Dance Brazil- two weeks as a touring dance company in Salvador, Brazil

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This past March, I traveled along with twelve other OSU dance majors to Salvador, Brazil to embark on a fifteen-day dance tour. The Dance Brazil Study Tour was an exhilarating study abroad experience where we performed on tour all over Bahia, Brazil, learning about culture, professionalism, and art.

Before heading to Brazil, our touring company spent two semesters learning ten pieces of repertoire that represented uniquely American Dance, particularly dance with strong African roots. The pieces I was in were Janet Schroeder’s step dance piece O2B REVISITED, Maxi Riley’s jazz piece Hit the Road, Lexi Stillianos’ contemporary piece The Tie That Binds, Mason Chapello’s tap piece Get Mad, Relax, and Crystal Michelle Perkins’ Dayton Contemporary Dance Company reset of The Amen Corner.

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Once in Brazil, we toured our show in high schools, music academies, community centers, city centers, preschools, elementary schools, universities, and dance studios. Everyone was so grateful and supportive of our dancing. It was amazing to exchange art with these amazing people. It felt so rewarding and thrilling to be performing miles away from home for such appreciative, supportive people.

 

 

 

 

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In Brazil we also had the chance to explore the country and meet wonderful people. We had our wonderful director Daniel Roberts and three amazing Brazilian leaders, Clara, Simone, and Aercio, and who

guided us around the country and showed us so much love and kindness. We explored mountains, a beautiful cave, Candomble temples, cultural centers, and historic Salvador. We also took classes from a variety of Brazilian dance masters versed in Afro-Brazilian dance, Capoeira, and samba.

 

 

 

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On this trip, I learned that I could make meaningful relationships with people that I didn’t share any language with. I found that dancing for children delighted them and made them feel excited about art and culture. I found an appreciation for the beautiful Afro-Brazilian culture and the many aspects of music, dance, religion, and history that it combines. I learned to work cooperatively with a group and dance in a variety of new and tricky circumstances. Lastly, I learned a lot about myself, my values, and what I hope for my future. I’m very thankful to the Ohio State Dance Department, Daniel Roberts, STEP at OSU, and my fellow dancers for this incredible opportunity.

To get a sneak peek of our trip, check out this video created by Mason Chapello!

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Analyzing Non-Dance Movement: The Frisbee Game

For dance analysis class we researched looking at non-dance movement through a dance lens, utilizing Laban Movement Analysis. For this particular project, I watched two boys playing a game of Frisbee on campus. I wrote down what the boys did and then pulled the movement apart to identify the different movement pieces of it.

My observation was as follows. Two college-aged boys play a game of Frisbee, standing about 20 feet apart and facing each other. One boy (Person A) assuredly stands with his hands placed on his hips, shifting his weight back and forth between his legs, patiently waiting for the boy on the other side of the lawn (Person B) to throw the Frisbee. Person B vigorously twists his torso to the left, grasping the Frisbee in his hand and swiftly glides the Frisbee in an arc-like motion from his left hip and across straight forward to Person A. The Frisbee soars in the open space between the two boys and Person A extends his left hand high into the air to catch the Frisbee, letting the momentum of the throw swing his hand behind his back. He then lightly holds the Frisbee and swiftly shifts his torso to the right, crossing his right leg behind himself. As he does this, he curves his upper body forward and whips his left hand from the right side of his body across to the left. Person B then runs horizontally to catch the Frisbee, both his arms extended into the sky, reaching towards the Frisbee. He does not quite reach it, so he slowly bends his torso and knees towards the ground to pick it up. He then snaps the Frisbee with his right arm turned over, spiraling his torso to the right side and flicking his wrist. In order to catch the Frisbee, Person A wildly runs backwards with his weight falling back and his right hand extended over his head. He leaps quickly to catch the Frisbee and curls both the Frisbee and his arm in towards his body. Person A nonchalantly walks in a circle around himself, bringing his right arm up over his head as he does so. He then suddenly twitches the Frisbee towards Person B in a very direct path. The Frisbee lands at Person B’s feet, as he lowers his upper body to the ground, letting his left leg rise effortlessly to counter balance himself. He stands up and freely moves his arms into a “what” gesture towards Person A, with his elbows bent in towards the ground.

In terms of body attitude, I recognized that the boys playing Frisbee used multiple body attitudes, twisting their torsos in different directions when reaching to catch the Frisbee and when creating momentum to throw it. The boys tended to initiate their movements in a proximal way, often shifting their hips backwards, or swinging their arms forward from the shoulder. When throwing the Frisbee, the boys unfurled their arms in a wave like fashion, and when catching the Frisbee, the action often rolled through their limbs. Thus, the body flow of the boys was adjacent. The boys were running and constantly shifting weight, so their body position was primarily postural. Also, they often only used one hand to catch or throw the Frisbee, so their movements were also asymmetrical. Given that the boys often had to run backwards from their Frisbee catching attempts, their movements tended to be more mobile than balanced. In terms of connectivity, the boys mainly utilized upper/lower body connectivity with their many weight shifts. They also used the spiral quality of cross-lateral movement when winding up to throw the Frisbee.

