I am tremendously proud and inspired by the commitment that our students have shown to this year’s challenging task for "Fall Dance Festival."
This year, to align with the School's site-specific season, we decided to make Fall Dance Festival similarly space-driven, so the assignment to our students required them to think differently in terms of building their work in new environments in and around the Creative Movement Studio. All performances were sold-out and we have heard nothing but positive feedback from audience members who were excited and intrigued by this new format. Congratulations to our students for a successful show!
Guest artist: Eddie Martinez
I planned our guest artist's residency specifically for it to coincide with the weeks leading up to Fall Dance Festival, as I knew that Eddie Martinez, a performer with Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal in Germany, could help coach our students in to and help them achieve clear intentionality in their choreography. He sat down with each student individually to give them feedback and to examine work critically and to de-construct the work objectively.
In addition to teaching several movement classes for us during the two weeks that he was here, Eddie contributed to theatre classes as well, including to a new course that Professors Rachel Hirshorn, Dean Nolen and myself have created: "Graduate Movement for the Actor." Eddie was a perfect fit for this course's objectives: to help the students develop a sensory awareness - physical, energetic, kinesthetic - of the body in space, while continuing exploration of vocal and physical facility and to introduce and employ movement-rooted methodologies for purposes of character development and storytelling. Eddie, who worked in Dance Theater with German choreographer Pina Bausch, was proficient in helping the students find different ways to access authentic movement imagery in themselves.
"Graduate Movement for the Actor" has provided Rachel, Dean and myself with an opportunity to collaborate and to model a collaborative spirit to our students. It has been interesting to see how each one of us brings such different perspectives to the work and I believe that tapestry of observations and feedback is beneficial to the students.
The most exciting aspect of the class has been grad students' growth and positive reactions to the course and its team-taught aspects. And I've truly enjoyed watching my colleagues' work and commitment to the course/students. It's inspiring to see talent from the perspective of the student begin to take shape with guidance from instructors...but I would be dishonest not to state how much I've learned myself as a teacher and colleague.
"Graduate Movement for the Actor" is now a required course among our MFA P&P students. To that end, I cannot imagine a better way to "launch" this course into the curriculum than to celebrate a potpourri of experience and movement methodologies among the three of us! We have combined physical conditioning, impulse-driven and specific physical gesture, dance, imagery, and partnering (with others, music, space, etc) within this semester-long exploration into the versatility and care of the body for the purposes of storytelling. Each week, we have been building upon previous concepts and in-class performances with a spirit of "yes, and," not only within our instructor "trifecta," but also within the students themselves and their courage. I am simply grateful to be learning so much alongside everyone this semester.
Besides this course we also introduced two new courses in dance to the curriculum: "Introduction to Dance Technique" and "First Year Seminar."
Professor Kyla Olson proposed and built the syllabus for "Introduction to Dance Technique." In her own words:
I proposed this course for a number of reasons - to assist incoming students in both the Dance and Musical Theatre tracks to learn a stronger basic foundation of ballet, contemporary, and jazz dance technique to assist them as they progressed into higher levels of technique; to offer an elective dance credit for non-majors looking to continue or learn more about basic dance technique; and for students to explore basic movement fundamentals in all three genres. In my class, I have a wide variety of majors, from dance, musical theatre, and theatre to music, science, and mechanical engineering. It is rewarding to see this wide range of students learn from one another. I've worked to create a safe environment for students to explore moving in new ways without feeling self-conscious or judged. I hope this course gives them confidence both in dance class and in life, whether it's taking more dance technique courses, feeling more comfortable on a dance floor, attending more performing arts concerts, or feeling stronger core or flexibility in lower body. I have enjoyed teaching this course, and hope to have it permanently added to our curriculum in the future.
Professors Ali Duffy and Tanya Calamoneri, who proposed the "First Year Seminar" course, share some of their thoughts on shaping and team teaching this course together.
We have learned the "First Year Seminar" course offers students a much needed overview of general themes to be encountered during their years in the Dance program, including introductions to critical inquiry, aesthetics, analytical writing, dance studies research, choreographic and improvisational practices, dance history, and administration. We also continued to define and discuss our particular program's expectations of students and the particularities of the culture of this School of Theatre and Dance as it applies to their active engagement as students in it. We have learned much about how our students perceive dance upon entering college and this has helped us to start thinking already about how we can improve the course for them the next time it is offered. Also, we feel the course may be better offered in the spring semester of a student's first year after he or she has taken dance history and has a general sense of the impactful people and organizations in the field and the lineage from which current trends and ideas emerge.
Through this course we have been able to introduce students to all of the dance faculty in meaningful ways (learning about their creative work and career trajectories especially). We have also made important connections with TTU faculty at the Writing Center and Library, which should serve to build a strong foundation for their academic careers.
Thank you to both students and faculty for your contributions to making this an exciting semester!