Crafting Dance…Literally!

By Amelia Martinez

This semester I am experiencing a great deal of interdisciplinary work through my Studio Research (dance choreography) class and my Graduate Projects Fibers (art, fibers and material studies) class. The classes are both intended for graduate students to create individual work in their given fields and use the art form to research a question or an idea of our own choosing. Ultimately, creating a visual work or choreographic piece presented as the final project.  By choosing to combine my fibers project and my choreography into one performative art experience, I have found many new valuable insights that are carrying me forward in my creative practice, research, and movement artistry.

Photo by Brian Mengini of “Pattern Of Mesh”

I have always considered myself a dancer first and a knitter, sewer, crocheter, weaver, or crafter second. Crafting has been my hobby for years as a stress release from working in the Dance field. When I came to Temple to pursue an MFA in dance, I never expected that I would find myself exploring movement with large skeins of yarn. I needed to create a piece for studio research and wasn’t sure what to research; I was making dream catchers with yarn at the time and felt that I had a connection to it. So, it became my research subject. I was questioning what patterns and spatial arrangements could be made with my body and the yarn, which grew into a choreographic work of six dancers and the yarn in Spring 2019 that I was proud of. Over the summer, I explored movement and yarn again for a dance artist showcase at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach that was more concise and tailored to the community that I was working in. I noticed that there were endless possibilities that I could explore within this mode of movement and craft, and I also observed that the themes of yarn dance and community kept reoccurring in my creative practice. This, I was finding, was the beginning of crafting my thesis ideas and movement base.

Photo of “Unravel Me” choreography

First Iteration of WaterScape

This semester, I decided to learn more about the fibers part of the art. I enrolled in the graduate projects fibers course in the Tyler School of Art to learn from, gain critical feedback from, and discover with amazing and strong artists in this field. One of the main inquiries I have during my time in this class is how to create my “yarn voice” to have equal weight as my “choreography voice”. I want to move away from just manipulating the yarn, and toward creating a powerful pairing that invokes the spirit of the creation itself. This equal presence is important to me as I don’t wish for one element to be lost as a prop or as an embellishment to the other. My fibers classmates and I discuss how fibers and material installments have their own presence that speaks or invokes a response from the audience. This is similar to dance choreography as we create atmosphere or narrative through movement to carry the audience toward our meaning, intention, feeling, or maybe even a reaction. I have learned from this class that fibers have movement of their own to begin with. Many of the fibers are moved by the human body by weaving, sewing, or knitted to become integrated to the “body” of the work. Fibers and materials, once made into their structure, have textures that are stiff, loose, soft, fluffy, light, hard, stretchy, etc. that interacts with the world on its own through the air, gravity, space, time, heat, liquid, and even nature. Once that is established and recognized, many of the artists begin to place themselves with interaction into the material.

I can relate to the artists in this class when many of them physically place themselves into their art projects. There are cocoon-like garments, bright furry ball and chains, seating elements, glowing lights with filters begging to be touched around them, floor placement of sculptures that create pathways for the human body to experience them, and even tree leaf pillows to be pet. These are all experiences that are felt with the human body, not just at a distance from a visual perspective. I am discovering that the performance of these material sculptures are performances just like my world of choreography, we are both trying to convey and evoke something from the audience in a way that we can tangibly hold.

WaterScape

Now, as I work with both elements of my craft, I am creating a production for World Water Day on March 20th in the Conwell Theater, where I will display my fibers project that I call Waterscape. The installment will dangle across the stage and the dancers will move through it. The choreography is specifically made to interact with the yarn and material to create an underwater atmosphere of sea-life. I am also sewing the costumes for my dancers to fit the theme and textures that go into the fibers project itself, so that the dancers resemble the fish they portray. Right down to the stage-makeup, the entire project is crafted to be unified and build this fantasy sea-life experience for the audience. It is one of the biggest projects that I have ever endeavored on, but it is one of the most fun and addicting projects I have ever done as I keep wanting to add more layers to it (whether it be choreographic, material, or meaning).

From this whole year of research so far, I have been developing a movement workshop of my very own called Yarn Dance. It is my way of researching and connecting with the world as I process the themes that arrive from each creative practice and experience through it. With human and yarn dancing together it becomes a duet, but the pairing can also be a tool for expressing and creating community. There are moments when I have seen people completely entangled in yarn together but not fearful; they find it comforting and uniting in a way. Even the untangling of the yarn after dancing with it has been shared to me as soothing, and relaxing problem solving.

