John Jasperse

Undergraduate Discipline

Dance

Graduate Program

MFA Dance Program

Director, Dance Program

BA, Sarah Lawrence College. Founded John Jasperse Company, later renamed John Jasperse Projects, in 1989 and has since created 17 evening-length works through this nonprofit structure, as well as numerous commissions for other companies, including Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project, Batsheva Dance Company, and Lyon Opera Ballet. John Jasperse Projects have been presented in 24 US cities and 29 countries by presenters that include the Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Joyce Theater, New York Live Arts, Dance Theater Workshop, The Kitchen, Walker Art Center, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, American Dance Festival, La Biennale di Venezia, Dance Umbrella London, Montpellier Danse, and Tanz im August Berlin. Recipient of a 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award, two Bessie awards (2014, 2001), and multiple fellowships from US Artists, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Tides/Lambent Foundation, Guggenheim Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, and National Endowment for the Arts, in addition to numerous grants and awards for John Jasperse Projects. On the faculty and taught at many distinguished institutions nationally and internationally, including Hollins University MFA, University of California–Davis, Movement Research, PARTS (Brussels, Belgium), SEAD (Salzburg, Austria), Centre National de la Danse (Lyon, France), and Danscentrum (Stockholm, Sweden). Co-founder of CPR (Center for Performance Research) in Brooklyn, NY. SLC, 2016–

Undergraduate Courses 2021-2022

Dance

First-Year Studies in Dance

Open, FYS—Year

Students will enroll in a selection of movement practice classes, as well as improvisation and an academic study of dance, that together will make up First-Year Studies in Dance. (Please refer to the course catalogue for the component class descriptions.) Students will be dancing in the studio every day. Throughout the fall semester, we’ll also meet weekly in the First-Year Studies in Dance Project to dig deeper into the work that we are doing in our dance classes. Some questions that we’ll examine include: What roles has dance played in various cultures and societies, both now and in the past? How has dance interacted with other art forms and other fields of study? What are the elements of dance? What can dance do, and what can we do with dance? We’ll examine these and other questions through reading and discussion, as well as through experiments in dancing and by making short dances. Students will also meet in individual conferences each week throughout the fall semester and in biweekly conferences in the spring semester to develop their own project based on their own particular interests and the material explored in class.

Faculty

Improvisation in Dance as Real-Time Composition

Component—Year

Whenever we make something, we are improvising—making it up as we go. But imagination and creativity isn’t random. It is true that artists of all disciplines have eureka moments and epiphanies, but those “aha” moments are born of practices that engage experimentation, strategies, observation, and decision-making—supported by states of concentration. Similarly, the notions of “perfect forms” and “free improvisation” are both theoretical impossibilities. Nothing is ever totally fixed nor is it totally open. No matter what creative endeavor in which we are engaged, we are always in the real world, in a space in between these two extremes. In this course, we will make dances in real time with varying degrees and types of determinacy. We’ll be guided by a wide variety of concerns and ways of focusing our choices but will be consistently aware that we are composing dance in real time. That will require honing our perceptual skills, as well as our skills of articulation and communication, with our collaborators. Throughout the year, we’ll develop our abilities both to build coherent structures that will guide our choice-making and to notice and make use of the serendipity that chance brings. This component is open to students with prior experience in improvisation and dance-making, as well as to those new to the form.  

Faculty

Lighting in Life and Art

Component—Year

Light is a form of electromagnetic radiation that allows us to see. Light’s qualities and its interaction with space have profound effects on the affect of an experience. We all know that the feel of a midsummer afternoon is not the same as that of a cloudy, gray afternoon or a subway car or a sunset or a night with a full moon. What qualities of light generate these disparate feelings? The art and practice of crafting light is the subject of this component. We will examine the theoretical and practical aspects of light in multiple settings. This will begin with a practice of noticing what we might typically ignore. From there, we will approach learning how to craft the conditions of light primarily, though not exclusively, within a theatrical environment. Understanding the historical conventions of theatre—in particular, those of theatrical dance in the United States—will provide a point of departure to begin to think beyond those historical conventions. Emphasis will be on learning basic lighting skills, including those of stagecraft. Students will collaborate with, and create original lighting designs for, the Time-Based Art works when such needs are appropriate to the artistic proposal.