In terms of shapes in space design, the movement of the Frisbee players tended to be three-dimensional, their throws and catches carving through space. As for spatial level, the Frisbee players tended to go back and forth between medium and high levels, either running around at a mid-level with the Frisbee, or jumping up into the air to catch the Frisbee. The boys kept in their personal space, not overlapping their kinespheres with others. This allowed them distance to throw the Frisbee to one another. Their extensions tended to be small or medium reach, only rarely reaching into high extension to touch the periphery of their own kinespheres. The spatial paths of the boys’ movements tended to be central, starting from their own persons and moving outward. Lastly, the boys’ movements seemed to work in the dimensional, planal, and diagonal directions.

In terms of the motion factor of space, the Frisbee players’ movements tended to be direct when they were throwing the Frisbee, specifically aiming, and their movements tended to be more indirect when they were scanning the sky looking to catch the Frisbee or awaiting their turn. The weight factor tended to lean slightly more towards light than strong, since they needed a light quality to propel the Frisbee through the air. The time effort of the movement was sudden; the boys used quick, abrupt movements to successfully throw and catch the Frisbee. Lastly, the boys tended have a flow quality that was accepting of continuity and thus, free. They were relaxed and carefree in their game. Thus, the drive of their movements could be closely related to either flick or dab.

Altogether, this study let me see that all types of movement, dance or not, have a variety of qualities, spacial design, efforts, shapes, and movement within the body. The variations in these aspects let us live a multidisciplinary life.

The Art of Pediatric Occupational Therapy

In my time shadowing pediatric occupational therapy at Aspire Pediatric Therapy, I learned a great deal about specific neurodevelopmental disorders, the incredibly important link between the mind and body, and the nuanced way therapy must be approached for children. After coming in with some self-formulated ideas on occupational therapy, I built a whole new outlook on the healthcare profession, seeing it as an upcoming, ever-changing therapy packed with diversity and creativity. I also began to observe the numerous links that occupational therapy shares with dance, and I contemplated places within therapy where dance may be incorporated as an effective therapy technique.

From day one of my shadowing, I was struck by the very diverse population the therapists worked with. Children in occupational therapy are usually recommended to attend therapy by a physician or through the school system, and they are prescribed occupational therapy for everything from social, physical, emotional, or intellectual disabilities. In the clinic, I saw therapists working closely with children from six months old to 17 years old. However, the majority of the patients were somewhere between the ages of six and eight. During a day in the clinic, I never saw a patient with the exact same complaints or goals to work on. Thus, each therapy session varied wildly from the ones before it. Some of the more common diagnoses that appeared in patients were children on the autism spectrum (CARS), children with ADHD, and children with delayed development. In addition to these patients, we worked with a variety of other patients with diagnoses such as cerebral palsy, Turner’s Syndrome, blindness, poor body awareness, oculomotor problems, social behavior disorders, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, down syndrome, and even an incredible girl who had half of her brain removed and was relearning how to go about life. Even amongst the children with the same diagnoses, they never had the same goals or dysfunctions, and they never responded to the same treatments. Thus, every session required therapists to be ready to improvise new ways to help the child accomplish his or her goals.

One of the more common therapy techniques was playing in the gym and completing obstacle courses. Many of the children we worked with, especially those on the autism spectrum, had difficulties with proprioception and motor planning, practices that must be put into actual use for the children to learn them. For a child to be able to play freely and safely, they must be aware of the capabilities of their own bodies; thus, when a child struggles with proprioception, they are often afraid to move in certain ways, cannot perform motor skills, and risk getting hurt from poor self awareness. When a child exhibited these struggles, the main form of therapy was encouraging them to play in ways that utilize the full body and require a lot of proprioception. Thus, when a 6-year-old girl experienced fear of jumping off of steps due to not understanding the movement of jumping in her body, the therapist literally guided her on how to jump. The therapist first started by spotting the girl, having her bend her knees and then lifting the girl from the stairs to the ground. Slowly the therapist started to pull away her support and after a few sessions, the girl was able to jump off the stairs on her own. The therapist was demonstrating to her how her body worked and conditioning her to be less afraid of her own body mechanics. This technique of acknowledging proprioception is often employed in the dance arena as well, so I was very comfortable understanding this sensory aspect. As dancers we are taught to use our skills of proprioception to correct technique in our bodies and feel our movement in mindful ways. Knowing the limits and possibilities of our body allows us to perform complex movements and connect to movement in a different way. Although the complex ideas of using dance and proprioception to influence our movements may be a little too complex for children to comprehend, I am curious if therapists could teach dance to children with proprioception deficiencies in order to work on their body awareness. Dance may help them get to know their own bodies better and to understand the mechanics of their bodies more clearly. Dance also is an activity that incorporates the whole body, thus it will definitely work out the proprioceptive areas of the brain. In the gyms, the therapists also work on motor planning with the patients. When learning a new motor action, we require conscious thought and planning of that action. Often when carrying out a motor activity, our brain breaks down how to perform the activity by putting the activity into steps. When a child struggles with motor planning, or has motor apraxia, they fail to plan out movement and thus struggle with carrying out the movement. These movements can be anything from fine motor movements, like feeding themselves with a spoon and handwriting, to gross motor movements like climbing and walking on stairs. These deficiencies in motor planning in turn cause clumsiness, improper form, and fear. At the clinic, the most common way to practice motor planning was through obstacle courses. Obstacle courses contain a specific, easy to distinguish sequence of steps. For example, an obstacle course may be swing on trapeze swing, climb up the ladder, slide down the slide, step on the buckets one foot at a time, and then balance on one leg. As patients working on obstacle courses progressed through sessions, they were able to handle more steps in the obstacle courses since they were improving in their motor planning. The obstacle courses allowed the children to think about and plan what steps they needed to take in order to accomplish their goal of completing the course. Once again, dance also shares this need for motor planning in order to be executed well. In learning a dance phrase, dancers must remember a sequence of steps and consciously think about the steps in order to correctly perform them. This again makes me wonder if teaching dances to children with motor apraxia would give them an interesting and possibly less obvious way to work on motor planning. Dance could help children find a greater sense of awareness of their own bodies as well as allow them to learn how to plan movement more efficiently; this could result in the children being able to perform more play activities, motor skills, and self-care behaviors with confidence.

