College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Exploring creativity through dance and materials engineering

Jose Pérez González’s story is unique. His diverse and well-rounded experiences make him a leader by example and a student who has a strong desire to excel, learn, and grow in whatever he participates. Pérez González is beginning his second semester at Iowa State and has immersed himself completely to embrace his Iowa State adventure. He is a sophomore in materials engineering. He is an international student from Jerez, Spain. He is a transfer student from Belhaven University in Mississippi. He is a student researcher in the Ames Laboratory. He is involved in three student organizations, and he is a dancer.

Jose Pérez González, materials engineering student

During his first semester at Iowa State, Pérez González joined the materials engineering student organization, Material Advantage, and the glass blowing club, the Gaffer’s Guild. He also got involved in Orchesis I, the Iowa State dance company. These activities, in addition to academic work, keep Pérez González extremely busy and fuel his passions so he can excel in the things that make him happy.

Dancing is one of the many things that bring happiness and comfort to his life, and he has known this about himself for many years. Pérez González started dancing when he was three years old. He would start dancing to whatever music his mother would play. He was not interested in sports as a child, but his mother encouraged him to participate in something that could keep him active. Because his two sisters attended a dance academy, his mother enrolled him in classes as well.

He said, “I didn’t like it at first because it was really hard. You had to have attention to detail. As a kid, you don’t want to think about the details, you just want to move and do something that is easy. For some reason I stayed, and as the years passed, I liked it more until I just couldn’t have enough of it.”

Pérez González originally started taking classes in classical ballet. He has also taken flamenco and modern dance classes as well.

“Especially in classical ballet, it’s really hard to see your progression, and it’s hard to get better. If you have that driving force inside of you and you are able to stay and work long enough, then you see results at the end. The results and improvement take time, but when I am able to see progress, that’s what motivates me to keep dancing. There’s always something you can improve, and the more you work, the closer you are to the better version of yourself,” said Pérez González.

Pérez González recalls searching for places to dance immediately when he arrived in Ames. Because his schedule was full of engineering core courses, he was not able to take classes through Iowa State. He discovered Orchesis I where he is able to dance on the nights and weekends. Pérez González also takes dance classes at the Robert Thomas Dancenter in Ames.

He said, “Orchesis I focuses more on modern dance. It’s nice to explore that style of dance because it is different than the classical ballet that I grew up learning. The movement is much more organic and natural.”

Because Pérez González joined Orchesis I right away in the semester, he quickly learned about the Nutcracker Ballet in Ames that is hosted annually at Stephen’s Auditorium. Auditions took place in August, and the performance was December 9-10, 2017. For four months, his weekends were consumed with two full-day rehearsals to prepare for his role in the ballet. Pérez González performed in two roles. The first role was dancing as the nutcracker that begins as a doll and transforms into a human. He also was an Arabian dancer performing many difficult stunts with a partner.

Pérez González said, “I had so much fun performing in The Nutcracker. I got to know a lot of people from Iowa State and the Ames area, and now I have friends that I will have for a long time. I also got to know the teachers and rehearsal directors. Every time you work with a new director, they each have their own approach to dance and have different ways of doing things. I definitely plan to audition next year. I love dancing and being challenged. I like to be given new circumstances to overcome.”

This was not Pérez González’s first Nutcracker Ballet performance. He had performed while he was a student at Belhaven University, too.

He said, “You never get tired of The Nutcracker Ballet because each company has their own choreography.”

Pérez González has had years of experience dancing in different locations, with different instructors, and in different styles. The differences have allowed him to grow and excel in times of change.

“I’ve been able to work with a lot of different ballet teachers that are well renowned in Spain. It has been nice to learn different ways to train, especially when I came to the states. In Europe, dance is really classical, but American dance has had many influences. It was a challenge to get used to the differences because it’s such a unique way to move, but now I like it more, the same way that I’m liking more contemporary and modern dance. I’m happy to be here because of that,” said Pérez González.

Why does Pérez González like dancing? He says it allows him to explore feelings that he wouldn’t be able to express or control just by thinking about them.

He said, “It’s something I feel. When I dance, I feel like I become one with my emotions, and it’s so empowering to dance. When you are dancing a piece, you pour yourself into it, and it’s such a relief to express yourself that way. It’s wonderful to dance in front of an audience and to have a reaction from the people watching you.”

Pérez González dances to fulfill his desire to be creative. He has also chosen a degree in materials engineering to fulfill that desire on a more analytical platform as well.

“It’s a great major to be creative, and I think that’s what made me interested in it. I really like math, chemistry, and physics, but I also like the creative fields. I think that materials engineering is one of the few engineering fields that can give you the balance to use your creativity,” said Pérez González.

Pérez González has had to overcome many transitions throughout the past two years. He moved to a new country, started his college career in Mississippi majoring in chemical engineering, transferred to Iowa State and changed majors to materials engineering, and performed in one of the most popular performances in Stephens Auditorium. Through all of the change and adversity, his constant is dance.

Pérez González’s advice to other students is this; “If you are a new student, don’t be scared to talk to your peers and dorm mates. In class, talk to your classmates and faculty. Get to know them. That’s the way you will overcome your difficulties. When you come to a new country or new school, sometimes it’s overwhelming, and you may not have the support you might have back home. It can be really hard. Friends are going to help you. Don’t fear what others say or what others think about you. I think it’s important to go look for new opportunities. Don’t just do the same things you did last year. Go for more.”