Dance Film, The Beginnings

I’m about four weeks into my Dance Film course and I thought I’d share my progress so far.
Assignment 1 was to capture 22 shots from certain angles of a dancer doing two different moves (very short moves), and then to simply compose a film. Here is the first film…

The critiques for this film included that it was 1. Too much like a music video and that the music overpowered the movement, and 2. The same clips were used too often (Although in defense my clips were less than one second each so creating a 1 minute piece proved difficult)— So, I decided to be daring. I used the extra footage I had shot to create a “video portrait” of Callie, my dancer, and decided to take a completely different route in this next video. Watch it…

When you don’t have downtime, you make downtime

I am currently skipping my Love in Literature class, and I am condoning it 100 percent. Yesterday I should have done about 100 pages of reading, quotations and analyzations of that reading, and a separate small reflection paper for a dance composition class…. But I didn’t. I painted. I didn’t have work this weekend and thought to myself “hey chica, you have done anything for yourself in a while. What do you WANT to do with your free time?” — I wanted to finish this painting that has been staring me down since I began it this summer, so I did. Enjoy. Remember to create time for yourself and that school, work, and the small stresses of life shouldn’t dictate your entire being.

Contemporary Special Topics- Journaling Thoughts

What goes into choreography? Time, Energy, Risk…and Frame

How should I specifically choreograph? I have no clue.

I continually struggle in my rehearsal with Tadas for our Winter Concert duet on what the hell the do next or how to begin choreographing. As Burrows says “we usually don’t know what we are doing”. I’ve only ever choreographed to music; that is what I was raised on and that is what has become inherent to my artistic ability. So I try to implement Burrows and Miller suggestions:

1. We are starting to work with a non-concrete idea of “shadows” to spark movement. It came from improvisational partner work where we both began seeing this same idea. It doesn’t need to be clearly conveyed to the audience that “this is a dance about shadows,” as long as they see the passion in the idea. We are going to keep pulling from that and let it be a through line. At least for now… (A favorite quote from Burrows regarding this idea is that an idea is “like a rock at the top of a waterfall that gives shape to the fall” (28).

2. Working as a part of the piece you are choreographing is hard. You can’t see what is being built in the space because you are the building. I need an outside eye. I need to film every rehearsal (which will be helpful anyway since I want to create a film with this dance for next semester).

3. Working with music. I am caught between the idea that I want music that I have specifically created for the piece and the idea that I want to create movement specifically for a piece of music and then perform the dance with out music so that only the silent musicality is left. Burrows suggests that music in a performance can be over powering if the dancers do not emit an equal or greater energy; I think Tadas and I are capable enough to emit such an energy. But the meaning of the dance will not be driven by the music; I simply want the music to offer a “rhythmic formal element” and energy into the space.

Choreography in Composition class:
1. My solo from study one transformed quite a bit. The main note that stuck with me from Bebe is that I have an innate movement quality and performance quality that focuses on the “sensibility of the moment”. Not a bad thing, yet I was challenged to explore the physical movement and how it transforms kinetically in space and time, not just the sensibility of it… I leave that for performance. My favorite aspect about this study was the second time I reworked it and reoriented it spatially to fit into the corner of studio 390, giving it a very concrete composition. The idea of a “contract” also struck me in this study as the beginning sets up this contract with the audience’s expectations of the piece. So I surprised everyone by not telling them I was starting my piece…I was walking as I do in the beginning and all of the sudden someone realized that I was already in my performance. I liked that a lot.

2. Working on a duet with Maddie Tiberi and Jada Green proves more difficult. How do I simply “CREATE” in this given time period with no certain direction when I’m tired from classes all day and just want to nap?… you just do. This is what we dancers live for. So I started working on them and hating everything I made. Then Bebe could tell I hated what I was making and I told her I needed a phrase of some sort to pull from. So I made a phrase. I like this “Top Down” way of working where I can take an idea, a piece of music, or a movement phrase and dissect it and pull from it to create more of the piece. I think I just figured out my mode of working. After the first showing my classmates pointed out my “timing cellophane” and that has been a key point in the reworking of this duet is playing with timing between my dancers.

Comparative Studies- Love, Literature, and Dance

Love in Literature- comparative studies 3603; finally an excuse to find time in my day to read. This class is interesting; the novels we read offer many different facets of love and it’s great to compare the novels and the ideas of my other class mates to my own understanding and experience in love. We have to give a presentation on analyzing love in another context other than literature. My partner Kevin and I decided to analyze a dance (obviously I kind of decided this, but Kevin was gung-ho). Many people underestimate the impact that the body, movement, and our kinesthetic physicality can have on our relationships, so by showing a dance about love, without telling them it is about love and muting the music that explicitly says “love”, we are able to show them that body language and movement is just as effective in portraying love as spoken or written text. We analyzed the piece Inevitable Poison choreographed by Ca’La Henderson. Below is the paper I wrote on this presentation….

