Intermedia Is…

What I have realized being in an Intermedia course this semester in the Dance Department at Ohio State is that intermedia’s meanings can be quite fluid, taking on varying definitions and manifesting in diverse forms. Intermedia can be dependent on complex technologically achieved systems, but it can just as easily be based on simple elements like a dancer dancing and speaking into a microphone or playing a radio broadcast as she draws on a canvas. Intermedia can be just as theatrically staged (and somewhat audience removed) as a MainStage dance/theatre production, and it can be interactive. After reading some about artists like Richard Wagner who championed gesamtkunstwerk (or total artwork) in the 1800s, F.T. Marinetti, an early 20th century cinematographer/ “futurist,” , and Laurie Anderson, a 1980s performance artist and musician, I was intrigued by their ideas of collaboration and synthesis and became more interested in applying some of their ideas to my own collaborations and fusing together different art media. I am inspired to work with the tools that I have and the perspectives I have gained from this course to continue collaborating with others to create intermedia works.

The video linked below is the first study that my lab group in this class created. I was the director for this study, which we titled “Outside In,” and it involved explorations of the notion of “digital doubles,” or how technology can double a person or entity, bringing into question who has the power (in terms of performance hierarchy-what is perceived most strongly by an audience)-live performer, the filmed image,etc. I am interested in exploring this notion more and in bringing more elements into the “digital double” or just “double” concept, perhaps utilizing audio and video feedback and mirrors.



Reflections on Intermedia

This semester, I have been taking a course in the Department of Dance at The Ohio State University called Intermedia. When I signed up for the class I was not entirely sure what to expect, but I suppose I just vaguely thought that the class involved something to do with “dance with technology,” as if technology were just a dance enhancing vehicle. Looking back, this notion seems a bit funny to me, as now I have come to think of intermedia as…still admittedly a slightly elusive term, but more to do with the interweaving of multiple media components, for example, danced movement, projection, lighting, sound, surfaces/objects. Working with lab groups, I have become aware of the plethora of angles one can take into consideration when not only crafting a performance but crafting a performance with the aid of tools that are beyond what are conventionally offered to students in other dance composition courses I have taken. I can consider the possible dancers in an intermedia performance: their choreography, motives, use of space, states of being, directional orientation, gaze towards or away from audience, internal/external focus, use of quotidian motion, etc. I can consider the  multiple projectors and lighting fixtures I could employ, I can consider a multitude of computerized textures and effects…just the formal aspects of an intermedia work become almost limitless.

What really has intrigued me the most in my studies of intermedia has been viewing videos of works by various intermedia performers and artists. The intermedia performances that inspire me the most are the ones in which performers/dancers appear to be almost encompassed completely in a landscape of videography, textural images projected onto them, and the like, such as with works by the dance company Chunky Move and the piece Is You Me by choreographer Benoit Lechambre.

I was also deeply interested in a reading we had that led into the first studies we created within small groups. This reading discussed various types of doubles in art, particularly that of the “digital double.” This concept continues to interest me with its multifaceted manifestations: the double as alter ego, the double as mirror reflection, the double as ethereal spirit form (as opposed to one’s corporeal form), the double as a manipulable mannequin (as in, perhaps, a robotized form of the artist/performer), and likely other doubles could exist that are beyond the scope of this reading on digital doubles.

