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

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

Reflection Response: kNots & Nests

Photo by Matthew Altea

 

By Mijkalena Smith

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.

 

Mijka Smith BFA Dance Student

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.

Dr. Dodds’ Trip to France

I was lucky enough to spend the past two weeks at Blaise-Pascal University in Clermont-Ferrand, France. I was invited to teach on the Choreomundus MA Program in Dance Knowledge, Practice and Heritage. This distinctive program is delivered across four European universities and attracts a diverse array of international students. I had the pleasure of meeting a cohort from Italy, Columbia, South Africa, Uzbekistan, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, China, Finland and the US. The international breadth made for lively discussion and I enjoyed working with them specifically in the areas of popular dance, screen dance, and dance ethnography. In addition to my teaching, I had the opportunity to work on some of my own research, and this included participating in a wonderful breaking class led by Dimitri Manebard. Although I worked hard during the day, I could not resist sampling some of the wonderful French food, and have eaten enough croissants, bread and cheese to see me through until the new year. choreomundusClermont-Ferrand is one of the oldest cities in France and I loved wandering through its intricate network of narrow streets sparkling with Christmas lights and the dramatic sight of its gothic cathedral. I feel incredibly fortunate that dance has been a passport both for international travel and for meeting students from across the world who share this mutual passion.

 

-Dr. Sherril Dodds

Professor of Dance

 

Parsons Dance- Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

 

Imagine the feeling you get when you take that first sip of coffee on a sunny morning, excited and ready to conquer the day. This is Parsons Dance.

 

Artistic Director David Parsons has created more than 75 works on the New York City born modern dance company, three of which made their premiere in Philadelphia at the Prince Theater last week. Even after 32 years, Parsons Dance does not show one wrinkle or gray hair; the company is more energized and youthful than ever. Parsons Dance revitalizes modern dance with a shot of espresso, a splash of positive vibes, and a breath of fresh air.

 

Thursday night’s performance included robots, floating, and partying.

 

The Machines (world premiere) – Eight small green lights reflected on the cyc like laser pointers. Darkness came next, followed by a large flash of light. The light illuminated two floating drones in the middle of the stage. The dancers moved with caution around these unfamiliar objects.  With each swift directional change of the robots, the dancers lost control of their own bodies through pushing and pulling, rising and falling as though they were being manipulated by the drones. Red lights, screeching sounds and frantic interweaving suggested an alien invasion. The piece concluded with the movers running in circles under the drone, unable to escape from it’s reign, or possibly unable to escape from technology that is taking over society. Parsons collaborated with Dr. Youngmoo Kim and his team of engineers from the ExCITe Center (Expressive and Creative Interactive Technologies Center) at Drexel University. Following the piece, the team explained some of the technological secrets behind the movement and tracking of the drones. Parsons and Kim hope to have just as many drones as dancers on stage one day. “Great art inspires technology,” Dr. Kim said passionately as he explained that this project is just the beginning of something groundbreaking in both art and science.

 

Hand Dance was both an intricate and simplistic piece that explores various human activities using only hands. The lighting by Tony award winning Howell Binkley largely contributed to the success of the piece. The floating, body-less hands that disappeared and reappeared into blackness created clever images such as a man walking down a hill, twiddling thumbs, rowing a boat, and dancing to country music.

 

Finding Center- Inspired by the artwork of Rita Blitt, this playful piece explored feelings of falling in love, being youthful and having fun. The music guided the Paul Taylor inspired movement displayed seemingly effortless swinging, wrapping, under curves and spiraling in and out of the floor, one melting right into the next. Partner work displayed beautiful lines and shapes that oozed into the next flawless turn, topped with refreshing smiles and expressions of genuine happiness. I felt that mid-morning buzz of coffee hit me.

 

Ian Spring majestically performed the famous 1982 solo “Caught.” Although I had seen this piece a few years ago, I was equally as enchanted by the snapshot imagery and evolution of each image displayed by Spring in the air as he disappeared and reappeared around the stage with each flash of the strobe lights. “It is really a duet between the lighting designer and the dancer,” Spring said when an audience member asked him the secret to his “floatation powers” during the talk back. The most impressive part of this piece was Spring’s silent landings.

