This spring, the Dance Program is uniting the worlds of concert dance and performance art under the leadership of Jessica Berson, Acting Dance Director. The spring semester kicks off with an audition for a dance-theater work choreographed by Berson, as well as a new Dramatic Arts course that she will teach.
On Tuesday, January 25, Berson invites students to audition for a multimedia dance-theater work that will be presented at Dancers' Viewpointe 11, the Dance Program's spring concert. While it is a re-working of a piece she created several years ago, Berson is creating a lot of new material for this version of the work.
Berson describes her movement style as breath-initiated, using suspension and release, and working with gravity and the floor. The piece explores ideas of nostalgia and the experience of growing up. Dancers can expect a mix of learning established dance phrases, improvisation, and collaborative movement generation. "I'm hoping to incorporate a lot more contact and partnering in this version of the work," says Berson, "I'm really looking for dancers who are interested in collaboration and bringing their individual voices to the process."
On the academic front, Berson is teaching Dramatic Arts 162: Where Dance Meets Performance Art. Students in this new course will study a variety of body-based performance practices, both in the studio and in seminar-style discussions, while working towards the creation of their own evening-length performance piece.
In addition to her own expertise, Berson is bringing in a plethora of guest artists to work with the class. Bessie Award-winning dancer/sculptor/performance artist Aki Sasamoto will visit the class while installing a site-specific work at Arts@29 Garden, Harvard's newest art space. Performance artist Tim Miller will visit the class as part of a larger residency at Harvard, during which he will perform his solo work, Glory Box, about the struggle for immigration rights for gay couples, and will host a week-long workshop to help Harvard students create a shared work of performance art drawing upon their own autobiographical experiences. Postmodern dance pioneer Sara Rudner will share her experiences working with choreographer Twyla Tharp, and her own postmodern strategies for making dances. Yale University's World Performance Project director and professional dancer Emily Coates will discuss her background in contemporary postmodern dance and intercultural performance.
Students will not only study experimental performance, they will also do a lot of experimenting themselves. Says Berson, "As long as everyone is safe, pretty much anything goes."
[Caption: Ariel Kiyomi Lepon '14 and Julia Havard '11. Photo by Andreas Randow.]