Author: Alexandria Hairston
On A Summer Of NOT Dancing
When school is over and there are no more required weekly classes to attend, most dancers begin thinking about how they are going to keep their body in shape for the next school year. However, this summer I realized that maybe dancing wasn’t on the top my list of summer priorities. I decided not to dance as much as I would during the school year but I still wanted to stay in shape.
This was the first summer that I didn’t look for a place to dance or travel home to my home studio to take classes . I decided I was going to get a job and save as much money as I could for the following school year. I ended up getting a job at a daycare in the Fairmount area, working five days a week. My days were usually filled with work, a stop at the gym, and maintaining my social life. Still, I had that itch that all dancers get. My body needed to move and the gym just wasn’t enough.
Week after week I was checking Instagram and Facebook to see if any of my friends were teaching classes in the area or nearby so that I could at least dance a little. Unfortunately, anytime a friend of mine was having a class I was either too exhausted from work or had no way of getting there. After a while I recognized that it didn’t seem realistic for me to try and juggle all the things I was and add dance on top of that.. So, I started exploring other options around the city. I went on mini adventures with friends throughout Philly, took day trips to the beach and went on a vacation that definitely did not go as planned.
Even though I wasn’t dancing, I was still happy and taking advantage of any free time I had and doing other things I loved. I think as dancers we’re constantly worried about being in shape and being able to dance to our fullest potential, but sometimes taking a break from all of that is necessary. It’s ok to maybe focus on your job outside of dance more or go on some adventures with friends and eat some not-so healthy food. As I grow up and get more into this “adulting” thing, I’m realizing it’s harder to do the things you want compared to doing the things you have to do, like work. I was lucky enough to find a job that I enjoyed and would help me in the future with my career. When we’re in college, we tend to struggle with making as money as much as we spend. And as we all know, dance classes and intensives are not cheap.
So maybe taking a summer, like I did, to get a job and make some decent money is ok as a dancer. Though I love to dance, I’ve found that being realistic about my financial situations is beneficial in the long run. I’m glad that I was able to take a step back from dancing and get a hold on my outside life. Now that I’m back to dancing, I feel a lot more confident in my future and opportunities to explore it.
-Maria Smith, BFA Junior
My Experience Studying Abroad In Rome
This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad in Italy with the dance department at Temple University Rome. I packed up and traveled over 5,000 miles to the ancient city of Rome. I was anxious about the new language and culture I was about to encounter, but excited to submerge myself into something new. Leaving home is never easy, but knowing all of the benefits I would receive in the end, kept me motivated.
I enrolled in Modern Dance Technique IIIB, Creative Process in Dance, and Independent Study in Dance with Professor Jillian Harris. Classes were twice a week, therefore, I had plenty of time to explore Rome, take day trips to other cities in Italy, and travel to other countries every weekend. Modern Dance Technique IIIB was a 2-hour movement generated class. We began each class with a 30-minute yoga-based warm-up, then went on into full-body movement exercises, phrases, and finished with across-the-floors, or a variation of the three. Throughout the 6-week semester, the dance material that we received got more more challenging as time went on. This class helped my body continue with the practice of Modern and helped me to gradually advance towards specific dance-related goals.
The next class, Creative Process in Dance, was a choreography-based class that dealt with each student’s own process while creating a short dance piece/study. The short study was influenced by a piece of art at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, a museum of modern and contemporary art that our class visited. We each picked one piece of artwork that stood out to us. That served as the basis of our creative choreography. We had frequent showings where we would show the class our piece and receive feedback from each person, which helped to aid and guide us into the right direction. Throughout the semester, we kept a journal of pictures, sketches, and words throughout our process that would help us to keep a tab of everything that is influencing us, feedback, visuals, and other necessary notes regarding the choreography or piece. To close out, we had a final showing, where each of us performed our dance piece to an audience at Temple University Rome.
The last class I took, Independent Study in Dance, was a class where we got experience in dance writing. We went to see two professional performances and documented them through writing. I had the chance to see ballet Manon at the Teatro Dell’Opera di Roma and The Leonardo da Vinci Experience musical and artistic visual performance in Via della Conciliazione di Roma. Experiencing music and dance performances in another country was an unforgettable experience, and it made me want to write my papers about them even more.
With all the time I had, I was able to explore many hotspots and ancient buildings in Rome. Within just 6 weeks, I was able to visit the Italian cities of Pisa, Todi, Titignano, Florence, and Pompeii. As well as the cities of Croatia, Austria, Greece, and Spain. As you can see, I had plenty of time to take my classes and complete the work while having the ability to travel to many destinations throughout Europe.
Overall, studying abroad taught me a lot. It gave me the opportunity to see the world while learning many new languages and cultures. I got to experience life as a dancer and student in a new place, which was incredibly enlightening. I met people from different countries which ended up strengthening my social network. I also gained a deeper sense of independence. Not only have I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about the cities, countries, cultures, and languages, but also on the many landmarks, museums, and historical buildings. One of the most eye-opening parts of this experience was being able to view my home country from the lens of a different culture. I was shown that not all classrooms have four walls. Studying abroad was truly life-changing. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so don’t wait for the right opportunity to do something that you really want to do. Take the first step and create it yourself if you have to. Your future depends on it. After all, you only get to live once.
– Keri Lushefski, BFA Junior
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
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.
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
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
“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
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.
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