My time at Movement Research has come to an unfortunate close. I am obliged to say that this has definitely been the best internship experience I have had to date and my last week at the organization put the icing on the cake. This past week I had the opportunity to help staff members out with running the bi-annual MELT workshop series. We interns were in charge of opening/closing/cleaning the space (which belongs to a church), taking attendance for workshop attendees, and making sure that everyone in attendance had a safe an enjoyable experience. In exchange for helping with the space and answering attendees inquiries, the other interns and I were able to participate in the workshops. I took two workshops per day with RoseAnne Spradlin and Pooh Kaye. These workshops were definitely different from what I have been used to taking. Nonetheless, it was extremely refreshing. I had the opportunity to work on technique, composition, and meeting new people.
RoseAnne Spradlin’s workshop was heavily based upon Body Mind Centering technique which was developed by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. This technique is not as strenuous as say ballet or even some modern. Proprietors of this technique champion a holistic approach to movement. Dancers practcing BMC focus on the “based on the embodiment and application of anatomical, physiological, psychophysical and developmental principles, utilizing movement, touch, voice and mind.” In contrast to other dance forms I have practiced, this technique does not force its practitioners to aspire to a certain physical ideal. The dancer embarks on their own journey to explore how they can essentially train their bodies to become efficient and effective vesicles. I personally have never felt so much freedom in a dance class, it was wonderful. There was a lot of meditation, which aided us to becoming more sensitive to the subtleties of our bodies. We did some partnering exercises, which were meant again to help with that sensitivity and flexibility. Lastly, we “engaged” in a good amount of improvisational “jam” sessions, which allow dancers within a space to move however they choose within a set amount of time. At times, during these “jams” I would step out to observe the bodies in motion. It was beautiful and a bit hypnotic. The dancers if not at that point, were really trying to strive for freedom within their movements and to move by impulse and not for show. I hope to again encounter this technique in a class or workshop, but until then I will definitely apply that to my dancing endeavors. Below is the official website for Body-Mind Centering and also a clip of a dance piece that was inspired by BMC…
The next workshop I participated in was hosted by Pooh Kaye. Her workshop focused more on composition within dance. Though it was hard to get into at first, I quickly find myself admiring the creative capabilities of my classmates. We did a lot of group work in general that included Pooh giving us some sort of task to complete. For instance, we were once required to individually come up with one movement that either expressed suspension, collapse, or explosion. After that was set, we were given the task to combine these movements with our groups and figure out as many creative combination and transitions so that everyone’s movement would be included into an improvisational phrase. As in RoseAnne’s class, I felt a strong sense of freedom in doing what I wanted to do. I cannot wait to apply these ideas to my next choreographic projects this upcoming fall.
Participating in these workshop classes made me so much more appreciative of the balance between office work and training that Movement Research provides for their interns. This has by far been the best internship I have participated in thus far and I know this strongly rooted from me not worrying about the location of or pay rate, but from pursuing what I was truly passionate about. Though I wasn’t paid, I met and connected wiith so many creative, talented, and driven people, built upon my office and dance skills, and most importantly enjoyed every moment of it.
Got about 97% of MR’s Performance Journal back issue copies today at work. This is how I feel…
Soooo much reading to do!
So, my time at MR is coming to a rapid close :(. My last week working in the office will be next week and the following week I will be assisting the staff to carry out their bi-annual MELT workshop, a five week long series of dance intensives that include daily workshops focusing on technique, somatics, improvisation, composition and other areas. Next week I will be finishing up my archiving projects, which again includes, converting tape recorded sessions of MR’s Studies Project into mp3s, and if I have time transcribing them, and also organizing our yearbooks and making sure that magazine/news articles mentioning MR are scanned and saved to the server.
I’m sad that it’s going to end so soon, but I am glad to have even found out about MR from Professor Dawn Springer. Thus far, working at this organization has truly opened my mind up to this entire subculture that I’m sure most US citizens have no idea about. There is sooo much going on within this Lower East Side dance microcosm that it is hard to keep up with. However, with each day I work, I honestly discover something new. Whether it be a new organization, concept, artist, etc.
