Dance

Students practice their dance postures

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, 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. 

2018-2019 Courses

Dance

First-Year Studies: Cultivating Creativity in Dance, Gardening, and Food Justice: A First-Year Studies Community Partnership

Open , FYS—Year

First-Year Studies in Dance is primarily practice-based, with most of our work occurring in the studio. While there is some reading and writing required in analytic components, it is scaled in proportion to the demands of movement-centered pursuits.

Where can dancing and dance-making flourish? How can we cultivate deep and enduring practices as dance artists, scholars, and active community members? What can we learn about dance in the process of gardening, which has been described by landscape architects as the slowest of the performing arts? In this interdisciplinary FYS course, we will begin to make connections between the fundamental aspects of the Sarah Lawrence College dance program and the practical experience of related disciplines that foster similar values. The discipline of dance cultivates and stimulates the acquisition of technique, creativity, and theoretical inquiry and thrives with consistent practice. The multiple phases of growing and harvesting in the garden, from conceptual to practical, provide a unique mirror to dance as an art form, while emphasizing attentive care of our planet and care for ourselves through the cultivation of food- and community-based work. We will have two weekly First-Year Studies in Dance class sessions (one in the dance studio and one in the garden, see below), along with component classes in improvisation, dance history, and movement practices that include African Diasporic Dance, Contemporary Practice, Ballet, Hip Hop, Contact Improvisation, and Bharatanatyam. Students of all experience levels, from beginning to advanced, are welcome! During registration, each student will be guided in arranging an individualized schedule of component classes tailored to his/her level and designed to support the ongoing development of skills in various aspects of dance as an art form. Students should expect to be dancing on a daily basis. All students in the dance program may elect to perform in our departmental productions. These include Open Performance each semester, where any SLC student may present his/her own choreography, and Winter Performance, MFA Thesis Performance, and Spring Performance, with works choreographed by graduate and upperclass undergraduate students in the Dance Making class. Our weekly FYS class session in the studio will be devoted to creating a collective performance piece informed and inspired by our experiences over the course of the year, as well as to discussing class readings, presenting individual research and writing, and reflecting on experiences in the garden with community partners. Class readings will draw on texts from several fields of study, including dance and performance, gardening and farming, cultural studies, and service learning. Weekly donning conferences support all phases of students’ academic endeavors. Weekly FYS garden sessions, in partnership with Douglass DeCandia, Food Growing Project Coordinator for the Food Bank for Westchester, will provide opportunities to engage in service learning and social justice practice literally from the ground up. In these sessions, we will work alongside local community members (site staff, residents, and volunteers), building connections through planting, harvesting, and processing produce for distribution to local hunger relief programs.

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Dance Movement Fundamentals

Component—Year

This class is open to all interested participants, with no prior experience in dance required.

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. Students who have successfully completed this course will be prepared to enter Contemporary Practice I and/or Ballet I.

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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.

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Dance Practice Conference

Component—Year

Students taking Dance Thirds will meet with the instructor for this component course at least once per semester to address individual dance training issues and questions and to identify short- and long-term goals. Guided by discussion, we will develop practical strategies to address issues and questions in the context of achieving goals by means of specific supplemental exercises that address strength, flexibility, kinesthetic awareness, coordination, and effective approaches to learning. This course is designed to support and enhance students’ work in dance classes, rehearsals, and performances.

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African Diasporic Dance

Component—Year

Students may enter this yearlong course in the second semester only with permission of the instructor.

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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Ballet

Component—Year

Students may enter this yearlong course in the second semester only with permission of the instructor.

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.

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Rotating 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 between three and seven class sessions. These mini-workshops will introduce students to that artist and his/her creative process. Guests will represent emergent, as well as established, practices.

