Dance

The Sarah Lawrence College dance program presents undergraduate students with an inclusive curriculum that exposes them to vital aspects of dance through physical, creative, and analytical practices. Students are encouraged to study broadly, widen their definitions of dance and performance, and engage in explorations of form and function.

Basic principles of functional anatomy are at the heart of the program, which offers classes in modern and postmodern contemporary styles, classical ballet, yoga, and African dance. Composition, improvisation, contact improvisation, Laban motif, dance history, music for dancers, dance and media, teaching conference, classical Indian dance, lighting design/stagecraft, and performance projects with visiting artists round out the program.

Each student creates an individual program and meets with advisers to discuss overall objectives and progress. A yearlong series of coordinated component courses, including a daily physical practice, constitute a Dance Third. In addition, all students taking a Dance Third participate at least once each semester in movement training sessions to address their individual needs with regard to strength, flexibility, alignment, and coordination, as well as to set short- and long-term training goals.

A variety of performing opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students are available in both informal and formal settings. Although projects with guest choreographers are frequent, it is the students’ own creative work that is the center of their dance experience at the College. In order to support the performance aspect of the program, all students are expected to participate in the technical aspects of producing concerts.

We encourage the interplay of theatre, music, visual arts, and dance. Music Thirds and Theatre Thirds may take dance components with the permission of the appropriate faculty.

In the interest of protecting the well-being of our students, the dance program reserves the right, at our discretion, to require any student to be evaluated by Health Services.

Prospective and admitted students are welcome to observe classes. 

Dance 2021-2022 Courses

First-Year Studies in Dance

Open, FYS—Year | 10 credits

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

Hard Times Require Furious Dancing: Movement as Language in Performance, Politics, and Everyday Life

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

This course begins with a close reading of Alice Walker’s 2010 collection of poems, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing, as an entry into the multiple layers of meaning and complexity that movement can convey and to the ways in which those layers of meaning serve to mobilize us as individuals and as collectives. Acknowledging the apparently limitless possibilities for defining dancing, dance, and movement, we will consider a range of specific references as archetypes: staged performances, public/political demonstrations, and quotidian choreographies that occur as a matter of course in natural and human-made settings. In additional to Alice Walker’s writing, texts from fields including dance, performance, literary criticism, feminism, science fiction, cultural studies, ethno-ecology, and activism, as well as examples of live and recorded performance events (formal and informal), will serve as inspiration for reading, seeing, thinking, conversing, and writing throughout the year. Histories and perspectives of all participants will be called upon to illuminate those materials and translate them into our own words. Class activities will include reading, writing, discussion, and accessible movement practices. Each student will pursue independent research arising from one or more class activities, which will include reading, writing, and presentation. For students taking the course as a regular seminar, conference work may build upon independent research for class or may be configured as a separate project. The aim of this course is to extend our recognition of movement and dancing as essential aspects of existence; to explore theoretical potentials inherent in that study; and to incorporate new insights into our reading, thinking, conversation, and writing practices.

Faculty

Dance Meeting

Component—Year

Dance Meeting convenes all undergraduate students enrolled in a five-credit Dance Third, a three-credit Dance Study, or a one-credit Dance Study, along with all MFA in Dance graduate students, in meetings that occur roughly once a month. We gather for a variety of activities that enrich and inform the dance curriculum. In addition to sharing department news and information, Dance Meeting features master classes by guest artists from New York City and beyond; workshops with practitioners in dance-related health fields; panels and presentations by distinguished guests, SLC dance faculty, and alumnae; and casting sessions for departmental performances created by the Live Time-Based Art class.

Guest Artist Lab

Component—Year

This course is an experimental laboratory that aims to expose students to a diverse set of current voices and approaches to contemporary dance making. Each guest artist will lead a module of three-to-seven class sessions. These mini-workshops will introduce students to that artist and his/her creative process. Guests will present emergent, as well as established, voices and a wide-range of approaches to contemporary artistic practice.

