dance research

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.

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.