Dance Research

reflection/my body is a church.

you don’t want no problems with me // it feels like blessings keep falling in my lap // i wish i could tell you it’s ready, tell you it’s ready today, but they don’t give nothing away. you gotta fight for your way // all my days, i’ve prayed and prayed, and now i see the finish line. oh i’m gonna finish mine // cuz at the end of the day [art] is all we got.

*cue praise dance*

Chance the Rapper has literally written the song[s] to this season of my life on his album Coloring Book. He inspires me in more ways than I can even articulate right now. Literally every single line above has been an affirmation, a prayer, a word for me when I have needed it most. The Lord has given that man the platform to change lives, and folks are being redeemed because of him. Beyond that, Lil Chano from 79th’s words has been especially applicable to my journey through my senior year to the piece that became known as my body is a church. Or, where the dance becomes sacred.

you don’t want no problems with me. “‘No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,’ declares the Lord.” Isaiah 54:17 NIV

More than anything, this is an affirmation that my safety is in the Lord. God’s got me. You don’t want no problems with me because the One who is greater than us all is my shield. Don’t ever play yourself, homie. *DJ Khaled voice*

it feels like blessings keep falling in my lap. Really, truly. It seems like everywhere I turn, there is some new blessing that I don’t deserve. Opportunities that I didn’t know existed have been opened to me. Things that I didn’t know I was capable of, I am now doing. In the most unexpected ways, people keep speaking life into my dreams and goals and visions.

i wish i could tell you it’s ready, tell you it’s ready today, but they don’t give nothing away. you gotta fight for your way. This is such an affirmation for my future and an acknowledgment of how hard I’ve worked to get where I am today. My time at OSU has been the result of dedication, tenacity, and sacrifice from both me and my entire family. There have been people that told me that my artistic voice/vision wasn’t unique enough. There are people who don’t get it and who don’t want to. To get here, I’ve had to push them to the side and keep it moving. To get where I want to be, I’ll have to fight too.

all my days, i’ve prayed and prayed, and now i see the finish line. oh i’m gonna finish mine. When I tell you I heard these words pouring through my headphones the weekend of my senior concert and cried… Ya’ll. This senior project has been gestating within me for two years now. It’s incredible and surreal to me that I have this amazing, tangible thing to show for the seed that I have been nurturing. Beyond that, I’m about to graduate from college Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance and a minor in Creative Writing. I’m only the 2nd generation of my family to attend and graduate from college. My parents’ generation was the first. My grandparents don’t even fully comprehend what it is that I’m doing all the way up here in Ohio. They’re just proud of me because I’m doing something that they literally never even dreamed of doing. That’s why this finish line is so important to me. And when I become the first in my family to receive a masters degree and PhD, I’ll be doing it for them too.

cuz at the end of the day [art] is all we got. I’m so excited to be able to pursue my art full time. To be able to pour my time and energy into changing the world with my art. This thing that I just started on a whim when my family moved to South Carolina is my passion now. It’s my heart and soul.

I cannot express what a blessing it’s been to share my heart with the world. The Senior Concert was an absolute success for everyone involved. My classmates are truly incredible, and I can’t wait to see where we all go from here. Folks keep asking me if ‘my body is a church‘ is over, and for me that’s such a confirmation from the Lord that he’s not done with it yet.

Catch me next at the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum on March 29th. I’m now writing my distinction thesis paper and will be defending my thesis later on in April.

My senior year is literally a month and a half away from being over. The journey has been amazing. See some amazing images from my senior project, my body is a church. Or, where the dance becomes sacred, below. Photo Credit: my lovely classmate, Hana Newfeld.

Love and Light,

Kylee

 

Commencing 

Well, year three is in the books.  I am sitting at (my new) home, in Utah, still sort of in shock over the fact that I have completed yet another successful year at The Ohio State University.  OSU has actually become more home to me geographically than anywhere else.  It’s where I have spent the majority of my time and energy over the last few years.  I remember the first time I actually called it “home” and how weird that felt. Now, I have one year left until I will be making a new home somewhere in the world.  