Choreography and concept: Ca’La Henderson
Dancers: Madison Kessler, Tadas Varaneckas, Callie Lacinski
The Ohio State University- Barnett Theater

Love in Body Language
“By using evocative adjectives and verbs novelists strive to portray the physicality of love in their stories not only because it is seductive to the reader, but also because it is necessary in accurately depicting a love between characters. Since the physicality of love is so important in its recognition, we as humans can recognize love in the absence of spoken or written text based on both our inherent knowledge of what love is in the physical sense and the social cues we have learned throughout our lives.
Kevin and I decided to analyze the dance Inevitable Poison choreographed by Ca’la Henderson based on our ability to detect love through our instinctual physical reactions. This dance is figurative and clearly tells a story; the music choice, the dancers’ emotions, and, most importantly, the movement choices convey to us a love story. Kevin and I decided to disregard the music leaving the only context to be the three dancers’ movement and emotional output. We, as humans, can recognize love in body language and movement based on our instinctual reactions to love and being able to recognize that in other people. Certain movements that the dancers do mimic the guttural reactions one feels when hurt by the person they love; when looking longingly at Madison dancing with Tadas, Callie’s chest concaves and her shoulders slump as she lets her head hang. This is a very real movement that everyone can relate to when they feel hurt or betrayed in a relationship, and neither words nor text are needed for it to be understood.
Another reason we can so easily tell this dance is about love is that we have learned overtime that certain social cues means two people are in a loving relationship. There is a point in the dance where Tadas cradles Madison and joyously spins her around then proceeds to spin and dip her like a classic waltz dance. We know from romantic comedy movies, classic love novels, and watching people in everyday life that when people share a ballroom dance they are usually romantically involved. This situation is no different; without having to be told they are a couple dancing this amorous waltz we can simply see it and automatically register that this is a couple and they are in love. This small snippet of the dance also portrays the other side of a loving relationship, or the “barriers” as Joseph Campbell calls them. Callie and Tadas engage in a sort of fight scene where Callie goes to hit Tadas then desperately flings herself into his arms; a sure sign of emotional conflict. There are many instances in social media, reality dating shows and romantic comedy movies that we see women attack their lover in a rage of emotion then immediately begin sobbing from emotional conflict. In watching the dance, we know Callie and Tadas are not simply platonic because platonic relationships are not portrayed as volatilely in our social world.
Movement and body language are powerful in portraying love because they are indispensable in the act of creating and making love. It is our ability to recognize social cues in love and our instinctual knowledge of kinesthetic physicality in regards to love that makes it possible for us to read the story of this dance without the lyrics in the song or a written text describing the piece. ”

Every Little Thing- Travis Cooper Choreography

Now that I have my blog up and running again I wanted to post this video that I had the pleasure of being in this summer. Concept and choreography by my immensely talented and amazing friend Travis Cooper and filmed/edited by the wonderful Cody Kern, this video captures what it is like “to basically be on your knees begging someone to open their hearts and give their all to you.
the good, the bad, the ugly….
pushing you to feel as if you’re submerged underwater fighting for air – that is your relationship – every time you hit this wall.
giving up is an option, but you decide to fight.
though your heart is beaten down from the constant struggle, you fight.
though you feel that this time isn’t going to be any different than the last time, you still fight.
because you know that one day the universe will reward your persistence and belief in this relationship…one day.” -Travis Cooper

Dancers: Savannah Vawter, Roshunda Brown, Meredith Rodefer, Jade Barthelemy

How to be Original…

This topic of Originality/Creativity/etc has popped up a lot recently for me. A respectable choreographer/artist/dancer Emma Portner posted a Facebook status addressing the issue the same week I had a reading due for my Dance Composition in Special Topics class that, also, addressed the subject. It is the same tired question we, as artists, all rack our brains with… Is what I am creating original? Is this thing that is regurgitated out of our minds and onto our bodies born from my own creative perception, or am I entirely influenced by the work of other dancers of which I both watch and practice?

“We all like to see something fresh, not least the presenters who put the work on, but the problem is you can’t make a piece by trying to be original. If you make a piece by trying to be original, then the piece will only be about trying to be original… It helps to keep your eyes open, but to know also when to close them.”- A Choreographer’s Handbook by Jonathan Burrows

Hypothetically I wonder, what if we all stopped watching other people’s choreography? What if I stopped dancing other people’s choreography? Basically, what if I pull a choreographic Thoreau? Will I be able to find the patterns my body naturally creates without the subconscious guidelines of other works I have seen? Maybe…but we don’t live in a hypothetical world. Thoreau couldn’t even completely cut himself off from society, because dinner with his mother was JUST that important.