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Butoh Practices and Beyond

Component—Spring

In this class, we will engage in a series of somatic, improvisational movement and vocalization practices that reflect principals of butoh, Zen, and Noguchi Taiso (or water body movements). Through engaging in those practices, we will explore a way to liberate our body from a sense of self and from existing concepts of a body in order to realize an unprecedented transformation and evolution of the body. We will be descending a ladder into a well that is hidden deep inside the body and will keep digging the well until the water splashes out. We will also examine specific images used in butoh scores (e.g., throw up something red and something blue, being jealous of dog’s vein, stick to salmon’s face like a psycho…) to explore and cultivate more profound and active relationships between “images” and “movements.” 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.

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Hip Hop

Component—Fall

This class is an open-level class in hip-hop dance. It will include elements of breaking, popping, and locking, etc. Class will begin with a warmup, leading to a high-energy combination. While this class is intended for students with some previous dance experience, no prior experience in hip hop or street dance is required.

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Vogue

Component—Spring

This class is an introduction to the dance form of voguing, an art form of poses and beat-to-beat synchronization. Coming from the gay black and Latino ballroom community, this style expressed the feminism and fierce attitude within Vogue Fem. Students will learn the five elements of Vogue Fem: Catwalk, Duckwalk, Floor Performance, Spin and Dips, and Hand Performance.

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Yoga

Component—Year

This asana yoga class is designed with dancers and theatre students’ interests in mind. Various categories of postures will be practiced with attention to alignment, breath awareness, strength, and flexibility. Emphasis is placed on mindfulness and presence, an approach that allows students to gain tools for reducing stress and addressing other unsupportive habits to carry into other aspects of their lives. The instructor has a background in dance and theatre, in addition to various somatically-based practices that she draws upon for designing the classes to meet the needs of the class members. This class draws upon an alignment-oriented practice, as opposed to a vinyasa style of yoga. Additionally, this class introduces various awareness-building practices borrowed from other body-oriented approaches.

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Bharatanatyam: Classical Indian Dance

Component—Fall

In this class, we will learn the principles and practices of Bharatanatyam, including the adavu, or rhythmic unit involving movements; hasta, or hand gestures; bedas, movements of major, minor and subsidiary limbs; or use of the limbs of the body. The course will introduce students to narrative technique, or abinaya, as well as other classical Indian dance forms. Throughout the semester, we will also have opportunities to reflect on the differences and similarities that we note in relation to our experience with the practice of Western dance forms.

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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. This class is an entry into the creative trajectory that later leads to composition and dance making.

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Dance and Music Improvisation

Component—Fall

Permission of the instructors is required.

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 electric), voice, electronic synthesizers, and laptop computers are welcome.

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Somatics, Improvisations, and the Poetics of Dance

Component—Fall

We will be exploring movement, dance, and imagery through the research of Body-Mind Centering®, Ideokinesis, contact improvisation/s, and structures and scores for improvising and composing dances. We will make the invisible visible, learning more about the interior of the body and our ideas, and explore pathways to space, time, and place as we also learn basic anatomy and physiology to better understand the mechanics of movement. Writing in class and reading philosophical/somatic/poetic writings will be used to render qualities, textures, thought processes, and movement analysis toward creative expression, performance, and healing modalities.

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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 and ’70s 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. We will explore locating the dance form in varying contexts—from the round-robin to the jam, from scores to choreography, and from studio and theatre to site-based environments.

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Composition

Component—Year

Movement and creativity are the birthrights of every human being. This component will explore expressive and communicative movement possibilities by introducing different strategies for making dances. Problems posed run the gamut from conceptually-driven dance/theatre to structured movement improvisations. Learn to access and mold kinetic vocabularies collaboratively, or individually, and incorporate music, sound, gesture, text, and objects in pursuit of a 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, rather, to involve themselves in the challenges and joys of rigorous play.

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Dance Making

Component—Year

Prerequisites: Dance Composition, Lighting Design and Stagecraft for Dance, and permission of the instructor.

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.

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Introduction to Dance History

Component—Year

This course is for all students beginning the dance program.

