Dance, research, and news tangents. Today’s topic: borders.

Interconnections, intersections, all around, all the time.

I am occasionally struck by bouts of newsreading-rabbit-holes that make me think the world is messed up/bonkers/astonishing/ crazy/ violent/brutal.  And I aggressively undermine myself : and what are YOU doing? Getting an MFA in dance?!  Much good you’re doing for the world right now.

Those little voices inside us are pernicious! and yet. Yes.  Yes I am.

For many reasons.  But one reason is about art as a site of connection.  Connections between cultures, concepts, media. Between creator(s) and audience(s).  Dance as one of many lenses of art, lenses of looking, at the world. Education as the only way to ensure survival. Education that includes arts includes looking, seeing, thinking, considering, connecting, feeling, and if we play our cards right – empathy.  Looking in, and looking out with confidence.  Confident empathy- we DO want, rather need, that for humanity to survive. Right world?  (Right Washington DC? Right Ohio?…)

Two works I’m currently researching and analyzing for a paper for Dr. Hannah Kosstrin’s postmodernism class connected  to my news rabbit-hole this week.  And to many other things. But the connecting factor is a curiosity around borders, around citizenship, around existence and geography and mobility. And fear!

Works: (I highly recommend watching them both)

Mary Nunan’s Territorial Claims (1992/1997) and John Scott’s Fall and Recover (2004), have significant political ties to – and inherently comment upon- the social and political situations the artists and choreographers involved lived in – and echoes of those situations are returning in this week’s headlines about Brexit, about citizenship, about immigration, etc.

Thoughts and connections between the works to eachother and to this week’s headlines:

Territorial Claims was made in Ireland in 1992, made into a film in 1997, and relates to- as most dance does, a lot of things but a main topic is- the violence of the Troubles, the border conflict between The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland that had been ongoing for decades until the Good Friday Agreement formally brokered some semblance of calm in 1998. Interestingly in an interview Nunan states that ethnic conflict in Bosnia made her more cognizant of the brutality of sectarian violence in her own country and galvanized to comment upon it.  Since the violence had been a constant presence, it became almost “normal.” A reminder of how easily we can become desensitized to injustice.

(Separation of families, poverty, segregated school systems – anyone?)

Scott’s piece created in 2004 deals with issues of identity. Also created by an Irish choreographer, the work – performed and created by predominantly refugees from African and Eastern European countries (many of whom are now Irish citizens) – premiered in the year of Ireland’s Citizenship Referendum and 27th Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment  removed jus soli or “right of the soil” birthright citizenship, restricting citizenship to children of citizens, or individuals eligible for citizenship, jus sanguinis or “right of blood,”  and relegated further decision making power about citizenship eligibility to the legislature.  The statement of non- ethnically Irish bodies, on Irish stages and world stages representing Ireland, then, is a pretty powerful one.

…trails of breadcrumbs…

Interestingly the establishment of birthright citizenship in Ireland was recent, only written down in 1998 as part of border negotiations  – as a result anyone born on the island of Ireland (North or South) was  officially considered an Irish national.  A variety of complicated factors- economic, social, political, led to an over 70% support rate for adjusting that clause in 2004. And yet a number of high profile deportation cases have stirred up  increasing support for immigrants rights and a growing distaste for the ramifications of the 27th Amendment.

this past weekend:

However any re-adjustment to the constitution  is hampered by worries around Brexit, and how changes in the relationship between the UK and the rest of Europe will impact the border permeability between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Could a citizen then, born in Northern Ireland, to parent of a non Irish Nationality then enter Ireland and then the EU? Or what if someone born in Ireland, of non Irish descent, wanted to get into the UK!

Oh dear. Fear Fear Fear.

Fear of people crossing borders.

Other articles of interest:

We know a lot about about this fear it seems in the US:

-Sunday’s border closing at Tijuana Port of Entry, WaPo

-really thorough and interesting article about the US-Mexico border and immigration, WaPo

So do Ukraine and Russia and their contested waters

The Mediterranean & Europe

and on and on.

