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.
Before social distancing was implemented, I went to a Breaking workshop hosted by the Temple Breakers on campus. This week-long event had many movement sessions and lectures by leaders in the breaking field. The Temple Breakers is a student organization on campus that meet in Mitten Hall to build community together through the learning of Breaking technique. You can find the Temple Breakers on Owl Connect: https://temple.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/templebreakers
One of the speakers at this event, Kwikstep, challenged me to think about the lineage of the dance. He spoke about how we as dancers need to orient ourselves within the lineage and history of the dancers and dance form before us, instead of just trying to learn the tricks in the movement. The lessons need to be learned with a respect for the development of the form and the meanings behind it all. Hip Hop was not meant to just be a movement independent from the music but an integrated pairing that, at its start, was a voice of social protest. In this, the aesthetics of cool in Breaking can be examined and understood by the lineage. This gives respect to the history and meaning beyond the perceived aesthetic. Lineage seems to be a powerful value of Breaking that the dancers in this club hold onto. This is one of the reasons they dance this form of movement, because they connect to it in a deeper historical and meaningful context beyond that “it looks cool” or “it’s fun”. Granted, Breaking does look cool and is fun; but the people who really invest in this technique and go far in the field are the ones who take the time to care about the lineage. It is the placing of their own identities within that lineage that carry forth the future of Breaking.
During one of their movement workshops I was able to observe the technique and community environment of the organization. There were various students and local professionals in attendance, and even our very own Dr. Sherril Dodds, who is the faculty advisor to the Temple Breakers, participated in the workshop! The class started off with a group warm up follow-the-leader style around the room, doing various cardio and non-static stretches. The class had various levels, so there were moments in learning the beginner Top Rocks and Side Steps one-on-one while the intermediate/advanced students were in the middle doing an introductory Cypher.
It seems to be an inclusive and inviting atmosphere for people in their movement journey to grow together. After this they learn to Stack, focusing on the proper placement of the body to build up to a Freeze that can be performed in the final Cypher practice. Three groups form of Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced, and they take turns practicing their Stack in a half-circle format where the dancer can be encouraged from the dancers around them. After the buildup of the Freeze, they take a moment to shake it all out as a group while the President of the organization, Renaissance Ray, tells a story of the Iron T-Shirt. Renaissance Ray leads everyone in a slapping massage of their limbs to “break out the damage from walking all day” and then encourages all to wipe the tension all off, leaving them renewed. Finally, everyone comes together in a circle to take turns in the center performing their newfound skills while the group energetically cheers them on.
In speaking with one of the dancers during the class, he said that he had been training in breaking since he was fifteen. He keeps coming back to these sessions because of the community and understands that it is more than just the initial strength and shapes but about the people he is here to grow with.
Some words of advice from Renaissance Ray, the club president, to beginners in Hip Hop and Breaking is: Know what you are getting into, it is high impact, but you grow more as a person than just in body. It is a self-exploration beyond physical boundaries as you invest in the lineage and history of the dance as a form of communication and community. You may find your identity as part of the rewards you reap through the blood, sweat, and tears that you and the people before you have shed. It is an “Each one, Teach one” mentality that passes the knowledge and lineage to the next dancer, but first, you must Reach one (Kwikstep’s words).
To advanced dancers Renaissance Ray says: “Know what your goals are, who you are, and what role you play. Not everyone can be the superstar”. This reminds me that all parts in this community are valuable in building and carrying that movement history to the next generation.
So, if you want to go to the Temple Breakers to dance with them in the new academic year, let me know and I will go with you!! Together we can embark on this community journey and find new strength within it. I don’t know about you, but after this season of isolation, I will need some positive community to grow with! Why not let it be with the Temple Breakers?
Ciao! I’m José Raúl. My majors and concentrations have changed several times
during my studies at Temple, from Musical Theater to Acting to BFA in Musical Theater to now,
a BA in Theater with an Acting concentration and a Dance Minor. In my time at Temple, I am
grateful to have twice performed with Koresh Dance Company, and have been a company
member of Nora Gibson Contemporary Ballet (NGCB) since Spring of 2017, while working
professionally with theaters and theater companies throughout Philadelphia.
José as Hervé in Fabulation by Lynn Nottage at Temple University (featuring Satchel Williams as Undine)
This semester, my dance classes include Contemporary Ballet II with Kip Martin, Movement
Improvisation II with Megan Bridge, Flamenco with Elba Hevia y Vaca, and Hip-Hop with Kyle
Singularity and community are two things which ignite my curiosity and artistry. I love acting
because “the human mind”, an innately common anatomy amongst people, will lead an individual to function in a way that no one else on earth does, because no two people’s life circumstances are exactly the same. And yet, there are patterns and consistencies in the ways we function. The fractal goes deeper and deeper to the point that an actor, with their own singular humanity, can truthfully inhabit the essence of a character, another human experience, the byproduct of a singular life. It’s magic, to me.