Yoga

Component—Year

This yoga class is designed with the interests of dancers and theatre students in mind. Various categories of postures will be practiced, with attention to alignment, breath awareness, strength, and flexibility. The physical practice includes seated and standing poses, twists, forward bends and backbends, traditional yogic breathing practices, and short meditations. Emphasis is placed on mindfulness and presence. This approach allows the student to gain tools for reducing stress and addressing unsupportive habits to carry into other aspects of their lives. Attention will be given to the chakra system as a means and metaphor for postural, movement, and character choices. The instructor has a background in dance and object theatre, in addition to various somatically-based practices that she draws upon for designing the classes to meet the individual needs of the class members. Virtual attendance is a requirement.

Faculty

Performance Project

Component—Year

Performance Project is a component where a visiting artist or company is invited to create a work with students or to set an existing piece of choreography. The works are performed for the College community at the end of the semester. 

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 Seminar: Independent Research in Dance

Component—Year

This is a research tutorial course that provides an opportunity to explore foundational texts in dance and performance in the context of the Master of Fine Arts in Dance program. With our programmatic focus on performance and choreography, there are, nevertheless, important writings and discussions in our field that will be essential for students to engage as they prepare for careers in dance and performance. In concert with our reading and discussion, each student will undertake substantive independent research and writing. The emphasis is on developing a line or lines of inquiry, devising strategies with which to effectively and meaningfully follow learning pathways to produce well-crafted writing. This will entail identifying specific research topics, sources, and methods; engaging with those resources and practices; and reporting on the process in successive stages. Projects will evolve throughout the year, culminating in a final revision of writing and in-class presentation. Students will produce periodic reports and multiple drafts of writing during each semester and will serve as readers for colleagues, as well.

Faculty

Anatomy Research Seminar

Component—Year

This is an opportunity for students who have completed a full year of anatomy study in the SLC dance program to pursue functional anatomy studies in greater depth. In open consultation with the instructor during class meetings, each student engages in independent research, developing one or more lines of inquiry that utilize functional anatomy perspectives and texts as an organizing framework. Research topics in recent years have included investigation of motor and experiential learning, development of a unique warm-up sequence to address specific individual technical issues, inquiry into kinetic experience and its linguistic expression, detailed study of knee-joint anatomy, and study of the kinematics and rehabilitation in knee injury. The class meets biweekly to discuss progress, questions, and methods for reporting, writing, and presenting research, alternating with weekly studio/practice sessions for individual and/or group research consultations.

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 technical and aesthetic orientations 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

Dance Movement Fundamentals

Component—Year

Movement and dancing are definitive signs of life! In every environment and at every level of existence, from single-cell organisms to entire populations, dancing is innate to living beings. The objective here is to awaken/reawaken students’ connection to movement as an elemental mode of human experience and learning. Students are introduced to some basic principles of dancing, as well as to strategies for preparing for dancing. Building fundamental skills for a wide range of movement studies, the focus is centered on learning movement and refining individual, partnered, and group performance in a variety of patterns and styles. Basic anatomical information is used to facilitate an understanding of dynamic alignment and movement potentials. Challenges in coordination, rhythm, range, and dynamic quality are systematically engaged, allowing students to gain strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, musicality, and awareness in the dance setting. While the primary emphasis is placed on learning structured material, improvisation and composition are incorporated to support students’ growing engagement with dance as an art form.

Faculty

Anatomy

Component—Year

How is it possible for us to move in the countless ways that we do? Learn to develop your X-ray vision of human beings in motion through functional anatomical study that combines movement practice, drawing, lecture, and problem-solving. In this course, movement is a powerful vehicle for experiencing, in detail, our profoundly adaptable musculoskeletal anatomy. We will learn Irene Dowd’s Spirals—a comprehensive warm-up/cool-down for dancing that coordinates all joints and muscles through their fullest range of motion, facilitating study of the entire musculoskeletal system. In addition to movement practice, drawings are made as part of each week’s lecture (drawing materials provided), and three short assignments will be submitted each semester. Insights and skills developed in this course can provide tremendous inspiration in the process of movement invention and composition.

