Dr. Dodds Awarded the Gertrude Lippincott Award
Dr Sherril Dodds was awarded the 2015 Gertrude Lippincott Award for her essay, “The Choreographic Interface: Dancing Facial Expression in Hip-Hop and Neo-Burlesque Striptease.” Named in honor of its donor, a devoted teacher of modern dance in the Midwest and mentor to many students, Gertrude Lippincott Award was established to recognize excellence in the field of dance scholarship.
The committee commented: In her article, ‘The Choreographic Interface: Dancing Facial Expression in Hip-Hop and Neo-Burlesque Striptease’, published in Dance Research Journal, Professor Sherril Dodds issues a call to arms, or rather, a call to the face. Using a direct and arresting writing style, Dodds identifies the face as a blind spot in dance research, and urges dance scholars to join her in reclaiming the face as an integral part of the dancing body that, nevertheless, has a distinct role in the production of meaning. The article is grounded in a critical engagement with Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of faciality, as well as Darwinian universalism, Richard Schechner’s perspectives on acting, J.L Austin and Judith Butler’s concepts of performativity and Phillip Auslander’s ‘guitar face’. From this discussion, Dodds develops the notion of the choreographic interface, foregrounding interactions between the face, other body parts and other dancing faces. The usefulness of this concept is demonstrated through two popular dance examples, the hip-hop dancer Virgil “Lil O” Gadson, and a performance by neo-burlesque striptease artist Darlinda Just Darlinda. Dodds’ article exemplifies how attention to popular dance practices can reveal and challenge the assumptions underlying dance studies methodologies and ways of seeing constructed around ‘art dance’. Her argument has implications not just for popular dance studies, but also for dance studies more broadly, performances studies and beyond. It this broad contribution to scholarship, as well as the article’s eloquence and clarity, that renders the article deserving of the highest recognition.
Professor, Chair, Dept. of Dance
Red Earth Calling
Associate Professor of Dance Jillian Harris has brought her career to new heights with the success of her co-produced dance film, Red Earth Calling. This multi-media work is a collaboration with choreographer, director and producer Jennifer Jessum. The dance film explores ideals of love, mystery and spirits. Harris’s work was recently shown at Ririe Woodbury’s 2015 Momentum Festival at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Harris received her B.F.A. in dance at the University of Utah and later traveled nationally with the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. Momentum is staged each year to celebrate the works of the company’s alumni. Harris was one of six choreographers to present unique work in the festival on August 27 and 28. Red Earth Calling was the first dance film to be shown at Momentum. The film, shot in Moab, Utah at Arches National Park, explores the narrative of a lost man in the desert who becomes enchanted by a spirit of the land. According to Salt Lake City Weekly‘s “Entertainment Picks”, Red Earth Calling serves as an excellent example of how works of Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company alumni contribute to the constantly evolving dance culture.
Sunny Days and Educating Dance Class
As my first year as a Master of Arts student within Temple’s Dance Department comes to a close, the sunny weather has finally emerged! Professor Laura Katz-Rizzo took our Educating Dance class outside to conduct class in the warmth of the first spring-like day. Our discussion topics examined dance pedagogy through a lens of racial equality and appreciation: how can we honor the diverse backgrounds of our students as dance teachers? How can we promote awareness of marginalized racial groups through dance class activities? Is race even a category we think is helpful? These are the kinds of questions we passionately debated while soaking up the sun.
The second part of our class had two of our classmates teach a small lesson from the much larger lesson plans we have all been working on this entire semester. The first lesson led us through three group exercises that explored the concept of communication without words. The second lesson had us go out into the city to observe the various people on the street, and then challenged us to create set choreography derived from a guided improvisation based on what we saw. It was a fun and thought-provoking day in the sunshine!