This course explores the history of Western theatrical dance from the courts of Louis XIV to the present. The course offers an overview of key artistic movements and traces the development of major forms and genres, considering them within their social, cultural, racial, and gendered contexts. Through class screenings, attendance at live performances, and written assignments, students will learn methods of observation, analysis, interpretation, and evaluation informed by a broad understanding of dance’s past and present and how it relates to their own research and practice.

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Advanced Dance History: Topics in 20th-Century Dance and Performance History

Component—Spring

Undergraduate students may take this course with permission of the instructor.

This writing-focused graduate seminar examines 20th-century dance history from a variety of critical perspectives, such as collaboration and intermedial aesthetics; transdisciplinary and experimental performance practices; gender, race, and sexuality; site-specific work; and technology and screendance. Students will have the opportunity to deepen their expertise of the subject and exercise their own critical and scholarly voices by unsettling and questioning the Western theatrical dance canon from a robustly informed historical, social, technological, and aesthetic point of view.

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Anatomy in Action

Component—Year

Students who wish to join this yearlong class in the second semester may do so only with the permission of the instructor.

How is it possible for humans to move in the multitude of 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. Facilitating our study of 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. In addition to movement practice, drawings will be part of each week’s lecture. (Drawing materials will be provided.) Insights and skills developed in this course can provide tremendous inspiration in the process of movement invention and composition.

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Making It Work

Component—Spring

In this semester-long course for students completing their studies at the College, we will examine and hone the tools needed for propelling your creative work into the professional landscape. Taught from an active artist/artist manager perspective, the course will attempt to achieve fluency for all makers by providing practical encounters with key areas of budgeting and finance, fundraising and grant writing, presenting and touring, and self-producing components (including marketing, press, audience development and engagement strategies, digital and social interactions, and production administration). We will explore various dance and theatre financial models, from being an independent solo artist to starting your own ensemble. The class will be participatory, asking each student to craft project descriptions, grant narratives, and budgets for their thesis projects or other works shown in the previous semester or first year. We will develop and stage mock applications and peer/panel reviews for real-world funding opportunities, undertake group budgeting for productions that occur in each department, and develop concurrent fundraising plans and crowdsourcing campaigns. The aim of this course is to provide a greater level of competitive preparedness for graduating theatre and dance makers on the cusp of representing themselves and their work in their chosen field(s).

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Lighting Design and Stagecraft for Dance

Component—Year

This class is a prerequisite for Dance Making.

The art and practice of illuminating dance is the subject of this component. We will examine the theoretical and practical aspects of designing lights for dance. Emphasis will be on learning basic lighting skills and stagecraft. Students will create original lighting designs for dance-program performances.

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Dance Meeting

Component—Year

This is a twice-monthly meeting of all Dance Thirds (undergraduate and graduate students) in which 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 Sarah Lawrence College dance faculty and alumnae, and casting sessions for departmental concerts created by the Dance Making class. In 2017-18, guest artists included Cori Olinghouse/clowning therapy; Dean Moss/choreography; Eleanor Hullihan/dancers’ health; Omari Mizrahi/voguing; Nathara Bailey/workshop on Inclusion, Identity, and anti-oppression; and Petra Kuppers/disability culture movement.

Feldenkrais: Awareness Through Movement®

Component—Fall

Moshe Feldenkrais believed that rigidity—physical, mental, or emotional—is contrary to the laws of life. His system of somatic education develops awareness, coordination, and flexibility, 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 practice bringing their full attention to their experience, self-generating the learning that will release habitual patterns and offer new options. Enhanced integration of the entire nervous system cultivates the capacity for spontaneous, effortless movement and powerful action in life.

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Conditioning for Dancers

Component—Spring

Open to all students taking a Dance Third.