The workshop I have in-process, is based in modern movement with individual “duets” with the yarn, group improvisation making a mess of the yarn, modern choreographic phrase dancing with the rolled skein, and then a group braiding activity that I call “The Friendship Bracelet” as we create a singular rope from all our strands of yarn leaving evidence of our crafted community experience that we have shared. At the regional American College Dance Association conference this spring break, I have the opportunity to share this workshop with fellow dance students and faculty. I hope it gives them a connection with life and movement in a new way as it has done for me.

 

Amelia Martinez, MFA in Dance Student

 

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Colloquium-Mark Franko

By Christine Colosimo

Dr. Mark Franko presents parts of his new book at the Temple University Dance Studies Colloquium

On Tuesday, January 21, 2020, at the Temple University Dance Studies Colloquium, our very own distinguished professor, Dr. Mark Franko presented a paper entitled, “Parade as a Critical Concept in French Interwar Theory.” Dr. Franko, an eminent scholar in the field of dance studies, has authored eight books, including his most recent, The Fascist Turn in the Dance of Serge Lifar: French Interwar Ballet and the German Occupation, which is forthcoming in June of 2020. This evening’s colloquium talk acted as a sneak preview of Franko’s forthcoming book as he introduced some of its materials, ideologies and theories.

As many of you may know, Dr. Mark Franko is a virtuosic dance researcher and professor of dance. He holds degrees in French literature from the Department of French and Romance Philology, Columbia University. He was a dancer and is a choreographer. His critical theory in developing this new book is informed by his extensive knowledge of both French culture and his career as dancer and choreographer. Through a genealogy of French history and ballet, Franko began the colloquium talk by differentiating terms, such as classicism, neoclassicism, modern, modernity and the modern, all complex and difficult concepts to understand and delineate.

Original program booklet for 1917 ballet, Parade.

Franko’s talk began with the one act ballet entitled Parade which was choreographed in 1917 for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Parade was conceived by Jean Cocteau and choreographed by the famous dancer, Leonide Massine. The music for this ballet was composed one year earlier, in 1916, by Erik Satie. Pablo Picasso designed the scenery and costumes. Of significance is the partnership between Picasso (paint), Massine (dance), and Satie (music) and Cocteau (libretto, direction, performance) which, until the premier of Parade, had not yet happened. Parade bridges the modern ideal of cubism with ballet theater and modern, contemporary music. You can see from the photos that the costumes and sets are apropos of the plastique arts in Paris at this time. Parade premiered in Paris, France at the Theatre du Châtelet.

The idea behind the ballet Parade and the collaboration between Picasso, Satie and Massine was that of playwright, poet and novelist, Jean Cocteau. Cocteau was the focus of Franko’s talk. Franko is clear to point out that his research is not actually about Parade as a French 1917 ballet, but rather, his talk is about the idea of parade in French performance history.  He explained this difference through his theoretical framing of ballet, the return of the “neo” in ballet, and located one aspect of French neoclassicism within the idea of Parade. For me, thinking about the neoclassical in this way is new, but Franko’s theory gives one pause to stop and rethink what is neoclassical.

Parade. Choreographed by Leonide Massine. Music by Erik Satie. Libretto by Jean Cocteau. Costumes designed by Pablo Picasso in the cubist style.

Ultimately, the topic of Dr. Franko’s talk is about finding “a kind of alternate neoclassicism” within the ballet, Parade. He frames his research in terms of the neoclassical within the limits of French ballet, which focuses on the 1920s and 1930s. He then poses the question, when is classicism, and who has ownership of classicism; the Greek, the French or the Russians? This question has long vexed dance scholars.

Focusing primarily on the writings of Jean Cocteau, Franko compares the latter’s theory on poetic populism with French poet, Paul Valery’s ideology of self-rejuvenating mimesis. He states that dance is an unstable artifact, one which is expressive of cultural and national identity. In his argument, he turns his attention to the folkloric, which is rooted in seventeenth century courtly dance, and introduces discourse around the problems of tradition. Bridging the folkloric to the classic through his framing of ballet is interesting. It sheds a new perspective on that which we think of as neoclassicism.

photos by Luciano Romano http://unitel.de/media/files/flyer/A-000-50055-0000_pompeii_flyer_WEB.pdf  
 All rights reserved · credits not contractual · Different territories · Photos: © Luciano Romano · Flyer: luebbeke.com

In conclusion, Franko’s re-reading of Cocteau finds that there is a populist version of neoclassicism, which can be seen in the ballet Parade.