Particularly within this past week I was introduced to a few new performance artists while completing my projects. Every so often while I’m browsing through an old news article or possibly have to look up an artist’s email address or number to send them something, I find a name that’s intriguing and write it down so that I can do a google search on them later. I wish I didn’t throw the papers away so that I could give the list, but I do remember a few off-hand. (I’ll post vids and websites below)
On another note, I am so excited for the MELT intensives (which a few other Dickinsonians will be participating in!). This season practically all of the classes are sold out and attracting participants not only from NY, but from abroad! I will be helping out with and attending the workshops of RoseAnne Spradlin (a new MR AIR) and Pooh Kaye. I do not know much about either artists, but have heard good things about them. My duties during that week will include helping to maintain the space, checking participants in, enforcing house rules, and more. I know it will hectic, but extremely rewarding.
Working at MR is giving me so much energy. I can’t wait to get on campus so I can finally have somewhere to put it. I’m starting to appreciate and miss little things about dancing at Dickinson from working here. For instance, studio space. For dancers in NY, rehearsal space is scarce, and can be awfully expensive at times. MR offers rental space for $10/hour and $25/hour if you want to host a workshop, a pretty good deal. However, this is a huge contrast to being on campus where I have access to about 4 different rehearsal spaces at practically anytime, for free! Next, performance opportunities and spaces. So in order to have a performance opportunity in NY you have some choices (I could be missing a few). These choices include: going on the good ol’ audition, forget about the auditions and form a dance collective with some friends, or you could go solo and hope that the work you make fits into the scheme of a larger organization who may be hosting a performance event. Finding a space to perform is another story, and is ridiculously expensive. Moreover, at Dickinson, as long as you join some dance group and adhere to their rules, regulations, and rehearsal requirements, you are guaranteed a performance opportunity, even without prior dance experience. Also, we have about 4 different formal places where performances can take place (Mathers Theatre, The Cubiculo, ATS and The Site). Constantly witnessing the reality of a working artist in NY makes me want to go back to Dickinson right now to start making work. Nonetheless, I have already started planning/journaling/contacting friends about different performance events I would like to host and choreography I would like to make so that I waste no time this fall. It’s my last year, and I’m going to make the most of it. Not to start making this sound like an end of the year graduation speech, but Dickinson truly has provided me with so many resources to utilize. I have been able to host multiple events, work with guest choreographers, and even show my work in Mathers, the Cube and even Penn State! I don’t think I can emphasize enough that these opportunities will not be entirely out of reach after graduation, but scarce. In closing, with the aforementioned in mind, I’m currently readying myself to dance like I’ve never danced before this upcoming school year.
Narcissister (Performed at MR’s 2011 Spring Festival)
RoseAnne Spradlin (I’ll be helping with her workshop the week after next! **warning! there is some nudity in the videos below)
I have become quite settled into office life at MR. I did not have to help set-up for or run any events this week so all of my days were spent in the office running errands within the city, emails, data entry, and continuing with my archiving project.
On another note, I have dedicated significant time to exploring dance history and culture. On Monday I attended a MR hosted event at Judson Church. MR, every Monday, hosts an open performance event in which different artists can apply to show their work to a diverse crowd. This is great for overall exposure, constructive feedback, networking, or simply entertainment. This past Monday was the 20th anniversary of MR hosting this event at Judson Church, so it ended kind of being a bigger deal than usual, especially since their hosting the event at that particular venue is in jeopardy (possible funding issues?). Nonetheless, it was one of the more abstract performances I’ve been to, but I did thoroughly enjoy the work presented by David Thomson, one of MR’s current artist-in-residence. Unfortunately, the video of his piece has not been posted, I’m assuming because of the nudity involved. Here’s a link to a work he was featured in by Muna Tseng, I highly recommend reading the description and watching the clip.
