Thursday, November 29, 2012

Invisible Threads are the Strongest Ties

Each day, we are surrounded by more and more connections, and the more we choose to notice them, the more numerous they seem to become.  After successfully completing my first semester at UNCSA, my eyes have been opened to this plethora of connections.  Just to discuss a few, I have created a web of the connections between four of my main classes: Digital Media for the Artist, Dance Perspectives, Technique, and Pas de Deux.  This web has illustrated for me how intertwined my arts and academic classes really are, and I now understand how much each depends on the other.

To begin, I’ll start with the connection between DMA and Technique.  Digital Media for the Artist has allowed me to increase my knowledge and skills of working with websites, as well as taught me the importance of using new media for professional purposes.  My Technique class is the basis of my dancing and has allowed my artistry to flourish while still maintaining my foundation.  Though each of these classes teaches different things, both are necessary to further my career.  I need technique so that I can physically “get myself out there,” in the same way that I need to know how to “get myself out there” through new media.

Second is the connection between DMA and my Dance Perspectives class.  In Dance Perspectives, each of the dance faculty have come and talked to us about their past, who they’ve trained with, where they have danced, favorite roles, etc... Ironically enough, both of these classes have benefitted me by learning about artists from the past and learning from their stories.  In DMA, we read about and learned from artists such as Laura Karpman, Matthew Herbert, JR, Lev Manovich, and others.  In Dance Perspectives, we’ve heard from Susan Jaffe, Warren Conover, Sean Sullivan, etc, and heard stories of their days at ABT, Limon, Harkness Ballet, etc... All of these stories have enriched my knowledge of who is training me and increases the depth and importance of what I can learn from them.

Speaking of training, this leads to the connections between Dance Perspectives and Technique.  Both of these classes help me grow as an artist through training as well as through knowledge of my trainers and their histories.  Not only does my technique class improve my training, but knowing where my teachers’ training is from and knowing how successful their careers were gives me even more faith in them and allows my technique to progress even further.

My technique class is also connected to my Pas de Deux class.  Pas de Deux, or step of two, is a class for us to learn how to dance with a partner and gives us the chance to become more comfortable with the feeling of dancing together.  Both of these classes are necessary for my growth as a dancer and as an artist.  Without them, I wouldn’t be able to continue improving which would hinder me in the world of dance.

Keeping the world of dance in mind, this leads me to the connection between my Pas de Deux class and Dance Perspectives.  Though these classes are entirely different, they both have one underlying aspect in common: storytelling.  In Dance Perspectives we learn through hearing stories from our instructors, and in Pas class we learn through telling stories with our movements.

Last, but most definitely not least, is the connection between my Pas class and DMA.  This connection stood out to me the most because I expected it the least.  DMA focused on composing conversations by working together and discussing topics.  In a roundabout way, we have done the same in Pas class.  We have worked together to create conversations through our movements.  The man might offer his hand to the girl, asking her to dance with him, and the girl may answer by gently placing her hand in his, completing the first “sentence” of the combination.  So, whether it was through media or movement, both classes involved collaboration and conversation to create some form of composition.

Overall, I am proud to say I am beginning to see more and more connections between my classes.  I also know that the number of connections between my future academic classes and arts classes are bound to grow, creating an encompassing web that ties me to the rest of the art world.  As Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “Invisible threads are the strongest ties,” and I believe that their strength increases each time we choose to notice it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

In the Absence of Dance...

Last week I researched the history of dance in Islamic culture to find that there really is no history because there really is no dance.  It has been looked down upon by most Muslims with the exception of one group known as the Sufis, which view dance as a way of connecting with god.  However, there was also a brief point in time where Iran had their own national ballet.  It was very successful but was quickly disbanded after the fundamentalists took over.

From this research, I chose the theme of restraint to portray in my composition this week.  After going through some ideas, I decided that I wanted to film a dance with a partner that shows him restricting my movement, or holding me back from doing what i could.  However, my original idea fell through when my partner was unable to show up on Wednesday so I had to modify.  Instead of having my partner restrain me, I decided to pick a song that conveyed restraint or control.  After reading the lyrics from Regina Spektor’s song All The Rowboats, I knew it was the one.  The song itself has a very interesting sound and the lyrics have an underlying feeling of struggle and restraint (“all the rowboats keep trying to row away, row away.....they will stay there forever and a day...then there’s lock up, masterpieces serving maximum sentences...”).  I felt like these words somewhat paralleled with the way a dancer in Muslim culture might feel.  Here might be someone who might have incredible potential, but they will either never know it or will never fully reach it because they are held back by their cultural restraints.

I used some movement from my comp study to show restraint: hence the reaching out and pulling back, as if almost attaining something but never getting there.  Overall, I am happy with how my project turned out, and I hope you enjoy it as well!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Some Simple Thoughts...

To be honest, this unit didn’t really “hit home” like it could have.  I found no inspiring connections between my art and Islamic culture, nor did I find it particularly intriguing.  However, I was surprised to find out information about the dance that used to exist in Muslim countries.  For example, I was somewhat shocked to discover that Iran had a professional ballet company, but apart from learning interesting little facts such as that, I didn’t experience any sort of epiphany or realization of anything that I could translate into my own art studies.