I titled this post “Commencing” because a few days ago, I finally began work on my senior project.  It eerily became real because now I am actually doing all of the things I have been talking about doing for the past year. (You can click this link for more information about my project) The end of this past semester was full of so much confirmation that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  I took two classes that paralleled my interests in blackness in dance and helped me to explore blackness more generally in America and musically throughout the Diaspora.  It was so powerful for me to make connections and to see that the things that I observe at work in the dance field have larger, societal roots as well.  In my Music of Africa and the Diaspora class, we had a guest lecturer, Dr. Denise Noble, talk about Dancehall music in Jamaica.  I was intrigued by the way in which Black women’s bodies functioned within this Jamaican context, and I immediately felt that it had some connection to the ways in which Black women’s bodies in America function as well.  Dr. Noble and I  connected later as I interviewed her for my final paper that I wrote for that class. One of the biggest things that I took away from our conversation is that this thing — this particular structure that surrounds and suppresses Black people — is global.  It’s a part of the legacy left behind that touches every single country in the African Diaspora and every African nation that has been colonized by Europeans.  I am now struck by the vastness of what I want to do. 

I think I have found (one of) my life’s work(s).  I simply cannot get at everything in a year while taking general education classes and trying to graduate on time.  But what I know is that my work will not end simply at the end of my final year of undergrad.  I wrote in my senior project proposal that I want to work to ensure that no other little black girl has to grow up feeling the way that I did/do.  As a woman, finding peace with your body can be hard work — especially when your body is encased in black skin.  This applies broadly in America where black bodies still are under attack, but more specifically in a dance studio. I had know clue how much meaning this statement would take on when I said this three years ago as I wrote my artist statement for this blog, but dance is for everyone.  There is no perfect body or size.  No one should every have to question their place or if they belong here for any reason. My sister, you will fit, because I am breaking the mold for you. 

So as I commence this process, I am very excited, very nervous, and borderline already overwhelmed, but I am motivated.  I’m not just doing this for me.  I am taking the first few steps now, but I refuse to be timid.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me! To God be All the Glory! 

Fall 2015 – Reflections and Preparations

There are like a hundred other things that I could/need to be doing right now (sleeping, doing work, sleeping, reading one of the 20 books that are currently on my reading list, sleeping…), but the semester is nearing a close and some reflection and looking toward the future is long over due.

This has been one whirlwind of a semester.  I was crowned Ohio State’s African American Homecoming Queen/Miss Black and Gold (an experience in marginalization that opened my eyes to the reality surrounding students of color on this campus in a new way), and won first runner up in the district Miss Black and Gold pageant as well.  I have delved deeper into my minor in creative writing and discovered just how connected choreography and writing are and found so much confirmation that I am pursuing the right path.  In many ways, I’m excited and can’t believe that I only have three more semesters until my undergraduate career is over, but in other ways I’m so overwhelmed by my looming future.  I’m really excited about the year and a half left because I have decided upon a topic for my senior project and am beginning to embark on that journey.

I took a History, Theory, and Literature of Dance class last spring with the amazing Dr. Hannah Kosstrin (who is serving as the advisor for my senior project, yay!) which focused a great deal about the African/Africanist influence in modern dance (and ballet!) here in America.  My final research paper explored an interest I had in this topic and sought to help me better understand and accept my own self in this history.  The title was “Black Female Bodies in American Culture and Performance.”  This class really ignited a spark in me; I finished the paper, but found myself looking at race, identity, culture and community in almost everything around me.  As I was taking this class and doing this research, I was simultaneously choreographing Bloodlines.  All of these thoughts and ideas are closely bound to my own journey of self-love.  I seek to understand the Black dancing body as a whole in hopes to better know myself and where/how my own body can continue in the steps of my predecessors.

So this is my senior project — continuing to research Blackness in American dance and culture and to develop choreography (group and potentially some solo work) as a response to my research.  I am planning to do a distinction project, which will require me to do defend my thesis before a jury and then do some rewriting.  Overall, I am super excited to begin this journey, and I am incredibly thankful to the women who have inspired and helped me thus far — Dr. Hannah Kosstrin and Bebe Miller.  I am so looking forward to working with the both of them on this endeavor.

Hopefully, I will do a better job in the coming months of documenting my work and you all will be able to join me.

On a side note: I am writing this post on a laptop that I fear will quit on my at any moment… I am in desperate need of a new one that will allow me to record all of my notes and work without worry and unwarranted technological frustration.  If you would like to help me fill this need, please feel free to visit this link and make a donation.  I am so appreciative of every little bit! Thank you 🙂

 

Watching. Learning. Generating.

As a dancer, I see movement in very different ways than other people may. I watch how people walk – whether they are wing-footed or pigeon toed, how people stand – sway-backed or pulled up, how people react to music in dance – rhythmically or non-rhythmically. In my Laban Movement Analysis course this semester, we have been learning how to analyze dance and movement. In one of our assignments, we were asked to reflect on how we as individuals attend to movement – the things that we notice when watching, learning, and generating movement, and even the things that we ignore. Below, I will share with you some of my findings.