As a PhD student in dance studies, I feel honored to study with Mark. Temple is certainly fortunate to have him as a professor and I highly recommend his seminars to any graduate students.

Lastly, for those of you who have never seen Parade, a 2017 version is available for streaming on Medici TV. Leonide Massine’s son, Lorca Messine, sets the original choreography on the Corps de Ballet of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in Pompeii, Italy. Only twenty-five minutes, the ballet is well worth a viewing. As Eleonora Abbagnato, the director of the Opera di Roma’s Ballet says, “These ballets belong to the history of dance but at the same time are very modern.”

 

Christine Colosimo, TA and PhD in dance studies student at Temple University; Adjunct Professor in dance at Rider University.

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Auckland Adventures in Dance

My Experience Studying Dance Abroad for the Second Time
by Keri Lushefski

Last spring, I expanded my horizons and studied dance abroad for a second time. During my first time abroad, I journeyed 5,000 miles away to Rome, Italy with the Temple University Dance Department for two months. This time, I chose to depart 10,000 miles away to Auckland, New Zealand to train and study with The University of Auckland’s dance program for four months. Having already studied abroad once, I felt comfortable in the process of pursuing yet another unforgettable and enriching experience.


The classes I enrolled in while in New Zealand were Dance Vocabulary III (a contemporary technique course), Professional Dance Practices (similar to Senior Seminar), Ballet, Hip Hop, and Improvisation, and Pacific and Māori Contemporary Choreography. I also joined an Acrobatics Club where I honed in on my strength and balance in performing unique acrobatic poses with a diverse group of college students. Involving myself in a cultural dance form I have never experienced before, Pacific and Māori, was very eye opening to how expansive dance really is, and the many traditions in which it is practiced around the world. It reminded me of when I witnessed dance through other cultural lenses, such as when I took part in Hungarian folk dance in Budapest.


In consideration of having a two-week spring break, I decided to travel to both Sydney, Australia and Queenstown, New Zealand. In Sydney, I surfed at the infamous Bondi Beach, petted kangaroos and koalas, explored the Sydney Opera House, climbed the mast of a ship, saw the breathtaking botanical gardens, and witnessed a 360-degree view of Sydney in the Tower Eye. Furthermore, Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world; therefore,  took part in activities I never believed I would do, such as going indoor skydiving, paragliding,  and upside-down zip riding. Throughout the semester, I also spent my weekends exploring Auckland; I hung off of the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere, hiked to the peak of a volcano, went on whale and dolphin safaris, enhanced my knowledge at museums, watched dance performances, etc.


Since my future aspirations are to move to Europe and take part in a graduate dance program to further build my professional dance career to become a performer, choreographer, university dance professor, and dance researcher/educator, these study-abroad opportunities have prepared me to become motivated in doing so. I now feel highly confident in being independent, moving to new places, meeting new people, experiencing new languages and cultures, taking various forms of transportation, and traveling by myself. I no longer feel the need to worry about getting lost, since there are multiple GPS systems and local advice that help me ease my way around. Having been on a 24-hour round trip flight, any travel time less than that seems like a breeze to me. Leaving for long periods of time also always makes me appreciate everything I left back at home even more. I now know what it is like to study dance in a different country as well as experiencing life in a total of fourteen countries. I am excited to see what my future dance career brings as I transition into yet another experience abroad. My adventures will surely last a lifetime.

Keri Lushfeski BFA in Dance Student

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Choreographic Self-Discovery

By Olivia Hansberry

I am writing about my senior piece “The Sun’s in my Eyes” performed by the fabulous Janice Argo, Emme Gentile, Camryn Mentzer, Elizabeth Siani, and lastly, myself. Creating my first choreographic work was a roller coaster of a journey. The ups and downs, the satisfaction and doubts. Choreographing forced me to become someone I barely recognized, which I loved. 

Photo by Brian Mengini

I never felt good at communicating what I want. Even as a small child I would sit and think things over, rather than speak up about what I wanted. I realized after a few rehearsals, that is all choreographing is! It’s to clarify your vision for others, to grasp hold of, and transcend an idea by shaping it into the real world. I asked myself questions like “How do my dancers react to my movement?” “what do I value?” and “what can I do to make the audience feel a certain way?” The answers to these questions would guide me through the process. Picking music before the choreography hinders my process, and to be completely honest, I didn’t even have a general idea for the piece, only questions and answers. 