In my sessions shadowing, I was surprised to find out the immense amount of emphasis therapists placed on rhythm and musicality. Prior to shadowing, I knew that music therapy was an upcoming oddity in pediatric therapy, but I will admit I did not understand how much musicality is emphasized in childhood development. Essentially, the real use of music in the occupational therapy setting seemed to be mostly linked to teaching children listening skills and practicing motor planning. For multiple patients, the therapists had children spend some time working with Interactive Metronome, a computer program that involves a patient using a clapper sensor to try and clap or stomp exactly at the same time as a rhythmic beep being produced by a computer. The computer produces the beats in a consistent rhythm that the child must learn and get accustomed to. Then the goal is to clap or stomp at exactly the same time as the computer beeps; the computer provides feedback letting the patient know how many milliseconds early or late they are from hitting the beat exactly. The hope with Interactive Metronome is that children will practice working on listening and paying attention for an extended period of time (the sessions of rhythmic beats last for about two minutes with no breaks) as well as work on auditory processing and motor planning. They must plan out when to move their body in order to hit the beats properly, and they must properly process when beats sound in order to hit the next beat accurately. Learning synchronization and timing helps with motor coordination and almost all executive processing. When watching the children work on this task, I was surprised by how consistently difficult it was for them. Very few of the children I watched could hit even one beat in a session accurately. Many of them had a real deficiency in keeping time with a beat. This lack of fluency with timing seemed to carry out into a variety of other tasks the children had deficiencies in, such as motor planning, listening skills, and coordination. This made me wonder if poor synchronization was the root of many other issues within the occupational therapy realm. Obviously, dance constantly encourages attention to timing and conscious processing of rhythm. I wonder if teaching dance to children with auditory processing and timing deficiencies would make larger improvements in their skill base, especially the types of dance that are very tied to musicality.

Without me realizing it, shadowing at Aspire Pediatric Therapy made a strong case for me that dance belongs in the world of occupational therapy. Dance constantly challenges the conscious and subconscious mind, requiring the coordination of proprioception, motor planning, auditory processing, synchronization, and attention. Dance is a very intellectual process. Throughout the summer, I was excited by the possibilities of the new insight I could bring to the already intriguing field of occupational therapy. I was particularly drawn to the young children on the autism spectrum, finding the way their minds work incredibly beautiful and intriguing. Thus, this field work study has influenced me to want to create a senior project of a dance-based therapy program that specifically targets certain occupational difficulties that children with autism face.  I believe dance could integrate the many goals of occupational therapy in a new and hopefully successful manner.

Charlie The Dancer

Famous Cavalier Vaslav Nijinsky of the Ballet Russes acknowledged to Charlie Chaplin in 1916, “Your comedy is balletique, you are a dancer” (Kamin 100). Despite his lack of formal dance training, famous silent film actor, Charlie Chaplin, fooled his viewers into believing he was one of history’s greatest dancers with his articulated technique and dynamic quality of movement. Charlie Chaplin’s signature stylistic movement may be easily viewed as a modern dancer’s choreographic voice. As comedian W. C. Fields commented, “He’s the best ballet dancer that ever lived, and if I get a good chance I’ll kill him with my bare hands” (Schilling). Although Chaplin never marketed himself as a dancer, he amazed audiences with his interesting movements and balletic grace. Throughout Charlie Chaplin’s films, dance appears in multiple forms to fit the context of the film and serve different storytelling roles.

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Chaplin’s first experiences in dance stemmed from his childhood at music halls in England. Charlie Chaplin spent much of his childhood in a performance setting, watching his parents sing at various music halls (Chaplin & Music). “In 1898, aged 9, Charlie began his own career in English music hall, with a troupe of juvenile clog dancers, ‘The Eight Lancashire Lads’” (Chaplin & Music). From there Chaplin became a vocalist, performing in similar venues to the ones he grew up in (Chaplin & Music). From his unique experience in live music halls, Chaplin learned the art of presentation, a quality that poured into the majority of his dance skits that would appear in his later films. For example, live performance shows its influence in Chaplin’s film Modern Times, for Chaplin often creates a presentational energy, breaking the fourth wall, staring into the camera, and utilizing hand movements that gesture towards the camera and the viewing audience rather than the other actors on set (Chaplin 1:20:32). In the same way, Chaplin also completely turns to the audience in Monsieur Verdoux when he literally speaks his planned attack dialogue for the sole purpose of only the audience to hear (Chaplin 57:08). By turning his attention towards the audience, Chaplin comes across as amiable and friendly, an aspect often neglected by other filmmakers. After being exposed to live performance in his childhood, Charlie Chaplin’s love of dance continued due to the fact that like a dancer, Chaplin was innately drawn to dance because of its multi-faceted use of movement; he was “drawn to movement for movement’s sake” (Fawell 208). Chaplin believed that regular “normal-people” movement was not enough to express the feelings in his films; he needed movement beyond the norm, thus leading to dance (Fawell 208). In turn, Chaplin incorporated dance into his films multiple ways, but his dances usually occurred in two forms, either “overt dances” which were obvious dances included in the film and “non sequitar dances” which were random outbursts of movement adding to the plotline (Fawell 210, 212). In his films, the audience views just how Chaplin took movement to the next level, often to the point where it intersected qualities with dance. In many of his films he fell more dramatically than the normal person, walked with his feet turned outward in a ballet first position, and used his hips lavishly. Chaplin appreciated and employed the many qualities of dance, such as utilizing the magic of dancers in that he was able to, like a dancer, manipulate the audience’s perceptions of physics and the world (Kamin 101). He is also like a dancer in that he consistently pushed the physical limits of physics and the human body, balancing off of a vertical center, spinning multiple times, and swaying his body in a side to side fashion.