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

Ballet

Component—Year

Ballet students at all levels will be guided toward creative and expressive freedom in their dancing, enhancing the qualities of ease, grace, musicality, and symmetry that define this form. We will explore alignment, with an emphasis on anatomical principles; we will cultivate awareness of how to enlist the appropriate neuromuscular effort for efficient movement; and we will coordinate all aspects of body, mind, and spirit, integrating them harmoniously.

Faculty

Hip-Hop

Component—Fall

An open-level course teaching and facilitating the practice of hip-hop/urban dance technique and performance, the class will examine the theory, technique, and vocabulary of hip-hop dance. The course will facilitate the student’s development and ability to execute and perform hip-hop/urban dance steps.

Faculty

Movement Materials Lab

Component—Fall

This course is a laboratory, focused on the creative potential of human movement. We will explore how work can come into being through the material itself, transformed through the phenomenon of dancing. While movements will be considered in terms of their compositional relationships to one another, the embodied experience of our dancing and its kinesthetic resonance will be prioritized over cognitively defined, conceptual concerns. The course will respect the intelligence of intuition as we build aptitudes for play, manipulation, and expansion of movement palettes. A key focus throughout the course will be the honing of an artistic voice in the creation of resonant dancing.

Faculty

Dance Teaching Methods

Component—Fall

Throughout the semester we will work collectively to prioritize questions and dialogue that support an understanding of what movement styles we are drawn to, how we create, interpret, and organize ideas in movement and how we might begin to share this information with each other. Students will develop a self practice and investigate the intersection between this personal movement study and teaching inquiries as a means to imagine and develop a class that is supportive to and inclusive of multiple movement levels and abilities. Working to describe the intangible and the experience of movement itself we will refine how we filter this inside the dance class and how it might be initiated or shared to enhance one's ability to access movement, increase awareness, understand rhythm, technical structures, perception, and humanity within the exchange of teaching.

Faculty

Tai Ji Quan and Qi Gong (Fundamentals)

Component—Fall

Students will be introduced to the traditional Chinese practices of Tai Ji Quan and Qi Gong. These practices engage with slow, deliberate movements, focusing on the breath, meditative practice, and posture to restore and balance energy—called chi or Qi. The postures flow together, creating graceful dances of continuous motion. Sometimes referred to as one of the soft or internal martial arts, Tai Ji Quan and Qi Gong are foundational practices within a lifelong, holistic self-cultivation in traditional Chinese culture. This class is open to dance, theatre, and any other students who are curious and interested in discovering alternative approaches to body and movement practices.

Faculty

Music for Dancers: The Logic of Interaction

Component—Spring

This component will provide students with the opportunity to play a full array of percussion instruments from around the globe: African djembes, Brazilian zurdos, Argentinian bombo, Peruvian cajon and quijada, Indian tabla, traditional traps, and more. Students will also be able to program and execute electronic drums, such as the Wavedrum and Handsonic. The focus will be prevalent toward enhancing a dancer’s full knowledge of music but will expand the vocabulary for choreographers, actors, and composers, as well. The purpose of the component is to grant students the tools needed to fully immerse themselves in the understanding of the relation of music, dance, and the performing arts. Students will expand their knowledge of terminology and execution and will be able to learn the basic rudiments of notation. We will analyze the interaction of music from both intellectual and cultural points of view. We will learn how to scan musical scores with various degrees of complexity and explore the diverse rhythmic styles that have developed through time and through different geographical and social conditions. Classes will consist of group playing. All instruments will be provided and made available for practice.

Faculty

West African Dance

Component—Spring

This yearlong course will use physical embodiment as a mode of learning about and understanding of African diasporic cultures. In addition to physical practice, master classes led by artists and teachers regarded as masters in the field of African diasporic dance and music, along with supplementary study materials, will be used to explore the breadth, diversity, history, and technique of dances derivative of the Africa diaspora. Afro Haitian, West African, Orisha dances (Lucumi, Afro Cuban), and social dance are some genres that will be explored. Participation in year-end showings will provide students with the opportunity to apply studies in a performative context.

