Friends of Brockport Dance recently sat down with MFA Graduate Students, Adrian Safar, Amy Sullivan and Yang Wang to discuss the process of creating work for their thesis projects this semester. Together they talked about generating movement, themes in their work and their written research. Check out the conversation below:
Friends of Brockport Dance (FOBD): What themes or ideas are you exploring in your thesis work?
Amy Sullivan: For my thesis I crafted a site-specific work, which means I am creating my movement and material according to the site. The dancers and I are taking in the textures, architecture, and qualities of the space and letting them influence the dance making. For example, one of my dancers was assigned to a corner of the room with an old beat up piano in which she explored its architecture, framing the object and space around it with her movement. Along with exploring the architecture, we have really played with the texture of the floor, which brings out a lot of swiping motifs using different parts of the body to complete the action.
Adrian Safar: My thesis work is an exploration of protest without being confrontational. It’s an exploration of the manipulation of speech, the appropriateness of language and the struggle of communication. It’s a journey through the process of my experience as well as the greater social struggle to connect and be heard.
FOBD: How, if at all, is your creative thesis related to your written thesis?
Adrian: My written work is focusing on the protest works of three choreographers (Donald Byrd, Paul Taylor and Daniel Nargin). I started by reviewing these works and studying the foundations of modern dance as communications of protest through the 1930-40’s.
Amy: My written thesis is all about site-specific dance, including the history, choreographers, definitions, and the kinesthetic response of the audience members to the specific performance. A large part of my research will include my own process as well as anonymous surveys from my audience, gathering their kinesthetic experience.
FOBD: Can you talk a little bit about working with your cast of dancers for the past several weeks?
Yang Wang: I really enjoyed working with my cast of beautiful and intelligent dancers. Sometimes I would show them a movement theme I was working on, and then let them play with it in their own bodies. I appreciated the process of working together because they allowed me to see more movement possibility through their bodies.
Adrian: I chose a very diverse range of movers for this work, from level to experience to background and approach to the body. I have enjoyed the challenge of communicating ideas and qualities of movement to them and seeing the process and exploration of attack. I have had the pleasure of working with a present group of artists.
FOBD: What were the factors in choosing to premiere your thesis work in the specific concert it will be showing at?
Yang: I chose Hartwell Theater because I was looking for space that allowed for my dancers to gather energy throughout the performance. Therefore, the space could not be too big. The first theme of my thesis is called “coral breath.” I imagine my dancers hidden and just performing the movement with their arms. Hartwell Theater provides the perfect conditions for my design, since the curtains can help hide certain parts of the performer’s bodies.
Amy: I originally chose Rose L. Strasser Studio, not knowing I would eventually be showing the thesis as site-specific performance. Therefore, I chose to show an excerpt of the piece in Strasser and left the full performance to the site-specific location, located in Rochester, called the Monroe Park Vineyard Community Center. Though the two spaces are incredibly different they share a similar viewing experience, which is a dance viewed from all sides.
FOBD: Any advice to graduate student beginning their creative thesis projects soon?
Yang: I encourage other graduate students to start their thesis early, and always be fully prepared for each rehearsal.
Adrian: When you become content with your work, go back in and mess it up and be riskier, it’s through that challenge that some of the best thoughts surface. Stay in communication with your dancers and yourself. Get excited and then get bored and then make it exciting again.
Amy: I think it is helpful to know that your original image or preconceived notion of what your thesis “should” look like is probably not going happen. The sooner you let go of that image the better; this creates room for the work to become what it wants to be.