OSUdance

Finally, A Sisterhood

I’ve spent the last few days completely surrounded by pure Black excellence. Inundated and wrapped up tight in it.

This was my first time at the International Association of Blacks in Dance conference , and while I was very excited to go, along with a group of 7 other students from my Department, I am struck now (as I am writing this on the plane back to Columbus) with how important IABD & spaces like that are, especially for young artists like me.

Yesterday, I sat in a workshop led by the indomitable Dr. Brenda Dixon Gottschild, one of my personal idols and a pioneer of Black dance theory, & a panel of five other Black women. One had just received her doctorate from Temple University. Another is a professor at Appalachian State University. Gaynell Sherrod, from the dance department at Virginia Commonwealth University was there. Zita Allen, one of the best dance critics to ever enter the field, and a pioneer for writing about Black dance/Black dancing bodies, spoke. And Vershawn Sanders-Ward, graduate of Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and founder of Red Clay Dance Company in Chicago shared as well. There were so many other important, notable dancers and artists in the room…

…and everywhere I went. I took class with folks who had studied with Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham personally. Folks who travel all over the world to work with royalty. I sat in the room with some of the primary figures is Black dance — Karen Brown, Cleo Parker Robinson, Joan Myers Brown, Lula Washington, to name a few.

But as I sat in that circle of women, I found myself becoming emotional. All these women are where I want to be one day. They have lived the life I want, walked in the places I hope to go, and are sharing their wisdom with me. I sat there choking on tears as woman after woman spoke life into me, thinking, I want to know you all. I want you to be my aunties and mothers and sisters. For the first time in my dance life I felt like I had a sisterhood. I felt supported. I felt loved by a group of women who didn’t know me, or know anything about me. I wanted to stay in the safety of their embrace forever, and the truth is, I can.

That’s why all Black art spaces like IABD are important. There are the people who know, who understand our common struggle. There’s no cliché in our truth, there’s no doubt about the validity of our stories. I’ve spent so much time wondering whether my stories are okay. Whether it’s okay that all I want to talk about, write about, make about is completely wrapped up in my experiences with race, class, and gender. And at IABD, I was reminded very clearly that my artistic voice and perspective is valid.

I’m so grateful for this experience. It was such a necessary blessing.

Love & Light.

#ButForOhioState

I’m sitting in the Ohio Union right now in a spot I’ve sat in countless times in my time here. I just finished meeting with a friend and making plans for our Buckeye Leadership Fellows capstone project — a business, a unique brand with my name on it.

Three years ago, I never would have even imagined myself as being able to use my art form to change the world. I never thought about owning my own business or branding myself. My time at Ohio State has taught me so much. I was pushed so far outside of my comfort zone and that pressure was so necessary. I was a diamond hiding deep underground. I had no idea what I was capable of or what I could even do with dance. OSUdance and Buckeye Leadership Fellows have opened my eyes to the world beyond the ballet barre. There’s more to the dance field than just being a ballerina in American Ballet Theatre or a star in the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

There’s so much theory and history behind what gets presented on the stage, and while I love to move and create and want to continue to do that with my life, there is so much more that I have to offer to this field. It took me coming to college to find myself – a Black woman – at the heart of American modern dance. I struggled to love myself, my body for so long until I learned that my ancestry sits in the heart of so much of American culture and performance.

I want to make sure that no more little black girls have to wait until they’re 19 to learn that truth. The research and work that I am doing now for my senior project within the Dept. of Dance seeks that goal. While I thank God for Horton technique and Alvin Ailey, knowing about Black women choreographers like Pearl Primus and Katherine Dunham would have proved life changing for me in high school.

Beyond that, I refuse to be a poor, starving dancer living in a shoe box in New York, broken and bowed because I’m not dancing with fill-in-the-blank company. I want to use dance to do something – to challenge the status quo, to change the way that blackness is portrayed of and on the performance stage, and to diversify the bodies that we put on stage as well. I want to have my own collaborative dance company as an avenue for that creativity.