 

In The End- “It’s a piece about partying,” Parsons said with a snicker. The work was casual appearance and movement, “chill” as the millennials would call it. As a dancer I know how difficult it is to remain “chill” while constantly turning in different directions, flying through partners, falling to the floor and springing back up again, and sharply accenting the music while making it look like I am at a party being careless and fun…not to mention in jeans and with my hair down.

 

Parsons delivered the perfect length of diverse repertory that entertained us with some original classics and some new refreshing work that excites the future of the company. David Parsons continues to passionately drive his work forward; he recently launched GenerationNOW fellowship, in which young choreographer’s enroll in a one-year mentor program with Parsons and then joins the company on tour the following season!

 

Parsons dance breeds refreshingly effortless, athletic, and delightful movers that inspire not just dancers but all people to take a deep breath, smile and get moving.

 

-Meghan McFerran

B.F.A. Dance

B.A. Journalism

Meghanmcferran.com

 

 

 

 

Guide for the Freshman Dance Major

  1. Your body is your instrument. You need it for your career, so you need to respect it and take care of it. If you are injured or sick, which will most likely occur at some point with all of the new changes in your life, allow yourself time to rest and heal so that you can get better and get back on your feet.
  2. Sleep. SLEEP. I cannot emphasize this enough. I know that college is exciting and you will have major fears of missing out on everyone’s 3am activities, but when you have 8am ballet the next morning, those 5 hours are just not going to cut it. One night of that is bad enough, but trying to do that week after week? You’ll crash. Get into a healthy sleeping pattern ASAP.
  3. Your food is your fuel. Say it with me. Your food is your fuel. You need it to dance, to perform, and to live. Don’t get caught up on what’s “good” and what’s “bad.” It is all doing the same thing: powering your body. Yes, some things are better for you than others, but that is where balance comes in. Foster a healthy relationship with food and stop feeling guilty for fueling your body.
  4. People always tell you how important “networking” and “building your network” is, but they don’t always tell you what that means. What you will come to realize is that your network is everyone you come into contact with, especially your friends. That’s why you should…
  5. Make friends of all shapes, sizes, ages, levels, techniques, and backgrounds. The person next to you at the bar could be choreographing on Broadway someday. Even if you’re not best friends for life, make sure they know you for your friendly face and positive attitude.
  6. Perform in class. No matter if it’s tendus in ballet, fortifications in modern, or 40 straight minutes of jacking in hip hop. STAY PRESENT and make people want to watch you, even if no one is watching. The people who are always performing are the ones that get noticed.
  7. You cannot attain perfection, so let go of that concept before you even step into your first class. You can work towards perfection, but just know that there are always new ways to improve and to explore in your own body and in the field of dance.
  8. Understand that when your teacher gives you a correction, or seems to “pick on” you, it does not mean you are always doing something wrong or they have something against you. In fact, it means two very different things. 1) Your teacher is watching and paying attention to you, and 2) He or she believes in you and knows you can do even better.
  9. Strive to never receive the same correction twice. Once you are given a correction, apply it and get ready to work on the next one.
  10. The only way to fail is to stop trying. No matter how many times you mess up, if you keep trying, you will get the results you’re looking for.
  11. Go to every possible audition for every possible thing within the dance department. If you hear about an audition that same day and are completely unprepared, go anyway. Show them your talent and passion and drive and who knows, you might be exactly what they were looking for.
  12. On that same note, don’t be afraid to show your heart. That is what really makes a dancer. Anyone can learn to do 15 pirouettes (ok, not everyone) but if those 15 pirouettes don’t make the audience feel something, then you’ve lost the point of dance entirely. Show them what you have inside of you and let it shine, so that by the time the audience walks out, they’re changed from when they walked in.
  13. Don’t ever let fear keep you from trying new things and expanding your horizons. If you’ve never taken African and the idea terrifies you, take it. Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.
  14. You define what “success” is for yourself. If you always give it everything you’ve got, mentally and physically, you will always be succeeding, even if it’s just in small ways. Acknowledge those moments and give yourself credit for each and every one.
  15. The only person you should ever try to be “better than” is the dancer you were yesterday.
  16. Find your voice as a dancer. It may not happen in your first semester, or year, or even your entire time at college, but always continue to explore yourself and your body and how you can give your gift to the world. That, my friend, is what dance is all about.

