Dance

Related disciplines

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, Feldenkrais: Awareness Through Movement®, and African dance. Composition, improvisation, contact improvisation, Labanotation, dance history, music for dancers, dance and camera, teaching conference, 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 wellbeing 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. 

2015-2016 Courses

Dance

First-Year Studies in Dance

Open , FYS

The dance program provides first-year students with an integrated and vital curriculum of formal movement practices, improvisation, dance history, bimonthly Dance Meetings and First-Year Studies seminar. First-Year Studies in Dance consists of a full Dance Third with 12 to 15 hours of in-class time, including a daily physical practice class at an appropriate level. In practice classes such as Contemporary, African Dance, and Ballet, emphasis is placed on developing awareness of space, time and rhythm, use of energy, articulation of form through sensation, and building strength and control with an understanding of functional anatomy and cultural/historical context. In Improvisation, structured activities form a framework for investigating the properties of movement in the context of experience and performance. Goals include honing perceptive and communicative skills, exploring movement instincts and appetites, and constructing a viable foundation from which to work creatively. In Dance History, students will explore the history of concert dance in the United States from the early 20th century to the present. Dance Meeting provides an additional curricular and community-building resource for all dance students through master classes with guest artists and other experts in fields related to dance and performance. In the First-Year Studies in Dance seminar, students work both independently and in groups toward expanding analytical and generative capabilities in performance, observation, reading, writing, and discussion. We will consider and cultivate critical perspectives on dance as an art form through movement studies, class exercises and discussions, text-based studies, and oral presentation, building skills in each of those areas throughout the year.

Faculty

Dance/Movement Fundamentals

Component—Year

This class is an introduction to the basic principles of contemporary and ballet practices. The fundamentals class will develop skills basic to all movement studies, such as dynamic alignment through coordination and integration of the neuro/skeletal/muscular system, strength, balance, and basic spatial and rhythmic awareness.

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

Ballet

Component—Year

At all levels, ballet studies will guide students in creative and expressive free­dom by enhancing the qualities of ease, grace, musicality, and symmetry that define the form. To this end, we will explore alignment with an emphasis on anatomical principles and enlist the appropriate neuromuscular effort needed to dance with optimal integration of every aspect of the individual body, mind, and spirit.

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Dance Training Conference

Component—Year

Students will meet with the instructor at least once per semester to address individual dance training issues. We will examine these issues by discussing progress, specific challenges, and short-term and long-term goals. In addition, we will develop practical strategies to achieve those goals by means of supplemental strength, flexibility, kinesthetic awareness, and coordination exercises. This course is required for all students taking a Dance Third. It is designed to support the work being done in movement practice classes, concerts, and performance projects.

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Beginning Improvisation

Component—Year

Merge your imagination and movement potential through dance improvisation. This invaluable creative mode offers students the opportunity to recognize and develop sensations, ideas, and visions of dancing possibilities. Internal and external perceptions will be honed while looking at movement from many points of view—as an individual and in partnership with others. Beginning Improvisation is required for all students new to the dance program. This class is an entry into the creative trajectory that later leads to composition and dance making. Other improvisation classes are recommended for students who have already taken Beginning Improvisation and want to explore this form further.

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Experimental Improvisation Ensemble

Component—Spring

This class explores a variety of musical and dance styles and techniques, including free improvisation, chance-based methods, conducting, and scoring. We will collaboratively innovate practices and build scores that extend our understanding of how the mediums of dance and music relate to and with one another. How the body makes sound and how sound moves will serve as entry points for our individual and group experimentation. Scores will be explored with an eye toward their performing potential. The ensemble is open to composer-performers, dancers, performance artists, and actors. Music students must be able to demonstrate proficiency in their chosen instrument. All instruments (acoustic and electric), voice, electronic synthesizers, and laptop computers are welcome.

