Bennington College

S. 4. Emergent Improvisation - Images/Photographs & Films 2006-

S. 4. Emergent Improvisation - Images/Photographs & Films 2006-

 

My introduction to Dance was through Improvisation. Back when I was studying at The Philadelphia Dance Academy under Nadia Chilkovsky (later to become the University of the Arts), Nadia offered improvisation classes as one of the central fixtures of our studies. It came out of her work with Isadora Duncan and then, later Martha Graham, but Nadia had her own version, which was really allowing young people to explore their own movement ideas and find their own expressive potential. Very early on, it gave me the permission to be ‘myself’ in my dancing, which was very powerful and probably the only place that I could be myself growing up. We were given permission to take risks, there were no limits or censors to our explorations in movement, other than not to injure oneself. The work was focused mainly on solo improvisation and not with groups. Nadia was a choreographer, and she made many dance pieces for us where we learned dance phrases to perform. My next big introduction to improvisation was with Judith Dunn at Bennington College during my sophomore year at Bennington. Since I was familiar with dance improvisation, I was so excited to be able to enter this way of dancing again. Judith Dunn and Bill Dixon had their own unique way of exploring improvisation, and it was not only in a solo practice but with ensembles as well. Throughout my entire time as a student, improvisation was essential for me, and my collaboration with percussionist, David Moss and my senior project with Tommy Guralnik, saxophonist were deeply embedded in this work. When I returned to Bennington College at Judy’s suggestion, ten years later, I taught Dance Improvisation for the first time at Bennington. (I had some trial teaching and research with a very talented group of dancers at Castleton State College and Williams College prior), but I started teaching dance improvisation in earnest at Bennington in 1981, while I was also the first person to enter the Masters in Fine Arts graduate program in Dance at Bennington. The Dance Faculty decided to start it once I was there teaching for Judy. I taught with Bill Dixon, and much of it was Judi’s approach that I had studied. But now over several years, since I had decided not to pursue a professional career in New York City as a choreographer, I began seriously to investigate improvisational practices in the studio with Bennington dance students. Some of those early students, like Jonathan Kinzel, Hope Clark, DeeDee Dorvillier, and then Lionel Popkin, Cori Olinghouse, Keith Thompson, Katie Martin, Jaamil Olawale Kosoko and Paul Matteson have gone on to significant careers as choreographers and improvisers, pursuing their own important work. Read on: http://hdl.handle.net/11209/14189

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