But there’s more… I want to be an academic. I want to fill the gap in academic literature that deals with Black performance theory and the African/Africanist elements in Black American culture, American pop culture, and American performance. I told my friends today that I’ll be sending them copies of my first book within the next five years.

And about that brand that I mentioned at the beginning of this – that’s going to happen too.

There’s so much in my heart, and over the years of my education, I have learned that there is no need to limit myself. I can do, and be, whatever I want.

Now, as I sit at the cusp of making everything that I’ve talked about a reality, one piece of Scripture my mom has instilled in me my whole life resonates deeply in my spirit:

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11, NIV

Looking around me and recognizing where I am now and remembering where I have been is proof to how great the Lord’s plans for me are. I’m graduating with Distinction in May 2017, but I’m not afraid. I finally feel that I’m walking fully in my calling. His plans for my future are big and bright, and I trust Him to help me achieve them.

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! 

&…

Bear with me, the title will make sense in a bit, but first let me provide some context…

Today, the Department of Dance hosted one of the most iconic figures in dance, Arthur Mitchell.  He came and gave us an amazing overview of his incredible life — from growing up on the streets of Harlem, how he found dance, becoming the first Black man to dance with the New York City Ballet (then under the direction of George Balanchine), to when he founded his own, now world-renowned company, the Dance Theater of Harlem.  He’s such a beautiful soul, so full of joy and life at the wonderfully seasoned age of 81.  (His 82nd birthday is next month, actually!)

He talked so long that we didn’t have much time for questions,  but my hand shot up as soon as we were able.  I thought of this last night: How do we change the perception surrounding dance in the Black community and engage more Black youth in ways that encourage them to pursue dance professionally.  So often, there is this perception that dance is not good enough for us.  We have to achieve more, do better, and prove ourselves to society.  “Anybody can dance.  We need more Black doctors, lawyers, etc.” is what I’ve been told.  I asked Mr. Mitchell about this, and he told me that “you just that you have to make up your mind for yourself.  You set the example.”

In a blessed coincidence, I happened to be at the elevator at the same time that he and one of his dancers, Paunika Jones, were being escorted back to their car.  Paunika started chatting with me further about my question, and we ended up walking out of the building together.  She then proceeded to blow my mind and challenge every single perception of myself that I have. She asked me if I was taking the ballet class that Mr. Mitchell was teaching later today.  I told her no, and she asked why not.  I said, laughing, “Oh, I’m not a ballet dancer!”

She looked at me and said, “Do you hear yourself?”  I stopped and was immediately blown away by the way in which I was refuting myself.  Ballet is inextricable from all classical forms of dance.  I do ballet here in my studies at OSU.  I grew up in the ballet technique.  So why do I label myself?  Why do I put myself in a box?  That’s part of the problem, Paunika told me (in reference to engaging Blacks in dance).  We tell ourselves that we can’t do things; we limit ourselves in our minds.  Just because something isn’t my greatest talent, doesn’t mean I’m incapable of doing it.

I found myself tearing up.  My biggest fight since I’ve been in dance has been overcoming myself.  My insecurities about my body, about my technique, about my inadequacies — no one has ever given them to me.  They have all been dredged up and put on by me.  Mr. Mitchell said today in his talk that we can be anything that we want to be.  We just have to work to be our best selves at it…

My name is Kylee Cedreice Smith.  I am a Black dancer…

& a contemporary dancer

& a modern dancer

& a ballet dancer

& a choreographer

& a writer

&…

whatever else I ever want to be.

No more limits. No more, “I can’t.” Starting today.

Thank you OSUdance, for continually bringing me these opportunities that change me and allow me to grow in invaluable ways. Thank you to Arthur Mitchell for sharing, & thank you to Paunika Jones for taking a few minutes of your time to be a true mentor. 

Me & the Legend, Arthur Mitchell. 