I make no pretense to have any solution to massive groups of displaced people, managing flow of immigrants to anywhere from anywhere. This isn’t a political blog. (Though, is art ever apolitical really?) But I’m interested in making sure we have thoughtful conversations about the state of fear that grips our “states.”

“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”

I’m pretty sure we’ve heard those words spoken by a green alien muppet.

What if we say them aloud, and consider their weight?



And all this from thinking about dances.



I’m thankful for you.

For family.

For friendship.

For neighbors.

For sun.

For dancing.

For food.

For poetry.

For learning.

For cups of tea.

For airplanes and subways and buses and trains and ferries and cars and bicycles  and feet.

For home in its many manifestations.





Beginnerly Free-Play and Expectation Blocks

I am perfectly content, eager even, to fumble through things I don’t know anything about – like PhotoShop, or Final Cut,  or anything in the InterMedia Lab. I feel inept in these arenas.  I have no preconceived idea that my output must be stellar, or even decent. I’m embracing and learning through play.

Here’s an exercise in “Can you turn on a camera, upload footage, and do something with it?” I was delighted to complete even step one and see the little red  blinking dot.

(Thank you Andi – you’re awesome.)

On the contrary, I’m feeling a strong apprehension around academic writing -though I was longing to jump in again- that’s part of why I’m here in the first place.  I only have one important long form paper this semester – all other major assignments are shorter or in other media. And it’s not even that long a paper given writing I’ve done in the past. Laura you  have a degree in English. You used to do this well.

Bingo. Comparison to a previous self whose composition muscles were in-shape from constant use.

Ahhh. I’ve been grading essays for  years now – not writing them! Though I have continuously worked with words.  Choosing verbal cues for exercises for different demographics, writing”un-boring” practice sentences to teach parts of speech, writing hopefully clear exam questions…  but I’m afraid of the blank screen, and worse I’m afraid of a screen full of mediocre content.

I imagine this is a typical returning-student symptom. Though that doesn’t really make me feel better in the moment.

Like stepping into ballet class for the first time in a while – I undercut efforts by comparing the potential product to an ideal image or an illusion of previous abilities.  And yet I know the falling off balance is how to get your balance muscles back.  The getting messy gets you back “on your leg.” I know this rationally.  But the ego wrapped up in expectation isn’t rational.

The expectation feedback loop is such a thwart to the creative experience of play that facilitates growth.

Let’s be brave and play.

Oh but the internet- you fountain of e-books and JSTOR documents – you are also brimming with procrastination fodder –  who was Kate McKinnon this week?…





What you value

Hey you! Did you VOTE? It’s election Day.  Polls are open. Get there.  Vote what you value.


(My new state of residence state seems to be under a somewhat endearing delusion that it actually resembles a heart – I think it’s closer to the anatomical heart than the Valentine’s one – but we get it…)

On the note of reflecting upon what matters to you…

A short study in Final Cut, a “how to edit” exercise using found dance footage, and seeing Silas Reiner’s and Rashaun Mitchell’s Tesseract in the same day, brought up some interesting aesthetic value questions for me.

Here’s my study, all original choreography is by Thomas Hauert Zoo Company, musical choice and video edits are mine – (totally unauthorized by them.)

I looked at several short clips of movement, and listened to the suggested tracks, but was hearing something else. Then, in that lovely uninhibited beginner fashion, just started juxtaposing things that seemed right. When a class full of students, sharing the same serious source material broke into sly smiles and laughter I loved it.  THAT! An actual connection between the audience and the work. That’s why we (I?) do this art-making thing. Prying open opportunities for connection.

On that same day, Tesseract was on at the Wexner. A Charles Atlas 3-D dance film followed by a live-feed projection enhanced dance performance choreographed by Reiner and Mitchell. I could appreciate the tension between mediated and physical bodies both in overarching structure of the evening, and within each half. Architecture as an overarching theme.  Strong physicality. Intricate patterns. Clear design choices. Beautiful lines. Interesting geometries. Strong technical dancing.  Though I wouldn’t say I enjoyed myself in the audience.

