Amina Ben Ismail, a sophomore from Tunisia, is a passionate dancer and visual artist working to integrate the arts on campus through a collaborative project involving dancers, slam poets and musicians. 

Ben Ismail’s inspiration for the project came from a French dance video.

“I was watching a French slam poet and the video clip was of two dancers dancing to the words,” she said. “Plus, I’m sad I’m not taking any dance classes this semester, so I thought maybe I could work on something myself.”

Ben Ismail assembled a group of students for the project by reaching out to dance groups, the Slam Poet Society and musicians on campus.
The project will include a recording of slam poetry with music and choreography.

“We call it the DANM Project because it combines dance and music,” said Ben Ismail. “There are two slam poets involved, dancers and one musician who plays the piano.”

The group has recorded the slam poetry performance already.

“The original idea was to write about identity and coming of age,” she said. “They wrote two parts, one about a girl and one about a guy. I want it to be a story.”

Ben Ismail hopes to debut this new project in the spring dance performance.

“It is hard to organize with that many people from different art backgrounds,” she said. “It was a very spontaneous idea, so I am not sure yet if it will be a club or a dance group.”

Ben Ismail has been dancing—as well as drawing and painting—since she was young and has continued to pursue these interests at Bowdoin.

“I have done seven years of ballet, and then when I was a teenager I turned to modern,” she said. “I also drew a lot from ages 10 to 15 and then I stopped for a while. Then I took Drawing I with [Professor of Art] Mark Wethli and I loved it. I have also done a few dance classes.”

Last year, Ben Ismail took Interdisciplinary Performance Making, a class that combined all types of artists. At the end of the semester, the class performed “Harrison Bergeron Escapes From the Zoo,” combining silks, music, singing and acting.

“It was such a great experience; it was very different from anything I’ve done before,” she said. “Learning silks was so tiring, and we had rehearsal every day. The performance was so fun and crazy and the group of people that participated was great and we bonded so much.”

In addition to the arts, Ben Ismail runs the Arabic table, tutors in French and is a member of Safe Space and an inter-race dialogue group.

She hopes to include the arts in her academic study as well.

“I think I will be an anthropology major and a visual arts minor, but that could change,” she said. “I am taking Ordinary Ethics right now. I really like how we start from case studies and then generalize, and we talk a lot about relationships between people on a humanitarian level.”

This past summer, Ben Ismail traveled to Rome for an Italian program, and then completed an internship in social business at home in Tunisia.

In the future, she hopes to do more with the visual arts.

“I was thinking about a senior studio project that could connect what I do here to Tunisia,” Ben Ismail said. “It would be great to paint Tunisian faces and incorporate the struggles of the revolution.”