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Related Disciplines

Contact Improvisation

Component—Year

This course will examine the underlying principles of an improvisatory form predicated on two or more bodies coming into physical contact. Contact Improvisation, which emerged in the 1960s out of the Judson Experimental Dance Theatre, combines aspects of social and theatrical dance, bodywork, gymnastics, and martial arts. We will explore movement practices that enhance our sensory awareness, with an emphasis on action and physical risk taking. Contemporary partnering skills, such as taking and giving weight and finding a common “center,” will provide a basis for further exploration.

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Composition

Component

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

Individual choreographic projects will be designed and directed by seniors and graduate students with special interest and experience in dance composition. Students and faculty will meet weekly to view works-in-progress and to discuss relevant artistic and practical problems. Whenever possible, the music for these projects, whether new or extant, will be performed live in concert. Dance Making students are encouraged to enroll in Lighting Design and Stagecraft for Dance.

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Senior Seminar

Component—Year

This class is designed to support the creative and technical practices, as well as the practical concerns, of students in their senior year. It will also serve as a forum for discussions of art practices in other media and the nature of the creative process. Choreographic projects will be presented and discussed in seminar and in conference.

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Anatomy in Action

Component—Year

How is it possible for humans to move in the multitude of ways that we do? Learn to develop your X-ray vision of the human being in motion in a course that combines movement practice, drawing, lecture, and problem solving. In this course, movement is the vehicle for exploration of our profoundly adaptable anatomy. In addition to making drawings as we study the entire musculoskeletal system, 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. Insights gained in this course can provide tremendous inspiration in the creative process.

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Anatomy Seminar

Advanced , Component—Year

This is an opportunity for advanced students who have completed Anatomy I to pursue their study of anatomy in greater depth. Each student will research a topic or topics in which functional anatomy plays a significant part. We will meet weekly to discuss questions and share experiences.

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Yoga

Component—Year

This yoga class is tailored to investigative and supportive physicality and mental focus for art-making and creative pursuits. In addition to asanas and anatomical analysis, myths and principles from this ancient tradition are woven into this practice. Appropriate for dancers, theatre students, and anyone interested in experiencing a contemplative practice to support their health and endeavors.

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Feldenkrais: Awareness Through Movement®

Component—Fall

Moshe Feldenkrais believed that rigidity, mental or physical, is contrary to the laws of life. His system of somatic education develops awareness, flexibility, and coordination as students are verbally guided through precisely structured movement explorations. The lessons are done lying on the floor, sitting, or standing and gradually increase in range and complexity. Students are required to bring their full attention to their experience in order to develop their capacity for spontaneous, effortless action. Self-generated learning will release habitual patterns, offer new options, and enhance the integrated activity of the entire nervous system.

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African Diasporic Dance

Component—Year

This yearlong course will use physical embodiment as a mode of learning about and understanding 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.

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Related Disciplines

Dance and Camera: Body, Image, and Metastable State

Component—Spring

The class begins with the question: The body is real, but how do images of the body function, and what are the limits of reality? We place our bodies in (the context of) this question. For this purpose, the class introduces the Live Processing technique, in which students relate to several prepared videos as external agency. Students develop a connection to the bodies in video sequences as if they are extensions of their own bodies. For each class, we set up video monitors around the space, run cables together, and dance in the environment. The students discuss, prepare their own video sequences, study details of the movements in the videos, and eventually combine them with their own movement. Live Processing puts bodies in process and offers an autonomous approach for each student to create unique movement every time. We move beyond our familiar territory by situating our bodies in metastable states. Or perhaps our bodies become the metastable states. We will find out.

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Labanotation/Repertory

Component—Fall

This course will cover elementary and intermediate levels of Laban’s system of movement notation. Students will concentrate on correct observation and analysis of movement, writing facility, and the ability to read and perform authentic, historical dance forms. Reconstruction and performance of a notated work from the modern dance or ballet repertoire will be the culmination of the students’ work.

Faculty

Laban Motif

Component—Spring

Motif is a subset of Labanotation that depicts the overall structure or essential elements of a movement sequence. Motif is applicable to any technique, style, or genre of dance or other movement forms. Motif provides an easy introduction to dance literacy through the visual symbols and clear movement vocabulary. A Motif score might convey the overall structure and intention of a dance improvisation but allows the individual performing the movement to decide how that movement should be carried and, therefore, allows for a creative approach in dance notation.

