Last Spotted In London

Temple dance professor, Dr. Sherril Dodds, went to London to give a performative lecture on break dancing. The lecture was entitled “Drilling, Grit and Flava: Epistemologies of Breaking” at a symposium on ‘Hip Hop Pedagogies’ at the University of East London’s Centre for Performing Arts and Development and the Dance.

The lecture reflected upon Dodds’ experience as a 50-year old novice b-girl.  She reflected on how breaking has prompted ontological and epistemological ruptures that move her literally and metaphorically.  In conversation with a practice-led methodology, she placed ‘doing’ at the centre of knowledge production.  From this she came to understand concepts of drilling, grit, and flava, and she engaged in alternative models of learning, collective pedagogy, and community belonging.  Through the performative lecture, she examined how sessions and cyphers enable her to encounter the aesthetic and history of the b-girl body, confront her present identity position, and begin to re-imagine the social and physical expectations of her body.

-Alissa Elegant, MFA Student

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Dance For A Cause

WORLD WATER DAY

SOURCE: An Evening of Performance in Celebration of World Water Day, to be presented Thursday March 22, 2018, at 7PM.

Temple dance students, in partnership with the Office of Sustainability at Temple University, present SOURCE, a celebration of World Water Day, Thursday, March 22, at 7pm. This performance will be in the Conwell Dance Theater, 1801 North Broad St., 5th Floor. SOURCE is an evening of dance performance, with a special presentation from environmental scientist and Temple University Professor, Fletcher Chmara-Huff, and will be followed by a reception to engage with presenting artists! The event is scheduled in observance of the United Nations Day of Action devoted to raising public attention to the critical water issues of our era. The performance is free and open to the public.

SOURCE will be the fourth-year Temple Dance students have celebrated World Water

Day with an evening of performance. This is also the first year that the Temple Dance Department is pairing up with the Office of Sustainability to continue the mission to raising awareness. Every year dance students create works responding to the spiritual and life giving properties of water, as well as the social issues around water access. This evening of performance links art, science, and activism, drawing from the notion that all three are needed to engage complex problems.

The performances and presentations will address a range of issues: the global water crisis both nationally and internationally, climate change, protecting our oceans, rivers and lakes, as well as meditative works looking at the molecular structure of water, how other cultures celebrate water, and reflecting on how we treat water in our everyday lives. Every performance has the goal to question the corporate view of water as a “resource” rather than an intrinsic right, in addition to honoring water as a source of life. The dancer/choreographers are looking forward to the engagement period after the performance, creating an atmosphere of active conversation, beyond passive reception of a “performance.”

SOURCE’s mission is not only to observe and celebrate World Water Day, but to invite

the Philadelphia community to join us in staying informed and involved with the issues that

surround water today. Water has been privatized in many places around the globe with

devastating consequences for the communities whose water is sold to large

corporations. SOURCE explores and advocates for useful responses to a global crisis that threatens the stability and subsequent motility of all living bodies.

SOURCE will include works choreographed by Angela Watson, Avi Wolf Borouchoff, Dawn States, Enya-Kalia Jordan,Kailia Kingsford Smith, Prudence Anne Amsden, Teresa Barr, Tyra Jones-Blain,Ying Yu, and additional contributions from Temple’s Environmental Studies majors. SOURCE is directed by Prudence Anne Amsden with assistance from Avi Wolf Borouchoff and Dawn States, and facilitated by Professor Merián Soto and Professor Fletcher Chmara-Huff.

Please join us for SOURCE, an evening of performance to celebrate World Water Day. Check out a review of a past event by Julia Davis in GreenPhillyBlog.

 

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Walking The City

Temple’s dance department has a mix of graduate students working towards an MA, MFA, or PhD.  The MA’s and MFA’s take many classes together.  One of the courses that is a core course for MFA’s and an elective for MA’s is “Choreographing Philadelphia” a site-specific course often taught by the professor Jillian Harris (link: https://www.temple.edu/boyer/about/people/jillianharris.asp )

One of the first assignments for this class is to take a walk and explore an area Philadelphia that is new to us.  Here is a video that current MA student Kalila Kingsford Smith created along the water front in Philadelphia (Penn’s Landing and the Piers).  Enjoy her exploration of this dynamic city, her dancing, and her contemplation of our dance lineage through her references to Leah Stein, an accomplished Philadelphia site-specific dance artist.

 

“As I walk I notice I’m drawn to patterns, lines, frames, stones. I’m also drawn to circles, pathways coming to a point.”

 

“I think about Leah Stein walking similar paths.