One of Charlie Chaplin’s best examples of his quirky dance style being integrated into his film work in a non sequitar way appears in his movie City Lights. Throughout this film, Chaplin’s dancing takes on multiple personas to recall the plot of the film. For instance, when Chaplin is displaying his character as an overly intoxicated man at a fancy dinner, he swings his pelvis in multiple directions, away from the verticality of his feet (Chaplin). These drastic alignment changes bring Chaplin’s character’s weight off of his center, thus conveying stumbling drunkenness. In this same scene, Chaplin is also seen sauntering his way around the dance floor in out of control pirouettes and landing in a contact improvisation trust fall supported by his new, rich friend (Chaplin 26:47). However, unlike the other dancers at the party, Chaplin maintains a rigidly erect posture as he spins the other party goers in circles. This static posture creates an awkward quality, further adding to Chaplin’s display of drunkenness and the idea that his derelict character is gawky and a misfit in this crowd of wealthy patrons. In addition to drunken acts, Charlie Chaplin also utilizes dance later in the film to create a boxing scene. The movements of Chaplin, the other boxer, and the referee seem to resemble changing choreographed formations as they gracefully waltz around each other and keep perfect distance between one another (Chaplin 1:04:35). Chaplin mirrors the movements of the other boxer, a technique utilized in dance choreography, creating a pleasing symmetrical view (Chaplin 1:04:50). Chaplin and the other boxer appear to be performing a series of chasses, side stepping glides, that keep them moving in horizontal planes near each other (Chaplin1:04:40). This section is of course complemented by beautiful, fluttering classical movement reminiscent of music used for classical ballet variations, further adding to the dance quality of the section (Chaplin 1:04:35). This scene also displays some aspects of modern dance contact improvisation as Chaplin and the other boxer perform weight sharing exercises, such as the other boxer levering Chaplin up onto his back, and then Chaplin continuously placing body weight on and through the shoulders of the other boxer so that he descends in a downward plane (Chaplin 1:05:05). Altogether, these interesting and creative uses of dance technique in City Lights allow the film to convey wildly different ideas, from drunkenness to boxing via the storytelling movements of the body.

In Charlie Chaplin’s film One A.M., Chaplin plays a wealthy, but incredulously intoxicated man coming home after drinking and simply trying to get up the stairs and go to bed. In this skit, Chaplin utilizes similar dance techniques from that of City Lights to convey the off balanced, turbulent nature of drunkenness. For instance, as Chaplin first enters his household, he continuously tumbles and falls all over the foyer of his house, slipping on carpets and furniture (Chaplin 3:36). One of the most difficult movements of modern dance is learning how to fall genuinely yet safely. Chaplin repeatedly executes the perfect modern dance fall over and over, displacing his weight and gracefully descending to the floor (Chaplin 4:37). In addition to falling, Chaplin showcases the modern dance technique of shifting one’s weight off center and releasing the support of different limbs and body structures to create dynamic movements in various planes of space; his point in using this technique, however, is less about stylization and more about creating a belligerently drunk character (Chaplin 4:24). He also includes the modern step of a hinge when he leans his pelvis forward and ascends onto the balls of his feet after being frightened by his animal skin carpet (Chaplin 5:50). In One A.M., Charlie Chaplin also executes impressive dancer footwork, displaying steps similar to the pas de bouree, a four step sequence from ballet technique, as he quickly steps behind himself and weaves his feet around one another (Chaplin 8:38). Again, Chaplin uses the storytelling nature of dance to create an interesting and believable character in One A.M.