 I knew for my piece, I wanted to go beyond my inner circle of friends and work with new faces so I hung posters up in the studios for people to see. Everyone who auditioned I worked with, and I am extremely grateful for the dancers that I worked with. At first, it was hard for me to understand why these phrases that would spew out of me weren’t saying anything. Since I was out of practice in communicating what I want, working through the confusion that came with this would be tough for all of us, but in the end it would be extremely rewarding. During rehearsals, I found that my mind raced faster than usual. This would affect the communication between me and my dancers. It was harsh realizing that I wasn’t being understood because in my head I was already ten times ahead of myself, but patience and articulation in different ways went a long way. I had to remember I was not working with four “Olivia’s”, but four individuals all of different backgrounds and training. I also learned how freeing trial and error could be. There were so many phrases of different movement and sometimes even just walking phrases that I choreographed, and even though none of that was in the piece, it did help my dancers understand more of my movement style for themselves. More importantly, I saw joy and excitement in my dancers which was super essential to how the choreography would read on stage.

Photo by Brian Mengini

I value music a lot in my life but movement being interpreted for what-it-is, rather than being paired with a sound score is important to me too. This became a battle for me; “To music, or not to music?” The more time I spent sifting through tracks, the more I became dissatisfied with the mood the music would “hand” the audience. Using a metronome was a way for me to have a simple pulse in the air with meaning that could be wildly imagined by the audience. Also, even though I hate to admit it, I’m a bit of a control freak. So being the one controlling the metronome, faster or slower, sound or silence, I felt really free doing what I pleased in terms of messing with the metronome.

Eventually, music won my heart and I decided to use Aretha Franklin’s “One Step Ahead” to ease the audience in the beginning of the piece. I wanted to start with music so the space sounded even emptier with the metronome and even more so with silence. For example, getting into a lukewarm pool is rather uncomfortable and seems cold. But if you’re in a hot tub before you get into the pool, the water feels just about freezing. The Aretha Franklin song was the hot tub before the lukewarm water in the pool. This added contrast. The quietness of the space was quite jarring after the smooth melody of the song faded away.

I learned that I value unexpected behavior and welcome boredom. I almost wanted the audience to find moments of boredom so they could question “why am I bored right now?” If not this, the low stimuli boredom brings would make the “non-boring” moments even more exciting. Boredom I believe can be natural in life and actually really rare in a world with technology at our fingertips. So why not emphasize it with simple movement and silence. Many who saw the piece, remember the most unexpected moment being my introduction to the stage. I walked on during the final song, then there was a pause in the music followed by my voice singing a very loud and incoherent yell all in one breathe. The music then continued and I used improvisation. This was a way for me to use voice, often something I struggle using at times, to make an authentic sound. Voice is powerful.

For the future, I want to work towards creating more and working with different artists that stay true to themselves.

Olivia Hansberry, BFA in Dance Student

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MFA Thesis II -Surya Swilley

A Reflection on “Between the Intervene”

Surya Swilley Temple MFA in Dance, Adjunct Professor

Surya Swilley MFA in Dance, Adjunct Professor at Temple University

Crash, boom, rewind! My head was spinning, heart was racing, and I felt my adrenaline rushing at warp speed. Rehearse, rewrite, polish, go back, and repeat!

What is the intention? What did you mean by that? Let’s revise. Repeat.

I experienced a whirlwind of emotions, and wasn’t exactly sure of the extent of the labor that would go into producing an evening length concert.

I remember in the spring semester of this year, (January 2019) I began rehearsals and had no idea what I was doing. I was forcing myself to enter the studio with this idea of using a table as a prop, but had no idea how to be in collaboration with the table to get my point across. I experienced a significant amount of frustration while trying to verbalize to my dancers what my vision was, but the reality is, I wasn’t sure. The only thing I did know was that I needed to get moving towards generating a show. It was arduous.

 

I was influenced by several vignettes inside of black history and protest in the United States to develop “Between the Intervene”. Not that I interpreted these events as dramatized episodes towards freedom, but I recognized the choreographic protest inside of historical spaces such as lunch counter sit-ins, how black children navigate what can be an anxiety provoking experience while sitting at school desks, and the trauma inflicted onto black consciousness and black body while sitting behind the wheel in a vehicle. All of this, while knowing that one’s hands need to be placed on the dashboard to be visible in the face of police. These are the historical and contemporary notions that influenced the work, but the lens through which I decided to share the choreography was through honesty, and that was rooted in my truth inside of being a queer black woman.