Faculty

Butoh Through LEIMAY Ludus

Component—Spring

This course is an introduction to butoh through the lens of LEIMAY’s Ludus practice, which is the embodied research being taught today by LEIMAY Artistic Director Ximena Garnica. Butoh is a Japanese performing-art form that was created by Tatsumi Hijikata in the 1950s and 1960s. The course will start with an introduction to Hijikata’s butoh-fu, a choreographic method that physicalizes imagery through words. The course will then expand into LEIMAY’s Ludus practice, using multiple physical explorations to embody imagery and enlarge states of consciousness, enabling multiple realms of perception while challenging eurocentric notions of body, space, and time. Each dancer’s physical potential will be cultivated to develop a unique movement language that is rooted in butoh's ideas of transformation. Simultaneously, we will focus on the conditioning of a conductive body through the identification of the body’s own weight in relation to gravity, along with the cultivation of internal rhythm and fluidity. Together, we will decentralize self-centered approaches to movement and explore the possibilities of “being danced by” instead of “I dance,” “becoming space-body” rather than occupying space. We will challenge our body’s materiality and enliven our sensorium through listening to the rhythms and textures of the nonhuman. And we will use impossibility as a spark to enrich the ways in which we create and inhabit the world. This course is based on principles developed through nearly two decades of Ximena’s study of butoh. Historical and cultural context will be offered throughout the course.

Faculty

Dancing in Progress: Perspectives on Teaching and Learning

Component—Spring

Students in this course will develop skills to bring their artistry into a teaching setting, combining practical and theoretical studies. We will work systematically and imaginatively to develop teaching practices in dance and movement forms that move us most deeply, addressing individual and collective concerns throughout the process. We will explore strategies for teaching a variety of techniques, from codified dance forms to generative forms, including improvisation and composition. Over the course of the semester, with all members of the class serving as both teachers and students, each participant will develop a cohesive plan for teaching in professional settings.  Studio practices—including movement, observation, discussion, and class exercises—will support in-depth exploration of teaching and learning as intrinsically related aspects of education at its best. In addition to work in the studio, independent research will entail surveying literature in the field of dance education and training, as well as potential sources beyond the field, according to individual interests. Practical and theoretical research will form the basis of a final presentation (teaching one or more sections of the curricular plan) and a final written report with annotated bibliography, summarizing and documenting the development process, as well as providing a basis for future promotional material.

Faculty

Choreographic Lab

Component—Spring

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 shapes what we make.

Faculty

Movement Observation I

Advanced, Seminar—Fall

This course is an introduction to Bartenieff Fundamentals and Laban Movement Analysis (LMA), with a primary focus on dance/movement therapy. The relationship of Bartenieff Fundamentals, development, and Effort-Space-Shape will be introduced. Concepts of anatomy and kinesiology will support these frameworks. The class is the first in a series of three on movement observation and assessment skills and is designed to familiarize the student with the Laban concepts and principles for the observation and description of movement, integrating other relevant perspectives for understanding human movement. Students will learn to embody and observe foundational components of physical action by exploring concepts in the categories of Body, Effort, Space, and Shape. Students also will discover how to vary movement dynamics and investigate the ways in which the body can organize parts into a whole and project into space. LMA provides insight into one’s personal movement preferences and increases awareness of what and how movement communicates and expresses. Rigorous inquiry and exploration of contextual and historical factors related to Rudolf von Laban’s era will be examined, both conceptually and in embodied ways.

Faculty

Theatre and the City

Open, Large Lecture—Year

Athens, London, Paris, Berlin, New York...the history of Western theatre has always been associated with cities, their politics, their customs, their geography, their audiences. This course will track the story of theatre as it originates in the Athens of the fifth-century BCE and evolves into its different expressions and practices in cities of later periods, all of them seen as "capitals" of civilization. Does theatre civilize, or is it merely a reflection of any given civilization whose cultural assumptions inform its values and shape its styles? Given that ancient Greek democracy gave birth to tragedy and comedy in civic praise of the god Dionysos—from a special coupling of the worldly and the sacred—what happens when these genres recrudesce in the unsavory precincts of Elizabethan London, the polished court of Louis XIV, the beer halls of Weimar Berlin, and the neon “palaces” of Broadway? Sometimes the genres themselves are challenged by experiments in new forms or by performances deliberately situated in unaccustomed places. By tinkering with what audiences have come to expect or where they have come to assemble, do playwrights like Euripides, Brecht, and Sarah Kane destabilize civilized norms? Grounding our work in Greek theatre, we will address such questions in a series of chronological investigations of the theatre produced in each city: Athens and London in the first semester; Paris, Berlin, and New York in the second.