She would notice her body, the concrete, the weeds poking through, the water”

 

 

— Alissa Elegant, MFA Student

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Capturing CADD

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From February 16-19, 2018, the third bi-annual Collegium for African Diaspora Dance (CADD) conference will convene at Duke University in Durham, NC. This year’s conference, themed Dance Black Joy: Global Affirmations and Defiance, will feature Drs. Brenda Dixon Gottschild, Melissa Blanco Borelli and Marianna Francisca Martins Monteiro as keynote speakers and a variety of breakout sessions, movement workshops and film screenings. There will also be a remembrance of the late Baba Chuck Davis and a performance of CANE, a responsive environment dancework by Thomas DeFrantz, SLIPPAGE: Performance/Culture/Technology and Wideman/Davis Dance (DeFrantz 2018).

 

Founded by a powerhouse of artist-scholars in the field of African diaspora dance studies, the conference is committed to “exploring, promoting and engaging African diaspora dance as a resource and method of aesthetic identity” (Duke University  2016). Since its inception in 2012 as the African Diaspora Dance Research Group at Duke University, the conference aims to facilitate interdisciplinary inquiry that challenges and expands the field of Black Dance Studies.  

 

I attended CADD in 2016, where I presented a lecture-demonstration on corporeal memory and Germaine Acogny’s Modern African Dance Technique. I enjoyed the networking and stimulating academic discourse one would typically expect at an academic conference. Even the dance workshops in which I participated blended an unusually high level of theoretical discourse with kinesthetic engagement. However, there was one aspect of the experience that I found unique to CADD. Dr. Takiyah Nur Amin, one of the founding members of CADD, summed it up during her opening speech:

 

Welcome back home.

 

As Dr. Amin explained to the room of rapt listeners, who nodded and clapped in agreement, CADD is more than place of ideological exchange. It is a meeting ground for a unique group of thinkers and movers—those of us whose research centers on the methods, aestheticism and theories of African and diaspora dance practices. As a first-year PhD Dance student, I found myself in a safe space where my ideas had room to stretch and breathe. Before offering my theories on Acogny Technique, I did not feel the need to first qualify WHY Acogny Technique should be taken seriously as a contemporary dance practice “despite” its African aesthetics. There was a shared acknowledgement in the room that movement forms of Africa run the gamut from traditional-based social dances to urban dances to neotraditional and contemporary dance forms (that’s what makes them so cool). The idea that a dance practice can be simultaneously of African origin and expressed within a Euro-American paradigm is a common understanding we have here at Temple (we have Umfundalai, after all). But, as many CADD attendees could surely tell you, our work is sometimes met with resistance by well-intentioned (and sometimes not) but misinformed academics who believe otherwise.

 

This is not the case at CADD.

 

I was at home, amongst pioneering scholars and scholars-to-be who supported my work. The questions my audience proposed and suggestions they offered me were critical but not antagonistic—they were seemingly interested not only in the success of my work but with our collective forward movement as African Diaspora (and Black) dance scholars.

 

This year I’ll attend the conference, not as a presenter, but as a lowly, overwhelmed (and possibly underwhelming?) third-year PhD student who desperately hopes she won’t mess up her elevator pitch while donning a thinly veiled facade of nonchalance to hide her newbie excitement at being in the room with some of the most groundbreaking scholars in the field but worried that she will talk too fast or say too much like she always does when discussing her research that unfortunately spins her around in circles that never produce enough AH-HA! moments.

 

So back to CADD I go. Because in the process of babbling nonstop with kindly indulgent artist-scholar-strangers and sharing war stories with other Dance PhD students, somehow clarity descends and I realize that I’m on the right track after all.

 

 

Omi Davis, M.F.A.

Third Year PhD Dance Student
Boyer College of Music and Dance
Temple University

 

“Collegium for African Diaspora Dance (CADD) Conference, February 19-21, 2016: Call for Proposals.” Duke University. Last modified 2016. Accessed February 2, 2018. https://danceprogram.duke.edu/news/collegium-african-diaspora-dance-cadd-conference-february-19-21-2016-call-proposals

 

“Dance Black Joy: Global Affirmations and Defiance.” Collegium for African Diaspora Dance. Accessed February 2, 2018. https://www.cadd-online.org/2018-conference.html

 

DeFrantz, Thomas F. “African Diaspora Dance conference focuses on themes of joy and defiance.” (press release) Facebook. Accessed February 2, 2018. https://www.facebook.com/thomas.defrantz/posts/2014733948767498

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That One Time I Got Paid

This past summer I scored my first professional contract. Yes, that is right, I (finally) got paid! And it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that Temple is one of the reasons for that.

As a freshman, I had the pleasure of auditioning for my first winter residency. I was thrilled when I found out that I had been selected to perform the work of Atlanta based choreographer, T. Lang. I had no previous knowledge of her but once the program started, I fell in love with her movement, ideologies, and process. She was unlike anything that I had ever seen before.

