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Behind the Curtain Blog

NDEO's "Behind the Curtain" Blog features articles written by NDEO members about dance and dance education topics as well as periodic updates on NDEO programs and services. This is a FREE resource available to ALL.

08Mar

Interdisciplinary Collaboration as a Source for (re)Igniting Student Creativity

NDEO’s Guest Blog Series features posts written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. We continue this series with a post by Dr. Christi Camper Moore, Assistant Professor of Dance at Ohio University. Guest posts reflect the experiences, opinions, and viewpoints of the author and are printed here with their permission. NDEO does not endorse any business, product, or service mentioned in guest blog posts. If you are interested in learning more about the guest blogger program or submitting an article for consideration, please click here.

As faculty members in the College of Fine Arts at Ohio University, myself (in the School of Dance) along with one of my colleagues, Kate Hampel (School of Art + Design), agree that interdisciplinary opportunities are incredibly valuable and encourage our students to draw inspiration from unexpected sources, and to see their own work from an entirely new perspective.  

Students are often provided myriad opportunities to engage in explorative practices during dance classes. Many teachers incorporate improvisation, discussion, collaboration, and encouragement of students to “make it their own” as tools to spark students’ imagination and support ownership of their learning. However, amid ongoing burnout and stressors related to the pandemic, feelings of being stifled have presented a more urgent and unique challenge to students’ creativity. In dance major programs that also require students to take dance improvisation and/or composition courses, in tandem with technique courses, this can heighten disconnects between practice and process as students are asked to produce or explore creative work in multiple contexts across the curriculum.  

Therefore, by designing a visceral, purposeful interdisciplinary collaboration, we hoped to reignite conversations and possibilities for students, refocusing on what ideas might surface – or reaffirm – a creative practice.   

The Collaboration and Process

Kate and I engaged undergraduate students in the Art + Design Special Topics course, Fiber: Collaborative Cloth, in an interdisciplinary collaboration with students in the first-year, majors’ Modern Dance class.   

Learn/Make

First, Collaborative Cloth students learned the process of ropemaking and used traditional and non-traditional materials to explore how tension and material history combine to create new dynamic objects. Students considered the potential for interaction and performance with their ropes before passing them to the dancers.  

Dancers were then asked to select a rope. Individually or in small groups, students initially explored the object through discussion and improvisation. Dancers considered the look, texture, and/or the maker’s "intention" of the rope and how this might be embodied through movement. Dancers explicitly explored the relationship(s) between the physical object and the physical body.   

Explore/Create

Next, dancers created compositional studies that communicated the connection or their kinesthetic understanding of the object. For approximately one hour, students engaged in conversations about how the ropes were informing their choices, brainstormed various possibilities and relationships, and established ways of working alongside, and intertwined with, this new medium. Once the compositional studies had a clear form, staff accompanist Michael Lachman, provided improvised scores for each of the studies. All dancers watched live in the studio and provided initial thoughts and observations.  

The studies were video recorded and shared with the Collaborative Cloth students.   

Discuss/Reflect

All students involved in the collaboration had a chance to reflect on their experiences and observations. The dancers shared how reinvigorating this project was, discovering new ways of moving, improvising, and being together. They were excited about the possibilities that the ropes provided as an effective tool to help disrupt and (re)reconsider the creative process. Below is an excerpt from the list of ideas that dancers generated after completing this interdisciplinary project, which provided fresh perspectives for movement generation and refinement.  

Boundaries

Shape

Physical space

Wearable objects

Points of view Weighted-ness

Bound and free flow

Initiation

Who/what informs movement?

Touch

Props as partners?

Origin stories

Tension in the making, but not the doing

Interaction among…

Positionality to the mundane   

Final Thoughts

As many of us continue to deal with challenges of isolation and feelings of missed together-ness, this collaboration sparked connection and reignited an excitement for creating among our students. Kate made the comment, "There's a proximity that one can have as a maker of objects that is really refreshing to let go of, by letting another creative practitioner from a different field bring their own expertise to the work and activate it through movement."   

As a teacher, I was once again reminded that there is limitless possibility to be inspired by the work of others. When we communicate to students that their art, while deeply personal, is also about building community and partnerships, they expand the possibilities for their own creative practice. Encouraging dancers to seek out interdisciplinary, collaborative opportunities and other artists who are also makers and performers, can be a source for creative well-being. Dance teaches us to be adaptive, responsive, and open. However, this feels like an important time to be reminded that our touchstones for inspiration are more numbered than we might remember.    

Dr. Christi Camper Moore is an Assistant Professor of Dance at Ohio University, where she also heads the Master of Arts Administration program. She teaches undergraduate technique and composition, and graduate dance pedagogy and arts management courses. Her professional  choreography has been presented at venues in Ohio, Virginia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Recent dance works include Stringed Rendering (working title, premier 2022) and Residuum (2020). As a scholar, Christi’s research focuses on pedagogy; exploring how dance training, curriculum, and community shape a student’s identity within the context of their  studies. Her recent publications include “‘Culture of Basic Goodness’ – examining factors that  contribute to student success and sense of place in undergraduate dance major programs” (Research in Dance Education, 2021) and the  co-authored article, “The extended mind: Tools to expand cognition in the collegiate modern dance class” (Journal of Dance Education, 2021).  Quote and Summary for forums or eblast: “However, amid ongoing burnout and stressors related to the pandemic, feelings of being stifled have presented a more urgent and unique challenge to students’ creativity. In dance major programs that also require students to take dance improvisation and/or composition courses, in tandem with technique courses, this can heighten disconnects between practice and process as students are asked to produce or explore creative work in multiple contexts across the curriculum. Therefore, by designing a visceral, purposeful interdisciplinary collaboration, we hoped to reignite conversations and possibilities for students, refocusing on what ideas might surface – or reaffirm – a creative practice.”  In this guest blog post, Dr. Christi Camper Moore, Assistant Professor at Ohio University, shares a reflection about the process of designing a visceral, purposeful interdisciplinary collaboration for students in the School of Dance and School of Art + Design at her institution, and the impact this project had on her students in the midst of challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Photos by Christi Camper Moore

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