Erica Henn, 1st year M.A. Dance
When the Spring 2014 semester came to a close I was confronted by the long expanse that is “summer break.” With no required readings or writings in sight, I decided to use the summer months as an opportunity to engage in critical self-reflection, workshops, and seminars that could complement my research interests. This decision manifested in reading texts from my wish-list, acquiring some new improvisation skills at Movement Research’s MELT Workshops in New York City, and becoming certified in Autism Movement Therapy. Because my writing and thinking primarily exist at the intersections of dance and disability studies with a focus on autism and developmental disabilities, investigating a movement practice designed for and marketed to individuals with Autism seemed a worthy endeavor.
Autism Movement Therapy (AMT) was created by Joanna Lara, a former special education teacher in California and now an adjunct professor in Special Education at National University. Designed to exist as a 45-minute class, AMT intends to work on sensory integration using music, movement, and language as a conduit for processing information across the two hemispheres of the brain. For example, a primary component of the choreographed class asks participants to make a sound in relation to their movement, such as fluttering the lips while raising both arms. This and other exercises demonstrated throughout the class encourage multi-tasking and facilitate multiple forms of communication. Choreographically, the standard AMT exercises work within the sagittal plane of the body, as the limbs often reach across the space to signify the connection between the two halves of the brain.
What I found most exciting about AMT was its reliance on improvisation and composition in addition to existing as a set of choreographed therapeutic exercises. Within each section of an AMT class (a warm-up, moving across and around the room, working in groups, and crafting a final phrase), participants are encouraged to move outside of the given patterns. This can include asking a participant to come to the front of the room and lead a short movement pattern of their choosing, or having participants find ways to embody their names and teach that phrase to the rest of the class. These directives are not laced with movement expectations. Instead, they provide space for interpretations that range from isolating body parts to moments of stillness. What Lara calls “The Sense Poem” is an advanced exercise for participants who have attended several sessions. Each participant constructs a sentence about a specific object or subject in relation to one of the five senses and then develops movement in conjunction with those words. By teaching the sentence to others in the class, participants collaboratively craft a group dance.
The composition tools offered in the class encourage choreographers, not technical masters, to emerge. Thinking on one’s feet, interpreting ideas, and working with others are some of the many skills facilitated by AMT, all of which are made more vivid when situated within the epistemologies of dance.
The certification workshop I attended was held at the 92nd Street Y in New York. Lara offers workshops all over the world, and an upcoming workshop (February 21, 2015) will be held at my alma mater, Marymount Manhattan College. Obtaining a certification is costly, so I set up a fundraiser through a crowdsourcing website to help offset the cost. I have and will continue to share the information gleaned during the certification process with the donors, all of whom I thank again for allowing the experience to happen!
For more info, check out Lara’s site: http://autismmovementtherapy.com/site/
A perk of being part of the Honors Program at Temple University is that my scholarship provides me with a $4,000 stipend every summer to partake in an internship or research project. I was able to attend two dance intensives, the Nathan Trice Summer Intensive and the Bates Dance Festival, with the intent of furthering my dance and choreographic research.
At the Nathan Trice Summer Intensive, I was able to study with choreographer Nathan Trice, who taught both his rigorous modern technique and three of his works. I had trained with him in high school, so it was really nice to reconnect with him and his flowy and qualitative movement style. I plan to attend the intensive again next summer. At Bates Dance Festival, I took four classes – contact improvisation with Chris Aiken, modern floorwork technique with Claudia Lavista of Delfos, modern technique with Jen Nugent, and yoga with Robbie Cook. It was three weeks of very hard work, yet I was able to meet dancers and teachers from all over the world. The Bates Dance Festival is a very cooperative and non-competitive environment in which students can study, perform and create new work. It was an extremely rewarding experience.
To finalize my summer, I got involved with The Rockaway Project, a documentary theater and photography exhibition about the spirit of Rockaway Beach in Queens, NY. Rockaway Beach was heavily devastated by Hurricane Sandy, and this production was a reminder of how well the small town pulled itself together. The director, Oona Roche, asked me to choreograph a short piece to go alongside a song that she wrote and sang about the ocean. We ended up performing the production at a small venue in Fort Tilden, a beautiful area of Rockaway. My summer experiences left me excited to bring my new kinesthetic understandings and choreographic outlook to the classroom environment.
-Elisa Hernandez, 2nd Year BFA Student