Faculty

Conscience of the Nations: Classics of African Literature

Open, Seminar—Fall

One way to think of literature is as the conscience of a people, reflecting on their origins, their values, their losses, and their possibilities. This course will study major representative texts in which sub-Saharan African writers have taken up the challenge of cultural formation and criticism. Part of what gives the best writing of modern Africa its aesthetic power is the political urgency of its task: The past still bears on the present, the future is yet to be written, and what writers have to say matters enough for their work to be considered dangerous. Political issues and aesthetic issues are, thus, inseparable in their work. Creative tensions in the writing between indigenous languages and European languages, between traditional forms of orature and storytelling and self-consciously “literary” forms, register all of the pressures and conflicts of late colonial and postcolonial history. To discern the traditionalist sources of modern African writing, we will first read examples from epic, folk tale, and other forms of orature. Major fiction will be selected from the work of Tutuola, Achebe, Beti, Sembene, Ba, Head, Ngugi, La Guma, Dangaremgba, and Sarowiwa; drama from the work of Soyinka and Aidoo; poetry from the work of Senghor, Rabearivelo, Okigbo, Okot p’Bitek, Brutus, Mapanje, and others. Conference work may include further, deeper work on the writings, writers, and genres that we study together in class; aspects of literary theory, particularly aspects of postcolonial and womanist theory relevant to readings of African literature; or readings of more recent writers out of Africa whose work draws on and develops the “classical” works that will be the foundation of our work together.

Faculty

The Music of Russia

Open, Large Lecture—Spring

This course will survey the great contributions of Russian composers to Western music from the first half of the 19th century to the end of the Soviet era and beyond. We will study these works in the context of the important historical events and intellectual movements that galvanized Russian artists: the desire to find the appropriate expression of Russian identity, the ambivalence toward the achievements of Western Europe, the ideals of civic responsibility, the aestheticism of the later 19th century, the Russian Revolution, and the repressions of Soviet society. Composers to be studied include Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Musorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky. No prior music courses or knowledge of music theory is required.

Faculty

First-Year Studies: The Senses: Art and Science

Open, FYS—Year

The perceiving mind is an incarnated mind. —Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 1964

Sensory perception is a vital component of the creation and experience of artistic works of all types. Investigation of sensory systems has been foundational for psychologists and neuroscientists developing understanding of brains, minds, and bodies. Recent work in brain science has moved us beyond the Aristotelian notion of five discrete senses to a view of the senses as more various and interconnected—with each other and with the fundamental psychological categories of perception, attention, emotion, memory, imagination, and judgment. What we call “taste” is a multisensory construction of “flavor” that relies heavily on smell, vision, and touch (mouth feel); “vision” refers to a set of semi-independent streams that specialize in the processing of color, object identity, or spatial layout and movement; “touch” encompasses a complex system of responses to different types of contact with the largest sensory organ—the skin; and “hearing” includes aspects of perception that are thought to be quintessentially human—music and language. Many other sensations are not covered by the standard five: for example, the senses of balance, of body position (proprioception) and ownership, feelings of pain arising from within the body, and feelings of heat or cold. Perceptual psychologists have suggested that the total count is closer to 17 than five. We will investigate all of these senses, their interactions with each other, and their intimate relationships with human emotion, memory, and imagination. Some of the questions that we will address are: Why are smells such potent memory triggers? What can visual art tell us about how the brain works and vice versa? Why is a caregiver’s touch so vital for psychological development? Why do foods that taste sublime to some people evoke feelings of disgust in others? Do humans have a poor sense of smell (and have the effects of COVID-19 changed our views of its importance)? Why does the word “feeling” refer to both bodily sensations and emotions? What makes a song “catchy” or “sticky”? Can humans learn to echolocate like bats? What is the role of body perception in mindfulness meditation? This is a good course for artists who like to think about science and for scientists with a feeling for art. This is a collaborative course, with small-group meetings held weekly in addition to the individual conference meetings held every other week. The main small-group, collaborative activity is a sensory lab where students will have the opportunity to explore their own sensory perceptions in a systematic way, investigating how they relate to language, memory, and emotion. Other group activities include mindful movement and other meditation practices for stress relief and emotional regulation, as well as occasional museum visits if these can be done safely.