Oh yes.

While developing this work, I came out. I reckoned with my truth inside of my gender expression and sexuality, and it freed me to embark on a more truthful journey inside of other things. It is interesting how the development of this work, and my coming out contain a parallel inside of the timing. I was influenced by the freedom of transparency as I deepened inside of the work, and what emerged from this was a very fervent connection to telling my truth and working with my dancers so that they would be empowered to dance from an authentic place. I think adding my personal anecdote/truth inside of the mix not only help to bring the show to a cohesive understanding for me and the audience, but perhaps it allowed people to see that sharing one’s truth as an individual on stage, while working in collaboration with a group of dancers can be done, and can be done without any burden. I hope to showcase freedom on a variety of levels. My intention in everything I do is to liberate and empower.

My goal after graduation is to fly. I am harnessing my wings as a dance entrepreneur, and artist activist. Some tangible ways to see that are through my work as new adjunct professor at Temple University, through my partnership with the Center for Racial Justice and Education, and as I launch my own dance company in the summer of 2020.

It feels good to be done with the thesis concert, even though I know there’s so much more for me to dive into. I am ready for the challenge, and I am excited to see what comes next. What a rewarding experience this work came out to be. It’s my hope that even more reward will come, as I know that the next phase of life and career is filled with nothing but infinite possibilities.

-Surya Swilley

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MFA Thesis Concert II – Ama Gora

Photo Credit: Felisha George

My work at Temple has been important in my self-reflections. I recently premiered, “Project: Assata || Conscious States of Rage”, on October 25-26, 2019, a culminating thesis performance and a gathering of three years of research. I’m realizing that this third iteration, at the Conwell Dance Theater is the catalyst to some of my artistic transformations. This work focuses on Assata Shakur former black panther member. To create various phrase work and gesture phrases I extracted poems from Shakur’s autobiography, “The Autobiography of Assata Shakur” to create a map of small vignettes.

Photo Credit: Shanel Edwards

After the second iteration I sat with the work and I discovered rage. Recognizing that black femme bodies rarely yield rage justly. It is viewed as an inflated response from “angry black” women. I linked rage to Shakur because she was able to navigate with rage beautifully. Her circumstances were very different, but she did not hold back her anger. I admire her ability to express freely, something I sought for myself.

This work challenges who can justly express rage and explores modes of anger. When working collaboratively with my movement artist I discovered that rage goes beyond anger, that it can function in passion, love and belief. I allowed freedom for the work to develop organically often shifting things to suit the collective. Sitting in the audience during show week was both fulfilling and frightening. Giving myself space to reflect makes me feel gracious.

Photo Credit: Shanel Edwards

Photo Credit: Shanel Edwards

Having the space and a budget provided by Temple is a blessing as finding funding outside of the university is difficult. As I look at the process now, I am grateful for the experience. It taught me a lot about myself as a dance maker. Challenged my choreographic structure and perspectives. I was able to locate myself in my work. I will always be in process. Emergent, emerging, emergence. These are the lessons I’ve taken with me and the work feels like a gracious testimony to time, exploration and healing.

Photo Credit: Shanel Edwards

Ama Gora MFA in Dance, Photo Credit: Shanel Edwards

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“Make Mistakes Beautifully”

By Tori Sexsmith,

When I came to Temple in 2017, I was 25 and knew that it was the right time for me to continue an education that I had started in 2011 at a different university. Temple spoke to me as a program for their value of both the academic side of dance as well as the techniques, opportunities for choreography, and the fact that within one department there are BFA, MA, MFA and PhD students all there to continue their studies and build on their passion of dance. Coming to Temple as a nontraditional student as well as a transfer student was one of the best choices I made. I was able to diversify my knowledge of different techniques, while working with teachers who were prominent in the Philadelphia dance community. The staff at Temple are willing to work with you, provide excellent feedback and help ensure that you are getting what you want out of your dance education.

