From the dance floor to the classroom

Lauren Angel is an adjunct professor that works in the History Department at Marshall University, but before becoming faculty at Marshall, she started taking in an interest in dancing.

“I joined a team when I was about 12 and made a lot of friends at the time,” Angel said. “It was also around that time I told my parents I was serious about pursuing a career in dancing.”

Angel then proceeded to attend dancing school in Maryland in her pursuit to become a professional dancer, but she ended up suffering an ankle injury that put her dancing career on halt. 

“At first, it wasn’t serious, but as my doctor would tell me, I messed my ankle up really bad and I wouldn’t be able to dance for a long time,” Angel said. “It was a hard thing to accept.”

Angel is a graduate of George Washington University and obtained her undergraduate degree in English before going professionally into dancing.

 She said she decided to go back to school to get her master’s degree in English, but a history of sexuality class changed her mind. 

Angel then said she changed her major to history and started working under Greta Rensenbrink, and Angel said she felt like a mentor to her when working under her. 

“Working with Dr. Rensenbrink helped me understand that history is the study of how our world came to be the way it is today,” she said. “Both her and the other professors I worked with as a student in the History Department were great examples of people who used the study of history to give back to the Marshall campus community. They inspired me to want to use my own work to give back as well.”

Angel is a part of a project called The Activist History Review, which was started by a group of students from George Washington University. It is a peer-edited online platform that Angel said is devoted to the idea that the past is relevant to the present. 

“The site tries to take the conversations that historians are having with one another about the issues of the day and open them up to include social justice activists as well as members of the public at large,” Angel said.

Angel is an editor and a contributor to the project, and she said it helped develop one of her own goals as an instructor. 

She said her goal is to invite students to discover the ways that history is relevant to their own lives. Her work has explored the uses of race and gender in developing U.S. interactions with the world.

Angel said her other interests include liberal art talents such as theater and has a dissertation called, “Hot Bodies, Cold War: Dancing America in Person and Performance.” This piece analyzed Cold War dance diplomacy tours. 

Jonathan Still can be contacted at [email protected]