Faculty

Live Time-Based Art

Component—Year

In this class, graduates and upper-class undergraduates with a special interest and experience in the creation of time-based artworks that include live performance will design and direct individual projects. Students and faculty will meet weekly to view works-in-progress and discuss relevant artistic and practical problems, both in class on Tuesday evenings and in conferences taking place on Thursday afternoons. Attributes of the work across multiple disciplines of artistic endeavor will be discussed as integral and interdependent elements in the work. Participation in mentored, critical-response feedback sessions with your peers is a key aspect of the course. The engagement with the medium of time in live performance, the constraints of presentation of the works both in works-in-progress and in a shared program of events, and the need to respect the classroom and presentation space of the dance studio will be the constraints imposed on the students’ artistic proposals. Students working within any number of live performance traditions are as welcome in this course as those seeking to transgress orthodox conventions. While all of the works will engage in some way with embodied action, student proposals need not fall neatly into a traditional notion of what constitutes dance. The cultivation of open discourse across traditional disciplinary artistic boundaries, both in the process of developing the works and in the context of presentation to the public, is a central goal of the course. The faculty members leading this course have roots in dance practice but also have practiced expansive definitions of dance within their own creative work. This course will culminate in performances of the works toward the end of the semester in a shared program with all enrolled students and within the context of winter and spring time-based art events. Performances of the works will take place in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Theatre or elsewhere on campus in the case of site-specific work.

Faculty

Graduate Courses 2021-2022

MFA Dance

Improvisation in Dance as Real-Time Composition

Component—Year

Whenever we make something, we are improvising—making it up as we go. But imagination and creativity isn’t random. It is true that artists of all disciplines have eureka moments and epiphanies, but those “aha” moments are born of practices that engage experimentation, strategies, observation, and decision-making—supported by states of concentration. Similarly, the notions of “perfect forms” and “free improvisation” are both theoretical impossibilities. Nothing is ever totally fixed nor is it totally open. No matter what creative endeavor in which we are engaged, we are always in the real world, in a space in between these two extremes. In this course, we will make dances in real time with varying degrees and types of determinacy. We’ll be guided by a wide variety of concerns and ways of focusing our choices but will be consistently aware that we are composing dance in real time. That will require honing our perceptual skills, as well as our skills of articulation and communication, with our collaborators. Throughout the year, we’ll develop our abilities both to build coherent structures that will guide our choice-making and to notice and make use of the serendipity that chance brings. This component is open to students with prior experience in improvisation and dance-making, as well as to those new to the form.  

Faculty

Lighting in Life and Art

Component—Year

Light is a form of electromagnetic radiation that allows us to see. Light’s qualities and its interaction with space have profound effects on the affect of an experience. We all know that the feel of a midsummer afternoon is not the same as that of a cloudy, gray afternoon or a subway car or a sunset or a night with a full moon. What qualities of light generate these disparate feelings? The art and practice of crafting light is the subject of this component. We will examine the theoretical and practical aspects of light in multiple settings. This will begin with a practice of noticing what we might typically ignore. From there, we will approach learning how to craft the conditions of light primarily, though not exclusively, within a theatrical environment. Understanding the historical conventions of theatre—in particular, those of theatrical dance in the United States—will provide a point of departure to begin to think beyond those historical conventions. Emphasis will be on learning basic lighting skills, including those of stagecraft. Students will collaborate with, and create original lighting designs for, the Time-Based Art works when such needs are appropriate to the artistic proposal.

Faculty

Live Time-Based Art

Component—Year

In this class, graduates and upper-class undergraduates with a special interest and experience in the creation of time-based artworks that include live performance will design and direct individual projects. Students and faculty will meet weekly to view works-in-progress and discuss relevant artistic and practical problems, both in class on Tuesday evenings and in conferences taking place on Thursday afternoons. Attributes of the work across multiple disciplines of artistic endeavor will be discussed as integral and interdependent elements in the work. Participation in mentored, critical-response feedback sessions with your peers is a key aspect of the course. The engagement with the medium of time in live performance, the constraints of presentation of the works both in works-in-progress and in a shared program of events, and the need to respect the classroom and presentation space of the dance studio will be the constraints imposed on the students’ artistic proposals. Students working within any number of live performance traditions are as welcome in this course as those seeking to transgress orthodox conventions. While all of the works will engage in some way with embodied action, student proposals need not fall neatly into a traditional notion of what constitutes dance. The cultivation of open discourse across traditional disciplinary artistic boundaries, both in the process of developing the works and in the context of presentation to the public, is a central goal of the course. The faculty members leading this course have roots in dance practice but also have practiced expansive definitions of dance within their own creative work. This course will culminate in performances of the works toward the end of the semester in a shared program with all enrolled students and within the context of winter and spring time-based art events. Performances of the works will take place in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Theatre or elsewhere on campus in the case of site-specific work.