We, as creators and artists, cannot escape our media-driven world; we cannot shield our eyes from the work of other artists for fear of morphing to their artistic style. Maybe it’s like dessert; it’s good in moderation. Or maybe when you’re in a choreographic process you make a conscious effort to take time to explore you’re own body’s patterns and leave the viewings for another day. Maybe there is no such thing as originality since every idea must be sparked by some piece of inspiration that already exists.

I constantly question my choreography. Common phrases said when choreographing:
1. Nope, that is too predictable.
2. Nope, I always do that move.
3. Does that look good?
4. Ughh I give up…

Part of it is the aesthetic parameters engrained in my mind from 17 years of technical training, and the other part is youtube. Another part is whether or not my professors and friends will respect or like my creation. I can be really self-conscious, but what I always forget is the response I get after sharing my choreography or teaching a class combination…it’s always really good and satisfying. I, like many other young artists, psych myself out trying to be both original and a crowd pleaser, but in the end “it’s just a stupid dance.” (Burrows).

Working in ways

I’m working on a duet/solo collaboration with my friend Tadas for our upcoming winter concert and it’s nice to just have one person to work with so I can manipulate different ways of working and choreographing. Music will definitely be used but in what context? Our first rehearsal I had created some phrases while listening to a playlist with similar songs that had a driving beat, but nothing in particular. The next rehearsal we worked partnering a bit again just with ambient driving music in the stereo. This upcoming rehearsal I want to actually have set choreography to a specific piece of music that I teach him but then we try to other music… Or maybe in silent creating out own music…. It’s all a process just working in different ways to find what works best.


The Final Countdown

Thursday May 29:

Short and sweet: we had a final lunch downtown today with our moms and some sweet words were spoken by our program coordinator Clara from ACBEU and our student representative Mike (unbeknownst to him until we all just voted him to speak). After we returned home Sam and I finished packing and just sat on the balcony looking at the Atlantic and counting down the hours till we had to leave that night.


We were suppose to get picked up by our bus at 10 to take us to the airport but Ludmilla wasn’t there to say goodbye because she was at the hospital with a friend who was in labor… so of course Sam and I make the bus go and pick up all the other students while we wait for Ludmilla so we can say goodbye! Brazilian family love is strong. We stay in touch now via WhatsApp and she is keeping us up to date on all things World Cup.

This experience has had its ups and its downs but it has been a wonderful non-the-less. The main reason I wanted to come to Brazil was for its tropical culture and all of the lightheartedness and freedom that comes with it. I’ve traveled to Europe a few times but wanted to experience a different part of the world and find those similarities and differences that we all share as humans. I’ll definitely return. I thank all of the new friends I made and all of the Brazilians who made my stay interesting and completely worth my while. Muito Obrigado.


**Random Pictures…

They don’t use dryers: it’s a line dry kind of world in Brazil


Enjoying a night out in Salvador

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One Last Hoorahhhhh

Wednesday May 28:

Sam and I woke up early to go lay by the beach this morning. It ‘s about a 20 minute walk from Ana’s house so it wasn’t too bad although it was so humid I looked like I had already gone swimming by the time we got to the beach. Porto de Baha was one of the best beaches in Salvador. The water was fantastic, the sea floor wasn’t rocky, there were fishing boats maybe 20 feet from where you were swimming, people surfing by the rocks, and men playing soccer on the beach.

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After lunch Sam and I went to ACBEU for our last discussion with Dr.Costigan where we submitted our small essays and review questions from the textbook and reflected on our entire trip. After class a few of us went to get icecream and then we went home to pack. Early in the night Ana and Ludmilla took Sam and I to a nearby farmers market and we got some Brazilian coffee and cinnamon (because that is how Ana makes her amazing coffee) and try some candied/dried fruit. They then took us to try Acaraje. Basically fried black eyed pea and shrimp patties that are THE MOST DELICIOUS THING EVER. Chase ‘em with a Brahma beer and you are full blown Brazilian. Oh…our friend Oslon also ombre my hair tonight in the back hallway of their house.


So…our last night in Salvador and I haven’t really gone out since before I was sick. We were planning on going to this dance club called Twist (which I thought my sister Ludmilla was pronouncing Tweesh so you can imagine the confusion) but it was at maximum capacity. We ended up going to a small dance bar right next door because we got discounts at the door for being cute blonde American girls. This was an amazing night; we shut the club down. Many of the other people were men and women in their 30s and 40s but we didn’t care we just danced the night away, and there was this awesome samba group playing that had us dancing until 2 in the morning. The scene was so cool and I wish I could go back every Friday night. Sam and I simply went home and went to bed after wards but some of our friends decided to go to a beach and swim where all of their clothes, phones, and cards were stolen and they got a pity cab ride home soaking wet and naked…great story for them and I was glad I wasn’t alone in the stolen goods department. I have to say after tonight we achieved complete cultural immersion.