   

  

Overcoming Aesthetic Differences: It’s All about Attitude

Happy 2016! I know it’s rather late in the game for me to be saying that, but this is my first post of 2016, and absolutely not to be the last.  I have been telling some of my latest followers that it is my goal this year to establish a more regular blogging schedule.  I am really learning so much in my life right now, and I want to share this journey with all of you.  So, please help me stay accountable and be on the look out for a post from me bi-weekly (every 2 weeks)!  I’ve made it a goal for this semester to be more regular and intentional about private and public self reflection, and my blog is a huge part of my public reflection.  I’m so excited to continue in this process with you.

Now, to the meat of this post —

Over the last five and half months, I have been working with one of our graduate students, Kristina D’onofrio, on her Masters of Fine Arts thesis project.  She had this amazing idea of incorporating the Psalms into dance, and when she told me about it in Fall 2014, I thought it was an amazing idea and definitely wanted to be a part of the work.  When Fall finally came, I was still committed to working with her.  However, it became really evident soon into the project that we have some really major aesthetic differences.  She’s an extremely talented ballet dancer, and I have never ever wanted to be a “‘trina” and have become really steeped in modern dance since I’ve been in this department.  I found myself feeling way out of my comfort zone and struggling to master the choreography as quickly the others were.

Then, we started having rehearsals with dancers from BalletMet’s trainee program — girls that were hard core ballerinas aiming to make real, professional careers out of ballet. I was so intimidated.  I had a scheduling conflict that caused me to be late to rehearsals, and so I would always be a little confused about what was happening.  This compounded with the insecurities I felt about being around these girls who were dancing in pointe and left me doubting myself.  I came into every rehearsal thinking, “These BalletMet dancers must think that I am a fat, lardo, trainwreck of a dancer.” (So many of my insecurities are still body centered, but I’m working on it.) I started dreading those two hours twice a week, and I saw myself as really insignificant to the overall success of the piece.  I spent a lot of time thinking, “How late is too late to drop out?  If I had known I would feel this way back in October, I would have definitely quit then.”  I carried this with me right into tech week.

But then, I had an amazing speaker come in and talk to my Buckeye Leadership Fellows cohort.  His name was Dwight Smith, and he founded a program called My Special Word, which goes out and talks to young people about their values and then helps them to come up with a word or group of words that they feel encompasses who they are or who they want to become.  He led my group through a similar activity.  The word I came up with is creator.  I want to create a better world for girls like me, especially in dance.  This has long been my goal.  I’m a dancer and a writer; I create movement, stories, and worlds with my body and with my words.  There — that’s who I am.  This reminder was so focusing and clarifying.

Here I was on the night of dress rehearsal suddenly realizing that I had been approaching this entire experience the wrong way.  I got to perform this past week.  That’s what I want to do with my life.  Not everybody has that opportunity, and I am so blessed to have even held a small part in making Kristina’s vision into reality.  Beyond that, I learned what it’s like to reconcile aesthetic differences; the challenge of this work will be in my heart and mind in the future, because I know that I’m not going to always like every dance that I’m a part of.  I also walk away from this experience with new friends — it’s so great to have bonded with dancers in a different field, and I hate that it took me so long to open up and let them in.  I found out that many of them were feeling the same way that I was about the choreography, and it was really cool to learn about their unique lives.

My mom always told me that your attitude can make a world of a difference in your situation.  She’s so right.  My performance was so much better because I finally brought an attitude of thankfulness and joy to my work.

Thank you so much, Kristina, for not giving up on me and letting me be a part of this.  I’m truly forever grateful.

Blessings and Light. 

Enjoy some pics of me and my cast! 

