Works and Days

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"blues"


Blues Dancing Berlin, Fellowship for Winter International Travel, Serra Shelton

 A little background info about my President’s Winter Fellowship project: I am a senior English major at Reed.  I have been dancing in some shape or form since I was fourteen, but always solo performance dances: ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz, a little hip-hop here and there.  And then, just a year 

ago, I discovered social dancing.  It has radically changed the way I view my body as a medium for communication.  For me there have always been two competing mental states of mind when dancing.  The first is performance mode.  I conceive of my body as paint on a canvas: it is a fluid motion shape through which I can signify and provoke.  The space, locomotion, appearance, and form of my body are visual/kinesthetic sites of meaning.  The second state of mind is improvisation mode.  This is a selfish mode: when I dance in this body it is almost always when I am by myself, and the movement is for me and me alone.  It is an exploration of sensation, a creative play of momentum and shape.  I am not concerned with the way my body looks, only with the way it feels as I move.  The site of meaning in this type of dancing is not visible: it is an internal reflection on what it means to have a body that occupies space through time.  Both of these modes of dancing have been imperative to my formation as a dancer, yet until I found social dancing I believed that these two modes could never intersect.  Social dancing, and especially blues dancing, combines these two states of mind.  In blues dancing the indulgent focus on sensation, which I thought was only capable solo, is able to be shared with a partner.  This creates an incredible pattern of communication that I still struggle to adequately describe in words, and this wa