What’s on Offer Today? Reflections on the Annual Meeting of the Hemispheric Institute’s Graduate Student Initiative

In early October, I participated in the annual convergence of the Hemispheric Institute’s Graduate Student Initiative. Founded by Diana Taylor, Zeca Ligiéro, Javier Serna, and Luis Peirano, the Hemispheric Institute promotes critical exchange between artists, activists, and intellectuals working in the Americas. The organization’s Graduate Student Initiative (GSI) aims to facilitate these exchanges within the next generation of scholars working across the expanse of these two diverse, dynamic continents. This year’s meeting of the GSI was hosted by New York University.

I participated in a working group entitled “What’s on Offer Today: Entering the City in Performance”, co-convened by Sareh Afshar, Abigail Levine, and Pedro Bennaton. The group consisted of eleven artist-scholars, each of us working at the intersection of theory and practice. Our offerings to the group proposed different visions for the possibilities of urban intervention in performance, informed by the critical conditions of the places we were coming from. Our dialogue adopted an ethos of expansive inquiry. Rather than attempt to answer each other’s questions as informed by our own geo-political perspectives, we returned each other’s questions with further questions. An ethics of sensitivity permeated the space, the materiality of our words met with attentiveness, respect, and curiosity.

Here are some of the questions that are our working together engendered:

– How can we honor the poetic possibilities of the body in urban space – both in moments of pedestrianism, and moments of exceptional circumstance?

– How do we display affection outwardly in urban environments that are increasingly hostile to the force of affect as a means of conducting civic encounter?

– As activists and artists, how can we reconsider our approaches to futility, or seeming impossibility?

– What is the relationship of passion to action? Can we conceive of that former as an ethics of the latter?

I offer these questions to you, and look forward to our continued, ever-expanding dialogue.

 

– Macklin Kowal, 1st year PhD student

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The Outlet Dance Project

On October 4th, Temple’s students and faculty made a strong showing at The Outlet Dance Project’s 10th annual “Day of Dance” held at Grounds for Sculpture (Hamilton, NJ).  This event featuring women choreographers and filmmakers of all generations allowed audiences to experience dance within the beautiful 42-acre sculpture park. Consisting of both indoor gallery spaces and large outdoor sculptures, the park immerses visitors in a mixture of inspiring colors and forms.  The day began with an indoor performance featuring “you’re here at last”, a collaboration between Temple Dance alum Belle Alvarez and five current undergraduates.  A band of kirtan musicians then led the audience to site-specific dances situated around sculptures throughout the park.  Sarah Haviland’s “Trio” served as the backdrop for “Paths”, a trio created and performed by Jillian Harris, Laura Katz-Rizzo, and Rhonda Moore, all active faculty in Temple’s Department of Dance.  The dance developed from an investigation of the differences and commonalities within this diverse group of collaborators and the sculpture visually represented the intersections they established.  Overall, the event nurtured a sense of community and made visible the richness of women’s creative voices.   For more information, go to: http://www.theoutletdanceproject.com

– Jillian Harris, Associate Professor

dancers

by David Elwood

dancers

by David Elwood

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Alumni Dance Showcase

This year’s Alumni Dance Showcase featured three artists, Tanya Calamoneri (PhD 2012), Abby Zbikowski (BFA 2006) and Helen Hale (2019).  Each year the Dance Department’s “Production Committee” sends out a letter inviting alumni to submit a proposal for a dance to be included in our annual showcase. This committee is comprised of representatives from each degree program along with one faculty representative and me, as director of Conwell Dance Theater.  We read each proposal and watch video footage for each artist. Then we select a program that we feel reflects the best work in the most dynamic combination possible.  We are able to give each artist who is chosen, a stipend to pay for expenses, as well as provide for travel and accommodations for the week of the show. We also coordinate scheduling the guest artist into existing classes to teach and share with current students from their experiences after graduating.

For me personally, it is a wonderful treat to work with former students. Since I have been here for 35 years, I know almost every alumnus of the BFA and MFA programs. I coordinate the performance and handle the lighting and other technical needs. I get to see how far they have come as artists since they were here as students and to get caught up with them about their lives.

– Nanette Joyce, Conwell Dance Theater Director

A full review of the 2014 Alumni Dance Showcase is available on our tumblog here

Ain't No Swan Lake

Erin Cairns in Tanya Calamoneri’s “Ain’t No Swan Lake” by Adam Amengual

Performance photo

Tanya Calamoneri’s “Ain’t No Swan Lake” by Bill Hebert

 

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Leaving a Trace

Dance movements so often escape the opportunity to leave visual evidence of their trajectory and intentions. On September 11th, 2014 students from the Corporeal Improvisation course at Temple University’s Dance Department and students from the Creative Lab course at Moore College of Art and Design had the opportunity to collaborate and experience a workshop on the expression of flow in drawing and dancing. I had the pleasure to co- teach/facilitate this session with visual artist and muralist David Guinn (Moore’s art faculty). As if color was pouring out of the skin, visual artists and dancers alike experimented with full body-movement improvisation and the idea of leaving a trace; firm marks, light marks, continuous and interrupted flow emerged as ways of spontaneously defining the expressive qualities of their imaginary painting.

