Like most everyone, Lori Teague gestures with her hands when
she speaks. It’s just that, having been a dancer and choreographer
for much her life, Teague simply does it better than most everyone
Movement science is the area of expertise for the assistant professor
of dance, which basically means she says more with a wiggle of her
pinky than others convey in a three-minute monologue.
When Teague gracefully waves her arm to illustrate the enormity
of space—as well as the beauty of it—that she saw while
taking dance students on a study abroad trip to Italy this past
summer, the image she creates is completely clear.
A faculty member for 10 years, Teague has seen the Emory dance department
grow from a small, non-degree program into a still relatively small
but quickly growing, degree-offering major.
That growth will continue with the opening of the Schwartz Center
for the Performing Arts, across the street from Teague’s office
in the Rich Building. The center’s dance studio will be 200
square feet larger than any other studio the department has previously
had to work with, and Teague said that may result in the creation
of more expansive dances or perhaps tightly contained dances where
space has new meaning.
Regardless, Teague will have a chance to explore her creativity
in the spring when the dance department hosts its first concert
in the Schwartz Center, Feb. 13–15. Titled “Opening
the Space,” (a word that pops up in several contexts in conversations),
Teague will be the lone Emory faculty member to premiere a piece.
She is currently choreographing the seven-dancer work (Teague rarely
dances in her own creations, and this will not be an exception)
and is still tweaking the concept.
“I don’t really know the context, which is not unusual
for me,” she said. “I typically start with images. My
work is always influenced by the strengths and body types of the
dancers, as well as how they convey the movement.” Normally,
Teague has just 10 weeks to choreograph a new work, but with “Opening
the Space” she will have all fall semester, plus some of January.
While she is still exploring her content, one thing is for sure:
A major influence will be her summer trip to Italy, where she spent
seven weeks as a faculty member with Emory’s study abroad
“I was really struck by the sense of space in Italy,”
said Teague, who had never previously visited the country. “We’d
travel down these medieval streets that all of a sudden blossom
into a piazza. I don’t know how I am going to capture that
in a dance yet. But the way I collect images through life experiences
is that they just become a part of my body somehow, and I trust
that they’ll find a way out.”
And that way out is often very unique. For instance, one afternoon,
the group took an elevator up into the bluffs overlooking Genoa
in Northern Italy. The overlook, nestled into the surrounding mountains
offered beautiful views of the town, as well as of the Mediterranean
Offhandedly, while gazing at the city, Judy Raggi Moore, director
of Italian studies and faculty leader of the study abroad group,
said, “This would be a beautiful spot to dance.”
Teague and her students needed no more encouragement. While nondancers
clapped accompaniment, Teague and her dancers improvised interpretation
of the atmosphere. Some people milling about stopped to watch. Others
even participated, dancing along or raising umbrellas in time.
“It was amazing, watching the students and seeing them shed
their inhibitions about performing in public,” Raggi Moore
Since movement is simply another version of nonverbal communication,
Teague’s perspective also was handy whenever students would
visit Italy’s many art museums.
“She was able to make the students physically feel the sculptures
and the paintings they were viewing, and that just brings a completely
new dimension to looking at art,” Raggi Moore said. “They
were actually able to feel what the artists were feeling when they
created their works.”
The fact that Teague was able to connect with her students is not
a surprise. She said she has always had great teachers and mentors,
and that has helped keep her in the dance field. Because of the
support she received from her elders, Teague said, she works hard
to assist her own students in every way she can.
“I really value the one-on-one contact we have with students,”
Teague said. The program’s five graduates this past spring
marks its largest class. The major has been offered for three years.
“I like remembering students’ names,” Teague said.
“I don’t think I’d ever want that to change.”
“She’s really inspirational,” said Kat Lenberg,
one of those five 2002 graduates. A biology major when she entered
Emory College, Lenberg had Teague as an instructor for a freshman
dance course and eventually changed majors to double in dance and
“If there is anyone I’d like to emanate, it would be
Lori,” she said. “Not necessarily as a dancer, but as
a person. She epitomizes what it means to be a mentor.”
Lenberg, now a graduate student in the Rollins School of Public
Health, is an ideal case study in Teague’s effort to focus
on student strengths. Although a talented dancer, Lenberg never
saw herself as a performer. Instead, she focused her work on stage
management—the first Emory dance major to do so.
“I love to dance, but I have this fear of stages,” Lenberg
said. “Lori was the first dance teacher I had who was OK with
“She’s always been there for me,” Lenberg continued.
“She helped me learn to express myself through movement, worked
with me to find an internship and even find a position at a nonprofit.”
“I love to teach, and I’m very passionate about what
I do,” Teague said. And that passion is not limited to work
When her schedule permits, Teague dances with the Decatur-based
Core Performance Company, as well as in the work of other Emory
dance faculty. Teague also has choreographed work for Full Radius
Dance, an Atlanta company made up of both able-bodied and disabled
dancers; and she recently reworked a piece called “Speak”
for the Moving in Spirit Apprentice Corporation.
Teague said the 10-year-old piece originally grew out of personal
issues she had with assertiveness. When she restyled it for Moving
in Spirit, a group consisting of teenage African American girls,
she switched the tone to focus more on female empowerment.
The corporation toured with the piece over the summer, even performing
for modern dance performer Catherine Dunham on the occasion of her
“I’m really honored that she got to see the work, and
these young girls danced it,” Teague said. “It’s
changed me a lot to have someone younger than me [perform] my work
and see how strong they are at that age. I don’t think I had
that strength then.”