Faculty

Previous Courses

MFA Dance

Composition

Component—None

Movement is the birthright of every human being. These components explore movement’s expressive and communicative possibilities by introducing different strategies for making dances. Problems posed run the gamut from conceptually-driven dance/theatre to structured movement improvisations. The approaches vary depending on the faculty. Learn to mold kinetic vocabularies of your own choice and incorporate sound, objects, visual elements, and text to contextualize and identify your vision. Students will be asked to create and perform studies, direct one another, and share and discuss ideas and solutions with peers. Students are not required to make finished products but to involve themselves in the joy of creation.

Faculty

Dance Making

Component—Year

In this class, graduates and upperclass undergraduates with a special interest and experience in dance composition will design and direct individual choreographic projects. Students and faculty will meet weekly to view works-in-progress and, in conferences taking place the following afternoon, discuss relevant artistic and practical problems. Music, costumes, lighting, and other elements will be discussed as integral and interdependent elements in the choreographic work. This will culminate in performances of the works toward the end of the semester in the Winter Performance and Spring Performance programs. Performances will take place in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Theatre or elsewhere on campus in the case of site-specific work.

Faculty

Graduate Seminar II

Graduate Seminar—Year

This seminar is a laboratory for developing and refining projects from the Dance Making class. It is designed to encourage students to work collaboratively in solving questions of physical, spatial, and temporal issues in their work, to explore connections between dance and other forms, and to make them aware of and conversant with the creative process that is always at work in the world.

Faculty

Graduate Seminar II: Choreographic Lab

Graduate Seminar—Year

This course is designed as an imaginative laboratory in choreographic practice. It is time and space for rigorous play, where we engage critically with our own respective creative processes. All class sessions are devoted to choreographic practice in a mentored laboratory setting. Students are charged with bringing in choreographic proposals or ideas to work on with their peers during these sessions. Throughout the course, specific compositional and/or artistic concerns will be highlighted that will frame our investigations. Those concerns will be used to focus our critical analysis on an aspect of our choice making rather than as a score that is defining the choreographic proposal itself. Much of our work will focus on refining the process of choreographic practice in order to better understand how the processes with which we engage to make work shapes what we make.

Faculty

Movement Studio Practice

Component—Year

In these classes, emphasis will be on the steady development of movement skills, energy use, strength, and articulation relevant to the particular style of each teacher. At all levels, attention will be given to sharpening each student’s awareness of time and energy and to training rhythmically, precisely, and in accordance with sound anatomical principles. Degrees of complexity in movement patterns will vary within the leveled class structure. All students will investigate sensory experience and the various demands of performance.

Faculty

Performance Project: Rosas danst Rosas

Component—Fall

In 1983, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker had her international breakthrough with Rosas danst Rosas, a performance that has since become a benchmark in the history of postmodern dance. Rosas danst Rosas builds upon the minimalism initiated in Fase (1982): Abstract movements constitute the basis of a layered choreographic structure in which repetition plays the lead role. The fierceness of these movements is countered by small, everyday gestures. Rosas danst Rosas, originally created in 1983, is unequivocally feminine: Four female dancers dance themselves, again and again. While the choreography will remain the same, this restaging in 2020 will be framed with a contemporary viewpoint on gender; students of any gender identity are welcome. The exhaustion and perseverance that come with it create an emotional tension that contrasts sharply with the rigorous structure of the choreography. The repetitive, “maximalistic” music by Thierry De Mey and Peter Vermeersch was created concurrently with the choreography. This restaging of Rosas danst Rosas will focus primarily on the 2nd movement. The Fall 2020 Dance Program Performance Project, Rosas danst Rosas (1983) by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, is made possible with the generous support of the Barbara Bray Ketchum Artist-in-Residence Fund.

Faculty

Dance

Choreographic Lab

Component—Year

This course is designed as an imaginative laboratory in choreographic practice. It is time and space for rigorous play, where we engage critically with our own respective creative processes. All class sessions are devoted to choreographic practice in a mentored laboratory setting. Students are charged with bringing in choreographic proposals or ideas on which to work with their peers during these sessions. Throughout the course, specific compositional and/or artistic concerns will be highlighted that will frame our investigations. Those concerns will be used to focus our critical analysis on an aspect of our choice rather than as a score that defines the choreographic proposal itself. Much of our work will focus on refining the process of choreographic practice in order to better understand how the processes with which we engage to make work shapes what we make.