At the end of the session we prepared the space for a group live painting in which all students inspired each other to make marks. At first the moving paint was lead by hands and brushes as extensions of the core of the body, eventually students used their whole body as the medium to create the painting and become the art itself. What was left was a visual and kinesthetic testimony of the character of their individual and collective movement impulses. It gave us all a rich experience and an entry point to continue our improvisational research and look forward to many interdisciplinary artistic opportunities.

Marion Ramirez, adjunct faculty and MFA alumna

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Writing on Dance In and Out of the University

I first came across thINKingDANCE when I read Jonathan Stein’s evocative review of Marion Ramirez’s (MFA, Temple University) thesis concert Musa Paradisiaca. Since then, I have been warmly welcomed on to its Board of Directors. thINKingDANCE was conceived by its Editor-In-Chief, Lisa Kraus in concert with Anna Drozdowski, current head of Education, and has evolved into a robust on-line journal that promotes and documents a rich array of dance performances in Philadelphia, and provides mentorship and training for emerging and experienced dance writers. Given the steady decline of dance coverage in the major national newspapers, thus depriving dance students and scholars of some outstanding critical writing, thINKingDANCE insures that the important art of dance criticism continues. Although the aims, contexts and styles of writing across dance criticism and scholarship often differ, I would argue that both are mutually supportive partners. As a PhD student, one of the ways in which I honed my writing skills was through working with some generous editors on British arts periodicals, such as Dance Theatre Journal, The Dancing Times and Film Waves. Across these publications, I worked hard to develop a writing voice that could appeal to the general reader, but which articulated the complexities that dance provokes. And here at Temple, we introduce students to different analytical lenses that will allow them to describe and interpret dance in nuanced ways. I am therefore reminded of the importance of dance writing in and out of the academy.

To subscribe to thINKingDANCE: http://thinkingdance.net/

– Professor Sherril Dodds, Chair of the Dance Department

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Dancing my way to Success

Whenever people ask me what I want to do with my dancing, I have always told them that my first dance career goal is to perform and travel with a company. My dream has forever been to perform onstage with talented professionals and get paid to do what I love most, however I never thought that this dream would come true so quickly.

This weekend, I experienced my first day as a professional dancer. On Saturday afternoon, butterflies raced through my stomach as I walked into the studio where I would spend endless hours this year. The rehearsal director and the other dancers welcomed me. Although I was the only new girl in the company, the others instantly made me feel comfortable. We immediately got to work, and we learned an entire show in four hours. My brain did not stop racing the entire rehearsal. I had to stay focused, pick up the choreography the first time it was given, and move onto the next piece, followed by the next piece. So many heads, arms, twists and turns moved through my body, and I had no time to get nervous about what was going on. All that I could do was focus and give it my all. After a full weekend of memorizing, sweating and dancing my heart out, I returned home, feeling more passionate about dance than I had ever felt. I successfully completed my first weekend as a professional dancer, and proved to myself that anything is possible with hard work, dedication and passion.

– Meghan McFerran, Dance  and Journalism double-major and Eleone Dance Theatre company member

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Afro-Colombian Dance

Imagine the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific coast and a city with an elevation of 10,000 feet and you are in the cities of Cartagena, Cali and Bogota in Colombia, South America. I received an invitation to participate in research project sponsored by the Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano. The name of the project is “Hacia una cartografía del cuerpo en el arte contemporáneo”, “Towards a cartography of the body in contemporary arts”. It’s a group that is based in the Humanities Department headed by associate professor Carlos Sanabria and Ana Avila, a co-researcher. The event, “encuentro de investigación en historia y memoria de la danza”, ” Dance research meeting around dance history and memory” is a product of the group for this year.

I spent three intense weeks in Colombia teaching, lecturing and watching Afro-Colombian dance. Colombia is an interesting country with a complex history. The Afro-Colombian population is small (2.9%) but they have had a significant impact on Colombian culture. Dance is vibrant and pervasive in Colombia with an annual festival of traditional Afro-Colombian dance and music called the Petronio Alvarez Festival that attracts 80,000. It was an incredible sea of dancing bodies, many waving scarves in recognition of one of the most popular traditional dances: the currulao. Cumbia is another popular dance that has many layered meanings. It can be a seductive courting dance or it can be a dance of resistance. I saw all kinds of dance in Colombia. I watched the post-modern work of Lobadys Perez and his company Periferia at his studio, Ciudad Móvil in Cartagena. In Bogota, I was able to see a contemporary work based in the war between the guerillas and the Colombian government. The company is called Zajana! In Cartagena, there is the Afro-Colombian Company called Atabaques with a focus on neo-traditional dances. Permanencias is a young company in Cartagena doing innovative work, blending traditional dance forms with contemporary movements. I brought along Ebony Webster (Temple, 2014), a recent graduate of the dance department to demonstrate movements from the Umfundalai technique.