I have also been catching up on my dance history through some more readings and documentaries. I’ve continued reading Brenda Dixon Gottschild’s The Black Dancing Body which I mentioned in the last post. Something I recently watched that helped to supplement Dixon’s work, was the PBS documentary segment Free to Dance. The three-part documentary chronicles the beginnings of Modern dance from the early twentieth century and its formation and influences from the likes of figures like Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis. Moreover, the documentary expands on the experiences of African-American dance artists during this time and how it parallels and fuses with this new dance movement. The documentary highlights black dancers from the Harlem Renaissance (i.e. Edna Guy) up until present date (i.e Garth Fagan and Bill T. Jones) and how regardless of their marginalized status, the immense creativity and innovation that comes from the community. This is a powerful documentary that forces viewers to recognize the endless contributions of African-Americans to American Modern dance. Below is the first part of the documentary (the whole thing is on youtube). I, unfortunately, couldn’t find the trailer, but watching this is worthwhile.
Lastly, I’ve begun reading Sally Banes‘, notable dance historian, Reinventing Dance in the 1960s, which compiles a number of essays highlighting the postmodern dance movement. During this period you see the emergence of a counter-culture within the dance world, championing the avant-garde and challenging the traditional aspects of both concert and modern dance. Postmodernism within dance became a movement to increase the accessibility and visibility of dance. It is characterized by shedding virtuosity through in exchange for the use of more pedestrian movements and objects. In conceptual terms it involved making the simple complex and the complex simple, and making the familiar both familiar and unfamiliar. It was and continues to be a movement that is highly active and conceptual. Moreover, the book looks at specific concepts, such as Banes’ article addressing the use of defamiliarization (making strange) and the ordinary within dance, and also specific artists such as Gus Solomon Jr. and his early beginnings as a young MIT graduate, who majored in architecture, turned dancer living in New York. To say the least, I am keeping myself on my toes with familiarizing myself with dance history.
Aside from getting more acquainted with the usual office work, I’m excited to explore the city more during my last few weeks and, of course, dancing more.
I have recently completed my fifth week at MR. I’ve gotten more acquainted with the flow of things and now I’m having that feeling where no matter the length of your stay somewhere, you feel like you have been there forever. Even though I did not get to experience any exciting events this week, I finally got my official office training and have started on some projects.
My Monday started off with running some usual errands and doing different tasks. I did some mailings first and then I had the opportunity to send out decision letters to individuals who applied for MR’s Artist-in-Residence (AIR) program, a highly competitive two year program that provides commissions, rehearsal space, performances, and related opportunities to help and support different artists’ creative process. Click here to learn about the 2010 and 2011 AIRs, one of them David Thomson will be performing this Monday at MR’s 20th anniversary at Judson Church. After working on those things, I was given two projects which might take me the next few days to complete.
One of them is converting videotapes to mp3 files. A few weeks ago the office received a message from a woman who used to work at MR and happened to have a collection of tape recordings of Studies Projects from the eighties! MR’s studies project is an artist-curated series of panel discussions and performances that address, “provocative and timely issues of aesthetics and philosophy in the intersection of dance and social politics, confronting and instigated by the dance and performance community.” As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was able to attend one of these at the Spring Festival, and it was focused on contemporary dance and its future. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to listen to them in detail, since I’ve been doing other errands on the side, but amongst those who contributed to some of the Studies of converted range from the likes of Bill T. Jones to Anna Halprin. It’s so fascinating to see how much rich history a mere encasing of plastic can hold.
The next project that I’ve been working on is organizing MR’s yearbooks, which are archived copies of different paper materials and media throughout a specific year. For instance, all of the calendars, class brochures, Performance Journals, or articles that mention MR or an AIR from one year are compiled into one binder and archived. This may seem like a tedious task, but I am gradually learning more and more about the history and structure of MR. I haven’t had a boring moment, especially looking at newspaper clippings and magazine clippings from the past 15 years or so.
