By Anna Allen, ’16

Nathan Watwood,’15, has long admired his grandfather’s work in the sciences and civil engineering. His grandfather introduced him to concepts like nuclear fusion and often encouraged him to pursue the “energy of tomorrow,” until Watwood ultimately chose to major in physics and chemistry.

But physics is not Watwood’s only passion. In the midst of studying subjects like quantum chromo dynamics, he still makes time for his love for dance, which began in fourth grade when Watwood joined a Richmond-based program that exposed children to the art of dance. Formal ballet training followed in the eighth grade. 

At the University of Richmond, Watwood says that his main goal is to focus on the sciences, while dance takes a supporting role. “When I get back from late rehearsals, I know I have to shift gears into doing homework,” he says. “Dance brings me more focus and efficiency.”

Secondary doesn’t mean minimal, though. Last year, Watwood was a member as well as the resident assistant of The History of Dance, a Sophomore Scholars in Residence living-learning community. The students learned how dance evolved through the Renaissance, participated in movement labs where they created dances similar to what they were studying, and took dance classes. The group also traveled to Cuba where they interviewed people about what dance meant to them and had the opportunity to see the Ballet National. “It’s a different culture there, and dance affects their lives a lot more,” says Watwood. 

Watwood also participates in the University Dancers, which begins each semester with classes in ballet, jazz, and modern dance, before working with choreographers who each teach the company a piece. Each choreographer is only able to spend about a week or two teaching the dancers, so rehearsals are intense. After the company learns dances, they perform in the annual spring concert and the American College Dance Festival (ACDFA) over spring break.

Student choreographers are often given the opportunity to perform at ACDFA and this year, Watwood was selected to present his work. “It’s the first time I’ve created a piece, and mine was one of the ones that got picked,” he says. “I was a little surprised, excited maybe.”

His piece will focus on inner conflict. “There is always that point when you are about to make a decision on an event that has angered you,” he says. “The conflict is whether to let your logic and reason make the decision, or to give in to your anger.”

With so much on his plate, balancing it all can get tough, especially during performance season. “It’s gets you more motivated, though,” says Watwood. “It can be difficult but it gives you good time management skills.” 

After spending the past few summers participating in dance programs at the Richmond Ballet, Watwood decided turn his focus back to physics this summer. Alongside physics professor Gerard Gilfoyle, Watwood will conduct research focused on quantum chromo dynamics. “We will be studying particle accelerations, looking at the angular movement of particles when they collide with each other in order to figure out what is in the atom.”

The research feeds Watwood’s longstanding plans to attend graduate school and conduct research in nuclear physics — but he doesn’t want to see his love of dance going anywhere. “I don’t know if I will have the time to dance, because I know graduate school is difficult. But if I can do it, that would be great. I might take a class or two for fun.”