You know when you leave a show and you’re asked “Did you like it?” and your go-to response is “I don’t think it matters”?

I’d like to leave the theatre invigorated occasionally. Sometimes I like to really LIKE dance. I want to say: “ I felt something. I loved it let me buy a ticket to come back tomorrow.” (Not that most dance performances last that long).  And yet I don’t want to reduce dance/ art/theatrical experiences to escapist entertainment only.  That can be frustrating and alienating in a different way.  I’ve done that kind of work too – also not satisfying.

What is that elusive line- the right mix of virtuosities of physicality, intellect, and emotion that make a performance experience satisfying – and not just rigorous intellectual exercise -(or perhaps a combination encompassing both)?


They said it man…


Dancing the Great Arc


( photos: Whitney Browne)

In a tiny corner of west midtown Manhattan, (when they say between 10th and 11th they really mean corner of 11th) is a snug little shoebox, the Donaghy Theatre at the Irish Arts Center,  where I joined a pretty awesome  team of artists last weekend.

On Oct 26 & 27, I had the chance to sneak back to the city and make a cameo appearance in Darrah Carr Dance‘s new work Dancing the Great Arc. 

Performing “For the Auroch”

Carr’s style “ModERIN,” is a playful combination of American modern dance and Irish dance vocabularies and aesthetics.  This sensibility was well paired with the oeuvre of her collaborators Dana Lyn and Kyle Sana, whose album, The Great Arc, the company illustrated over the course of the evening. Lyn and Sana take “trad” tunes into new sonic environments, punctuating with unusual pauses, condensing and expanding rhythms, and in this case, layering subtle natural references- frogs, crickets, mechanical sounds.  The evening followed their album in two parts, the constellations, dedicated to extinct animals, and the ark dedicated to endangered species. These were represented in the performance by subtle projection design by Dave Hannon, based upon drawings by Dana Lyn.

The pieces subtly referenced natural images, but allowed the movement and music to exist without imposing a narrative or character.

Some standout moments:



Alexandra Williamson’s strong and elegant homage to the Stegosaurus, with angular jumps and Irish inflected “classic Modern” moments,  – took my breath away.



Michelle Esch’s and Trent Kowalik’s rhythmic play between tap and Irish rhythms, while sliding through space with a contemporary abandon, winked at the Blue-tailed Skink.



Jonathan Matthews‘ expressionistic “accidental sound” creation, exploring taps on feet hands, and knees – on floor and walls, dedicated to the Sumatran Orangutan.



Melissa Padham Maass, with characteristically masterful lines, poignantly, gracefully, obliquely penned a letter to the Yangtze Finless Porpoise.


p-16Trent Kowalik, slowly and methodically enunciates a Jig rhythm with his feet, gradually  building sliding, scraping and multilayered percussion, decelerating and returning to a meditative rhythm, as if contemplating time passing, honoring the Great Auk.


New Company member Kendal Griffler shines in highly complex foot patterns and elegant partnering in “For the Trilobites.”




In a subtle nod to conservation, four dancers, Matthews, Kowalik, Esch, and Carr seated at the edge of the stage make music out of refuse. They accompany Lyn and Sana with a percussive improvisation using plastic bottles, gravel, junk metal, and plastic bins.


Reconnecting with these remarkable individuals again  highlighted the immense effort it takes to maintain an artistic practice ( anywhere, but in NYC specifically).  The catching up elicited remarkable tidbits: how many applications have you completed in the past few weeks? how many colleges are you working at right now?, and you’re balancing how many clients plus teaching gigs,and you manage to take your children to school? Etc.

I feel an overwhelming  sense of gratitude to these individuals and our broader creative community for continued dedication to generous creative practice despite all the reasons not to.

And to all of the individual audience members who came to share in the experience, without whom the work really doesn’t exist.

*Check out our mention in the Irish Echo – highlighting solos by yours truly and Jonathan Matthews!