Aside from my projects, I have also made the effort to get to know the staff and interns I work with more. I’m not conducting any formal interviews for a while, but I have been having a few informal conversations while doing work. I’m learning more and more about the importance of really stretching yourself to different experiences, whether it be volunteering for an event to simply just going to watch different performances. This helps with artist exposure, in terms of seeing what’s out there (you may want to do that type of work one day/or work with that specific group of artists), and one’s own personal exposure that helps with networking. I’m also finding out about how small of a community the East Village Dance community is, something that has it’s pros and cons. It’s beneficial since artists entering into the scene have the opportunity to find their niche, which additionally has a larger community to back it up. Moreover, its smallness is a detriment partly because of the limited funds in dance, something that fuels an underlying competitive spirit amongst this community. Nonetheless, the pros and cons assists in generating creative energy that can/is amassed to make beautiful, thought-provoking, and complex work.
Furthermore, the other interns and I may be starting an informal book club to start to read dance related texts and movies. This is something I have been doing on my own throughout the summer. As of right now, I am reading The Black Dancing Body, by Brenda Dixon Gottschild. She is both a scholar and dancer who actually came to Dickinson in 2009 to give a lecture for the Clarke Forum. The following is a link to more background on Brenda and the actual video recording of the lecture, http://clarke.dickinson.edu/brenda-dixon-gottschild/.
I’m truly looking forward to the my next few weeks, I can’t emphasize enough how much I am learning about dance. Its multifaceted nature, being a tool of artistic expression, social justice, and an academic focus, unfolds before me every time I go to work or participate in a MR event.
Artists whose classes I’ve taken at MR!
Karl Anderson (I’m falling in love with his work!)
This past week at Movement Research has been the most calm out of my short time here. I had the opportunity to get more acquainted with the office and performed some data entry for information regarding keeping records of those who attended the Gala and festival. It was an easy and short week. Moreover, I was able to gain some valuable insight into what it was like to be a working artist in New York. I did this by interviewing Movement Research’s Managing Director, Rebecca Wender. I admit that the idea of one day working as a dancer is intimidating, but working at MR has showed me that it doesn’t have to be, as long as one is willing to put themselves out there, network, and also realize the importance of garnering administrative skills.
The US economy is not particularly favorable to the arts, as we have frequently observed, that when it’s time for budget cuts, those are the programs that tend to go first. Thus, any working artist, this is not limited to dancers need to know and understand their sources for stable income. The notion that artists aspire to live by the “company model”, or train and audition with hopes of landing a permanent position at a company one day, is no longer feasible. Artist need to know how to create their own infrastructure and essentially become their own agents. They must learn how to budget, write, and how to speak about themselves and their work. This obviously is not an easy endeavor, it takes a great deal of time and effort to garner these skills. Furthermore, something that has stuck out to me more and more is the importance of networking…everywhere. Maybe not everywhere, but if one aspires to be a working artist, it’s a smart idea to get to know the people you are taking classes, the organization that’s offering the classes, and most importantly the teacher. I’m observing that many artists do not have a permanent space or company where they are able to rehearse in and teach classes. Most independent artists are frequently on their toes with finding and proposing their potential class ideas to different organizations that will provide them with a space to teach, a somewhat guaranteed student attendance, and income.
Being an artist in New York comes with a tricky web of challenges that one has to maneuver with ease, but as long as one has their passion backing their endeavors, jumping through different hoops to be able to have the means (financial, structural) to foster your creativity is more than rewarding.
P.S. I still owe updates on my classes with Nia Love, Barbara Mahler (Klein Technique), Miguel Gutierrez, and Karl Anderson (Skinner Technique)! They will be coming soon.
As I promised, here’s a more detailed account of my experience at the MR Spring Festival 2012 this past Friday and Saturday. My main duty during these two days was to greet and direct people at the door, help to set up the open bar, and tape record a lecture. Work-wise, my week wasn’t too strenuous, thus giving me time to observe and enjoy some of the festivities.
