Against a city and nature background, dancer in a blue shirt, blue mask, and black leggings touches tree bark with hands while looking up toward branches.
By Amelia Martinez
I had the pleasure of observing the freshmen Improvisation class taught by Christine Colosimo. The talented young dancers were creating and learning in a new environment that was a beautiful nature filled area, filled with warm sunlight through the trees on this October day. With masks on, the class transitioned to an outdoor classroom to allow for safe distancing in the pandemic, as well as providing Zoom for those who choose to attend class from their homes.
Dancers in masks, hoodies, and athletic pants are spread across a field of grass. One dancer stands in a light blue hoodie, has their back to the camera with arms spread out to the sides, and head tilted slightly to the right.
Christine led them through many peaceful and experiential exercises, allowing them to observe the natural space around them. She related these exercises to Avatar the Last Airbender’s elements: Water, Earth, Fire, and Air. There were dancers who chose to dance based on the observations they found from the brick wall, the trees, the expanse of the space, and even the grass.
Dancer in a white hoodie lays down on grass. Their hand gently touches the green grass and newly fallen yellow leaves.
Throughout the class there were opportunities to create movement and share them with the class in groups. The Zoom classmates were not left out at all, as the outdoor class circled around the screen, a safe distance away from each other, to see the movement discoveries that were being made. After they showed their improved movement, they shared in discussion about their learning. One student on Zoom danced in their kitchen with a chili pepper and found that they were relating to nature in a new way. Thinking about the growth and agricultural process it takes for that chili pepper to make it to their kitchen right then and soon to nourish their body, inspired a movement that was new and exciting for them.
Professor Colosimo sits on the grass with a black shirt, grey pants, and white mask with a clear barrier over mouth. Christine is holding the Zoom class on her silver computer toward the outdoor class to watch their movement and listen to their reflections
The dancers had some time to reflect with paper and pen about their experiences dancing in nature and they came up with unique drawings and poems! These helped them to have a tangible record of what they were experiencing in this class that will hopefully continue to inspire them in their dance creations for the future.
Dancer in a grey and white striped zip up sweater and red mask, shows an orange drawing made as a reflection to their improvisational movement that was shared in class.
Finally, the dancers moved across the expanse of the “Secret Garden” to engage all their discoveries in a full-bodied expression of movement. Seeing their movements come alive in their own unique way was a beautiful experience and it makes me so hopeful for this new generation of Temple dancers!!
Dancers in masks, hoodies, and athletic pants spread out across a brick wall in various dance poses or mid movement, while being socially distanced.
Amelia Martinez, MFA in Dance Candidate. Amelia is in a grey shirt against a white background and offset black shadow of her body while her face looks past the camera.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Ama Gora MFA in Dance, Photo Credit: Shanel Edwards
My time performing and creating in the Reflection:Response Commission, kNots & Nests, by Marion Ramirez was undoubtedly one of the most meaningful experiences I have ever had. kNots & Nests is a multi-disciplinary creative project celebrating the duet as the smallest unit of community (https://www.knots-nests.org/gallery). This project’s artistic collaborations include Marion Ramirez (project’s director/ dance department, Boyer) Adam Vidiskis (music department, Boyer School of Music and Dance), Kris Rumman (visual art, Tyler School of Art and Architecture), and Jungwoong Kim (dance, Boyer School of Music and Dance). Student Participants included artists from Temple dance, music, journalism, film, and visual art departments. Never before have I been surrounded by such a diverse, creative, and genuine group of people.
I think sometimes at Temple we become stuck inside our own departments, constantly working and improvising with the same people day after day. Having the opportunity to work with artists from different Music department and Tyler school of Art brought a fresh, new atmosphere of creativity that allowed for the success of this project across various art mediums. Apprehensive about working with improvisation for the first time, Marion Ramirez facilitated a connection among us artists that helped me learn that this work was more about our relationship to each other and the concepts surrounding the piece, rather than exact movements or choreography.
Photo by Matthew Altea
An emotionally raw and vulnerable experience; I learned that pushing past one’s comfort zone with other artists creates the purest art. I learned how to reach out and express myself to people in a way I never would have imagined. It was a rich experience I am eternally grateful for and will certainly never forget.
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.
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.
My name is Cindy Paul and I am a freshman at Temple. One of the primary reasons I chose Temple University was because of its equal emphasis on both academics and the arts. The vibrant Center for the Arts at Temple not only includes incredible standalone arts programs, but also encourages a crossover between its individual colleges. Throughout this semester I have begun exploring and combining several types of art in pursuit of a rich, well-rounded arts education.
One of my main goals with a dance degree is to pursue a career in choreography for musical theatre. Next semester I am enrolled in a Musical Theatre Dance Repertory course in which I will study original choreography from Broadway musicals along with musical theatre students.
Furthermore, this fall I took a Saturday morning metal arts course at the Tyler School of Art so I could further explore my passion for jewelry-making. I began a jewelry collection inspired by modern dance techniques and movement qualities. Currently, I am constructing a hair comb that incorporates the technical concept of naval radiation, in which energy emanates from the center of the body. Additionally, I am working on a bronze cast piece that incorporates the idea of a spiral.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to explore several forms of art here at Temple, and I am excited to continue expanding my artistic practices throughout my college career.