Bodies, Vision, Rules I don’t Understand: Beginning Stages of Research

As a female-bodied and female-identifying person, I have a specific life experience. Our society operates under a hegemonic system of patriarchy: cis-gendered, white men hold and maintain power. Patriarchy suggests confinement for the female body. When female bodies push patriarchy’s boundaries, they are perceived as grotesque and unruly. Patriarchy traps performing women in a prison of cultural perception; patriarchy situates the female body behind the male gaze and insists that this gaze is a manifestation of power. Living through my body in this context causes me to experience contradicting feelings of subjectivity, objectivity, power, shame, fear, agency, and limitation. I wonder how my body (and the way in which it is perceived through a patriarchal lens) affects my experience. I seek to explore the body’s potential to shift the way we perceive bodies. I want to break through the cultural limitations that attempt to hold my body in its “place”; I want to create a space that exists in the context of patriarchal reality and challenges and transcends patriarchy’s mythical, yet consequential rules. I intend to expose the layers of signification surrounding bodies while destroying the constructed lens through which humans have been taught to see. I want to explore how to create a locus for new norms, new positions of power, and new ways of seeing the human body, specifically the female body, through dance and research. These are the grounds for a solo I will create next fall, for my senior project.

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Revel In 2

Revel In 2 started out (in May, 2015) as a process/exploration of power on stage, and how bodies inherently mean on stage.  As the process unfolded over the course of this year, my questions/interests led more towards how movement can expose sameness and difference, especially with two dancing bodies that our gendered culture claims are the two opposites of a binary (man/woman).  I attempted to strip the bodies of cultural associations, connotations, and assumptions.  As Edith Piaf dramatically sings about the power of “La Foule,” or “The Crowd,” as a force that brings two people together and separates them apart, I wonder how movement, breath, effort, exhaustion, costume, and pathway can bring two people together and separate them apart, physically in space, and conceptually in the eyes/minds of the viewer.  I was so lucky to have two of my best friends and inspirations be my dancers for this piece.  Thank you to Maddie Leonard-Rose, and Tim Bendernagel.  Also thank you to one of my other best friends and inspirations, Claire Moore, who served as our dramaturge throughout the process.

Revel in 2 premiered in the informal showing at ACDA, and was also produced in OSU’s Spring Concert this April.

Here are some photos from the piece, and the process:

Maker, Doer, Viewer

I am currently exploring power relations between bodies on stage and viewers and witnesses. How does power manifest on stage within the body? What are the dynamics of power between those who are seen, and those who see?

At the heart of the discourse of burlesque in the United States, (another area of study for me right now), lies the debate over whether burlesque is an outlet for female bodily ownership and sexual license, or a channel for objectification. Central to this debate is the idea of power on stage; what does it mean to have power on stage, especially for female bodies in the early 20th century? We must take into account the relationship between the performer’s agency and spectatorship. In his book, Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture, Robert Allen draws an important distinction in the representation of people on stage: He explains how when a play-write writes a script for a person on stage, the written words control the person, whereas when people, specifically women appear in “spectacle pieces…their bodies, not someone else’s words, bore the burden of signification” (81). This “burden” that Allen mentions represents a vulnerability that comes with being a body, especially a female body, presented as something to be looked at by an audience. The spectacle, (in this case the female body), is inherently subject to audience perception.

Although bodies on stage have the power to represent themselves in many different ways, and to challenge the normative representations of their bodies in a social sphere, the perception and scrutiny of these representations exist as long as spectators are present. Robert Allen articulates the idea that spectators, depending on the social climate, can inherently have the power to uphold and/or create social ideologies based on what they see. In the context of early American Burlesque, the primarily male audience’s perceptions and judgments of a new, “progressive” representation of female bodies and female sexuality shaped the way that society conceptualized these women. Thus, the power of a body on stage lies in the performer’s ability to transcend the reality of perception and judgment, and their ability to represent themselves how they so please and insight change in a social climate.

In my current process, I am exploring these ideas with my two other dancers, Maddie Leonard-Rose, and Tim Bendernagel, and also with myself.  In rehearsals lately, I have been playing with a score that we call the Maker, Doer, Viewer score.  The dancer improvises keeping in mind a set of prompts/questions regarding agency as the moving body, spectatorship, and therefore power dynamics between dancing body and viewer.