In Charlie Chaplin’s film Modern Times, a movie depicting two young adults on the run from the cops, constantly struggling with work and poverty in the 1930s, Chaplin creates another dynamic character, utilizing distinct dance styles. Chaplin was inspired by the rhythmic nature of occupations in the industrial age and thus turned his gear wrenching job in the film into a dance of repetition, a series of ordered upper body jerks and full body swivels (Chaplin 5:38, Fawell 214). As a factory worker in the film, Chaplin exerts eccentric and effervescent dancing to convey a nervous breakdown from overwork (Chaplin 17:26). Chaplin dances an airy set of petite allegro type jumps (small ballet jumps), skips, and steps in a ballet releve (balancing high on the balls of one’s feet) to bring himself into a higher verticality, thus metaphorically conveying highness, a lack of being grounded, and insanity (Chaplin 17:26). Through this ballet turned factory scene, Chaplin is showcasing his ideas on converting simple everyday movements into choreography, highlighting the rhythm and dance that shows up in our everyday lives.  In a later scene, as the night watchman at a department store, Chaplin ties dance and skating into a comical gag when he and the leading lady find themselves in the store’s toy department (Chaplin 47:55). Wielding a pair of skates on his feet, Chaplin heightens the amusement of this scene by layering impressive dance movements on top of his rollerblading. He performs various movements with a dance flair, such as tilting his torso in various directions and performing grande battments, balletic high kicks (Chaplin 48:05). He also sails away, balancing on one leg whilst displaying a lifted, angled leg reminiscent of a ballet attitude position (Chaplin 50:00). By displaying these movements, Chaplin conveys a sense of danger and risk contrasted with grace and ease, themes often brought up within dance choreography.  In the singing cafe scene, Chaplin starts off a dance sequence with a few Frank Sinatra-like jazz moves such as slides, heel-toe steps, and chugs (Chaplin 1:19:48). Chaplin’s character also incorporates a wide variety of pantomime dancing to attempt to tell a song story he has forgotten the words to (Chaplin 1:20:32). Often in classical romantic ballets, the same parallel exists where ballerinas and cavaliers pantomime and gesture with their upper bodies in order to tell stories within the ballets. In fact, in previous forms of ballet, “choreographers adopted the mime of the commedia actors—who, since they wore masks, couldn’t talk—to express the things that the dancers, who were also nonspeaking performers, couldn’t say” (Ballet Pantomime). Thus, Chaplin is mimicking the creative tool used by dancers that narrates stories when words are unavailable. In fact, Chaplin even adopts the hand-circling-face ballet gesture meaning beautiful to symbolize a beautiful woman in his story (Chaplin 1:20:37). The use of pantomime in dance and acting allows dancers to deepen their character by creating an over exaggerated but universally understood body language (Ballet Pantomime). Like a dancer, Chaplin also responds to the music very easily and logically, creating his pantomime in a musical fashion, alluding to his ability to create a “rhythmical and balletic character” (Chaplin & Music). In utilizing pantomime gestures, Chaplin is able to render a story of love, lust, distaste, and comedy. Once again, Charlie Chaplin acts as a dancer in order to display a multi-faceted story without the luxury of dialogue.

In one of Charlie Chaplin’s later films, The Great Dictator Chaplin uses dance as a form of morbid mockery, taking on a much larger social commentary with his employment of dance like movement. In the film, the globe scene where the dictator, Adenoid Hynkel (played by Charlie Chaplin) precariously plays with a replica of the world bears the most resemblance to dance vocabulary. The dance begins with Chaplin sailing into the air in a spectacular leap, possibly resembling the leap to power his character anticipates (Chaplin 00:56). The rest of the dance exudes more of a post-modern flair of dancing, with Chaplin experimenting bouncing the balloon off of different body parts (Chaplin 2:08). The great dictator even hovers over the globe balloon in a sadist, power hungry way, a move that bears resemblance to full body contractions in modern dance (Chaplin 2:20). The whole dance set with the globe bears even more evidence that it is full of dance, for it alludes and mocks burlesque dancer, Sally Rand’s Bubble Dance. In Rand’s piece, she lightly catches her balloon in the palm of her hand, contracts her upper body over the ball, and even lays on her back and kicks balloon, all movements that Chaplin performs in the globe dance (Rand). However, unlike Chaplin, Sally Rand’s dance exudes a sensual quality that Chaplin refutes with an overly dramatic haughty quality. The overall quality of the entire balloon dance is pretentious, lofty movement, most likely used to create Adenoid Hynkel as a self righteous, rapacious entity (Chaplin). Like dance, this movement variation wields the ability to bring up social issues through movement, warning people of the rise of the Nazis and power hungry leaders who desire to take over our free world. Just like dance, the lesson is more accessible to the greater population than spoken word, for it speaks the universal language of the body and thus is able to inform more people on the possible dangers facing society.

In addition to the more obvious dance breaks in Charlie Chaplin’s films, Chaplin included less overt, small dance qualities in many of his films. In all of of Chaplin’s work, one of the more obvious dance influences is in Charlie Chaplin’s famous pigeon-toed walk. Dancers turn out their legs from the hip-socket, creating a splayed angle in the legs, and consequentially the toes to point out in two opposite directions. This technique of turn-out in the legs is one of the sole foundations of ballet technique, so Chaplin mimicking this technique further supports the dance influence in his overall quirky character. Like a dancer, Chaplin also had a specific body awareness in everything he did. For example, in Chaplin’s 1947 film, Monsieur Verdoux, Chaplin meticulously and assuredly sorts out the different poison bottles in the kitchen, crossing his hands over each other in an obviously choreographed way (Chaplin 1:01:17). This scene develops Charlie Chaplin’s acute proprioception, the ability to sense one’s body position and self in relation to space. Dancers rely on full body awareness in order to gracefully make their way through space; thus, Chaplin’s gifted acknowledgement of space brings him closer to the dance realm. In the same way, Chaplin also exudes the dancer quality of being able to beautifully take up the whole breadth of spaces with movement. For instance, in Modern Times, Chaplin manages to literally skate across the entire set with ease, filling the space with the flow of movement (Chaplin 48:05). Likewise, in City Lights, Chaplin coordinates the boxer, referee, and himself with such drastic and exuberant movement that they also fill the entire atmosphere with motion (Chaplin 1:04:35). Chaplin also exudes the balletic trait of dynamicity in his movements; he moves on different levels, with different forces, and with changing qualities to express the different type of character or situation he is attempting to portray. In One A.M., for example, one moment Chaplin is quickly dizzily waltzing around himself and falling all over the film, and the next moment he is splayed out on the floor, moving at an aggressively slow speed (Chaplin 4:24). These contrasting conditions highlight changes in mood of the film and appeal to the viewers’ desire for a constantly changing film. Chaplin and dancers utilize ever-changing qualities within performance in order to keep the audience entertained and to mimic changes in emotion or situation. Though not always obvious to the untrained viewer, Charlie Chaplin combines many imperative elements of dance in his films to create beautiful movement and further his plotlines.