    
    
   

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 🙂

 

Bloodlines

This weekend my first choreographed work, a solo entitled Bloodlines, premiered in the OSU Department of Dance’s Spring concert, “Absolute Existence.”  This piece was inspired by the lineage of my ancestors as African Americans in the Deep South.  All my life, I have grown up hearing stories about how my family lived and worked in Abbeville, South Carolina.  I have been brought up with a strong sense of pride in the people from whom I come, and their experiences of lynching and discrimination have fueled my desire to be all that I can be and to take advantage of the opportunities that they risked their lives to provide me with.

My distant uncle, Anthony Crawford was lynched in Abbeville in 1916 because he refused to settle for the poor price that a buyer offered him for his cotton crop.  His legacy has traveled from generation to generation to me, and I have been rocked with the understanding that one of my blood relatives was murdered in cold, hateful, and evil blood.  It fills me with a sort of righteous indignation akin to what I feel when the media splashes the death and mistreatment of youth like Martese Johnson, Mike Brown, and Trayvon Martin across my news screen.

Wess McBride, my paternal great-grandfather, my Great-Granddaddy, was the first black police officer in Abbeville County, where his grandfather was lynched.  He was also the first black sheriff’s deputy in the county as well.  This was a man that I knew; a man of whom I have faded memories.  I remember going to his house and sitting on his scratchy couch.  I remember his wrinkly face.  I know the stories that my father still tells of the kind of man he was today.  He was an upstanding man of integrity — much like the kind of woman I am striving to be today,

Mary Alice Smith, my paternal grandmother, my Nana, truly lived the role of the Help.  She started in domestic work at a young age, working in the homes of many affluent families in Abbeville as well.  She raised some families’ children from infancy, and they still hold her in high regard for this today.  She went on to work in the sewing and textiles fields, and carried herself with the dignity our ancestors has passed down.  For this reason, she was favored, and placed in positions of prominence in these fields as well.

Lastly, Walter Smith, my paternal grandfather, my Papa, was a man who has further instilled in me the value of hard work.  He worked on CSX Railroad, formerly Seaboard Coastlines, from the age of 14 until he retired.  He laid rail all the way up and down the Eastern seaboard.  The hot southern sun turned his skin a deep ebony, earning him the nickname Blue Steel because his skin had a faint blue tint. My Papa passed away when I was 11, but the color of his skin is something that has always resonated with me.  I look so much like him; in my baby pictures, he holds me to his face and our skin mingles together, almost the same shade.  Thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes; I miss him so much.

These are the things that were in my spirit as I began the process of making this piece.  I wanted to honor my family, and all that they have done for me to be able to live the life that I currently enjoy.  Sharing this part of myself with the world has been an incredible experience.  I have been totally humbled by the responses that I have received, and I believe that it truly was a success.

I will close with the spoken word segment that I conclude my performance with:

These Bloodlines run strong in me. 

Coursing through my veins, driving me. 

See,

the blood on the root never dried. 

The fruit on the tree never died. 

No

A seed was planted. 

You — Uncle Anthony, Great-Granddaddy, Papa, Nana — live on in Me.

Below are pictures taken by my lovely classmate, Hana Newfeld, of Bloodlines.  

Enjoy.

From Fear to Success

For the final study in my Composition II course, we were directed to make a piece, 3-4 minutes long, to a song/sound/music of our choice. Pretty much there weren’t many parameters set for us.  I had been sitting with an idea for a piece that I was already calling “Bloodlines” in my head, and I decided to use this assignment to begin to develop it.  “Bloodlines” is an exploration of two of my greatest passions: dancing and writing.  I wanted to integrate spoken word into dance, allowing myself to share everything that I had with my audience — the things that I cannot articulate in words through dance and the things that I can best say through poetry.