I want to someday learn the technical skills involved in creating technologically achieved quasi-worlds through programs like Isadora. I have tasted a bit of what Isadora-the graphics manipulating software program we have access to in labs-can do in terms of manipulating videos and projecting images onto multiple surfaces simultaneously, but to me this class has done the most for me in terms of creating a free and open environment for earnestly exploring and questioning my artistic curiosities-an environment that may later lead me to working deeper with the more technologically invested side of this work. Below are links to the videos I mentioned earlier in my post:

STEP Experience: Millennium Dance Complex Summer Intensive

This past school year, 2014-2015, I began a new journey in my dance training via Ohio State University’s STEP program. STEP, which stands for Second Year Transformational Experience, is a program that allows sophomore students to gain funds for adventures of their choice. Throughout the year, I met with an advisor, brainstormed ideas for my project, and wrote multiple drafts of a proposal to ultimately earn $2,000 from the university. My project was to travel to Los Angeles, California and train for two weeks at the world-famous Millennium Dance Complex. Luckily, the studio offers summer intensives, so this was just the perfect time for me to choose to train here. I had visited the studio previously for a week in March over my spring break, and I had taken classes then. This time though, after my proposal was approved and the money awarded to me, I traveled to sunny California to receive training in a more focused environment. There were about 12 girls including myself who participated in the program, which allowed for a very hands-on, intimate relationship with the teachers who taught our daily two-hour workshops. These workshops were all in the general style of hip hop dance, with each teacher/choreographer including different elements ranging from improvisation skills to keying into dance musicality and from animated performance to mock auditioning for a Pepsi commercial. Those of us participating in the intensive also had the opportunity to take as many of the regularly scheduled classes offered at the studio as we wanted to. I had the rare opportunity to take classes from individuals whose YouTube videos I had virtually obsessed over and whose choreography I greatly admire such as Matt Steffanina, JoJo Gomez, Alex Fetbroth, Willdabeast Adams and Janelle Ginestra, along with other talented choreographers. I feel that I learned so many valuable tips from all of these people. Above all, the words I heard most often and most strongly from teachers, uber drivers, strangers I met on the LA metro were these: “If you love it-if it’s your dream and your passion- absolutely go for it. You can make it.” This may sound optimistic to some naysayers who say that the American Dream is dead or never existed, but I would say…if optimism so be it! I choose to stay with my path and to take the wonderful experiences I had in LA to just push me further forward.

Arts Scholars Second Year Project-“Without” solo

Here at The Ohio State University, I am a part of the Arts Scholars, a group that allows me to enhance my learning as a dancer and artist through diverse experiences such as attending special topics lectures by arts and multicultural studies speakers and traveling to American cities to visit internationally renowned museums and see a variety of Broadway, comedy, and music and dance concert performances. As a sophomore in the program, I was expected to create and complete a second year project this past term. I decided to choreograph a solo for the annual Arts Scholars Cabaret show, and this is the solo that I performed. The music, a song entitled “Without,” is by the artist Sampha, and initially I fell in love with the music, but was a bit intimidated to choreograph to such an intricate and richly musical piece. However, I decided to stick with the process, and I was quite pleased with the “duet” that formed with me dancing and responding to the music, and the music seeming to inform and respond to my dancing as well. I hope you enjoy it! Please leave any thoughts you have!

Two Weeks-Original Choreography to FKA Twigs’ Single “Two Weeks”

I choreographed this solo several months ago in response to an emotional upset! I was feeling quite angsty, and fell in love with FKA Twigs’ trip-hoppy sound and slightly masochistic lyrics. I pushed myself to complete this dance in just a week and to choreograph to the entire song. It has such a big feel to me that I felt I would not be doing justice to it if I cut the music. Please tell me your thoughts! 🙂



Composition Class Final Piece

In my dance composition course this past semester, we worked on developing primarily solo material with the aim of exploring weight qualities, methods of locomotion through a performance space, and overall choreographic structures. While we did experiment with group choreography during class time, our assignments predominantly emphasized dancing as soloists to better realize our own specific styles of choreography and performative attitudes. For our final pieces, our instructor gave us free reign to choreograph whatever we wanted in a 3-4 minute time span. I wanted to cover a lot of space with my piece and explore hand gesture motifs while still maintaining a very full-bodied aesthetic. This piece is to Sting’s song, “Big Lie, Small World.” However, I may perform this piece again for a student show in the spring, in which case I will likely change the music. As it is now, though, I like my choice of music and the narrative the singer tells.