Like silent films, dance is an art form that is expressed solely without spoken word. Thus, the two art forms must rely on performance aspects, body language, and creativity in order to convey a story to an audience. Though dialogue adds beauty and expression to our world, some emotions are so complex that they can only be expressed through movement. Movement and ultimately dance are able to bring out those subtleties in emotion that speech will never be able to fully explain. For this reason, Charlie Chaplin’s ability to incorporate dance into his silent film work furthered his abilities as an actor and allowed him to tell his stories in an interesting and frankly beautiful way.

Works Cited

“Ballet Pantomime.” Dance Spirit, Dance Spirit, 23 Mar. 2017,

www.dancespirit.com/ballet_pantomime-2326044382.html.

“Chaplin & Music.” Charlie Chaplin, Bubbles Inc.,

www.charliechaplin.com/en/biography/articles/26-Chaplin-Music.

Chaplin, Charlie, director. City Lights. Criterion Collection/Janus Films, 1931,

www.osu.kanopystreaming.com/video/city-lights.

Chaplin, Charlie, director. The Great Dictator. United Artists, 1940,

edchnm.gmu.edu/teachinghiddenhistory/content/video-dance-globe-great-dictator    –  1940.

Chaplin, Charlie, director. Modern Times. Criterion Collection/Janus Films, 1936,

www.osu.kanopystreaming.com/video/modern-times.

Chaplin, Charlie, director. Monsieur Verdoux . United Artists, 1947,

www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pgVF1aRTCs.

Chaplin, Charlie, director. One A.M. Mutual Film, 1916,

www.dailymotion.com/video/x9gqmn_charlie-chaplin-collection-4-one-am_shortfilms.

Rand, Sally, performer. Bubble Dance. 1942, www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-FEH1FyzzI.

Fawell, John Wesley. “Dance.” The Essence of Chaplin: The Style, the Rhythm and the Grace

 of a Master, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2014, pp. 208–217.

Kamin, Dan. “Shall We Dance?” Comedy of Charlie Chaplin: Artistry in Motion, Scarecrow

Press, Lanham, Md., 2011, pp. 100–119.

Schilling, Mark. “’Dancing Chaplin’.” The Japan Times, 15 Apr. 2011,

http://www.japantimes.co. jp/culture/2011/04/15/films/film-reviews/dancing-chaplin/#.WS4kdMdECcM.

Dance Composition Two Final

 

At the adjournment of Dance Composition Two, I found that my final choreographic study brought together all that I learned in this class, culminating into one last project. In this class, and through outside observation, I learned about and focused on two major topics of choreography: the importance of music and musical structure, and the role of authenticity in choreography and learning. Thus, in my final project, a three-minute choreographic study to the song “Bottom of the River” by Delta Rae, I worked to incorporate these aspects along with lessons I learned from concert viewings into my creative process.

Many of our studies in Dance Composition Two centered largely around an honest attention to music and/or rhythm. As a class, we discussed different ways we can approach time, specifically how different subdivisions of time can be used in creating dance compositions. For example, we had the challenging task of learning to dance to a rhythm when you could not hear it. Consequentially, if our bodies were not completely consumed in a three-four time or a five-eight time, the rhythm would not come across with clarity. These studies forced me to learn how to use an inner sense of time because there was no musical cue to work with; this experiment was beneficial when I actually had music to work with in later studies, including my final study. I was able to attune myself to the rhythm, plotting ways I could mirror the music in my body. These studies also taught me that I could break up a distinct musical pattern by accenting some beats, while ignoring others, adding diversity and unpredictability to the movement.  Hence, in my final study, I tended to ignore obvious accents in the music. I also decided to defy the music by not letting my movement grow with the crescendos in the song, playing with the idea of unpredictability. In our later studies, we paid a lot of attention to structural design of music and how it relates to our choreography. We listened to music and coded it with letters based on changes that we noticed within the music. Then, when choreographing our studies, distinct differences in the dance were aligned with new musical sections. These distinct differences could vary from transposing the choreography to a new level, to changing the dynamic of the movement from viscous and tense to circular and loose. Altogether, these different sections allow for dynamicity in qualities and levels, and thus progression in the studies. In my final piece, I applied this practice of coding sections with my musical selection, noting four sections, two subsections, and a reprise of a former section in the music. I decisively changed qualities from section to section, dancing everything from meticulous to gestural to grounded and primal movements. By creating these sections in my quality, I created an ever-changing plot line in my choreography that would not feel stagnant to the audience.

