With a background in community-engaged dancemaking from years working with older populations in New York City, I entered graduate school with a specific interest in how dance education and performances practices might prepare people for mindful, active, and ethical outward action in society. As I have delved deeper into existing research about somatic practice, improvisation, and site-specific work, I have landed on some more pressing questions about how our relationship to our environments, and more specifically, our sense of place within those environments, affect the ways in which we live our lives and engage with others. In essence, I am curious about how dance activity might transform spaces into places by connecting people, both trained and untrained dancers alike, more deeply to their surroundings with a particular, but not exclusive, focus on spaces beyond the dance studio or stage.
When contemplating how to turn these questions into a choreographic project, I immediately faced some significant obstacles, particularly the logistical complexities of working in spaces outside the highly-controlled dimensions of dance studios, but also some necessary confrontations with the sociopolitical implications of taking dance practices, primarily those that stem from Western concert dance traditions, and infusing those practices into existing places and communities. With an awareness of my own subtle agenda for personal and social transformation via those practices, the hubris of my approach became difficult to ignore. Therefore, for the purposes of this course, I have decided to design a choreographic research project that will force these complexities to the forefront of my process and help me develop an artistic methodology that is cognizant of them, while also maintaining a firm hand in the making process as an MFA student within the academy. With this as my goal, this project will address two key questions: 1) What individual, social, and political implications emerge when dancing bodies take the often intimate, hidden processes of somatic exploration and improvisation out of the private studio and into public spaces? 2) Can, and how, do those implications affect the choreographic work and contribute to an individual or collective sense of place within these spaces?
I will seek answers to these questions in several ways: 1) I will develop a process based on somatic practice, improvisation, and discussion to invite dancers how to engage with spaces. Anna Vomacka, Mel Mark, and Bita Bell, dancers from the OSU Dance Department, will be supporting me in these explorations. Central to this process will be an understanding that environment does not simply surround human bodies, but that it exists within the physical, bodily experience. We are our environment. This methodology may draw from the existing work of Martha Eddy, Andrea Olsen, Anna Halprin, Liz Lerman, Jennifer Monson, and others. 2) I will use this process in a series of spaces in Columbus to test out its efficacy and develop ideas for choreographic output for a traditional stage performance. Weather permitting, I will work with five or six sites total, with an equal distribution between indoor and outdoor settings. 3) I will take the ideas from our explorations back into the studio to create choreographic material from each site. The final form of this material will remain flexible, taking the shape of several small studies or as one larger work-in-progress. 4) I will document this project via posts of at least 350 words on my OSU blog (katherinegmooreblog.wordpress.com) after each site exploration to trace my process and connect my discoveries with course material. This proposal will be posted on the blog, as well as a concluding entry of at least 750 words that summarizes the entire project after its completion. 5) I will present my project as an oral presentation in the afternoon of April 17th, 2017, and show the choreographic work at the 1st Year MFA Showing that evening.
While feedback from classmates and faculty members will be a crucial element of this project, I am specifically rooting this project in process and development, instead of a formalized performance with attention to audience, in order to develop my process with room for flexibility and reflection. My hope is that the foundational groundwork of this project will provide me a clearer sense of direction towards my ongoing MFA thesis research, as well as a more fully-developed articulation of how I situate myself within the existing field of site-based exploration, socio-somatic practice, and community-engaged dance making. In particular, I hope to have gained a more developed skill set (teaching methods, choreographic strategies, communication tactics, theoretical understanding) that will help me navigate the sociopolitical terrain of this work.
Eddy, Martha. Mindful Movement: The Evolution of the Somatic Arts and Conscious Action. The University of Chicago Press, 2016.
Lerman, Liz. Hiking the Horizontal: Field Notes from a Choreographer. Wesleyan University Press, 2011.
Lippard, Lucy R. The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society. New Press, 1997.
Olsen, Andrea. The Place of Dance: a somatic guide to dancing and dance making. Wesleyan University Press, 2014.
Wittmann, Gabriele, Anne Oppenheimer, Ursula Schorn, Rudolf Lippe, Ronit Land, and Anna Halprin. Anna Halprin: Dance, Process, Form. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2015.