On Friday after waiting by the door to greet guests and a few late comers, I was able to go to the scheduled Let’s Talk About Sex event. Those on the roster consisted of choreographers, erotica writers, and performance artists who were addressing “doin’ it in the 21st Century”. It was a rather informal, welcoming, and all-embracing setting. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see all of the speakers/performers, but I did see a good amount. It probably wouldn’t be appropriate for me to go into detail about some of things I witnessed or heard during this, but I will say that it was an enjoyable and valuable experience. All of the performers, as would be expected, drew from their own personal experiences with sex, but approached presenting their experiences and insight in different manners. Some focused in on specific periods in their lives and others gave a condensed outline of their sexual histories. Some were more nonchalant than others by simply getting up on stage and reciting pre-written and often humorous anecdotes of mundane sexual experiences or insights. Others took a more performative approach, not speaking at all, but instead using props and movements to convey a message. It was interesting to observe how the serious tones of some of the performances contrasted greatly to the casual stories of others. Moreover, a theme that reoccurred often was methods used for practicing safe-sex (condom usage, “safe words”, etc.) There was no hint of promoting abstinence during this event, nor was there a sense of feeling awkward, it was simply a group of people coming together to talk about a practice that is so present and prevalent in our everyday lives. Nonetheless, the audience, including myself, received it all quite well. A display of the audience’s positive reception could be seen by dollar bills being periodically thrown onstage for the presentations they particularly liked.
Afterwards, there was a performance event including dance artists Anna Azrieli, Neal Beasley, Jesske Hume and Justin Cabrillos. Unfortunately, since I was back and forth switching shifts with other interns to sit by the door to greet, I didn’t get to see and take in all of the performances. However, I surmised from laughter and shouting from the crowd and loud moments of applause, that it was going well. We eventually ended up with a full house 🙂
One performance I did get to see entirely was Justin Cabrillos’ Troupe, which was inspired by the “relationship between the American showman P.T. Barnum and a host of animals and people he put on display…” (Artist Statement, MR Spring Festival 2012). His piece was interdisciplinary in the sense that he incorporated dance, text, and sound. It was extremely rich and complicated piece. It’s one of those pieces, at least for me, that I don’t want to cast aside immediately because I don’t initially understand it. I need to watch it multiple times. Troupe, along with many other modern/pre-modern/performance art pieces aren’t the usual 1:30-2:00 minute snippets one sees on So you think you can dance? or America’s Best Dance Crew. They are frequently complex in the way they approach one or multiple themes, frequently using metaphor, juxtaposition, and other methods to create meaning and facilitate inquiry for both the performer and spectator within a space. I invite readers of this blog to watch his piece. It’s not integral that you like it, but I do feel that it is useful to acknowledge that the artist is using their expansive imagination to convey something that was well thought out and constructed for viewers to contemplate.
(Artist Statement: Troupe explores the relationship between the American showman P.T. Barnum and a host of animals and people he put on display including Jumbo the elephant, the Feejee Mermaid, and the “Swedish Nightingale.” The movement, voice, and text integrate selections of his autobiography and the language of disciplinary techniques for children. Inspired by Barnum’s own mingling in different performance forms. This interdisciplinary solo brings together elements of the forms he popularized.)