José as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet at Temple University
Then we take the human body. Generally, we have the same numbers of bones, same types of organs with the same functions. But the proportions are different. Further, my life before I entered this studio is different than yours before you did the same. History is in our bodies. Social constructs suggest what ways we should move and not move. Clothing, family dynamics, values, labor, nutrition, love, neglect, everything shapes the comforts and discomforts of our bodies.
In Movement Improv II, I am learning to evolve the way I dance. My primary method of learning anything has always been mimicry. This class presents opportunities to explore the terrain of my body and expression with new technologies, every day. Instead of following (mimicking) steps, we are handed tools. With these tools, I investigate my singular terrain.
José as Sir Andrew in Twelfth Night at Shakespeare in Clark Park
Dance is personally most magical to watch when the biped vehicle of the standard human body toes the crest of its primary function of doing things, and enters a realm of things being done to it, of riding some unseen wavelength. I think of Tess Voelker’s (dancer with Nederlands Dans Theater II) videos on Instagram, and choreographer Marco Goecke’s works, as well as some of choreographer Juliano Nunes’ works.
This April, NGCB will be performing at the Performance Garage Twentieth Anniversary Gala. The piece we will be presenting is a 10+ minute duet, featuring original video projections designed by Nora Gibson herself. Working with Nora is a tremendous opportunity. She welcomes every bit of who I am to rehearsals and performances, so I very much look forward to what revisiting our choreography for this gala will produce, now that I have had such a wonderfully diverse exploration of different dance styles and vocabularies.
José Raúl, Temple Dance Minor, BA in Theater, Concentration in Acting
Thank you for taking the time to read. If you wish to follow up, you can reach me at:
www.eljoseraul.com | @josrul (instagram) | email@example.com
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.
I am writing about my senior piece “The Sun’s in my Eyes” performed by the fabulous Janice Argo, Emme Gentile, Camryn Mentzer, Elizabeth Siani, and lastly, myself. Creating my first choreographic work was a roller coaster of a journey. The ups and downs, the satisfaction and doubts. Choreographing forced me to become someone I barely recognized, which I loved.
Photo by Brian Mengini
I never felt good at communicating what I want. Even as a small child I would sit and think things over, rather than speak up about what I wanted. I realized after a few rehearsals, that is all choreographing is! It’s to clarify your vision for others, to grasp hold of, and transcend an idea by shaping it into the real world. I asked myself questions like “How do my dancers react to my movement?” “what do I value?” and “what can I do to make the audience feel a certain way?” The answers to these questions would guide me through the process. Picking music before the choreography hinders my process, and to be completely honest, I didn’t even have a general idea for the piece, only questions and answers.
I knew for my piece, I wanted to go beyond my inner circle of friends and work with new faces so I hung posters up in the studios for people to see. Everyone who auditioned I worked with, and I am extremely grateful for the dancers that I worked with. At first, it was hard for me to understand why these phrases that would spew out of me weren’t saying anything. Since I was out of practice in communicating what I want, working through the confusion that came with this would be tough for all of us, but in the end it would be extremely rewarding. During rehearsals, I found that my mind raced faster than usual. This would affect the communication between me and my dancers. It was harsh realizing that I wasn’t being understood because in my head I was already ten times ahead of myself, but patience and articulation in different ways went a long way. I had to remember I was not working with four “Olivia’s”, but four individuals all of different backgrounds and training. I also learned how freeing trial and error could be. There were so many phrases of different movement and sometimes even just walking phrases that I choreographed, and even though none of that was in the piece, it did help my dancers understand more of my movement style for themselves. More importantly, I saw joy and excitement in my dancers which was super essential to how the choreography would read on stage.
Photo by Brian Mengini
I value music a lot in my life but movement being interpreted for what-it-is, rather than being paired with a sound score is important to me too. This became a battle for me; “To music, or not to music?” The more time I spent sifting through tracks, the more I became dissatisfied with the mood the music would “hand” the audience. Using a metronome was a way for me to have a simple pulse in the air with meaning that could be wildly imagined by the audience. Also, even though I hate to admit it, I’m a bit of a control freak. So being the one controlling the metronome, faster or slower, sound or silence, I felt really free doing what I pleased in terms of messing with the metronome.
Eventually, music won my heart and I decided to use Aretha Franklin’s “One Step Ahead” to ease the audience in the beginning of the piece. I wanted to start with music so the space sounded even emptier with the metronome and even more so with silence. For example, getting into a lukewarm pool is rather uncomfortable and seems cold. But if you’re in a hot tub before you get into the pool, the water feels just about freezing. The Aretha Franklin song was the hot tub before the lukewarm water in the pool. This added contrast. The quietness of the space was quite jarring after the smooth melody of the song faded away.