Here is a sample recording from a recent solo rehearsal…


Works Cited:

Allen, Robert C. Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1991. Print.

Seven rehearsals later…

After seven rehearsals, we have a full rough draft of a piece…

We are exploring ideas and themes regarding power and relationships: When does one have power and when does one lack power? How do different states/positions of power and control interact? How does a relationship on stage shift when movement qualities change?  When the music changes?  When lyrics are blatant, but disconnected to the actual movement?  When spacial pathways diverge or come together?  How do Maddie’s and Tim’s bodies mean on stage- individually, and as a duet?  (This question-the question of how bodies mean on stage- was posed to me last semester by my professor for HTL II, Dr. Kosstrin.  The phrasing of this question originates from Susan Foster’s scholarship.  Bodies inherently have and show meaning, in their natural states, on stage.  When visible dimensions of identity, (race, gender expression, size, age, ability, apparent relationships etc.), are put on stage, messages, ideas, and questions will automatically pop into viewers’ brains, creating and suggesting meaning. In my opinion, because of this, it is a crucial question to acknowledge when watching, talking about, and creating dance, and I thank Dr. Kosstrin for bringing the question to my attention.)

Anyway- these are the questions that have been circulating in my brain as I’ve been creating this piece.

Very excited for next fall, to continue working….

Embarking on a new project…

Yesterday, in studio 250, with the beautiful dancers (and two of my best friends in the world), Maddie Leonard-Rose and Tim Bendernagel, I started creating my second piece of choreography, that I hope to premier next year in one of OSU’s concerts.

I am so excited to be creating again…I really missed it.

Below are some pictures of yesterday’s rehearsal process. More words and images to come soon..

Modes of Social Commentary: How Pina Bausch Rejects Gender Socialization

Here is some writing I did for my final research paper for History/Theory/Literature II, a course taught by the incredible Dr. Hannah Kosstrin.  For our final, Dr. Kosstrin allowed us to write about whatever we pleased; I wrote about Pina Bausch and gender, two topics that I am deeply interested in right now…

Modes of Social Commentary: How Pina Bausch Rejects Gender Socialization

            Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, as the second wave of feminism spread through the United States and Europe, Pina Bausch explored gender politics through her choreography and use of her dancers’ bodies. With her company, Tanztheater Wuppertal, full of strong female and male-bodied dancers, Bausch portrays socially political ideas and images. Her work includes highly gendered costuming, juxtaposition of violence and equality between the sexes, exploration of social roles, repetition, teaching, learning, and failing. However, certain critics take issue with Bausch’s illustrations of society’s problems; Marcia B. Siegel argues: “It’s not that I want to be shielded from the meanness Bausch says is in the world. It’s that by putting it where it comes forth magnified, glorified, and officially promoted, she elevates it” (Siegel 112). I reject this notion; I believe that social commentary comes in all forms, including the form of exhibiting the very issue one seeks to critique. Through portraying social and cultural norms and codes, while simultaneously using specific choreographic devices to create contrasting images and ideas, Bausch critiques gender socialization, and the separation of the sexes. Continue reading

The Meeting of Two Solos

Last semester, in Susan Hadley’s composition class, we all created individual solo studies using skills we had worked on throughout the semester.  After the final showing of these solos, Charlotte Stickles (my roommate/soul sister/pier) and I wanted to see what would happen if we put our two, very different studies together in the space at the same time.  We tried it right after class.  We danced the studies, not changing any choreography, but simply being aware of the other body sharing the space.  We showed some people, received feedback along the lints of: the two solos were beautiful, but what were they doing together?  People pointed out that there was no clear relationship, and to make it a duet, we should explore the relationship further.  I fully respect this notion.  But in talking with Charlotte, we decided that there should be another word for the term “duet.”  “Duet” means two bodies.  But why do the two bodies need to “relate” to the standard conventions of “relationship”?  Do two bodies need to acknowledge each other when they dance in the same space?  Does “relating” refer to unison, clear action-reaction moments, physical contact, or eye contact?  Can relating simply come from sharing space and co-existing?  These questions ruminated in our heads….