It was encouraging to see Afro-Colombian dance being researched, performed and taught in neo-traditional and contemporary styles. Colombian is rich with movement vocabulary that speaks to its African, Indian and Spanish heritage.

– Dr. Kariamu Welsh, Dance Professor

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Making Dances

This past summer I was given an opportunity which still seems unreal: I received a grant to choreograph a piece.  In my time at Temple, I have been extremely grateful for the many opportunities to perform and grow as a dancer and choreographer.  I find myself so thankful to have found a space and mentors which have helped to foster my creativity as a choreographer, as well as numerous opportunities to showcase my work.

This wonderful opportunity was presented to me through a fellow dance student (now alumnus) who received the grant last year.  The Diamond Research Grant Program at Temple University gives undergraduate students the opportunity to spend the summer researching their proposed topics.  While most students’ final project is a paper, there are a few (this year myself and one jazz bassist) whose final output is a creative project.

I spent the summer conducting a survey and doing research around female body image, creating movement and compositional ideas based on survey results.  I am now in process of creating a work for myself and nine other dancers (eight Temple students and one alumnus).  The grant has allowed me to work with a composer, who is a music student in the Boyer College, as well as a costume designer from the theater department.  As a part of the Diamond Research program I also chose professor Jillian Harris as a mentor.  She has been a wonderful sounding board and has given me tremendous support throughout the entire process.

Stay tuned for the presentation of my piece in December!

 

– Kailey McCrudden, BFA Dance class of 2015

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“Really Dancing”

While I began my formal dance education at age 4, it’s been some time since I’ve put my own dance practice in the foreground of my professional work.  But who knows – with the encouragement of friends like Merián Soto, Teresa Benzwie, and Rhonda Moore, this could change! For this blog entry, I’m going to offer a few dance memories that popped up once I started thinking about what to write.

Memory 1:  I am six years old, holding my first leading role in an end-of-year dance recital.  I had been sewn into my beautiful orange tutu just that afternoon; I am a pumpkin fairy.  I’m so proud and sparkly. About halfway through the performance, I notice that ‘my’ dancers are not in their proper positions and I begin to correct them, just like Miss W does in class.  Oops.

Memory 2:  I’m a first year high school student, attending my first PE class.  We’re sitting in rows on the floor with legs crossed. I can still picture the teacher’s piercing eyes as she initiates us to a Graham contraction.  What?!!?  I have often quipped that with Miss B I discovered the ground and never looked back.

Memory 3:  Four years later I am in a Graham-based modern dance program at Denison University in Granville, Ohio.  My teacher, Virginia Northrop (1924-2011), shared her passionate empathy for Graham and told me I should have been born earlier, that my “natural dance” belonged with the early Expressionists.

Memory 4:  I am on sabbatical from my dance teaching position at the State College of Victoria (Kew, Australia), studying with Anna Halprin and others at San Francisco Dancers Workshop. A galaxy of humans, of which I am a part, is swirling around a small group of percussionists.  All of a sudden Anna is right next to me in the swirl, telling me, “you’re really dancing.”

Over the couple of decades since, I’ve been collecting “really dancing” stories from students and others. I have hundreds of these – a dance treasure.  Keep an eye out for my book on the subject!

To be continued…

 

Dr. Karen Bond, Dance Professor

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A very full and fulfilling summer

I decided to be adventurous this summer and explore all of the opportunities Philly has to offer, and after some quick research I was instantly overwhelmed. At first I was thinking of having a part time internship and commuting from my apartment at Temple to back at home in Montgomeryville. However, I soon realized that I wanted to become involved with as many opportunities as possible. So this has been my schedule: On Mondays and Wednesdays I intern with BalletX, Philadelphia’s premier contemporary ballet company, located at the Wilma Theater on Avenue of the Arts. I also took over Temple’s Undergraduate Admissions Instagram account for a week where I was able to illustrate a day at work with BalletX. On Tuesdays I work at a studio on Fairmount called Living Arts Dance and Fitness Studios and teach all day long as a part of their summer dance camp along with Camille Gamble. On Thursdays I take classes at Koresh and other studios, and on Fridays I intern with the Performance Garage on Brandywine St. All of what I just mentioned happens during the day. At night, I go to Philadanco from 7-11 because I am now a member of the second company, also known as D2. In short, I am spending my summer working all day and dancing all night with some weekends off but I wouldn’t have it any other way. In the dance world opportunities rarely come to you, you have to work for it, therefore I’m not taking any breaks with advancing my career. Philadelphia is a great place to experience the arts and I encourage anyone to uncover the prospects it holds.

– Katie Moore, BFA Dance major, Business minor, and Honors program student

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