Healthy Living: the Working Balance of Body and Mind

As a dancer I aim to find balance and healthy living throughout my everyday practice. Healthy living for me means balancing body and mind. I believe that too often people think of themselves as carriers for brains rather than holistic beings. To me, especially as a dancer, healthy living comes by accepting oneself as both an intellectual person and a physical mover.

In dance we use movement improvisation as a way to fully utilize both body and mind because we see it as the purest expression of the whole self. Movement is the body’s first language, it is your first system of communicating with the world around you. Dance improvisation is then the visual manifestation of your first, and most individualistic language. screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-11-33-06-pm

To formalize this constant exercise of both body and mind through improvisation, I have begun to create a movement solo formed by effort, physicality, and motif movement analytics. Motif, one of few dance notation systems, uses symbols that correlate to specific actions or parts of the body to dictate movement. I use scores of these symbols to guide my movement improvisations in the creative process. I exercise my intellect and exhaust my physicality.

My goal is to continue this practice of working balance between body and mind as I complete this solo. I will achieve my health goals by creating 4-5 minutes of solo material that when danced, will make me SWEAT. I then want to take my work to the 2017 American College Dance Association conference so I may advocate for healthy living and the balanced self at a venue with other college dancers and professionals. This grant would help pay for that experience.

Balanced exercise of body and mind is the central tenet of healthy living, and it is my dream to share this knowledge with others.

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My Intermedia Thoughts are Swirling

Midterm Reflection AU16

Everybody sees the world differently. Our perceptions shape the world around us as well as our learned histories. This is important information in everyday interactive situations, but it is also useful in the art of composing. Because even though I understand that everyone will see any work at least a bit differently, I want to be conscious throughout the creative process about all of the possible things “it” could be.

I put “it” in quotation marks because with movement the what-it-is factor does not always have words. Without being able to use language as it is commonly understood, it becomes ever more important that the experience of movement (on the part of the mover and audience member) become central over its materialization. Even if that experience is the search for meaning through the watching. The dematierialization of art through a Dadaistic approach and Wagner’s idea of Total Art, explained in Soke Dinkla’s article “From Participation to Interaction: Towards the Origins of Interactive Art,” have worked to broaden art’s inclusiveness through this lens stressing the importance of experience. What is interesting then is the evolution of technology’s integration in the arts as it pertains to inclusivity.

Norbert Wiener is one author in the history of intermedia technologies that I looked more into after browsing From Wagner to Virtual Reality. Originator of cybernetics, the science of communications and automatic control systems both machine and living, Wiener theorized that technology would play a crucial role in the advancement of human communications toward a more natural state of being. In his book The Human Use of Human Beings, he argued that society as we know it is in a constant state of decay, called entropy. However systems of communication, because they inherently rely on states of organization, work to bring society into negentropy, or anti-entropy. I have not yet read Wiener’s books, but I would someday like to. His prediction that technology could be revolutionary towards advancing healthy communication, but ultimately would not be if taken for granted, I believe is our reality. I want to go back in history through his texts to see what else I find.

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Columbus Sky: Texture 10/14

I want to be informed when it comes to technology’s inclusion in life and art because in a lot of ways that is the direction I see movement advancing towards. Millennials need to experience a work with multiple senses and an allowed layer of interactivity otherwise they get distracted and don’t learn the experience of movement.

Because I am a millennial, the ability to work with diving into the pure essence of a thing, whatever that thing may be, is something I appreciate in our intermedia labs. Through our lab time we learn to play again. We are allowed to tap into our curiosities and dive deep down rabbit holes of exploration until we’ve exhausted the idea. This play is something I am looking to bring more into my everyday. The availability to question, to seek out, and to try all the thoughts moving through body and mind is a thrilling experience. An experience I think people have too little of.

Some words I bring up that relate to my recent experiences: perspective, perception, space, time, past, present, future, virtual reality, augmented reality, other-ness, color, shadow, shape. Some questions: how do histories collide in a work? how does a work begin? how does a work end? if meaning is always sought out but perception is always different, how do I shape a work? Some videos of intermedia I have been drawn to: Chunky Move- Biennale Danza 2010Box by the Creators ProjectMost Insane Immersive Movie Experience EVER, Part 2

Click here to see video excerpts of my intermedia experiences!