Faculty

First-Year Studies in Dance: The Practice of Embodied Creative Action

Open, FYS—Year

A common myth about art and artists is that they have visions and then set out to realize those visions. Anyone who has made creative work knows that the reality of the creative process is quite different. Making art, in general, and dance, in particular, often starts with curiosity and nagging questions rather than visions that await realization. Art, like scholarly research, doesn’t come with prewritten, how-to instructions. Rather, it is akin to a puzzle to be solved. Solving that puzzle in dance requires bringing everything you’ve got to the table—your thoughts, action, emotions, and concentration, along with rigorous analysis, courage, conviction, and some sweat. Like all students of dance at Sarah Lawrence, First-Year Studies in Dance students will enroll in multiple component classes in movement practice, creative practice, and analytic studies in dance that together will make up their program. A specially designed seminar for first-year dance students serves only as the core component of the First-Year Studies in Dance. Additionally, First-Year Studies in Dance students typically also enroll in Dance History, Beginning Improvisation, and a selection of movement practice classes. (Please refer to the online course catalogue for the component class descriptions.) Students will be dancing in the studio on a daily basis. The First-Year Studies in Dance Seminar provides students with an additional weekly forum to unite these studies in an introduction to the creative practice of a dance artist. We will expand analytical skills in both oral and written communication, explore an introduction to dance-making that will culminate in creating and performing our own short performance works, and explore how academic research is both a complement to and an integral part of creative practice. We will consider and cultivate critical perspectives on dance as an art form through class exercises, discussion, reading, writing, and oral presentations. We will build skills in each of those areas throughout the year. In sum, these components are designed to encourage individual investigation and the development of a practice of creative investigation in dance. This First-Year Studies course is open to anyone who is interested in exploring dance in all its facets, from students new to dance to students with significant prior experience in dance.

Faculty

Lighting in Life and Art

Component—Year

Light is a form of electromagnetic radiation that allows us to see. Light’s qualities and its interaction with space have profound effects on the affect of an experience. We all know that the feel of a midsummer afternoon is not the same as that of a cloudy, gray afternoon or a subway car or a sunset or a night with a full moon. What qualities of light generate these disparate feelings? The art and practice of crafting light is the subject of this component. We will examine the theoretical and practical aspects of light in multiple settings. This will begin with a practice of noticing what we might typically ignore. From there, we will approach learning how to craft the conditions of light primarily, though not exclusively, within a theatrical environment. Understanding the historical conventions of theatre—in particular, those of theatrical dance in the United States—will provide a point of departure to begin to think beyond those historical conventions. Emphasis will be on learning basic lighting skills, including those of stagecraft. Students will collaborate with, and create original lighting designs for, the Time-Based Art works when such needs are appropriate to the artistic proposal.

Faculty

Modern and Postmodern Practice

Component—Year

In these classes, emphasis will be on the continued development of basic skills, energy use, strength, and control relevant to the particular style of each teacher. At all levels, attention will be given to sharpening each student’s awareness of time and energy and to disciplining the body to move rhythmically, precisely, and in accordance with sound anatomical principles. Intermediate and advanced students will study more complex movement patterns, investigate somatic use, and concentrate on the demands of performance.

Faculty

Time-Based Art

Open, Seminar—Year

In this class, graduates and upperclass undergraduates with a special interest and experience in the creation of time-based artworks across various disciplines will design and develop individual creative projects. Students and faculty will meet weekly to view works-in-progress and discuss relevant artistic and practical problems, both in class and in conferences taking place the following afternoon. Attributes of the work across multiple disciplines of artistic endeavor will be discussed as integral and interdependent elements in the work. Participation in mentored, critical-response feedback sessions with your peers is a key aspect of the course. The engagement with the medium of time will be the sole constraint imposed on the students’ artistic proposals. While, typically, many of these works might include embodied action that could fall under the discipline of dance, this course is open to any student who is interested in cultivating discourse across traditional disciplinary artistic boundaries, both in the process of developing the works and in the context of presentation to the public. As such, the inclusion of live performers is not a requirement. If students plan on making works including dance and are living on or near campus, they will have access to the dance studios by booking time in advance and following social distancing and PPE requirements. At the completion of the fall 2020 semester, all student works will be exhibited virtually in screenings and/or postings in an online platform.​

Faculty