At the end of our week together, we had constructed not just a piece but an experience. An emotional ride through the stages and challenges of loss. She taught me about intention and why it was important to create a story for your movement. She told me that “If you don’t believe it, no one will”. As the residency concluded, I realized that I needed more. More of T. Lang, more warm ups to Erykah Badu, and phrases featuring Al Green. Come to find out T. Lang, along B-Girl Teena Marie Custer, hosted a summer intensive.

So, I saved my money to attend the program in Atlanta. I went to the week-long intensive and grew in more ways than one. One thing that was really enforced was the concept of community. T. and Teena fostered an environment that was safe, lacked traditional judgement, and emphasized working together. It was a very different experience from intensives that I had attended in the past.

This awesome program culminated with an audition to perform with T. Lang ATL at the Atlanta High Museum of Art’s Summer Kick Off Party. I decided at the last minute to audition and I got it! Within the hour I was signing a contract committing to 3 weeks of rehearsals, a show, and agreeing to pay rates. I couldn’t believe that it happened so fast. We all wait for the day to say that we have “gone pro”. It was a strangely satisfying feeling.

I lived in Atlanta for a month. I spent time with family, made friends, rehearsed extensively, and got to close it out with a fun-filled show. This job really made everything come full circle for me; it reinforced that I picked the right program. Without Temple and our faculty’s dedication to our success, I probably wouldn’t have come into contact with T. Lang. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

 

 

If you are interested in seeing what T. Lang is all about click here. I highly recommend her summer intensive. Go and experience T. and all her wonder.

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Learning the FUNdamentals of Hip Hop

Over the winter break, I participated in the January Residency with Kyle and Dinita Clark. The husband and wife team have their own company called Just Sole! Street Dance Theater Company. Both Kyle and Dinita are extremely passionate about the history and culture of Hip-Hop dance. One of their major goals is to teach the next generation the true roots of the art form. Throughout the week they taught us about different the aspects of creating and running your own company. We learned a lot about the obstacle that they had to go through to get to where they are now.

The program consisted of both B.F.A and M.F.A students. we  explored the fundamentals of hip hop; Studying styles like house, whacking, popping, locking, and breaking. Kyle and Dinita taught us the history of each style through fun new routines. Each day they taught a new style. We learned about different eras, the music, and the people who created a popular style of hip hop dance during that time.

We also got to experience being a part of one of Kyle and Dinita’s piece’s for the Faculty Dance Concert. We learned a 12-minute piece in less than two days. It was a lot of choreography that required a lot stamina. We would run the piece multiple times a day so that every time we did it, the movement would feel more comfortable in our bodies. By the end of the residency, the steps were already inside of us and we got to dance, feel the music and have fun.

Overall, it was one of the most inspiring dance experiences I have ever had. It was a week filled with hard work, a lot of sweat, and many inspirational quotes from Kyle. Their love of dance exudes out of them so much that it allows you to grow in your own artistry.

 

— Talia Montone, B.F.A. Student

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Temple Dance Alumni News 2016-2017

2014 B.F.A. alumna Rachel Hart is cast in the 2017 National Tour of Pippin!

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2013 M.F.A. Alumna Shaness Kemp performed with Deeply Rooted in the Fall of 2016!

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2015 B.F.A. alums Julian Darden, Sophiann Moore and Danzel Thompson-Stout choreographed and danced for Black Nativity at the Freedom Theatre in December 2016! Read a review about their performance here.

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The trio also recently collaborated with the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra and The Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia in the production of Honegger: King David at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral. The dancers collaborated with Professor Jillian Harris to create the work.

 

2015 alumna Nia Shand is a freelance artist who collaborates with Ness White to tell stories of relationships and identity through spoken word and dance. Check out their Facebook page for more information!

 

2014 alumna Belle Alvarez was selected as one of two BrideNext residency artists at the Painted Bride!

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2017 Reflection:Response Commission

May 2, 2017 

Temple University Department of Dance

The Temple University Department of Dance, Institute for Dance Scholarship, is delighted to announce the sixth Reflection:Response Choreographic Commission has been awarded to

Lela Aisha Jones | FlyGround 

Building on her current series of episodic works, Plight Release & the Diasporic Body, Lela Aisha Jones will create Everyday SaturdayThis work traverses, through the body and movement, what a diasporic orientation offers us as a guide towards individual and collective restoration. The choreography remembers, archives, and excavates black/African descendent cultural retentions. The purpose is to sustain the practices of togetherness and solidatiry by centering lived experiences and movement as fertile resources. Jones is asking, “What if we continue to bring into consciousness that we, as people on this earth, remain and become tapestries grounded in histories and our own discoveries that collide, merge, diverge, and converge?  What if the body and artistry are the most ripe locations for these processes?”

