How do we stay connected and embodied in a time when we should keep ‘physically distant’? What can we learn- from ourselves and each other- from collaborating across these distances and differences? How will this class and our shared work help us move through what we are experiencing?
These were the guiding question for the course I taught during Texas Woman’s University two-week Maymester course, Apart & At Home: Socially-Engaged Dancemaking for Right Now. Through a mix of synchronous Zoom class sessions and asynchronous self-directed learning commissions, we dove into an online learning intensive to cultivate and share creative practices for making dances and, hopefully, make meaning from the repercussions of COVID-19 and life during a pandemic.
Acknowledging the broader impact these extraordinary circumstances on our field, and centering my values of collaboration and shared leadership, we also looked to other leaders across the country to connect with how they’re moving through and expand our understanding of how and what our dancemaking can do. Joining me on this journey was Alexandra Beller (Alexandra Beller/Dances, NYC), John Borstel (Liz Lerman LLC, Maryland), Paloma McGregor (Angela’s Pulse, NYC), and Tom Truss (independent artist, the Berkshires).
Over the course of those two weeks, these TWU graduate and undergraduate students created a series of dances, created connections with others in the field and deepened connections with each other, explored dancemaking methods in an online format, and grounded their making in the values and practices of Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process. In closing, one student had this to share with someone outside of class:
¡Ojalá hubieras estado aquí! I remember how profound your first dance making experience was for you. You would have thrived these last two weeks because this class did so many of our favorite things: we tried on and tailored new ways of making, we met and talked to extraordinary people out in the world doing the kinds of work we want to be doing, we had to work under time pressures that birthed the beginnings of ideas. We made new work, shared that work, and learned how to help each other make the most of that work (CRP). We learned new ways of seeing the world. Perhaps most valuable of all, we really heard each other and saw each other as humans and artists in process. Can’t wait to bring home what I learned to our next dance making experience. I’m pretty sure it will give us a bundle of ideas to worth with.
Besitos y abracitos,
Working alongside these artists daily for two weeks was a gift: an invitation for me to dive deep into making online and during a pandemic; a chance to grow my facilitation practices and listening practices in new and needed ways; an opportunity to connect and re-connect with communities that mean so much to me; and a grounding space to explore and experiment, and celebrate the power and presence of these artists.
About Matthew’s facilitation:
“I am able to strive to be better and to lift my confidence up with instructors like you, who are open to all answers, are engaging, have a bright spirit, and encourage students. I truly felt a shift for the better in my well-being after this Maymester class, and that I am now able to express myself, my ideas, and my emotions with more ease. I cannot thank you enough for this!” – Anonymous student