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Rossi Lamont Walter ’14: Adjacent to the body

The spring dance performance program, with photography by Liza Voll, is also a poster.

Harvard Arts Blog asked dancers to reflect on their experiences preparing for the Dance Program Spring Performance 8 p.m. March 28-30 at Farkas Hall. Guest blogger and dancer Rossi Lamont Walter ’14 is a history of science concentrator in Quincy House. He has been working with choreographer and OFA Dance Program director Jill Johnson for DPSP13.

Working with Jill Johnson has revolutionized how I understand space, movement and meaning. A master cooperator, ever with a light behind her eyes, Johnson is quick to acknowledge individual efforts and emphasizes the relationship that we have to one another as colleagues and collaborators. Moreover, since coming to Harvard in 2011, she has supported research in the field by extending invitations directly to student artists such as local break dancers and beat boys. She recognizes their value to the dance community as teachers and colleagues. I am a huge fan of her efforts in this regard.

In her contribution to the spring performance, one will find movement recopied from itself. There are many patterns of shape, and time is a big question (How is time employed? Is it measured or not measured?) For the dancers, however, the impetus has been not so much about the shape of the body but rather about investigating the space adjacent to the body. The result is that the shape of the body, while important, becomes incidental. One way to see the work, then, is as an invitation to understand that what you may not see directly does exist; one can consider the converse, too, that what you do see (the shapes made by the body, among other things) may not always be “the point.”

What I take away from this process is Johnson’s willingness to talk about her own ideas as they develop. She confidently shares what she does not yet know about the work. In so doing, she constructs a true laboratory, in which many methods are worth consideration, and trials are allowed—even expected—to fail. Here, each person is constantly encouraged to contribute something he or she thinks may be of value. Such conditions, I believe, are extremely important in any field of study, and the way Johnson manifests them with the dancers in the spring performance is truly the way forward.

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