Personally, I would not want to go to a school that based their courses solely on real-world issues and happenings.  However, I do believe it is essential to incorporate these factors into classes.  For example, my AP English 3 teacher required us to do short “Current Events” papers each week in which we would research something going on in the world that was relevant to what we were covering in class.  This way we could connect our studies to reality.  I had similar assignments in my AP Human Geography class as well.   My teacher, Mr. Ford, would require us to do what he called RPHs.  These RPHs (Research, Print out, and Highlight) also created connections between the real world and our course material by allowing us to look at how a certain subject might appear in the world today.  With that being said, incorporating real-world elements into classes is, in my opinion, a necessity, but I do not believe that organizing a course around real-world problems would be quite as beneficial to the students.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Virtual Buggy

This week we were given the chance to create the project we planned out in last week’s blog.  I chose to create a “virtual buggy,” or a webpage to hold all of my work done in my dance Comp 1 class.  This way, I can refer to it whenever I need, and it will be much easier to remember everything I make.  Luckily, I didn’t run into any troubles this week with my computer or my camera.

Looking back on how I managed my time, I am extremely satisfied with how I carried out my "work week."  I found plenty of time Tuesday evening to film my work, leaving myself even more time to piece together my webpage Wednesday and Thursday.  After pondering what would be more efficient, I chose to create a subpage under DMA on my Google portfolio.  This way it is also conveniently connected to my profile and other work as well.

Not only will this page allow me to keep all my Comp work in one place, but it will give me somewhere to post other dances as well.  In fact, I hope to upload some videos of the variations we have learned in my BL5 Variations class soon.  (I just have to find the music first.)  But apart from variations or movements, this page will give me somewhat of a professional advantage/benefit as well.  Keeping in mind the fact that auditions are a key part of a dancers' career, having a webpage of all my work would also be a great place to upload audition videos.  In a small way, it would be like "getting myself out there."  Like my teachers say in class, you never know who might be watching you.

I enjoyed being able to gather all of my work into one place, and I hope y’all enjoy what I created as well!

(Here's my website, and below is an example of some of my work that I loaded onto the webpage.)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Personalizing New Media

Week 3:

With new media, artists in any practice can easily share their creations. Specifically for dancers, YouTube or even Facebook can be huge factors in "getting yourself out there." Online audition videos, audition photos, even short bios with some information on your dance experience can get you noticed or help you get a job. In fact, I have been told that having a dance photo as your profile picture on Facebook could land you a chance at an audition. Facebook is also incredibly convenient for making connections in the dance world.  YouTube and other video sites can also help further a dancers career just because it serves as a place to find recordings of former dancers. Even just watching these videos or watching how people train or the details they put into performances can help a dancer improve.

As for my e-portfolio, I had fun playing around with the colors and fonts as well as the layout and overall look of my website.  Luckily, the only issue I ran into was indecisiveness.  I had a hard time choosing which font I liked best.  There were so many to choose from.  However, I had no trouble choosing a theme.  I personally have a love for the outdoors, specifically flowers, so I knew the cherry blossom theme was for me.  (No, flowers aren’t exactly the quote-unquote “most professional” theme I could have chosen, but I think that I needed to show my personality as well as my professionalism.  Therefore, I chose to portray myself through the flowers.)

My blog, however, was a bit of a challenge.  No matter how I searched for the William Kentridge video I wanted, I could not find it.  Nor could I find the embed code for the video so I could paste it into my blog.  So I simply chose to revise that post and took the video off completely since it was merely extraneous information.  Other than that, I really liked the overall look of my blog (colors, layout, theme, compositions, etc) so I left that untouched.

Week 4: 

One of the most important and most vital processes of a dancers career is the audition process.  For this, dancers need to have the knowledge of how to make a clean, professional grade audition video.  It is for this reason that I would most like to learn more about how to make one.  

Another important aspect of being a dancer is knowing how you move and knowing what types of movement you feel most comfortable with.  Keeping this in mind, I will be creating either a website or a new page on my portfolio in which I compile video segments of new movements we create each week in my Comp class.  This “movement portfolio” will allow me to keep track of everything I create so that I can refer back to them literally with a simple click of a button.  It will also give me a place to upload fully choreographed dances, etc, as time goes along.  I could even upload variations from my BL5 Variations class, allowing me easy access to them for auditions, etc.  Timing this project will depend heavily on my rehearsal schedule but I plan on trying to film what movements I currently have on Monday or after my later rehearsals Tuesday.  This way I can have the rest of the week to create my website/portfolio page and fix any minor details that might need work.  Other than my indecisiveness, I don’t plan on running into many problems, but if I do encounter any, it will most likely be finding decent studio space to film.  I already know that I need to be neatly dressed and presentable in my videos, as well as clean and clear with my dancing so that the choreography shows up well on the recording.  I hope to learn more on how to piece these videos into a website/portfolio page as well as more on what angles or lighting helps “show off” my movements the best.  Next week will be an interesting feat but I’m positive it will turn out well in the end!  Wish me luck!!