Faculty

Art and Visual Perception

Open, Large seminar—Spring

Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak. —John Berger

Psychologists and neuroscientists have long been interested in measuring and explaining the phenomena of visual perception. In this course, we will study how the visual brain encodes basic aspects of perception—such as color, form, depth, motion, shape, and space—and how they are organized into coherent percepts or gestalts. Our main goal will be to explore how the study of visual neuroscience and art can inform each other. One of our guides in these explorations will be the groundbreaking gestalt psychologist Rudolf Arnheim, who was a pioneer in the psychology of art. The more recent and equally innovative text by the neuroscientist Eric Kandel, Reductionism in Art and Brain Science, will provide our entry into the subject of neuroaesthetics. Throughout our visual journey, we will seek connections between perceptual phenomena and what is known about brain processing of visual information. This is a course for people who enjoy reflecting on why we see things as we do. It should hold particular interest for students of the visual arts who are curious about scientific explanations of the phenomena that they explore in their art, as well as students of the brain who want to study an application of visual neuroscience. In this large seminar, you will meet weekly in small groups (five-to-seven students) to design a collaborative conference work that curates an in-depth perceptual museum tour. Individual conference meetings will be held only twice over the course of the semester.

Faculty

The Sociology of Sports

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

This is a course about sports as practice, and practice is used here in a multiple sense. As an embodied activity, sporting practice is felt and experienced in and through the body, which is its primary but not sole “habitus”—a term that French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu popularized when elaborating on his notion of “cultural capital.” In this course, taking the sporting body and Bourdieu’s concept of habitus (taste, habits, skills, dispositions) as our point of departure, we will examine sports and its habitation of worlds that reach far beyond the individual (body) in both time and space. We will examine sports along multiple axes: as a collective and/or individuated activity; as a source of leisure and recreation; as a source of profitable employment; as a site of identity and nation-building projects; and as a space that engenders transnational mobilities and interconnections, as well as ruptures. In its commoditized contemporary form, sports is, more often than not, controlled by big money and/or the state and is part and parcel of what Debord refers to as the “society of the spectacle,” a site of production, consumption, and entertainment. The complex relationship between sports as experienced through the body and as a set of disciplinary practices will allow us to think through the relation of the individual, the collective, and institutionalized power, linking these to questions of body politics. Taking the internal dynamics and meaning of sports seriously, we will engage sports as a contradictory field—as both a productive space and a space of consumption. Our readings will include scholarly works, sports journalism, films, documentaries, and other primary sources. Possible conference topics include sports and politics; analysis of particular sports events (e.g., the Olympics, women’s basketball, the World Cup); (auto)biographies and/or oral histories of athletes; sports and protest; “fitness,” health, and the body; gender, race, sexuality, (dis)ability, and sports; nationalism(s), national “styles,” and sports; and the phenomenology of sports.

Faculty

1,001 Drawings

Open, Seminar—Fall

This will be a highly rigorous drawing class that pushes young artists to develop a disciplined, sustainable, and experimental drawing practice with which to explore new ways of thinking, seeing, and making art. Each week, you will make 50 to 100 small works on paper, based on varied, open-ended, unpredictable prompts. These prompts are meant to destabilize your practice and encourage you to interrogate the relationship between a work’s subject and its material process. You will learn to work quickly and flexibly, continually experimenting with mediums and processes as you probe the many possible solutions to problems posed by each prompt. As you create these daily drawings, you will simultaneously work on one large, ambitious drawing that you revisit over the entire semester. This piece will evolve slowly, change incrementally, and reflect the passage of time in vastly different ways from your daily works. This dynamic exchange will allow you to develop different rhythms in your creative practice, bridging the space between an idea’s generation and its final aesthetic on paper. This course will challenge you to ambitiously redefine drawing and, in doing so, will dramatically transform your art-making practice.

