My Thesis (lol)

Did you know that, in addition to having assorted feelings on the internet, I have also been going to college for the past four years? Well, the one true motivation behind my education was to be on lolmythesis.com. I can leave now.

lolmy

Screenshoted from here!

Actual thesis here.

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Life Hits

As is probably the case for a lot of people, these last couple weeks of my semester have gotten really intense really fast. It’s mostly things I really want to be doing, but this has still majorly been testing my stress-management abilities. Things happening in my life lately:

  • Working/filming performances for my internship this weekend. Have some editing and organizing to do now.
  • Collaborated on a dance film project with some other interns in-between those rehearsals and performances.
  • Tech week for a ballet performance this week. Another dancer recently got injured, so I learned a 7 minute dance last minute, mostly from video. Did it for the first time at dress rehearsal yesterday. Performing next weekend. Erp.
  • Tech week/performances for the dance department show the following week. Oh, and Mark Morris came to rehearsal for his piece that we’re staging last week.

“Tight pants don’t make you intelligent.”

–Mark Morris

  • Philosophy paper that needs to happen this week (hello social media and the post-liberal subject).
  • Experimental Psych research project that needs to happen in the next couple weeks (hello stereotype-threat, socioeconomic status, and spreadsheets).
  • Some finals.
  • Still, applying for summer jobs/internships (mostly unsuccessfully). This weekend, this involved me writing sample coverage of a film script, which I previously did not know was a thing (but now I do).
  • Sleep?

The mottos I came up with for this week (they must be true because they sound good?):

  • Life is a series of rejections, with a few key exceptions.
  • It’s not about whether you screw up. It’s about how you screw up.

Snowpocalypse Dancing

Because why let a little cold and aggressive snowball fighters get in the way of dancing? What we did this Wednesday:

DanceLens “let it go” during Snowpocalypse 2015 (“it” being assumptions about where dance should occur, of course)! Also, people threw snow at each other.

Filming: Bridget Jamison
Editing: Nadia Khayrallah
Dancers: Bridget Jamison, Kiki Mackaman-Lofland, Debbie Mausner, Melissa Kaufman-Gomez, Sadi Mosko, Carolyn Silverman, Nadia Khayrallah, Freeland Ellis
Also featuring: snowball fighters of Columbia University, some kids, and a dog

Music by Brad Bosenbeck, AnnMarie Buonaspina, Drew Vella, Jason Domingo, Justin Scheidling, and Maryann Buonaspina. Check them out here. 

DanceLens is a group for Barnard and Columbia University students dedicated to the creation of site-specific dance films. Check us out here. 

Breaking Rules, Fourth Walls, and Probably Other Things

Video

Remember when we were dancing in odd and sometimes less-than-legal places to make site-specific dance video installations for Founders Day? Well the videos are now up on the interwebs for you to see.

My film is below and you can see the rest here.

For over 100 years, Barnard students have been subjected to written and unwritten laws regarding stairwell traffic patterns, which reflect a larger social regulation of human movements. We saw what happens when we break them.

Milbank rules taken from the November 3, 1992 Barnard Bulletin.

Choreography by: Nadia Khayrallah
Filmed By: Rebecca Bass
Performed by: Kiki Mackaman-Lofland, Debbie Mausner, Kaiti Giritlian

Keep Moving, Nothing to See Here

What I’ve been working on this weekend:

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 8.23.53 PM

I’m in a site-specific composition class, and we’re currently working on film projects set in various significant locations on Barnard’s campus for an installation during the school’s Founders Day event. Between shooting my project and dancing in other people’s projects, this means dancing in staircases, student centers, and gyms (and I wasn’t in the library group).

It also means sometimes coming into conflict with security guards and have to repeatedly explain that yes, we are cleared to be here, no, the building won’t break, and yes, we know it’s not a dance studio–that’s the definition of site specificity.

Personally, I would have liked to catch a security encounter on camera, since my film relates to violating rules and expectations of movement in public spaces. That didn’t happen.

But what’s just as interesting is the reactions of the “normal people” in the space. There are some people who will stop and watch, clap, and ask us questions about our dancing and our project. There are some people who look at us like we’re crazy.

But the majority just pretend not to notice. Of course, they do notice–they do double-takes with their eyeballs and might whisper something to the person next to them–but they just keep walking, making sure not to make eye contact. They maintain the choreographed motion of normality, as if a regular pace and a fixed frontal gaze were enough to preserve the illusion that nothing is off. Like if you keep moving like everything is normal, maybe it is.

Limitation and Innovation: the Art of Making it Work Anyway

On Monday, I went to a lecture by Twyla Tharp about her book The Creative Habit. Her talk included some ideas about how to develop creativity and stories of her own experiences as, peppered with a fair share of strong opinions and unfiltered sass. But what really interested me was hearing the about her modest choreographic beginnings and the extent to which her early career was shaped by adaptation to circumstance.

Her presentation stressed the importance of structure as a framework for creative innovation. This principle, though it might sound a little contradictory to someone with a more romanticized notion of free-flowing creativity, should ring true with anyone who has ever taken an improv class and realized that the instruction “go across the floor without lifting your left elbow off the ground” results in a lot more interesting movement than “just do anything,” or even anyone who has found themself making more progress on a paper during a few hour-long breaks between classes than a completely empty Sunday.

When we work within rules and limitations, we more fully realize just how much freedom we have within that limited space, and we innovate by necessity as we figure out how to negotiate around these barriers.

However, “structure” doesn’t have to mean a clean, organized, plan that you’ve established for yourself. For all of Tharp’s emphasis on efficient planning and preparation, much of her creative success seemed to be guided by different type of structure and restriction: the random twists and turns of life and the rocky financial landscape of the real arts world. In other words, realities that she couldn’t and wouldn’t have planned for.

In fact, even her choice to pursue a choreographic career was directed not by great plans or inspiration, but by a simple practical dilemma. When asked why she started choreographing, she said:

“I wanted to dance and I had no one to dance with.”

Yeah, I know that feeling, too. But it just gets more interesting from there. Working with shoestring budget and little professional experience, she was creating dance in unconventional public sites before even touching a proscenium stage (she claimed to have invented flash mobbing). Following almost the reverse of the typical narrative of the site-specific postmodern choreographer who rebells against their traditional theatrical background by “breaking the fourth wall,” she began her career by pushing dance into the public sphere simply because she didn’t have money or space for private performances–sometimes you can’t afford a fourth wall.

She eventually made it to a stage, but her career path continued in response to practical circumstance, as she ended up crossing over into film, motion capture, Broadway, ballet, and horse-ography based on who was offering her a job.

This isn’t to say that unconventional circumstances alone can create creative innovation. Rather it’s the way she responded to them, facing both roadblocks and unfamiliar opportunities with stubborn perseverance, practical savy, and brilliant mental flexibility. She had to make it work.

Maybe that was part of the point about preparation: that it will equip you to handle unexpected changes and challenges. Or maybe her views are just more reflective of her more stable current work process as an established choreographer.

Regardless, the talk got me thinking about how artists are very much affected by the constraints of the “real world” both for better and for worse. And maybe a large part of whether they limit us or push us forward depends on how we adapt to them, how well we can play around the boundaries. Whether we can refuse to say “no” and make it work.