What I learned at Temple…It is okay to start again, to say “I don’t know” and build yourself up from there. As dancers and artists, it is easy to feel like you need to know everything all of the time to justify and back up the choices you are making and the techniques you study. Not realizing that through study, hours of rehearsals, talking with your peers and teachers, attending guest workshops and performances that all of this will inform your answers and build character. I can say with certainty that I am not the same dancer I was before starting at Temple and I am glad. During my time, my main technical focus was in African Diasporic techniques, most of which I had not heard of nor studied before attending Temple. I started off uncomfortable with being new, with not understanding how to get my body to achieve the actions and spent much of my class time moving slow to figure it out. Through this experience of relearning my body and asking it change and unlearn prior habits I grew, not just physically but mentally. Dance once again became a broad and sweeping term that was more than I had known before.

 

Tori Sexsmith

I had the good fortune of being able to work with the late Dr. Teresa Benzwie before her passing and study Early Childhood Dance Education. My studies with Dr. B further affirmed my passion for education, and through her kindness and compassion she helped nourish the teacher in me. Her guidance and expertise in the field was a priceless gift from my time at Temple.

 

What I took away from Temple, was that it is important to take every opportunity that comes your way with the awareness that it might not be exactly what was expected or planned for…because there is something for you to learn. The teachers, your peers, the guests, and the administration all want you to succeed but success is not something that is easy or simply built. I hope to pass this information on to my students. There is a lot of value in being a lifelong learner, to take chances, and to make mistakes beautifully.

This fall, I started a new position as the dance teacher for the Capital Area School for the Arts Charter School (CASA) in Harrisburg, PA. CASA was a school that I attended in high school. I am living one of my dreams to teach in this school and continue to build a program that trains intelligent, well rounded dancers, and artistic collaborators. As I move forward, I would like to continue to explore dance by taking classes when possible and enjoying every opportunity I have to dance and do what I love.

Tori Sexsmith BFA in Dance 2019 Alumnus and Dance Teacher for CASA

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Dancing into Identity

by CUDJOE EMMANUEL

I grew up asking myself a question that would evolve in different shades throughout my life until now. I asked my mom at the village dance square…what are you doing moving like that? Her response, you will grow up to meet this! Boom! That was my first critical encounter with dance by observing my mother’s body moving to traditional music.

Now the question I asked and the answer that came were not new. On the contrary it has been asked by many curious kids since our first ancestors danced. It is a deep question with an equally deep answer. Unknown to me, I was asking the body I came out from how it came to know itself enough and be confident enough to move like that among a people who did likewise to the same music. I would later come to understand that movement systems, embodied, loved, respected over years of evolution, would be my very IDENTITY!

I analyse my personal dance experience from childhood in such a reflective manner that it helped me conceptualize the transient body in varied social cultural, and political positions among my ethnic group in my beloved home country Ghana. My father was a sub-chief of that rural town and during ascension to his stool/throne, I was required, by virtue of my father’s political and genealogical position what I term as my “transition into a status and validation as a royal, through dance movement”. I recount how the selected dance and its movements transformed and influenced my understanding of the Akan linguistic patterning and its power in affirming individual identity creation. I started receiving my official training as a dancer at the age of 6 and I was taught specific movement patterns which were different in execution from some other movement patterns I had seen outside my father’s palace. In my training process I was instructed to walk as a royal in the dance arena, taught a specific salutation concept and then eventually when to start performing on a specific drum rhythmical cue. Prior to that, my training in other things like sitting, eating, drinking from a cup, posture, gait was similar to my fathers who, from time to time before his enstoolment would join me in dance practice and perform the same movement patterns with me. He would often shout phrases like “a royal does not sweat on the dance floor”, “you are the son of great ancestors”, “wisdom and dancing abilities are in your blood”, “you will dance with me, your father, in glory”, “go on my son, the stool and the music are yours alone to take after I am gone”. These statements in addition to specific hand and feet movement patterns validated my understanding of who I was at the time and it came through dancing.

Reflecting on my childhood learning process and my political affiliation leads me to conclude that I was ‘curated’ and subsequently put on ‘display’ to the outside world through dancing.

Prior to my PhD at Temple dance department, I was exposed to dance studies/scholarship beginning from my undergraduate studies at the school of performing Arts University of Ghana focusing on Dance studies and Theatre arts. As my passion in dance intensified, I proceeded to pursue a masters at the Institute of African studies-University of Ghana with concentration on African dance and music analysis. My thesis was on Dance Aesthetics and Performance Contexts of a royal dance among the Asantes of Ghana known as KETE.

