Friday, in the midst of packing all of our belongings to move to Michigan, James and I packed up the car to take me to Milwaukee. I am starting my Dance MFA at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It is a program set up for working professionals, so we come here for the summer and go back to our respective homes during the rest of the year to complete other classes without interrupting our current careers.
I must say I’m already in love with Milwaukee and (Alterra Coffee is by far the best coffee I’ve ever had). The city is beautiful and I am living just 6 blocks away from the lake. It is an adjustment not only being the student again after 10 years, but also this dorm life. Although we do have a kitchen, so no dorm food for Sara.
This week is our intensive, Intro to Screendance, taught by the very talented Ellen Bromberg. Today was our second day of the intensive and while some of the technical information is going a bit over my head (although Ellen has spent the time to explain all of the technical things very well), I am having so much fun exploring this medium.
I unintentionally used video in my last two concerts. The first was so I could show my outdoor piece Baby Pool Etudes and Variations as part of an indoor concert. So I filmed the piece and showed the sections between live dances. The second video idea came to me only a few weeks before the concert. I had to of the dancers dance in random places where it was not expected and I filmed myself dancing in the midst of Sarah Mangelsdorf teaching her Dance 100 class at Ball State (seen in the video above).
I made these videos with no knowledge of what Screendance really was and without any of the skills to create it. I now understand the choices that I did make in terms of framing my shots. I also have ideas as to what I could have easily done to enhance what I did shoot.
Two days in, the biggest thing I’ve learned is that Screendance is not just dance on video, but a whole other medium of using the body to create art. The objective is to capture things and create effects and perspectives that you can not on a flat proscenium stage.
Today is our workday. Everyone is busy with building things and extra rehearsals. I used the time to put together my video/photo project and record the spoken word to accompany it.
I got to spend the morning and afternoon working on the slide show that will accompany spoken word for my side project, Gender Studies. I asked friends and family to share photos with all ages both living up to and going against gender expectations. I found it interesting that some people thought they didn’t have what I was looking for. To quote the text that goes with the piece “Gender is all around us. It is actually taught to us, from the moment we are born. Gender expectations and messages bombard us constantly. Upbringing, culture, peers, community, media, and religion, are some of the many influences that shape our understanding of this core aspect of identity.” (from genderspectrum.org) Yes we have physical characteristics that make men and women different, but the idea of gender is something that we impose upon ourselves. While I relate to feminine qualities physically, in terms of my personality and how I behave, I embody more typical masculine qualities than I do the stereotypically feminine qualities. But we all have varying degrees of both, and to me, that diversity is wonderful thing!
Going through everyone’s photos gave me a great sense of joy. There is nothing more cute than putting a tiny infant girl in a tutu or a young boy in his Spider Man costume. Then there’s my friend who is military, but is still feminine as well, has a daughter that is just like her. She can be a girly girl, but still likes to roll around, get dirty, and play with typical “boys toys” as well more girly things society expects of her. I honestly do not understand why people are afraid of diversity and insist on conformity…but then Ellen is exploring that in the Umbrella Project about “otherness”, so I’ll let her answer those questions 😉
After working at home, I made my way back to the Wheeler to record Christina for the spoken word portion. When I asked Robert where he thought the best place to record the sound was, he immediately started to construct a genius little yoga mat fort for our recording studio. Christina did a lovely job and I’m excited to add it to the photos and complete the project tomorrow.
Despite the fact the for some reason, my left quad decided it was very unhappy last night and this morning, it was okay throughout the day and I had another creative, productive, and fun day at Indy Convergence!
Today we had a lovely Yoga class, check-in, and then I had rehearsal for my Gender Studies piece. I’m taking what I started and showed as a work in progress at the last =ibrium Dance Project concert, and adding to it and developing it more. I’ve taken out all of the silence and extended a few songs and added two in (I Enjoy Being a Girl and Mannish Boy). If you haven’t seen the piece, all of the songs refer very specifically to gender. I decided to keep the same voice over as the original, but re-record it with someone with a much more articulate voice than my own, and I’m going to add a sort of video slide show. I will be showing pictures of myself and others as children and adults both living up to gender expectations as well as going against them.