NY Visit: FAMI 2- Head, Neck and Spine & Darrah Carr Dance visit, and show tonight, and…


Mr. Bones, Kinected

Over last weekend, Oct 20-21, with the support of a Kinected Work-Study Scholarship and the OSU Dance Semester Funding Initiative, I attended FAMI 2: Functional Anatomy for Movement and Injuries 2 at Kinected Pilates Center in New York City.
FAMI 2 is a follow up to FAMI, a four-day anatomy workshop held at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai annually in June. Geared towards movement educators FAMI dives into structure, function, and pathology of major body regions and incorporates a gross anatomy lab component encountering prosections of each region.

(Seeing and touching the iliopsoas is much more effective than visualizing it – or trying to spell it.)

FAMI 2 focuses on a specific body region, topics rotating each year, with a deeper focus on assessment and programming for common dysfunctions of that region. This workshop’s focus was the head and neck.

Dr. Jeffrey Laitman, with typical candor and humor described important overall anatomical and evolutionary characteristics of the head and neck region, with specific attention to importance of vocal  chords in maintaining intra-abdominal pressure and function of the inner ear in relation to balance and coordination. You know, listen to how your clients/students/patients are speaking before working their glutes.  Funny. And important. A Dr. Laitman mantra : “the body never forgets and it never forgives.” That doesn’t mean to lament once injury occurs, but to choose wisely how to treat your body to cultivate longevity and optimal function – we only have one body after all.

(Seeing and touching the iliopsoas is much more effective than visualizing it – or trying to spell it.)

Dr. Jeffrey Laitman, with typical candor and humor described important overall anatomical and evolutionary characteristics of the head and neck region, with specific attention to importance of vocal  chords in maintaining intra-abdominal pressure and function of the inner ear in relation to balance and coordination. You know, listen to how your clients/students/patients are speaking before working their glutes.  Funny. And important. A Dr. Laitman mantra : “the body never forgets and it never forgives.” That doesn’t mean to lament once injury occurs, but to choose wisely how to treat your body to cultivate longevity and optimal function – we only have one body after all.

Some activities with questionable musculoskeletal impact, according to Dr. Laitman and most human bodies…

Eliot Fishbein, FMPT discussed rehabilitative perspectives for the region, Dr. Amanda Walsh, orthopedic resident at Icahn,  gave clinical insight into injuries such as concussion and whiplash, and Kinected Director Matt McCullogh demonstrated several practical exercises geared toward balancing stability and mobility of cervical spine: many can be done on the go or at the office, others were variations on classic Pilates equipment exercises. Foci of exercises were balancing thoracic  and lumbar mobility and stability in conversation with the cervical spine, activation of posterior spinal muscle chains, oblique strengthening, and building strength in deep stabilizing endurance muscles like Longus Colli, to counter the tension and pull of superficial muscles like SCM.

Matt McCullogh and amazing client Jim demonstrating lateral flexion, thoracic flexion with posterior chain activation, and a reformer knee flexion exercise with theraband for maintaining posterior chain activation. Notice how  in the center photo by gently maintaining pressure into the theraband while nodding and curling , Jim can avoid leading with his head and achieve deeper flexion in his thoracic spine.

Some consistent takeways – respect healing time, proximalize symptoms, restore balanced functional movement, and consider the whole body in conversation.  Also, you never know the impact you have on others. Keep learning; keep sharing.

Bonus Rehearsal Snippet:

Enroute to the airport post workshop last Sunday I had the privilege to drop in to rehearsal with Darrah Carr Dance and musicians Dana Lyn and Kyle Sana in advance of our performance “Dancing the Great Arc”  10/26 & 10/27 (today and tomorrow!) at the NYC Irish Arts Center. I’ve worked with Carr since 2011,  and walking into the space, I immediately felt the warmth of this particular dance family.

Jonathan Matthews and Melissa Padham Maass, in rehearsal.

By the Way… We made the NY TIMES Dance Picks for this Weekend!



A note from 14th street.