I learned that I value unexpected behavior and welcome boredom. I almost wanted the audience to find moments of boredom so they could question “why am I bored right now?” If not this, the low stimuli boredom brings would make the “non-boring” moments even more exciting. Boredom I believe can be natural in life and actually really rare in a world with technology at our fingertips. So why not emphasize it with simple movement and silence. Many who saw the piece, remember the most unexpected moment being my introduction to the stage. I walked on during the final song, then there was a pause in the music followed by my voice singing a very loud and incoherent yell all in one breathe. The music then continued and I used improvisation. This was a way for me to use voice, often something I struggle using at times, to make an authentic sound. Voice is powerful.
For the future, I want to work towards creating more and working with different artists that stay true to themselves.
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.
Dance has always been a passion, from the stage to the classroom to my home, it always generates so many emotions for me. I have participated in many styles including ballet, jazz, modern, tap, ballroom dance, but there was something about tap that draws me closer. At a very young age, I knew tap would take me somewhere, if I continued to work hard at it.
Tap is the style of dance to which I feel the strongest connection too and I was able to continue that connection during my time at Temple with a Studio Research piece in the Spring semester of 2019. I decided to create a piece, set for two dancers using portable wooden floors. I created the piece to embody a machine, with the natural wooden floors, rusty orange lights, and simple costumes- jeans and a black t-shirt. The style of tap I was working with concentrated on the intricate, rhythmic patterns and phrasing of the footwork. This is an unfamiliar form to me, but my time in the studio and creating this piece allowed me to become more accustomed with it.
With my confidence boosted, I decided to audition for the Lady Hoofers Tap Ensemble, a Philadelphia-based, all-women ensemble which “produces original works of choreography while preserving the tradition of improvisation in American rhythm tap” (http://www.ladyhoofers.org/). After the audition process, I was pleased to learn I was an apprentice company member for the 2019-2020 season. We are currently working on pieces for our Tapcracker performance in December, and I am learning more and more about the percussive side of tap. Even after tapping for twenty years, I am learning so much each rehearsal, because I come from a musical theatre/broadway style tap background.
I am looking forward to my time with the company as we continue to learn choreography, improvisational skills and take class. Within my future Studio Research choreography at Temple and in my Thesis, I plan to apply these newfound skills.
In August and September, I had the pleasure of working with Awilda Sterling Duprey. She was Temple University’s featured artist for the annual Reflection and Response Commission. The Afro-Latina artist heralded as “a national gem to the people of Puerto Rico”. Her piece began a conversation exploring how Hurricane Maria devastated her homeland of Puerto Rico. As an improviser, she challenged us to re-create this feeling of hysteria. She asked: how do you honor the story of those lives affected by this natural disaster?
We entered the process by studying the traditional dances of Oya, an warrior deity whom is often represented through hurricanes. We also engaged in improvisational exercises to strengthen our awareness within the work and held critical discussions about these issues. Sterling Duprey recognized dancers as active participants in the creative process. This is an idea that I will ultimately take into my into future endeavors. Often times, choreographers ask dancers to perform movement without giving any context. Awilda’s process creates intentionality and dynamic performance quality for those involved.
This kind of teaching method fostered cognitive development as the dancers were also creators. This democratic approach was student centered and did not aim to make only Awilda’s voice present the work. However, this was overwhelming at times! There was not a clear structure until the weekend before the show. As a choreographer, I learned to incorporate a healthy balance of decision making and play. Not only in choreography and improvisation but also the creative process.
I also was able to witness Awilda transform Conwell Dance Theater to an imaginative space, catapulting you to Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria. She worked with a variety of disciplines such as photography, video, sound distortion, and props. This multimedia artist cultivated a nostalgic atmosphere. This presentation of the work was well received by the audience. She approached “space” beyond the standard of Laban’s Effort Actions often used to create textured qualities movement. Awilda abstracted physically space in order to reimagine the theatre past the normal visuals. She urged us not limit Conwell’s physically possibilities. This taught me how creating a space for the audience, is just as crucial as, how a dancer navigates space with their body.
Awilda is in her seventies, yet always has the most energy in the room. I believe her age gave her grace, style, beauty and wisdom in her movement. Rehearsals were filled with laughs and giggles. She greeted you with a warm hug at the beginning of every rehearsal and made sure each dancer was heavily involved in the process. This sensitivity encouraged me to work harder because I realized she cared about our general well-being. I believe Awilda’s expectation of creativity and freedom caters to a more seasoned artist. Over all, I am honored to have known and danced with this formidable women.
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.