This course provides students with a weekly opportunity to explore and practice supplemental training strategies to support the development of specialized skills required in dancing. Building on work done once or twice per semester in the Dance Practice Conferences, training issues such as strength, endurance, flexibility, kinesthetic awareness, and coordination will be addressed from a neuromuscular training approach based on the teachings and selected choreographies of Irene Dowd. In addition, students will be introduced to the Alexander Technique, which aims to refine and optimize function by eliminating excessive tension. This is accomplished through specific exercises and practices designed to increase awareness, implement conscious direction, and achieve gentle repatterning of postural and movement habits.

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Teaching Conference

Component—Year

In this practice-based course, students develop skills to bring their artistry into a teaching setting. Readings, discussion, and short written pieces will support an exploration of perspectives on teaching and development of individual areas of interest. Following current practices in the field for bringing together arts and education, we will study methods for artists to partner with educators and implement those methods in a weekly class for children enrolled in Sarah Lawrence College’s acclaimed Early Childhood Center (ECC). In addition to our work with ECC, there are several options for students interested in an expanded practical curriculum. The College’s Campbell Sports Center offers opportunities for students to initiate and lead physical education classes; and the College’s Office of Community Partnerships can assist students in pursuing teaching initiatives in surrounding communities, including Yonkers, Greater Westchester, and other New York City Metropolitan areas.

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Music for Dancers: The Logic Behind Interaction

Component—Spring

This course will provide students with an opportunity to play a full array of percussion instruments from around the globe: African djembes, Brazilian zurdos, Argentinean 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 also will expand the vocabulary for choreographers, actors, and composers as well. The course will 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 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 will also be available for practice.

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Performance Project

Component—Fall

Our body is a black hole that equally absorbs everything, even seemingly unrelated things. A thousand different events are simultaneously happening and being processed in the body. Subtle nuances and expressions of external spaces affect the way we stand, skin sensations and perceptions evoke kaleidoscopic internal landscapes, and abstracted information delivered through feelers on our feet suddenly trigger unexpected emotions. Performance Project examines our body’s new beginning and encounter with everything in the black hole-like space where both the conscious and unconscious mind and internal and external experiences are being stirred. The class will include a short warmup, somatic and movement practices informed by butoh and various other movement forms, followed at the end of the semester by rehearsals that lead to a fully produced performance of the work.

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Performance Project

Component—Spring

This project is generously supported by the Barbara Bray Ketchum Artist-in-Residence Fund.

In celebration of Sara Rudner’s extraordinary creative output, her visionary role in leading the dance program at Sarah Lawrence College from 1999-2016, and her retirement from the College in May 2019, the Spring 2019 Performance Project will be dedicated to and directed by Sara Rudner. This project will be a reworking of Sara Rudner’s dance, choreographic, and performance practices and will be designed for, and with, Sarah Lawrence students. The project is conceived as a series of dances and will include highly-structured activities, as well as improvisations. The creativity and commitment of all participants is required. Let’s dance!

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The Blues Ethos and Jazz Aesthetics: A History of African Americans in the City

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

By the 20th century, African Americans in the city produced the genius of blues and jazz, including distinctive aesthetics of pleasure in music and dance. Artists like Bessie Smith, Ma‘ Rainey, Billy Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Lester Young, and Duke Ellington were paradigmatic in that cultural production. Those aesthetics influenced the black imagination in social, political, and cultural development, including not only the Harlem Renaissance and Chicago Black Renaissance but also the Black Arts Movement. With that cultural and historical background, students in this seminar will explore a variety of research projects.

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Theatre in America I: The Golden Age

Open , Seminar—Fall

In the mid-1930s, the United States was struggling with the Great Depression—and its destiny seemed economically, politically, and morally questionable. By the end of the 1950s, the United States was the richest and most powerful country in the world, styling itself as “the leader of the free world.” During that time, the country waged successful war against dictatorship on two fronts, engineered a New Deal for Americans, and ratified legislation barring racial segregation in public schools. The country had also developed and dropped the atomic bomb on two cities, conducted remorseless and punitive investigations into “un-American” activities, and routinely practiced blatant racial and gender discrimination. Not by happenstance is its theatre of this time rich in joy and devastating in self-reflection. On the one hand, we will examine the wonderful and complex musical collaborations of Richard Rodgers with Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein Jr., as well as the work of Frank Loesser, Leonard Bernstein, and Meredith Willson. On the other, we will consider the searching dramas of Clifford Odets, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, William Inge, and Lorraine Hansberry. Our questions will be their questions: What price paradise? How real if “golden”? Can the cowman and the farmer be friends? Possible conference work may involve the novel, poetry, film, radio, and that revolutionary phenomenon, television, of the period.