Faculty

Site/Situation

Open, Seminar—Spring

Like the body, a sculpture is always somewhere. Movable or fixed, permanent or ephemeral, sculptural work is indivisible from the space in which it is experienced—a space that we, too, inhabit. Over the semester, students in this course will engage in progressively complex interactions with object, space, and site. Our first site will be a sheet of paper for “conversational” works with a partner. The course will end with students engaging in independently conceived interactions with a specific site (thinking of “site,” broadly, as the place where the work “resides”). Throughout, we will look at diverse examples of “installation” from throughout art history and a range of texts that take on the relationship of artist and site. And we will make at least one trip to museums and galleries in New York City. We will also discuss the process and possibilities of documentation (through photography, video, writing, and even speaking) as a part of the life and experience of the work.

Faculty

Performance Art

Open, Seminar—Spring

Since the early 20th century, artists have explored performance art as a radical means of expression. In both form and function, performance art pushes the boundaries of contemporary art. Through this form of expression, artists have produced powerful works about the body and the politics of gender, sexuality, and race. This course surveys performance art as a porous, transdisciplinary medium open to students from all disciplines, including painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture, video, filmmaking, theatre, dance, music, creative writing, and digital art. Students will learn about the history of performance art and explore some of the concepts and aesthetic strategies used to create works of performance. Drawing on historical and critical texts, artists’ writings, video screenings, and slide lectures, students will use a series of simple prompts to help shape their own performances. Artists and art movements surveyed in this class include Dada, Happenings, Fluxus, Viennese Actionism, Gutai Group, Act-Up, Joseph Beuys, Judson Church, Ana Mendieta, Gina Pane, Helio Oiticica, Jack Smith, Leigh Bowery, Rachel Rosenthal, Jo Spence, Chris Burden, Vito Acconci, Bas Jan Ader, Terry Adkins and the Lone Wolf Recital Corps, Carolee Schneemann, Martha Wilson, Adrian Piper, Martha Rosler, Lorraine O’Grady, Joan Jonas, Karen Finley, Janine Antoni, Patty Chang, Papo Colo, Paul McCarthy, Matthew Barney, Ron Athey, Orlan, Guillermo Gomez Pena, Narcissister, Annie Sprinkle, Vaginal Davis, Kris Grey, Carlos Martiel, Autumn Knight, Amanda Alfieri, Hennessey Youngman, Savannah Knoop, Shaun Leonardo, Francis Alys, Andrea Fraser, Tania Bruguera, Zhang Huan, Regina Jose Galindo, Aki Sasamoto, Pope.L, and many more.

Faculty

Senior Interdisciplinary Studio

Advanced, Seminar—Year

This course is intended for seniors interested in pursuing their own art-making practice more deeply, for a prolonged period of time, and culminating in a solo exhibition during the spring semester. Students making work in and across painting, drawing, sculpture, video, photography, sound, new genres, performance, and more are supported. Students will maintain their own studio spaces and will be expected to work independently and creatively and to challenge themselves and their peers to explore new ways of thinking and making. Over the course of the year, students will focus exclusively on their own art-making practice and will be expected to develop a rigorous body of independent work to be presented in their spring semester exhibition, accompanied by a printed book that documents the exhibition. We will have regular critiques with visiting artists and faculty across our visual-arts program, along with readings, image discussions, and trips to galleries and artist’s studios. We will participate in the Visual Arts Lecture Series. Your art-making practice will be supplemented with other aspects of presenting your work—writing an artist statement, interviewing fellow artists, and documenting your art—along with a range of professional-practices workshops. This will be an immersive studio course meant for disciplined art students interested in making work in an interdisciplinary environment.

Faculty