Furthermore, on Saturday I again was helping with greeting/directing at the door, but I also had the opportunity to tape record an event that will be showcased on an upcoming MR podcast. The event, a long term studies project initiated by the Bureau for the Future of Choreography, set out to question “what is contemporary dance and where does it come from and where is it going?” One of the first approaches the Bureau is taking to examine these questions is by drawing from a project conducted by Alfred Barr, first director of MoMA, and his creation of a flowchart for Modernism. What he came up with was a prime catalyst to begin a much needed discussion about the subject. Thus, the Bureau, taking inspiration from Barr, proposed to participants attending the festival to create a flowchart mapping their perception of the last 50 years of Contemporary dance. Attendees could choose to construct an individual flow chart from blank sheets of paper provided or could participate in a collective creation of a time line. This was helped by MR staff laying out large pieces of white paper labeled with dates reaching back to the 1900s and markers on tables that snaked throughout a designated room. Attendees had the liberty to use text or drawings to subjectively display what they felt characterized a certain era of dance. I observed that for the most part what people wrote for certain eras related to each other, but were at times disconnected. This obviously speaks to the impossibility of ever characterizing any type of era of any art form into a neat category. There may be times when certain aspects or characteristics can be universally agreed upon, but the nuances of human perception and participation ultimately complicates this.
Afterwards were informal lectures dedicated to bringing more of a scholarly voice to this discussion. There was a lot of theory involved. I admit, up until about 2 years ago, I would’ve never considered there being a theoretical study attached to dance, but there is, and it’s alive, thriving, and extremely dense. Being that I have barely scratched the surface of dance theory in my classes at Dickinson, something I plan to change next semester, a lot of what the speakers were saying completely flew over my head. However, I was able to jot down a few things I would like to explore on my own time this summer to ease my way into studying dance theory.
These past 3 weeks at Movement Research has introduced me to so much regarding New York and Lower East Side dance culture and community. I’ve started to read some back issues of MR’s Performance Journal, since one of my learning goals for this internship is to become familiar with their Journal from development of theme to final production and distribution. Aside from getting to know the overall layout, I’m also gaining insight into various choreographers’ approach to choreographic research. It’s been helpful to see where some artists overlap in their philosophies and approaches to dance and choreography and to also identify some of their unique attributes. Next week, I will finally start on my formal office training and continue to take more dance classes. Check back for updates on my classes from this past week with Nia Love and Barbara Mahler.
I am almost done with my third week at MR, I’m practically at the halfway point! I feel like I’ve done and experienced so much in such a short time. Thus far, I haven’t had much to do in the office. Monday was dedicated to preparing the event space for MR’s Spring Festival, which started this Tuesday. The event is taking place at The Center at West Park. It is an urban, shared-space facility in which is committed to, “social justice, community building and service, creativity, skill building across the life-cycle and interacting with our neighbors, both local and global.” It is a wonderful space well into its beginning stages. For me, the space and its purpose is quite similar to Judson Church, another space which is noted for facilitating events curated by all types of artists and activists. It has also served as a housing space for individuals who are currently participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
So, Monday was dedicated to preparing this space for a ton of events. There was a great deal of sweeping, moping, vacuuming, and tech set-up. I finally got the chance to meet some of my fellow interns during this time, seems like they were hiding from me :). Two of them have been interning for quite a long time since MR also offers fall and spring internship positions, and another just started not too long ago. It was a tiring, hot day, but seeing the transformation by the end was rewarding. The space is set-up in a way in which multiple events can take place in multiple rooms. There is a room dedicated to an exhibition of artists’ creative notebooks, a space dedicated to lectures/presentations, one for a bar/socializing and other activities, and a performance space. Unfortunately, I have only gotten a glimpse of the notebook exhibition, which I will write more about in detail at a later post. Tomorrow and Saturday I will be helping with set-up, registration, and wherever else I am needed. Some of the events for these days will include a panel discussion titled, “Let’s Talk about Sex!” another called, “What is Contemporary Dance & Where is it Going?” and dance performances. I will write in more detail about them after Saturday.
Lastly, I’ve gotten to take two more classes this week and I’ll be taking a third tomorrow morning. I took another Nia Love class, and will be taking the last one in her class series tomorrow, and a Klein Technique class. The classes, I feel, compared to each other are like black and white. There is some overlap when it comes to again focusing and maintaining steady and deep breath, but the approaches are totally different, something that I found fascinating. Again, I will elaborate more in the next coming days because I have so much to talk about, so I will break it into a few posts with some more videos hopefully 🙂