A Moving Archive

Every summer I write to blogger and mover Emmaly Wiederholt to answer her question “where are you with dance right now?” Her site Stance on Dance extends conversations around dance outside of the studio. In my 2016 response to Emmaly this year I wrote:

“I am currently a student at Ohio State University pursuing a BFA in dance. In the fall, I will begin my third of four years.

I believe I will look back at this past year as a year marked with change and growth. There were many ‘up’ moments filled with excitement from new knowledge and self-discoveries, just as there were many ‘down’ moments filled with stress and self-doubt, but I am thankful for the journey that has led me to where I stand now. I more than ever trust my instincts, believe I have a good head on my shoulders, and see all the tools I need to make informed decisions.

Two important decisions I made this year were that I will have faith in following my instincts to do nothing more than what I think is right for me in the moment, and that I want to perform professionally. Upon entering Ohio State’s college dance program, I wanted to see what the field had to offer. I learned there are many different outlets in which to use dance knowledge, and after getting the taste of quite a few, I can say I find all aspects as equally important cogs in the working clock of the field, but my heart lies in performing. I love the choreographic process. I love the art of tapping into another’s mind to help coach movement art into fruition.

And although I have decided I want to perform, other aspects of dance remain just as important to me. This year I learned about movement analysis, a new passion of mine I did not previously know existed. I’m super into Rudolf Laban. He revolutionized modern dance to become an abstract expressionist art form. While I appreciate the rich history and art of Labanotation, my interests in movement analysis at the moment lie more with Motif and LMA principles, which I believe allow for a more complex, deeper understanding of movement to develop. Some things I am thinking about now are how efforts and intentions as explained by Laban enhance a performer’s understanding of work.010515_erinyen-6360Over the course of my years as a dancer, I have had some great teachers, and this year was no exception. What I got in excess this year was a group of dance scholars—I say this to encompass both dance academic and movement professors—with advice that significantly changed my outlook on dance and the greater role it plays as a part of the human experience. One lesson that shaped me came from Dr. Hannah Kosstrin, my 20-21st century concert dance history teacher, who said, “Our bodies are a living history of everything we have danced before.” In other words, our bodies are moving archives of every past dance technique and teacher we have trained with, every choreographic process and performance, every injury or trauma, every movement interaction we have made with the world surrounding us. Bodies are smarter than the mind realizes, and it carries years (for me it is now 20 years) worth of movement information.

Understanding this allowed me to better celebrate the movement journey that has brought me to my current place. To hear that essentially every individual body is a different grouping of eclectic physical lessons was important for my greater appreciation of where I am at. I can be nothing more than what I am currently. In the past, I found myself somewhat ashamed of my not-so-traditional, very jumbled and eclectic route towards contemporary concert dance. I had believed that not being raised a “bunhead” left me lacking, and that I would need to play a constant game of catch-up to those with backgrounds in solely codified techniques. But I am not lacking. My experience in tap, Irish dance, cross-country running and jazz have left me with a different set of movement histories to inform me daily.

I also got to be a part of some historic moments this past year. OSU faculty member Bebe Miller will be retiring after fall semester 2016, and I was lucky to have been a student in her final contemporary technique course this past spring. I will always remember our final class together, where we played music to commemorate the recent loss of Prince and danced. As we pounded on the floor, hooted and hollered, and clapped for our amazing teacher to signify the end of our final class, she said to us, “You’ve just got to do it, figure it out, and pass it on.” From Bebe, I learned loads. She, with lessons paralleling those from my ballet professor Karen Eliot, helped me to understand that ballet and contemporary dance have the same alignment challenges. Bebe got me to consider the ephemeral nature of dance and movement. And through her advice, I now turn to watching Trisha Brown’s Water Motor when I need a splash of dance inspiration.

