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BC Students Make International Debut

Berea College took a major step forward in their 35 year cultural exchange program with Denmark this past summer when 15 Berea students made their international gymnastics debut at the Landstaevne Festival held in Haderslav, Denmark.

Images from the Landstaevne Festival

The students were led by last year’s resident Danish gymnastics instructors at Berea, Peter Sloth of Skals, Denmark, and Lene Christiansen of Aarhus, Denmark. Other instructors involved in the event were former Danish instructor Alex Pedersen of Copenhagen and Stephanie Woodie of the Berea College Physical Education and Health Department.

For the Danes, the national Landstaevne Festival is much like a non-competitive Olympics event. The festival is held every four years at various locations throughout the country and attracts audiences of up to 40,000 from more than 30 countries. The Queen of Denmark, Danish Prime Minister and other distinguished representatives from around the globe welcome the participants and open the festivities. Events include Danish gymnastics, folk dance, line dance, archery, soccer, golf, water activities, dog agility, workshops and many more activities.

Berea’s students were one of only two gymnastic groups from America who performed at the festival. Participants in the festival are mostly Danish, according to Woodie, but students from Berea represented the United States in a very traditional Danish performance. “The response from the audience was just incredible” she said. “They respected the fact that we had learned these techniques from them and that we’re trying to bring the Danish idea of non-competitive ‘gymnastics for everybody’ to America.” Woodie says the Berea group hopes to participate at the next festival four years from now.

Another milestone was the first ever workshop presentation at the sports festival by a Berea faculty member, Dr. Martha Beagle, who provided a 90-minute participatory Body Recall workshop and a wellness lesson about humor and its impact on one’s health. “I always share a joke or two with every lesson” says Beagle. In addition to keeping her audience smiling, she involved the audience in the physical activities, choreographed movements and the use of foam balls, wands and elastic bands employed in Body Recall, a low impact exercise program founded by Dorothy Chrisman, a former Physical Education instructor at Berea College, and now taught throughout the United States.

Berea’s Danish gymnastics instructors and classes are sponsored by the Danish American Exchange (DAE), a program between Berea College and the Danish Sports Association (DGI) which began in 1971. Berea initiated the exchange by sending folk dance groups to Denmark and bringing Danish dance groups here in return. In 1983, Berea College launched a teaching program, allowing resident Danish instructors to teach Danish gymnastics, dance and wellness classes at the College throughout the school year. This year’s resident DAE instructors are Mathias Ried-Larsen and Anja Lund of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Denmark focuses on fitness for all and believes in reaching out to communities across the globe. In Berea, the DAE started a local gymnastics program for kids that is now a nonprofit organization called the Berea Folk Gymnastics Club. “This is an important part of why the Danish American Exchange is here” says Woodie, “to reach out to the community beyond the College and its students.”

For more information on Berea's Danish gymnastics program, please contact Dr. Martha Beagle at (859) 985-3573 or Stephanie Woodie at (859) 985-3558.

Note: Berea students in the photo (L-R): Amanda Ginn, Ben Poynter, Rachel Trost, Frank Day, Sirajah Raheem and Miranda Hilemen.

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