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Theatre in America II: The Age of Revolt

Open , Seminar—Spring

Nicholas Ray's great film of 1955, Rebel Without a Cause, sounded an alarm signal of unrest in a time of national self-congratulation; or, as a later musical would phrase it, “What's the matter with kids today?” The “kids,” as it happened, were not merely teenagers driven by sex, fast cars, and rock-and-roll. They were experimenters, doubters, seekers, absurdists; they were women, African Americans, immigrants; gay, angry, dangerous, “funny.” The voices of musical theatre sing with dissonance and complex irony (Stephen Sondheim) or shout with frenzy (Hair). Plays deliberately unsettle and confuse (Edward Albee), rage (Amiri Baraka), challenge (Maria Irene Fornes), mystify (Sam Shepard), tease (Harvey Fierstein), and snarl (Jane Chambers, David Mamet)—often all of the above. The relation between performance and audience is drawn into question (Joseph Chaikin, Judith Malina), and genres are collapsed. The Cold War, aggression in Viet Nam, and the bitter battles over civil rights suddenly suggest that the American Dream is a nightmare and that theatre is a place that must be used to wake people up. To what light of day? Possible conference work may involve the novel, poetry, film, television, and popular music of the period.

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First-Year Studies: The New Elements: Mathematics and the Arts

Open , FYS—Year

The development of linear perspective in Renaissance painting presents one of the clearest examples of the intersection of mathematics and the arts. To paraphrase art historian Erwin Panofsky, perspective recasts perceptual space as a uniform, infinite, abstract space with its own logical and aesthetic properties. The mathematics needed in perspectival constructions was worked out by Euclid in antiquity. What novel aesthetic and logical forms are made possible by the mathematics beyond Euclid’s Elements? This seminar will explore the bearing of modern mathematical ideas on 20th-century Western creative and performing arts. While we will not aim for a comprehensive survey of the entire last century, we will investigate a sequence of case studies, including: De Stijl and the painting of Piet Mondrian; serialism and the music of Arnold Schoenberg; the Bauhaus in Germany and its legacy; OuLiPo, “a secret laboratory of literary structures” in postwar French literature; American postmodern dance; and structural film, among others. Mathematical topics will include sets, logic, non-Euclidean geometry, topology, and chance. A central goal of the seminar is to assess the meaning of structure as it pertains to artistic and mathematical practices. This course assumes no particular expertise with mathematics or cultural history. Seminar readings and a program of art viewings will establish a basis for investigating the relevance of fundamental mathematical concepts to modern literature and the arts. Outside the seminar, students will attend both individual and group conferences. Weekly individual conference meetings for the first six weeks of the fall semester will give students the opportunity to develop their first individualized conference projects, focusing on a particular mathematical structure. Individual conferences after the first six weeks will be held on a weekly or biweekly basis, depending on student progress. During the fall semester, a series of group conferences will afford students time for art viewings and collaborative writing and problem solving.

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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. In psychology and neuroscience, the investigation of sensory systems has been foundational for our 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 processes 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: the sense of balance, of body position (proprioception), 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 to 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 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? 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. 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. The other group activities include some museum visits: The American Museum of Natural History has a current exhibit devoted to the senses, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has an encyclopedic collection that will be the focus of a group curation assignment, and MOMA holds a wealth of abstract perceptual possibilities that we will investigate together.

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