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View Hannah Wentz’s History of Dance video ‘The Journey’ above.

Cross a ballerina and an engineer – and an “enginina” emerges

Hannah Wentz (’14) is not easily daunted. Neither a wintry cold river, nor a big, hairy honors thesis project slows her down. She is a mechanical engineer and a dancer.

“I’m the first engineering major, dance minor student in the history of the University,” Wentz said early this spring. “It’s really exciting, especially when I have the honors program, too.”

For her honors thesis, Wentz developed a history of dance. She is researcher, choreographer and the lead dancer. In one segment, she appears with seven other dancers. The project evolved into four-segment focus on the progression of dance from traditional ballet in the theater world, through modern dance, into contemporary dance and finally to today’s flash-mob style dance.


Hannah dancing in the shallows of the Spokane River

“I am always pleased when a student includes a performance component to their Honors thesis,” said Fr. Timothy Clancy, S.J., director of the Honors Program. “We have had poetry, short stories, paintings, drawings, even a film and a musical production. Hannah’s thesis falls within this group of artistic theses. I am looking forward to the public presentation of her work next month.

“Hannah is a bright, hard-working, even driven student,” Clancy added. She has involved herself   deeply with University Ministry retreats and, as an engineering student, spent a semester in Florence – where she practiced with a local ballet company.

Her Honors thesis presented logistical hurdles that ran from the everyday – rehearsing with other busy college students – to the strategic – deciding how to respond to a request for a $1 million insurance policy from one venue where she wanted to film a dance.

“It’s a big project. It’s exciting. It’s chaos.”

Wentz learned sign language in order to bring an unusual element to her contemporary dance – and she danced, literally, in the shallows of the Spokane River in December. The water segment runs one minute, 19 seconds. “We got a lot of blooper shots,” Wentz said. “The river was at least freezing if not below. It was about 40 degrees ambient, but every time the music stopped, I said, ‘Get me out, get me out.’ ”

Who but an engineer talks about ambient temperature in the midst of a dance project? An “enginina,” that’s who.

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