After another sound experimenting Umbrella Project Rehearsal, we had a Butoh class with Kendra. I have seen some video of Butoh, but aside from the fact that it is originally from Japan and a modern response with traditional Japanese aesthetic, I knew nothing about it. I of course did not magically become an expert in a little over an hour workshop, but I now have a very basic kinesthetic idea of what it is, Kendra shared more of the history that I was not aware of before, and I especially found our last guided exercise very satisfying. I especially enjoyed our guided movement journey from the womb, going through life, and finishing that cycle with the inevitable.
I’ve had my “I’m an old lady so I need to soak in espom salt” bath and now it is time to get some rest so I can do some more converging in the morning.
Photography by Sara Drebelbius
Tomorrow, April and I will leave to represent the =ibrium Dance Project at the Dance in the Mitten Festival in Michigan. We will be performing “Open”, a duet that is very close to my heart.
This piece was choreographed just two years ago. But in that time it’s been a part of many shows. I was fortunate enough to set it on the beautiful Amanda and Charise (shown in the video of a studio run in 2011 ). Then I had the pleasure of dancing it with Charise myself, and now for the second time with the lovely April.
This performance with April is particularly special because this woman just graduated from Ball State! She is one of the fabulous dance majors I’ve watched grow and become an amazing artist over the last 3 years I’ve been at Ball State. I’m honored to share the stage with this talented young woman!
One of the things I love about being a dancer in the 21st century, is the rich global community we live in. While we can take pride and learn from our own cultures, due to technology and a broadening appreciation for cultures other than our own, there are so many beautiful things to study and be inspired by! I find inspiration to explore the possibilities of movement within my art of Modern/Contemporary Dance from the diverse cultural dances I have studied.
The University of New Mexico, where I received my BA in Dance, has a strong program in Flamenco. Because of this, I was able to take Flamenco from the best teachers and dance with a meet some wonderful Flamenco dancers. I was also fortunate enough to be at UNM while the lovely Rujeko Dumbutshena was there, and to take some wonderful African Dance classes from her and have the opportunity to perform with her company, Blue Tribe African Dance Company. I also had the privilege of taking Folklorico from the late Miguel Caro while in Albuquerque. Teaching Intro to Dance History to non-majors at Ball State, I have also have the pleasure of further exploring dances from multiple cultures and the varying roles dance has played in them.
I must say that my study of all of these wonderful dances has made me a stronger, more well rounded dancer and choreographer and helped me to more deeply understand the cultures they come from. I have also made some lifelong friends that have forever changed me through the cultural exchange of dances. Humanity is so diverse. As we come together in this new 21st century global community, I hope we continue to celebrate the beauty of where we’ve come from and look forward to an even better future! Happy International Dance Day!
I leave you with a video link of the beautiful, enormously talented Alina Casanova Ochoa (seen with me in the photo on the right, from a department show in 2001) performing for her company out of Madrid, Spain, FlamencoMexicano. Enjoy!
Many of my teaching inspirations come from my “dance mom”, the lovely Mary Anne Santos Newhall. One of these is to bring my technique classes outside at least every semester.
Monday, on Earth Day, I took my Modern 121 class outside to dance in front of Ball State’s famous Beneficence. Not only was it fun to dance outside, but it brought on a different movement quality. I remember when Mary Anne had us dancing outside, she pointed out all of the sensations; having a wide open sky instead of windows and walls, feeling the sun on your skin, and taking in all of the sights and smells around me. As I watched my class dance movement phrases I’ve seen them do many times before inside, I was amazed at how their movement quality changed just from changing our location.
I had the students perform an improvisation around Beneficence and then we pieced together some phrases that they just learned that day and others from throughout the semester. The combination of the beauty of mother nature and these lovely young ladies is quite a site to behold.
Today was filled with final exam reviews and creating my new website with breaks of meeting with my Modern 121 students for their end of semester meetings. Today was the last day of classes and while the exhaustion that comes with the end of the semester does have a tendency to make one emotional, I must say I am very sad that I won’t get to dance with this group of young ladies all together again.
For any educator, it is hard to help guide someone along their path, watching proudly as they grow as artists and individuals, and then have to let them go. Just like dance, education for me is very much about the moment. In dance, you have that one moment in time that can never be fully re-created or happen again. It is unique. It is the same for my classes. They exist for that time and then that group of dancers is gone. (Yet they are always a part of me). I can teach the same class and even have some of the same students, but that same group and their unique energy can never exist again.
Thank you to all of my students for letting me share a short part of your movement lives. May you think of me every time you shift your pelvis or use your Effort Actions 🙂