When observing dance in a performance atmosphere, one thing that always stands out to me is the emotional response that I have to the movement. I think the reason for this is that when I am performing, I always strive to move my audience in some way, whether small or large. I find that I pay attention to the small things such as hands and focus as well. When I am watching my classmates’ choreography in Composition class, I am very attentive to the hands – their placement and energy are of specific interest to me. Focus is of equal importance to me because it can completely transform the energy and impact of a piece.

The way that I approach movement that I have to learn usually depends on the style. I think that I learn ballet combinations fairly quickly because I am familiar with the vocabulary of ballet as it is very codified, and I’ve had a good deal of experience with it. With contemporary movement, which is very individually stylized, I think that I try to build the material from base up. I gain a general comfort with the basics of the movement, and then add on the details and flairs from there.

When I am generating movement, I typically tend to go with an idea or image that I have in my head. I do not actively sit and imagine choreography before attempting to set something, but rather, I will have an idea and then explore it until I find it to be unsuccessful or it leads to something else. While I notice hands and focus in other’s material, I have come to find that it is usually not something that I pay particular attention to until after I am finished creating and have begun the cleaning/clarifying process.

I don’t know if there is anything that I consciously ignore, but I do favor moving at a moderate pace. Fast movement is hard for me to generate and to maintain for more than short bursts of time. I am working on a piece for my final project in my composition class, and I am struggling to develop choreography that moves for more than a few steps and then dissolves into stillness. When I am dancing my own choreography to silence, I rarely think in terms of counts. My internal timing directs the piece, and I have a difficult time setting counts to material such as that. However, when I choreograph to music, I struggle to separate the timing of my choreography from the beat of the music. I think very much in terms of rhythm even without music, and it is something that is always subconsciously present to me when music is playing, even with I am not actively listening for the rhythm.

I am learning to better analyze the intent behind my movement. If something is supposed to be light and airy, do I achieve that goal? I think a great deal about the quality of the movement itself as well. Qualitatively, do I want my audience to perceive heaviness from my movement, a staccato phrasing, etc.? I make sure that I am on beat when there is an audible one, and I try to find ways to make my internalization of rhythm interesting and dynamic. My composition class has really challenged me to reach beyond the normal parameters of movement that I have set for myself and create movement that breaks my mold.

In conclusion, this assignment has really caused me to stop and tune in to things that I normally do not notice. It is important to know our own styles and habits as it keeps us aware of our potential biases. Once we are aware of these, I think that we have gained access to another level of honesty in our art form.

The Truth about Serving

For our final in my Freshman Seminar Class, we were instructed to do a study on the human body.  The project consisted of three parts: a physical “one hour” study of anything relating to the human body, a written final evaluation of that study, and this blog post.

Photo Credit: Kylee Smith

For my one hour study, I decided to look into how people carry themselves and interact in certain situations.  Specifically, I wanted to observe the wait staff of a restaurant; I was looking for changes in demeanor, posture, and/or body language in the servers as they worked with tables of differing demographics.  I chose Sloopy’s Diner, a restaurant located here on campus at Ohio State.

Ultimately, my plans and reality came together to create something that I had not quite expected.  Before the study, I thought that I would be able to see many clear, different changes in the body language/posture of all the servers.  I found that in general, the majority the servers had a very kind, pleasant, and professional attitude with all of their customers.  I was pleased find some form of what I had hoped to see in two of the four servers I observed.  I have prepared a Prezi presentation in the link that follows to share my findings with you all. The Truth about Serving Prezi

There’s Some Thought Behind It

In my freshman seminar class, we are currently embarking on a journey to learn about and do some of our own dance research.  It is a topic that can be confusing and unclear at times.  Our most recent assignment was to watch some videos about dancers that have made interesting discoveries about dance because they have decided to give thought to some of the intrinsic qualities of humanity and dance.

Dancer and choreographer Wayne McGregor explains the link between creativity and dance very articulately in his 2012 TEDTalk.  He explores different kinds of physical thinking in a live, onstage look into choreography.

Shedding more light upon how dance can be related to thought and even hormones, Peter Lovatt shares some really interesting thoughts and in depth research on how, as humans, we are all dancers.  In fact, women are statistically more attracted to men that can dance well; those that do have higher levels of testosterone.