Dance Notation Bureau Discoveries: Comparisons of Ballet and Postmodern Scores

As I learned in our studies of LMA theory, choreographers capitalize on many different and often divergent qualities and properties when they create movement pieces. In my perusals of the Dance Notation Bureau in the special collections section of Thompson Library here at The Ohio State University, I thought it would be interesting to study the descriptions of and Labanotation scores for two pieces, the styles of which I consider as antitheses of one another. I studied Lark Ascending, the ballet by Bruce Marks and Trio A, the post-modern piece by Yvonne Rainer, looking for contrasts between the conception, requisites for performances, and the appearance of the notation scores for the two pieces.

The first piece I studied is Lark Ascending, one of Bruce Marks’s ballets that premiered in Aspen, Colorado in 1977. Robin Hoffman recorded the score that I studied in 1994, and he based the notation off of the performances of the Louisville Ballet Company. From reading the description of the ballet, I could easily perceive a narrative and the clear conceptual themes of aspiration and liberation. The main storyline (-storyline is key to ballets!)- involves the lead character, the Lark, who “…knows she is a creature of the air, and she longs to fly. The Men are the creatures of the earth, they are the force which keeps her earthbound…In between the [pas de deux], the Lark struggles…Finally…she makes her ascent” (Hoffman v.). From this description, it is obvious that symbolism, narrative, and emotional representations of the movement are essential components of the ballet. The file I studied also included specific commentaries on the characterization of the dancers in the piece: the Lark is to be an emotional role, full of longing and desperation, and the five men are to be noble and self-assured (vii.). The choreographer also appears to have placed much emphasis on specific costuming, casting, and lighting requirements. For instance, the introductory text to the notation score states that accomplished, classically trained dancers are required, and the costume of the Lark is described as consisting of a “long sleeved, scoop necked, low scoop backed, footed unitard…Pointe shoes are dyed to match [the ankles and feet of] the unitard” (xii.).

From studying parts of the 177 page notation score of the ballet, I could identify the usage of repeated motifs in the movement vocabulary. For instance, I noticed the recurrence of arm and upper body undulation and unfolding as in the wings of a lark (xvii.). Some important elements to the score include: angling of the body, which is arguably one of the most essential components of ballet, the utilization of breath physically speaking and as a performance quality, and arcing lines that connect the staff lines of different dancers, signifying partnering, another key component of ballet dances (e.g. on p.50, 62, 64). For the most part, level changes were gradual, with much sustained movement, and I saw few movements in the mid-level. Mostly, the score consisted of high and some low levels, the lower level movement being restricted more to the male dancers than for the Lark. When looking at the occasional direction written in the margin of the score, I recognized the use of adjectives to detail and promote a certain quality of movement. For example, one note instructs men to enact a “noble, princely kneel” (4). Every note on the score expounds upon the effort qualities and the characteristic airs of the movements. I noticed two distinctly varying tempo/dynamic shifts within Lark Ascending. In the “Country Dance” section, I could perceive more up-tempo dancing with more frequent level changes than in other sections (88). In the last section of the “Last Lift” section, the dancing becomes more sustained with longer durations for each level (166-177).