Some of my greatest moments of growth, both the growth that is physically marked as well as the mental growth that occurs when you once again realize that you know basically nothing, came from studying under Eddie Taketa. As a new faculty member at OSU after his recent retirement from Doug Varone and Dancers, I had the pleasure of taking his contemporary technique and participating in a new work he created. One of my most memorable moments in Eddie’s technique class came when he demonstrated a complicated combination quickly, and the students including myself stood there with troubled looks, thinking too hard about what we just saw and how we would possibly learn it. Eddie paused and said to us relax, “Your body knows technique. You’ve been training in dance for years. You no longer have to think about the steps. You can just trust that your body knows them.” This absolutely connects to my Dr. Kosstrin lesson. The body is way smarter than we realize and I have an entire history of learning movement to inform my dancing. So with this advice from Eddie, I learned to relax and ride the wave of information that my body soaks up when the mind is at ease. Another Eddie lesson states that you essentially can plan nothing; you can only allow yourself to remain open for experience to happen to you. For my Type A, organized and controlling personality, this has been a hard pill to swallow, but I cannot deny the truth in that statement. Living in the past or the future is nothing compared to existing in the moment, and if I can’t plan future experience, then why not enjoy what’s going on in the present?

Eddie Taketa brought the Doug Varone and Dancers Summer Workshop to my attention, so a couple of my classmates and I went to Skidmore College this summer to work with the company. I just recently got home from the workshop, and I am still taking time to process all of the aspects of this amazing experience. What I can say is that I honed more movement skills, and my body got the chance to soak up and archive more teacher histories. But maybe most importantly, I was reminded of all the lessons I had learned over the past school year in patience, living in the current moment, trust, celebrating difference, and letting go. I was reminded that the smart mover is sought out and appreciated.

My summer is not yet over; my dance journey has just begun. Rounding out my summer of dance, on July 5th I began the Hubbard Street Summer Intensive in Chicago. I will follow up that with the week-long Gaga workshop in NYC, then return to school early to work with MFA candidate Josh Manculich on his upcoming thesis work. Moving forward into the coming school year, I remain aware that dance is the art of trying to be perfect in a world where there is no such thing. There will always be room for growth, and I can’t wait to experience that journey.”

I like to refer back to my page on Stance on Dance. It has a history of dance/life check-ins starting in 2013.

 

 

Thoughtfully Composing: My Final Comp Study

I started this process, for making my final solo study, with the intent to work outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to play with the creation of movement patterns that went against my tendencies, but my main focused was to compose along the lines of a process in which I highly edited my work. Normally when I set out to make movement I start in one place and I move until I feel I have satisfied whatever idea I was exploring. I move through one big phrase until I’m done. From there I may tweak a couple steps, redirect a couple facings and change a few dynamics, but overall I keep the order and all movements of the “thing” the same. So what I set out to do with this study, as my Final Study for Composition 2, was work by creating a couple separate chunked phrases which I would then edit to compose my solo.

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“Tanzträume” (Dancing Dreams) and the Onset of Many Questions

After Fall Break (a much needed time for rest newly incorporated into OSU’s fall schedule) my class watched Tanzträume or Dancing Dreams. This film, which documents the staging of Pina Bausch’s “Kontakthof” (Contact Zone) on 40 teens who had never before heard her name, brought me to ask myself many questions related to dance, leadership and experience. I have thought about all of them; I have answered none of them. In the order in which they came to me throughout the film, these are my questions:
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Diving Down the Rabbit Holes

Part of where I believe “sophomore hell” comes in to play is that as second-year students in the dance department, we are required to take the intro level courses to the multiple aspects of dance we began to see emerge through Freshman Seminar. IMG_3642For me this includes History Theory Literature 1 (Dance History), Kinesiology, Movement Analysis, and Composition 2 alongside my movement practice classes. I’ve begun to call this “diving down the rabbit holes”, as I feel myself looking down deep pockets of possible exploration and knowledge as I take in each course. While I am busy with work, and face the challenges of accepting dance’s applications through desk work, I love my courses.

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