 

-Caty Healy

1st Year B.F.A.

MA Program: Student Perspective

My name is Shannon O’Hara, I am a native of New Jersey and am currently working towards my Master of Arts in Dance. After graduating with my bachelor’s degree I felt that graduate school would be an integral part of my growth and development as a professional in the field of dance. After graduating with my Bachelor of Arts in Dance Education I felt that I was equipped with a solid foundation of information and experience but sensed that my research and participation in academia was just beginning. During my time at Temple I hope to continue my research in dance education while also exploring and developing my voice as a creator and scholar. As I continue through my own education I am presently most interested in developing ways to utilize multiple roles of dance to better educate and influence how I approach all experiences I have with this fine art form. Research topics I am also interested in investigating during my time at Temple are the representation of pedagogical courses in higher education as well as the content of dance teacher preparation programs in the academy. Thanks to Temple’s graduate school programs, I am able to continue my own education while working to contribute to the dance community as a whole.

 

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Bonding Through Improvisation

When I stepped into the room I didn’t know my professor. I barely knew anyone in the room.  It was the first full day of classes for my MFA program.  I had met a few of the dancers at orientation, where we had passed cursory greetings, but I wouldn’t have ventured to say that any of them were friends.  I was filled with anxious energy as so often happens during the first day of school.  My first day at Temple was a time full of opportunities but also with the unknown lurking in the shadows.  I was also nervous about the class because I was a novice at improv, or so I thought.  

 

Through that hour and a half, I’d come to realize that improv, when done with others, is form of communication and that my years of social dancing was the perfect preparation.  Even more importantly, I found real connection and friendship during my first class. Friendship wasn’t my express goal as I stepped into the classroom, but it was the most important aspect of the class for this San Francisco transplant.  
We meandered through Conwell Theater, freely exploring how our bodies move. I started timidly interacting and acknowledging other first year MFAs that I had met at orientation, but there was one girl standing in front of me that I did not know. She reached her hand out and I instinctively followed her movements. We clicked, we both moved with the same intensity and with a similar rhythm. I naturally trusted her until we were both throwing our full weight at each other like a fast and vigorous human seesaw.  It was magical to connect with someone so purely without the burden of words. It was then and there that I knew that I wanted to get to know her. Afterwards our conversation naturally flowed, but our bond had already been formed without words.  

 

-Alissa Elegant

1st Year M.F.A.

The Balancing Act of the MFA Dance Student

The Balancing Act of the MFA Dance Student

By Amanda Keller, First Year MFA Student

As a first year MFA student in the Dance Department at Temple, I’ve quickly found that a major component to this program is being able to balance the academic rigor of the seminar classes with the equally rigorous work of choreographing and making dance works. Even after only two weeks into this program, it has become apparent to my fellow MFAers that we are going to be pulled in various directions. There is equal importance placed on examining and discussing the theoretical dance research as there is on choreographing enlightening and engaging dance works. In a way, the strict line that exists between the theory and choreographing seems to fade away.

As someone who has a Master of Arts degree in Education, I’ve been able to compare my experiences in these different graduate programs and the major difference is that the MFA requires you to make the connection between the theoretical research we are reading and apply it in a performative and unique way to your choreography. The performative component in the MFA in Dance is what compelled me to return to graduate school. Having the opportunity to incorporate a theoretical framework by using research to inform your work and create a piece with multi-layers and a real depth to it is such a rewarding experience.

Finding the time to keep up with the readings and spend time in the studio rehearsing is tricky. I’ve found that playing music I’m thinking about using in my choreography while reading for my classes has helped with the integration of the theory into the dances I’m conjuring in my head. Another thing I’ve tried is jotting down notes in my notebook when something inspires me in the reading that I want to try out in the studio. I am looking forward to discovering additional techniques and tricks to balance the demands of the program.