Though not always blatantly articulated, my greatest take away from Dance Composition Two was the power of authenticity as a choreographer, a dancer, and as a student. This sentiment of purity was modeled by my teachers in the manner they conducted themselves, and authenticity was encouraged in all the studies and lessons. I learned that authenticity applies to energy, performance, and critique.  Consideration of these multidimensional aspects in a genuine way allows for successful choreography. Whenever we approached a new lesson, we had to approach it without judgment. The best way to create and learn was when the class disregarded insecurities and preconceived expectations and just acted. I noticed this particularly when we inverted phrases. At first everyone was uncomfortable creating these movements that we thought to be “ugly”. However, when we let go of inhibition and just tried to do the lesson, it was easier to create. Throughout the class, I noticed that the studies where the dancer organically created movement, including whatever moves felt natural on his or her bodies, were the most well received pieces by the class. Therefore, in my final study, I wanted to bring as much authenticity as possible to the work. To do this, I improvised to create movement, and I picked a song that actually spoke to me and made me want to dance. I attempted to bring a real sense of performance to my work and embody the character and tone I wanted to portray in my study. This in turn compelled me to actually enjoy the process of creation; it gave me a feeling of ownership for my work. Another dynamic of class was learning how to authentically analyze work when watching and coaching our classmates. After the performance of a peer, we had the opportunity to critique their work. However, we could not simply say whether we liked or disliked the work – it was instead expected that we provide authentic reactions, which allowed us to get better at looking at others work. In turn, this resulted in improvements on analyzing and editing our own work.

Lastly, my observation of works within the department helped me learn what I like and dislike in choreography, and it gave me ideas of what I want to experiment with or avoid in my own choreography. In Dance Downtown, I was particularly struck by the use of the dresses in Sofie Clemmensen’s “Fjorten”. I am always intrigued by the usage of clothing in movement or as a prop, so I paid particular attention to this at the show. In Clemmensen’s work, the dresses were used as both a symbol as well as a vessel for compelling choreography. She had the dancers create unity between each other by connecting arms while they exchanged the dresses. Clemmensen also had one dancer weighed down by wearing everyone else’s dresses, creating an image of one grounded dancer surrounded by the other dancers who found lightness in their movement after being unveiled from the heavy dresses. All throughout the piece, these dresses stood as a symbol, possibly as a metaphor for the hardship and weight of being a woman. Thus, the removal of these dresses lifted a burden off of the women, unmasking their beautiful bodies and allowing them to dance more freely. I was surprised by the way Clemmensen could find multiple purposes with clothing in the dance, so I wanted to include this multidimensionality to prop usage when incorporating a skirt into my own choreography. Thus, I tried to use the skirt in my final project to not only symbolize the feminine, mysterious quality of my character, but also as a tool to create new images by putting the skirt over my head or wrapping it around my neck. Watching Dance Downtown, I was also struck by the handling of symbolism in Bebe Miller’s “Sel Fou!”. The dance used multiple books, and there was a distinct time when the dancers kicked the books. As an audience member, I immediately considered this to be a symbol for censorship or the throwing away of knowledge. Seeing the gravity of one simple act made me realize the importance of every move in a piece and how it can cause a multitude of reactions and sentiments depending on audience members’ own perspectives.Thus, in my final project, I tried to pay acute attention to the gestural moves I choreographed and brainstormed multiple ideas on how these images could possibly be perceived. Being an audience member for Miller’s work, I was inspired to consider symbolism in my own work and how audience’s feelings towards one movement could define their perception of a piece. Hence, in my final project, I considered what themes would arise from certain moves, such as wrapping my skirt around my neck or holding up a hand with three fingers Lastly, in watching Merce Cunningham’s Black Mountain pieces performed at the Wexner Center, I was once again reminded of the relationship between choreography and music. In the pieces displayed by the OSU dancers, the choreography often purposefully mirrored John Cage’s music. It was as though the dancers were creating the eccentric instrumentation within their bodies. For example, when Cage’s music created a springing sound, the dancers would spring jump into the air, creating an image of what that sound would look like. I attempted to carry out this observation in my choreography, by creating movements in my final study that I felt accurately depicted the singer’s soulful voice, or the intense beats within the music.

Although I have a long way to go as a choreographer, I believe Dance Composition Two taught me useful tools for moving forward as a novice choreographer, using inspiration from those around me as well as leaning on my own authentic and organic ideas to create movement.

 

Dynamicity and Commitment

Through personal reflection and council from my peers, I decided that my two personal strengths in composition are my ability to find a strong dynamic between tempos as well as my overall commitment to my choreography.
In some of my studies, I naturally found an ease in creating tempo shifts, switching between slow and fast all within the same phrase. I believe that the way my brain processes information gives me an inclination toward this dynamicity since my ideas are rapidly changing from calm to extravagant. Also, my background in dance ranging from tap and jazz to ballet and lyrical may also influence this variety of movement, since my training is so diverse. Thus, I have a large bank of past influences to choose from. I felt that my composition to “Blackbird” by The Beatles best showcased my capability for varied tempo changes. In one phrase, I started methodically kneeling on the the floor, drawing my hands slowly down my leg. I immediately then jumped back and forth on my feet by the next count. This quick change lead to unpredictability in my choreography. My knack for creating these divergent layers of tempo makes my dancing engaging, for tempo change leads to different tones and qualities. Thus, the audience will not get bored of seeing the same quality throughout an entire phrase

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I also have strength in committing to my choreography as a performer. While I am still developing a comfort in my individual style, I always ensure to dive completely into my choreography with confidence, so that every move I make feels authentic to myself both as a mover and a creator. This strength is most apparent in my current study, the composition to a piece of preselected music. I created a narrative for this study, relating the repetitive layering of the music to my personal bouts with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In creating and performing the dance, I make sure to both fully commit to the narrative I have created as well as to the different qualities of dancing it requires. In fully committing, I can more easily showcase the deeper meaning behind the dancing as well as intrigue my audience as they are witnessing my most authentic self.