I do not miss the atmosphere of the subway at 8 am, 5 pm, or it seems the 1 train at any time of day…


Mid Term Reflection: Intermedia Performance

Last week in Professor Norah Zuniga-Shaw’s Intermedia Performance class I said – “I’ve never considered that before right now. Actually I’ve never considered a lot that we do in this course until now.” An off-the-cuff remark , I don’t remember exactly what “that” was, but it pretty much sums up every class thus far.

Brave New World

I’ve noticed an exhilarating and intimidating sense of Beginner-ness in Intermedia.Class is located in MOLA, or the Motion Lab, the most souped up BlackBox I’ve ever seen. Lab is structured as open play- here are tools, here’s your team, here’s a task, here’s the on-button, GO.  For someone who can barely turn on the television (if there is more than one remote I don’t bother) it’s a Brave New World. It’s exciting.  I take baby steps using Isadora software, operating the lightboard, sending images to different projectors- not with confidence yet – but maybe by end of the semester.

(I consider my discomfort with many forms of tech and flashback to my only technology classes in high school: lovely septuagenarian Sr. Christina (bless her) teaching us the long-cuts for copy and paste in Microsoft Word, a program which we had all already been using for years. “Now girls don’t only use the shortcuts, use the buttons in the menu bar, so you know how to do it the real way.” Cue plenty of rude eyerolls from students, and not much learning.)

I’m identifying resistance/ fear around this world I don’t know! So I’m diving in to learning – attacking fear with information. If only the whole world would do that too.

While we generate studies we are experimenting with how multiple tools (live feed video, recorded projection, spatial orientation of projectors, physical objects, spatial arrangement of performer and audience, light and shadow, and live and recorded sounds) create atmosphere, affect, and offer possibilities for meaning. For example in a lab for our first study, a digital portrait, Tara Burns, Emily Craver, and I explored shadow, live video feeds, multiple projection surfaces and close proximity between audience and performer.

Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 1.34.46 PM

Tara Burns in our Digital Portrait Study

As we venture into further inquiry and practical exploration around the concept of virtuality, the reality of virtual space and corporeal objects, the reality of the physical body and the reality of a live feed video of that same body, the notions of what is and isn’t “real” become blurred more easily than I imagined.

Tech vs.  Content

Right now we’re playing with technological tools, and each study reveals ways in which these tools allow for unique meaning making. In Digital Performance: A History o f New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation Steve Dixon illustrates the tension between technology and content.  Rather than locating artistic value and primary analysis within technology itself, ie. “the Web represents the greatest hypertext work, ” Dixon focuses on the “particularities of performance and performances in varied ways in order to create different types of content, drama, meanings, aesthetic impacts, physiological and psychological effects, audience performer relationships, and so on.”

I’ve noticed as we view multiple pieces that the implicit bias I came in with- against gratuitous technological use (tacky backdrops, tech for tech’s sake) -is still there, yet I even more deeply appreciate works that utilize technology as a necessary means to fully investigate concept/content – check out Alice Sheppard’s Kinetic Light and Nicole Canuso’s Pandaemonium. (I saw Pandaemonium at NYLA in 2017.)

Course Crossover

So far I’m enjoying frequent overlap between Intermedia and conversations in other courses.   For example in Intermedia we looked at Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker’s FASE analyzing from a gestalt perspective of interplay between elements, of editing and presentation.  Nearly simultaneously we visited the work in Daniel Roberts’ Music and Choreography class-  analyzing movement visualizations of phasing in the minimalist score.  Not long after we mentioned De Keersmaeker’s formal structures in conversations of transatlantic trends in postmodern dance in Dr. Hannah Kosstrin’s Postmodernism class…

Personal Practice

Every so often Norah directs us to leave the dark theater and venture outside for a silent 10 minutes of “notice what you notice” walking– returning refreshed for the day’s task. I’ve found that taking a similar noticing walk first thing can foster a more focused day – likewise it’s a good “reset” in the middle.

Dixon, Steve. 2007. Digital Performance: A History o f New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation. Cambridge: MIT Press.