My exposure within African studies re-invigorated my interest to pursue more knowledge in dance scholarship due to the rate at which the proliferation of our dance forms offered research possibilities to ascertain the evolution of dancing as human requirement within contemporary African settings. As such I applied to pursue second masters in Europe which led me to pursuing the Erasmus-Mundus Choreomundus International Masters in Dance Knowledge, practice and heritage degree  from a consortium of four universities namely; University of Roehampton-London, Université Blaise Pascal-France, Norwegian University of Science and Technology- Norway, and the University of Szeged, Hungary. The aim was to learn about emerging concepts in safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. My journey to Temple University began when I first met Dr. Sherril Dodds who was a visiting lecture at University Blaise Pascal in France 2017. She encouraged all of us to pursue high education and offered to help if any of us were interested. I was not initially interested as my immediate goal after my 2nd master was to go back home to my Alma mater to support dance research and scholarship. However, the opportunity to study at the prestigious Temple University was too alluring to ignore. Here I am!

 

……the journey continues…..

Emmanuel Cudjoe, PhD in Dance student

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MFA Thesis Concert I-Victorious

By Princess Tanagna Payne

My piece for my Thesis Concert on September 27th and 28th 2019, was about sexual abuse and the traumas that can occur after an attack. Often times, victims are afraid to speak up not because the abuser may get punished, but because there nothing seems to be in it for them. I wanted to focus on healing and where that could possibly begin for someone, which led me to group therapy, one-on-one therapy with a licensed therapist or simply sharing with a loved one. In the piece, I chose to focus on group therapy and the idea of how abusers can also be victims too. In the beginning of the piece, there is a small visual to give an idea of the aftermath of the rape that leads into the first group therapy section where victims are invited to share their stories, but it can be difficult. Following therapy, the abuser knew that his actions were wrong and was tormenting himself. In the next group section, the victims are working to move from victim to victor where they are learning to build confidence and rely on their group members for support. The duet follows, and this is where the abusers and his victim are communicating about their tragedies, the last scene is where they invite the abuser to come to therapy, although his actions are not excused, they understand that he too needs help.

There were many changes to my piece last minute due to cast members leaving and the challenge was to present the same idea with a new framework. The challenge was a scary one, having to alter things four weeks before the show, but it was something that brought the cast members together and it made our relationship stronger. We trusted that each person would commit to their role and come in each day ready to work. We kept an open line of communication and shared things that worked and did not work. No one took anything personal and there was always positivity in the room.

For anyone presenting work soon, I say to stay committed to your idea and use your advisor to the best of your ability. Trust that your dancers will bring your vision to life and allow them to feel like they are also a part of the creative process. There will be things that you love one day, that you may not like the following week and that is okay. Scrap it and move on. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable with your cast members, it will only make the process easier. They can offer insight that you may not have thought about. Remember to take a break every now and then, sometimes your mind just needs a moment to shut down for a few hours. Do not be afraid to go for what you want, the only way you will know if it is achievable, is if you try.

Princess Tanagna Payne MFA in Dance

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Ziying Cui’s Ballet Journey

By Ziying Cui

When I was a child, I remember I begged my mother to take me to every Swan Lake performance in my hometown. I was fascinated by the dancers’ virtuosity, the orderliness of the corps de ballet, the romantic love story, and the gorgeous costumes and stage settings. My early experience of watching ballet motivated me to study this Western dance genre. Within more than twenty years’ ballet training in China and the US, my curiosity of ballet expanded beyond idealizing my body alignment and mastering dance movements. I was intrigued by the rapid development of Chinese ballet and how this Western art found avid audiences and practitioners in China.

Ziying Cui

 

In 2016, I began to study a PhD in dance at Temple University. This allowed me to shift my position from a dance practitioner to a dance researcher. The first two-year’s course works not only broadened my view of the English dance scholarship, but also provided me a large amount of theoretical and methodological knowledge of conducting doctoral research in dance. I have had the honor to learn with some of the most celebrated scholars around the world, and observed diverse research projects. Beyond the coursework, my endeavors out of class in the past three years, including exams preparation, attending dance colloquiums, and dance conference presentations, helped to prepare my own research in Chinese ballet. In addition, adequate ballet classes and teachers at Temple allow me to keep practicing ballet while doing research.

As a non-native English speaker, I had to work harder in and out of class to catch up the academic works. While the first year was the most challenging, my professors and colleagues helped me through the difficult time. At Temple, faculty members are always there to help students, but most importantly we have to work hard to make progress through our own efforts.

Ziying Cui, PhD in Dance Student

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