We decided to not change a thing and continue rehearsing the “duet.”  One day in rehearsal, we danced it to “Wednesday Morning” by Simon and Garfunkel.  It felt oddly right.  The driving melody of the guitar with the harmony of the two voices seemed to ride with the energy and trajectories of our two solos.  The music became another element in this conjoining of different ideas.


We performed the “duet” at the NACHMO showing at Feverhead, last night (Feb 27th, 2015).  The space was small, which cut off some spacial pathways, but the small spaced forced the two solos to exist in an even closer proximity with each other, which was interesting in terms of our concept.  We intend to continue with this idea….more to come….

Below are some pictures of a rehearsal of the “duet,” or as we now refer to it, the meeting of to solos.

The light was beautiful that day.  We felt very happy to share the space together.

Video to come…


Analyzing Dance Downtown: How Choreographic Approaches Influenced Me as a Maker

In addition to showcasing the incredible variety that our department of dance has, the four pieces in this years Dance Downtown: Solace and Mirth explored many interesting and impactful choreographic approaches. As I watched the pieces, I paid more attention to whether or not the choreography succeeded in making me feel or think in a certain way, rather then whether I liked the piece or not. I connected what I saw in Pange Lingua, The Steadfast Tinder Soldier, The New Lucy, and Name of the Game to my experience as a maker this semester, and I plan to use the inspiration for the rest of my life as a dance artist. Continue reading

Gallery Dance

On Thursday, August 14th, 2014, SprezzaturaNY, (three young men from NYC), curated an art show/happening called 222Blue at The Blue Building on 46th and 3rd in Manhattan. The show consisted of many young artists from all around New York, with pieces ranging from paintings, to sculptures, to photographs, to video installations, to live music, and to dance. I am so excited to say that Claire Moore and I were the dancers in this show, and I will share a little bit about it now…

I heard about this art show because I was in my friend Michael’s video for his installation, and he told me to contact the curators to maybe talk about doing some sort of my own dancing for the grand opening. I got in contact with the curators and ended up briefly meeting with one of them to talk about my ideas that I had already discussed with Claire. Sebastion, one of the curators said it sounded great, and that we could come rehearse in the space whenever we wanted to prepare for the grand opening.

Our idea was to play with a concept that we have played with a lot in school at OSU: How do we affect a space with our bodies, and how do we use inspiration from a space to inspire movement in our bodies? In school, we usually use the studio that we are in; the shapes of the windows, the architecture of the ceiling, the reflections in the mirror, etc. But Claire and I decided to physically create a space on the floor (using duct tape) and use those created boundaries as our guide. This process creates questions like: What does it mean to be boxed in? What does it mean to have borders? What does it mean to have boundaries? What does it mean to step outside of the boundaries, or even to accidentally fall outside of boundaries? What does it mean to change the boundaries? What does it mean to have a huge amount of people standing right outside of the boundaries? What is the difference between the bodies outside the boundaries (the viewers), and the bodies inside the boundaries (the movers)? What is the significance or borders and boundaries anyway?

These questions inspired movement. Two and a half hours of movement (with short breaks when we thought we were going to pass out of heat stroke due to lack of air conditioning in the gallery space). It was an absolutely incredible experience. I have never felt so inspired while improvising. I felt liberated, while also having a mission; to decipher these questions with my dancing.

It was exhilarating to move like this in such close proximity to so many people watching. People seemed to really respond to the concept of being so close to dancing bodies. Usually, people go see dance on a stage. This creates pressure to understand, and emotionally respond to what is being presented to you. But in a gallery setting, the movement can be treated like a painting. It’s right there for the viewer to see, and react to, but there is no pressure to stay in one’s seat and understand the “message.” None of that at all. I truly believe that this lack of “intellectual pressure” made viewers even more fascinated with what they were seeing. Although I was dancing and not able to pay too much attention to those watching me, I did notice many people that would just stand there and watch for a very long time before moving on to look at the other art. They seemed truly intrigued. It made me feel so SO good to see people seem interested in what was going on.

I am beyond excited for the rest of my life with dance. I can’t wait for the countless other experiences to come…

Here are some photos from 222Blue: