Reed Winter Fellowship for International Travel recipient Reid Bondurant, senior biology major, traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel to explore an awareness-inspiring style of dance known as “Gaga”
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
I’ve been struggling to find the appropriate words to express just how profound my experience as a President’s Summer Fellow has been. After falling into a deep rut following a series of negative experiences working as a professional ballet dancer, I desperately wanted to rewire my relationship to my body, my technique, and the concert dance world in general. This was a big request for a ten week project, but I am incredibly happy with the results. Through innumerable bruises, doubts, and tears, I have come out of this adventure a very different dancer then when I began. Spending six weeks training and exploring at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance has given me new confidence, a new sense of wonder, and new joy in all things dance and movement related.
It’s hard to believe that nearly three weeks have passed since I wrote my last blog post for Works and Days. Here in San Francisco, time has been flying by, and the workshop I’ve been participating in at the SF Conservatory of Dance is almost over. When I last wrote, I was nearing the end of the first half of the program, and had been busily taking classes in a variety of different contemporary dance idioms. In the second half of the workshop, the focus has narrowed and my classmates and I have been immersed in the improvisational and choreographic techniques of choreographer William Forsythe. While we haven’t been working with Forsythe directly, our exploration has been guided by a trusted representative of the choreographer (and a brilliant artist in his own right), Alessio Silvestrin. Having studied Forsythe and his choreography extensively for my final paper in Professor Hannah Kosstrin’s Dance 201 class, I had some idea of what to expect going into this part of the workshop, but it has still been incredibly challenging.
Through my President's Summer Fellowship, Reconstructive Improvisation, I intend to transform my relationship with dance through participation in the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance’s (SFCD) 2013 Summer Workshop. This workshop explores the work of choreographer William Forsythe, a preeminent contemporary choreographer who has radically re-configured classical ballet.
I think it’s safe to say that this project is turning out to be one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. Going from nine hours of studying a day to nine hours of dancing has been a pretty drastic shift. My whole body aches, and when I get home at night my brain is a slushy mess of musings on energetic pathways, bodily syntax, and corporeal architecture. I’m currently about halfway through my project, and have been in San Francisco studying at the SF Conservatory of Dance for several weeks. Along with my 26 compatriots I spend from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM Monday through Friday and 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM on Saturdays in the studio.