobart Quad, the group of 68 cast members including professors, dancers, and non-dancers alike performed Wozer’s piece three times in a 30-minute period.
“It is important to understand that the size of the group and the outdoor performance were not meant to be merely spectacle,” says Professor of Dance Donna Davenport, Wozer’s Honors adviser. “The size of the group was necessary to depict the science of the HIV process, but yes, it was also symbolic of the size of the problem in Africa and on a positive note, a sense of the international community sharing the pain and hopefully the solution.”
In addition to her extensive Honors work, Wozer has choreographed pieces for Koshare Dance Collective and the junior/senior choreographers’ concerts and performed at the American College Dance Association on multiple occasions. She has conducted summer biology research at HWS and interned for the American Red Cross for the past three years. Off campus, Wozer has instructed children’s ballet locally at Alaina Olivieri’s Dance Studio, as well as led an African dance workshop for two weeks in Newark, N.Y.
Following graduation, she hopes to work as a laboratory technician while she decides whether to pursue graduate study in dance or virology/immunology.