Newly Acquired Challenges in Compositional Studies

This semester in Composition 2 taught by Susan Hadley, I have been introduced to new strategies for creating personal compositions. With these new lessons, I have acquired challenges due to my background and natural tendencies.

The floor material in the 5/8-time was the biggest challenge for me because I have a limited vocabulary of floor staccato movements that travel. I felt the accelerated tempo inhibited my ability to travel. To combat this challenge, I thought about the next natural movement I would do out of a step, and instead I did the opposite of that movement. For example, if my natural tendency was to do something in my front space, I would instead do something that moved backwards. Not only did rethinking my natural movement patterns help me come up with more 5/8 traveling movement vocabulary, in a broader sense, it also encouraged me to use planes of my body that I often overlook, such as the back space and positions where my head is closer to the ground than my pelvis. Using these less natural planes matured my choreography by allowing me to travel in multiple directions rather than just forward and side to side, thus giving my dancing more three-dimensionality.

The 3/4-time study also posed a challenge for me since I consider my strength in dancing to lie in sharp, pointed movements. Thus, I feel less confident in the circular movement quality of 3/4-time. When facing this study, I turned to music in order to find rounded movement in my body. When I listened to music in 3/4-time, I noticed the wave like quality of the rhythm, how it would sweep out like a wave on the 1 of the phrase and then pull in like the tide on the 2 and 3 to once again sweep back out on the 1 of the next phrase. Likening the rhythm to an image helped me find the quality more easily in my body as it showed me where to suspend and lengthen my body and then where to ease back. The ability to find confidence in more than one quality expands the dancer’s dynamics and the dancer’s ability to master more than one style of movement. For me, the idea of a wave helped me find the circular movement of 3/4-time by spawning continuous flow in my body, thus creating a movement through-line in my choreography.

Dancing Neuroscientist- Summer 2016

emoryThis summer, I had the amazing opportunity of working as a research assistant to Dr. Madeline Hackney at Emory University. Dr. Hackney has a BFA in Dance from New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, and a Ph.D. in Movement Science from Washington University in St. Louis. Her doctoral research deals with movement disorders and neurological disorders. Obviously, being a dance and neuroscience dual degree student, Dr. Hackney’s work was extremely intriguing to me!

Over the summer, I worked on Dr. Hackney’s DREAMS Study, a project that studies the effects of continued education on geriatric persons’ cognitive and motor functions. The project had one group of participants that attended weekly health education classes. Their cognitive and motor functions were tested before the classes, tested after the classes, and then eight weeks following that test. I worked on this project by entering in data from testings, scoring cognitive tests, editing lessons for the seniors, calling/interviewing participants, and administering tests to participants. I was able to administer the img_2660cognitive tests of the MOCA, London Tower, Stroop Test, spatial reasoning, Realm, and others. I also administered gait observation tests, walking tests, and other physical ability tests to seniors. I was able to administer these tests to multiple participants throughout the summer. I also interviewed the group of seniors on their studies weekly, recorded their responses, and talked with them about their ideas about the material.

In addition to DREAMS, I also worked on a continuation of Dr. Madeline Hackney’s Adapted Tango Study for Parkinson’s Patients in which she is testing the effects of leading versus following roles in Tango and their effect on cognitive and motor function (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24116748). For this study, I was again was tasked with administering cognitive and motor tests, tests that were often very similar to the ones administered for DREAMS, if not the same exact tests. I also was tasked with helping administer functional MRIs to the participants. For the MRIs on the Parkinson’s patients, I set up technological devices (a foot tapper recorder, sound programs, etc.) as well as acted as the “tapper” for the testing. As a tapper, I tapped metered beats on the participants hand while the MRI test was being taken. The participant was instructed to tap on the foot tapper when they felt me tap on their hand. Thus, the meticulous nature of my job was important to keeping the experimental variables controlled.

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Dr. Madeline Hackney

I was very grateful that Dr. Hackney allowed me to have this amazing experience working for her, and I hope to continue working for her throughout my undergraduate studies. Dr. Hackney’s research perfectly combines my interests in neuroscience and dance as she is a pioneer in using dance to solve neurological disorders. I found a love for research through this opportunity, and I hope to make my own discoveries between the brain and the body in the future. I also discovered a love for working with people throughout the summer. Above all, I am even more certain that it is possible to be both a successful professional dancer as well as a cutting edge scientist. Thus, I plan to have both of those careers in my future. I think the marriage of science and dance can and will have monumental effects on the course of research.

The Global Dance Community: Interviewing Erin Carlisle Norton

Talking to and interviewing OSU Alumni, Erin Carlisle Norton, was a wonderful and eye opening experience.

MovingArchitects.2014-11068_erinWEB1Erin graduated from The Ohio State University receiving both a BFA and an MFA in Dance. In terms of education, she also successfully obtained a Laban Certificate in Movement Analysis from Columbia College Chicago and is a Certified Pilates Instructor. In 2007, Erin made her company, The Moving Architects. Continue reading