Faculty

Rumba Tap

Component—Fall

This class offers students different ways to access their inner rhythm machine and to explore the most immediate and natural physical outlets for the music in their mind. Improvisation will be part of this process. Although some tap technique will be covered and incorporated, the class focuses on body percussion/rhythmic coordination and a general understanding of the earth-shattering power of Afro-Cuban culture, music, and dance.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Dance History

Component—Year

This is a course in the history of performance in the United States from the early 20th century to the present, as exemplified by the dancers, choreographers, and teachers who brought about notable changes in the art. The relationship of dance to the larger cultural environment will be discussed, with emphasis placed on the dance of our time. This course is designed to help the student relate his or her own work to the development of the art and to encourage creative critical perception.

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Teaching Conference

Advanced , Component—Fall

This course is an inquiry into the ways in which dance might be taught in various settings to different populations. The detailed study of kinesthetic, verbal, and creative factors in teaching will be presented and analyzed in terms of teaching objectives. Students will be placed as practice teachers, under supervision, in dance classes on campus and in community schools.

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Lighting Design and Stagecraft for Dance

Component—Year

The art of illuminating dance is the subject of this component. We will examine the theoretical and practical aspects of designing lights for dance. Students will create original lighting designs for dance program concerts.

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Music for Dancers

Component—Spring

The objective of this course is to grant dance students the tools needed to fully understand the relationship between music and dance. Students will expand their knowledge of diverse musical elements, terminology, execution, and procedures and also learn the basics of rhythmic notation. This course will provide students with the opportunity to play a full array of percussion instruments from around the globe: African djembes, Brazilian zurdos, Argentinean bombo, Indian tabla, electronic drums, etc. Students will also learn how to scan musical scores with various degrees of complexity and explore the diverse rhythmic styles that have developed through time in response to different geographical, social, and philosophical conditions. The focus will be prevalent towards a dancers’ full knowledge and understanding of music. All musical instruments will be provided.

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Dance Meeting

Component—Year

This is a regular gathering of all Dance Thirds in which we share ongoing student interests and invite guests to teach, perform, and inform. Topics have included dance injuries, dance therapy, kinesthetic awareness, nutrition, world dance forms, and presentations by New York City choreographers.

Faculty

Performance Project: “Rooms”

Component—Fall

Elizabeth McPherson, Barbara Bray Ketchum Artist-in-Residence, will restage excerpts from "Rooms" (1955), one of Anna Sokolow’s most famous pieces. Ms. Sokolow’s work was often inspired by her ethnic background and strong social and political convictions. In Rooms, she used chairs to symbolize rooms in a cheap hotel; the way that dancers move on and around those chairs reveals the anxieties and obsessions of the hotel's residents. The work was used in a short film, also titled Rooms (1966). Students will showcase their work with an end-of-semester performance.

Faculty

Performance Project: Body, Image, and Metastable State

Component—Spring

We bring Live Processing to a performance environment from the classroom. (Please refer to the class description about Live Processing under Dance and Camera.) Performers dance in a video-surrounded environment and learn to use multiple video sources at once to create movement that is similar, yet different, each time they practice it. The score is made for a body to become an open series of metastable states through which a subject passes. We put the body in process to disrupt its usual flow of image, subjectification, and attributions. Students will showcase their work with an end-of-semester performance.

Faculty

Related Music Courses

Experimental Improvisation Ensemble

Component—Spring

This class explores a variety of musical and dance styles and techniques, including free improvisation, chance-based methods, conducting, and scoring. We will collaboratively innovate practices and build scores that extend our understanding of how the mediums of dance and music relate both to and with one another. How the body makes sound and how sound moves will serve as entry points for our individual and group experimentation. Scores will be explored with an eye toward their performing potential. The ensemble is open to composer-performers, dancers, performance artists, and actors. Music students must be able to demonstrate proficiency in their chosen instrument. All instruments (acoustic and electrical), voice, electronic synthesizers, and laptop computers are welcome.

Faculty
Related Disciplines