The second archive I studied contained portions of Yvonne Rainer’s Trio A notation score with descriptions of her style and philosophies about dance. Rainer experimented with “new ways of selecting and structuring movement…” largely opposing the very codified, romanticized form of ballet (Beck 1). Rainer was one of the artists who ushered in the genre of post-modern dance, and she celebrated the participation of artists from other disciplines, which is vastly different from the Lark Ascending score and ballets in general which call for highly trained and qualified professional dancers. Opposite Lark Ascending, which definitely follows a narrative form, Yvonne Rainer’s Trio A has no tie to “story-telling or expressivity” (2). Rainer wished to reveal the effort and process involved in creating and performing a dance work, avoiding the appearance of effortlessness, a quality which ballet embraces (2-3). Among her major philosophies are: saying “no” to “spectacle no to virtuosity no to transformations and magic and make-believe no to glamour and transcendency [sic] of the star image…” (3). Rainer wanted her pieces to be about the mere act of dancing. In Trio A, all dynamics are lacking in order to display the movement simply for what it is, unembellished. The piece is really a performance consisting of three simultaneously danced solos lacking all interaction; this is quite converse to a ballet like Lark Ascending in which character interactions are key. In the introduction to the portion of the score I looked at, I noted that Rainer made no stipulations for male versus female dancers or trained versus trained dancers (5). As for the notation itself of Trio A, I immediately noticed the usage of the symbols for ad lib dancing, which is definitely unheard of in the very structured form of ballet. I also read in various portions of the score that body parts touch other body parts (body-on-self contact), and flexion is common-two contradictory elements to ballet, which calls for the elevation and extension of the limbs (ct. 52). Although the score I studied for Trio A was only a one-minute portion of the four-and-a-half minute piece, I could detect extremely varied level changes and a lack of sustained movements within the piece. The notes written on the score are quite pedestrian/utilitarian in their language (e.g. “Put right hand behind back”) as opposed to the descriptive language of the ballet (ct. 55). Facings and formations of the dancers are largely non-existent in this score, especially when viewed alongside the very structured score of Lark Ascending.

In almost all ways, the ballet Lark Ascending and the post-modern piece Trio A are opposites. This makes sense, though, as from reading the file on Yvonne Rainer, I learned that the dance movement she helped pioneer was in direct opposition to the widely accepted Western dance culture of ballet. From form to dynamics, costuming to dancer expertise, and from duration to level change, these two dances can exist on disparate ends of the dance spectrum.

Works Cited

Yvonne Rainer: Trio A. Draft – “A Dance History Collection” by Jill Beck original Notation by Sian Ferguson produced by Sian Ferguson produced by School of Hartford Ballet. Labanotation score.

Labanotation score, Lark Ascending Choreography: Bruce Marks, 1977 Labanotation: Robin Hoffman, 1994

Teaching Dance for Showchoir

I aspire to be a professional performer and choreographer, but for now, most of my choreographic experience comes from choreographing solos for myself, pieces for classmates at The Ohio State University and with my peers for performances in repertory pieces, and choreographing musical theatre and show choir numbers for students at my former high school, Amherst County High School. I intend to begin some employment in the near future as a freelance choreographer for show choir groups at different high schools and to additionally work as a dance instructor. Here are some videos from when I taught a combination to the Belles of Amherst, the women’s show choir group at Amherst High and to the Amherechos, the mixed show choir ensemble. The purpose of these workshops was to merely get the students accustomed to some simple movement before the choreographer for their regular season show arrives in several months. I hope to work more with my former director, potentially choreographing the two groups’ entire competition shows. Show choir choreography is definitely a different beast than is contemporary or hip hop choreography as it has to directly relate to the lyrics, must allow for the dancers to be able to properly project their voices as they sing and simultaneously dance, and is all about formations on stage.

What It Means to Be a Dance Major

I feel the need for a little rant, albeit a rant not undeserved. So, here is where this rant began (as an internal one that has been marinating for the past day or two, but which is ultimately the culmination of frustrations that have had a much longer gestation period). There I was this two evenings ago after work at The Ohio State Union, sitting and eating a quick dinner, and I happened to overhear a young man and woman discussing their respective majors and intended career paths:
Man: “I kind of want to double major and maybe do something that I really like, but then again I need to do something practical so I can get a good job.” (or something along those lines). “Like, I don’t want to be an art teacher.”
Woman: *laughs* “Yeahhhhh….”
Man: “This kid on my floor was like, [cue dopey voice] ‘I’m studying dance.’ [cue derisive tone.]”

Continue reading