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Art of Altogetherness

In the words of Christo, the work of art is not each piece involved, or the process by which it is created, but “the work of art is altogetherness.”  He really embraces the idea of art being a product of the whole. It is not one piece, or color, or stroke that makes a piece of art; it is the combination of all these elements. It is a piece of art in it's entirety that is beautiful (thank you Alex Anna for wording it this way).  In 1973, Christo and Jean-Claude conjured up the idea to build a fence that would travel across the landscape for over 24 miles.  Made out of plain while panels that moved with the wind, “The Running Fence” outlined the invisible contours of the landscape.  It's incredible how breathtakingly beautiful something as simple as a white fence can be. It really did move and breathe with the contours of the land as if it was alive: “born along a hillside, breathing [with] the land, and dying without a trace” (thank you again Alex).  Another amazing portrayal of altogetherness was the In B Flat website.  Yes, each piece was interesting and pretty in its own way, but as videos were combined, and the pieces began to fit together, the music/creation as a whole was incredibly beautiful.  I was extremely impressed.  Enough to say that out of all the artworks we have looked at so far, this one has been my favorite.  Overall, this discussion of combining old and new media has led me to realize how connected old and new media are and will be.  It's very true that we make new media because of old media. This even ties back into what we've talked about in previous weeks about how almost all media is "recycled." We might "borrow" or take inspiration from some form of old media and turn it into new media, but once that new media becomes old, we might take something from it and make it new again: creating a cycle that never ends.

This week, I actually created what I planned out in last weeks blog.  I wanted to somehow portray the theme of boundary dissolution by combining my own traditional media (dance, specifically ballet) with some form of new media.  So from here I decided that I wanted to try dissolving the boundary between visual art (painting) and dance.  In simpler terms, I was the paintbrush and my movements were the brushstrokes.  I chose to use blue paint to represent ballet and yellow paint to represent contemporary so that there was a more visible distinction between the two genres of dance.  From here, I went on to film some simple steps (mostly just playing with the paint that was dripping from my toes) in black and white.  However, I was able to use a feature on my camera that allowed me to retain one color in the picture (first blue, and then later, yellow).  This way, the viewer only sees the color and picture being created altogether rather than focusing on the movement.

In the end, I achieved what I wanted to.  The colors mixed together to form green, depicting the dissolution of the boundary between ballet and contemporary (hence the black and white + green picture at the end of the video).  I’m very happy with how it turned out and luckily didn’t have any major technical difficulties this time.  I hope you enjoy!!

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Many Colors of Dance...

This week we were asked whether we thought we could combine new-media with traditional media and still achieve aesthetically pleasing results.  Well, my answer is yes.  This idea of combining new and old media isn’t something that has just recently been discovered.  People have been combining these things for years, the process is simply more apparent in today’s society because of the use of technology such as the internet.  Some artists today have captured this combination idea quite brilliantly.  I was personally intrigued by JR's photography, but Laura Randall and Hector Parra really impressed me with their clever opera based on the theoretical idea of another dimension.

For my own media project, I want to use the theme of boundary-dissolution.  We used this theme a couple weeks ago but were required to work with sound.  This time I want to use myself and my movement to show the dissolution of the boundary between painting and dance.  I will be the paint brush, my movement will be the brush strokes, and the floor will be my canvas.  This idea came to me after watching one of William Kentridge’s videos in which he filmed himself smearing paint over a canvas.  However, he played it in reverse, turning it into a completely different piece of art.  This got me thinking of my own camera and the features it has, such as the ability to take out all colors but one.  From there, my train of thought moved to the many ways in which I could use color to “mix up” my current idea, and I came up with the notion to use the colors to represent the genres of dance that I am studying (blue being ballet and yellow being contemporary dance).  Using this feature on my camera, I could then go on to film myself dancing on a canvas, painting with my feet, becoming the “paintbrush” rather than just a dancer.  I also thought of how I could carry over the theme of boundary-dissolution into my dancing and discovered that I could show the dissolution between ballet and contemporary.  Even if one is classical (or blue) and one is modern (or yellow), they’re still a way of expressing emotion through movement (green).  Although a dancer might focus on one “color” more than another, in the end, it’s still movement (blue + yellow = green).

So next week I will actually be creating this composition rather than just simply planning it.  Because I believe that traditional media and new media can be combined and still be pleasing to the eye, I will be striving to do so in my project as well.  If anyone has suggestions or would like to talk about how I could improve my project or even make it easier to accomplish, I’m open to anything.  I’ll also be gathering supplies (a decent sized canvas, blue and yellow paint, and old used pointe shoes) as well as more inspiration if any comes my way.  I have a video here that shows where my original idea evolved from as well as a closer look at what I’ll be attempting to accomplish.

After I film my painting from a few different angles, I’m going to piece it together with some more effects such as slow motion or reverse (we’ll see what I decide to play around with) and experiment with different music overlaid on top.  Hopefully I’ll get it done in a timely manner and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I will!

(BTW, feel free to check out my new Google Profile at!!)