This piece is for my people — my ancestors.  I have grown up with a strong sense of familial pride. More recently, I have learned the story of how my great great great uncle, Anthony Crawford, was lynched in Abbeville, South Carolina, in 1917.  My great Granddaddy was the first black deputy sheriff in Abbeville, which is recognized as the birthplace and deathbed of the Confederacy.  He could not even arrest a White man for breaking the law on his own.  My Papa helped to build the CSX railway up and down the East coast, a hard and cruel work.  His peers called him “Blue Steel” because his skin was a deep ebony that looked blue at times.   My Nana worked in many of the affluent white households around town for many years; there were times when she had to neglect her own children in order to take care of theirs.  It is hard for me to explain articulately in words, but all of these things stir my soul in a very powerful way.  Today, my Nana is one of the most well-known and respected women in the Abbeville community among both blacks and whites.  I am here at The Ohio State Univeristy, majoring in dance, a concept which could have only been a figment of her imagination for a significant portion of her life and that sometimes she still struggles to understand completely.  My great Granddaddy and Papa passed away many years ago, but not before they could touch my life in an immense way.  I wanted to make a dance that recognized them.  The life, blood, sweat, prayers, and tears that my family gave up in order for me to have the present in which I am living.

I didn’t want this dance to be done at the end of my composition class, so I decided to conquer my fear and adjudicate it for the Department of Dance’s spring concert.  (Adjudication is basically like an audition, but to put a choreographic work into a performance.)  I entered into the process with one goal, to put my name out there.  I wanted the Department to become more aware of my presence, and essentially know, that in the midst of all the amazing talent that we have here, Kylee C. Smith is here, and she has something to add too.  Being selected for the concert was a dream of a dream.

I guess I should have more confidence in myself.  I was shocked beyond words when I received an email saying that my piece was among those that had been selected.

So, “Bloodlines” lives on, and as with any life, it will grow and stretch and change over time.  I am incredibly excited to be given this opportunity.

Below is the most recent video of the work.  Excuse the blurry quality, but technology and I don’t see eye to eye right now.  Don’t worry, I’ll be keeping you updated and posting more videos soon!

Blessings, Love, and Light.

Composition II: First Reflections and Analysis

This semester I took what has come to be one of my favorite courses in my undergraduate career thus far: Composition II. This course, taught by the amazing and incredibly talented, Susan Hadley (seriously, google her!), was a journey in choreography.  While we created several solo studies, we also discussed and had opportunities to work with groups on entrances and exits, formations, choreography, etc.  I learned and grew in my artistry so much as a result of this class.  The following is my first thoughts and reflections on my work in the course, circa September 30, 2014. Enjoy!

I think one of my main difficulties thus far has been locomotion.  I have been told that I am a “stand and deliver” kind of dancer.  In some ways, I avoid creating extremely active choreography because it is harder for me personally to produce and to fully realize in my own body.  I have this worry of forgetting my choreography while presenting, so I make up things that are easier for me to recall and perform well.  Furthermore, my life right now does not lend itself to hours spent in the studio perfecting material.  So when I do have the time to choreograph, I put together something that my body and I can remember with less practice; unfortunately, this leads to the creation of the “same old, same old,” regular movement style that I am familiar and comfortable with: “stand and deliver.”  I’ve found that when I am pushed to go beyond this, however, the material becomes much more “interesting” in many ways.  I think that in order to explore these new areas, I have to push myself to turn down the road less traveled and trust myself to have the ability to make it to the end.  Even failure can lead to much gain.  

Another issue that I have struggled with is being authentic with my weight.  I have this idea of falling as a bad thing, so its use tends to be on a very superficial level.  Last week, in my inversion study, Susan coached me to really use my weight in an honest manner.   What happened? The piece traveled.  I think in many ways, addressing this problem will, in turn, help to solve the other.  I feel that the reason that I do not use my weight is because it is not something that always works well with my current choreographic sensabilities.  I don’t tend to simply improv, throw my weight around, and go wherever my body wants to go.  I much more prefer to put my body where I want it to go.  In fact, I find it extremely difficult to follow my body’s “lead” because oftentimes, I have put it in places from which the options are very limited.  Perhaps exploring a new method of choreography will help me solve both of my issues and arrive at the end of this journey with a greater sense of confidence in mobility and authenticity in weight.

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.