Everyday Saturday works to capture the gestural, common, and less visible locations of black/African diasporic movement in the U.S. It is inspired by the Saturday morning clean up ritual that took place weekly in the Southern U.S., North Florida city of Tallahassee, in the Jones home. Dancing while cleaning makes work feel like family. Cleaning becomes a metaphor for bringing up the dirt and the stories only the body can tell—acknowledging them and making room for the new. Students of the Temple University Department of Dance will join Jones and her company in Everyday Saturday.  

In addition Lela Aisha Jones | FlyGround will perform the critically acclaimed trio Jesus & Egun (2016) a deemed by NYC Reviewer Eva Yaa Asantawaa as a choreographic world she would never want to leave.

Performances will take place in Temple University’s Conwell Dance Theater, on Friday and Saturday, September 22 and 23, at 7:30 PM.  Additional public programming includes a public Diasporic Movement Practice workshop on Sunday led by Lela Aisha Jones,  Sept 24, from  2-5PM and a roundtable forum titled Integrity and Imagination While Dancing Diaspora on Sunday Oct 1, from 2-5pm.

The Reflection/Response Choreographic Commission includes a cash award of $5,000 and access to rehearsal space at Temple University throughout summer 2017.  Past commission recipients include Laura Peterson, Charles O. Anderson, Tatyana Tennenbaum, Jennifer Weber, and Kathy Westwater.

Lela Aisha Jones is a native of Tallahassee, FL who resides in Philadelphia, PA.  She is a  movement performance artist that has come to understand dance as an “archival practice” and her body “as an artistic archive—a creative storage space for movement and culture derived from the individual and collective lived experiences of blackness.” Lela is the founder of FlyGround, her creative home, where she cultivates her artistry that intertwines personal history, diasporic movement, social commentary, and interdisciplinary methods.  Lela earned a Master of Fine Arts in Dance at Florida State University and is a current doctoral candidate at Texas Woman’s University.  She is a 2013 Dance USA Philadelphia Rocky Awardee, a 2015 Leeway Foundation Transformation Awardee and a member of the inaugural 2015 Innovative Cultural Advocacy Fellows designed by leaders at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute in NYC. Lela is also a 2017 New York Dance and Performance Award – Bessie nominated choreographer and a 2016 Pew Fellow in the Arts.

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Institute of Dance Scholarship Launch Party

The Institute of Dance Scholarship (IDS) is devoted to locate the brilliance of dance at the center of academic disciplines as well as local and global communities. IDS includes the Dance Studies Colloquium, Reflection: Response Choreographic Commission and the Scholar-in-Residence Program, and is planning on developing five more programs including a fellowship program, conferences and workshops, an awards program, and a journal and book series publication program. Earlier this month, Dr. Sherill Dodds hosted a launch party for the IDS.

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Title: Dancing with Ishmael Houston-Jones

I recently performed in the Temple University faculty concert.  I was performing an improv piece that noted New York artist, Ishmael Houston-Jones created on a group of Temple students during his January residency at the school (the group included BFA’s, MFA’s, and a PhD).  During the week that we worked together we did our best to understand his vision, but because it was an improv piece the vision remained nebulous.  When reflecting on the performances there was no yard-stick against which the performance could be compared.  A successful performance wasn’t measured against mistakes.  The difference between good and great wasn’t an accounting of mistakes but whether we had embodied his vision and created magic in the process.

 

Unlike with set choreography where I had a better sense of the piece when I was on stage, I had a better sense of the piece when I was off-stage.  Standing in the wings was no longer a passive act, waiting for the proper time for one’s next entrance.  Standing in the wings was instead an active act of watching and thinking.

 

I had the freedom to be onstage or off.  This meant that while watching from the wings I was constantly asking myself the question of whether my presence would add to the piece.  I was constantly asking myself the questions of composition.  Questions regarding positive/negative space, dynamics of energy, diversity of movement.  I asked these questions of myself continuously, whether onstage or off, but was able to get a better sense of the whole piece, and therefore make a more informed answer when I was watching from the wings.

 

Watching in the wings is a different experience from watching from the audience, because of the different perspective; from the wings I am usually watching at an angle perpendicular to that of the audience.  This means I only have an approximation of what it looks like from the audience, but my dance and choreography training means that I can fairly accurately transform the side view into the front view in my head.  Even still, standing in the wings gives me the distance to allow that transformation to occur.  That meant that when a friend asked me how the performance went my answer was “all I can tell you is that the parts I wasn’t in went really well”.  There was a reason I had decided to stay in the wings, and that’s because magic was already being made.

 

All in all I learned a lot from this special opportunity to work with an established New York choreographer.  The piece itself was co-created during a one-week residency at Temple during the winter break.  Temple dance students of all levels were invited to audition for the residency.  The opportunity was then provided for free.  We had the opportunity to taking the residency for credit, but it wasn’t required.

-Alissa Elegant

M.F.A. student

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