The University of Utah Department of Modern Dance Blog

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Faculty Spotlight on A'Keitha Carey

A’Keitha Carey is an artist and scholar who hails from the Bahamas. In addition to her degrees in dance, she also currently working to complete her PhD and a Certificate in Woman’s Studies from Texas Woman’s University. She has published the article “CaribFunk Technique: Afro Caribbean Dance, Caribbean Feminism and Popular Culture” in the Journal of Pan-African Studies and has a forth coming publication in the Association of Dance of the African Diaspora’s book Re: Generations. A’Keitha created CaribFunk technique, a genre fusing Afro-Caribbean, ballet, modern, and fitness principles. The technique addresses the politics of “identity” and “becoming” through the exploration of the hip wine (circular rotation of the hip). Focusing on Black feminist writer, Audre Lorde’s use of the term erotic, in the sense that women achieve empowerment and knowledge through an energy—a creative energy that provides an awareness of self, history, and our bodies, A’Keitha argues that the hip wine is a practice of erotic power. The technique is rooted in an Africanist aesthetic and Euro-American expression coalescing the vertical and horizontal. It embodies Caribbean performance and politics, Caribbean popular culture as a methodological and pedagogical practice and explores Jamaican Dancehall and Trinidadian Carnival as a reservoir of knowledge that investigates the sensual and spiritual. Her research attempts to redefine Black femininity, establishing the relationship between the technique and Caribbean popular culture, addressing why it is important to Women of Color in academia, and reinforcing the marriage between Caribbean dance, sensuality, strength, and the erotic as power. This futuristic philosophy and technique attempts to rupture “tradition and history—breaking the aesthetic of the institution—exhibiting a hybridized pedagogy and technology of (re) imagination through a Diasporic consciousness. Critical Race Theory, Black Feminism/Womanism, Popular Culture, Critical Pedagogy, Cultural Studies and Curriculum Studies are her areas of interest.

Why did you choose the U?

I chose the U because it demonstrated many of the ideas and interests that I have as far as creativity and scholarship. It is a research one institution which is highly of interest to me as a researcher/scholar/ethnographer. I also saw how my research interest and praxis could serve both programs (BFA and MFA).

What are your strengths as a teacher, artist and art-maker and how do you hope to bring those to the U?

My strengths as a teacher, artist, and art-maker are in the areas of research, ethnography and interdisciplinary approaches to performance, pedagogy and choreography. I am interested in providing tools for the dancer/scholar and in that tool box I am interested in having the students query “who they are” in the process of investigation and how they bring their own voice to the articulation to the manifestation of these discoveries. Identity is primary and essential to me. I hope to help students find the agency and empowerment of knowing who they are as (whomever/whatever) . . .

Tell me more about the "hip wine."

The hip wine is the circular rotation of the hip that finds its way all over the Afro/Latin diaspora—finding roots in Congolese dance and various cultures throughout the African continent. I am particularly interested in how this often-sexualized dance movement can be used to liberate those that are oppressed. I often discuss this idea and practice of “speaking through the pelvis.” The pelvis gives live—it is a life force. There is an immense power in the pelvis; it supports and centers our body. For me, in the technique, the hip wine connects all of the movement genres together that I am exploring. The circle—the circle of life and the pelvis is of essence. The curvi-linear movement which is certainly a characteristic of Afro-Diasporic, is central to the philosophy of CaribFunk. I am interested in how the body is engaged (the sensory/sensual), how the body performs, and also the experiential. The hip wine is a moniker of Jamaican Dancehall and Carnival performance in Trinidad, I am interested in how to transport and translate these Caribbean cultural performances in the classroom/studio. These are the two (dominant) cultures that I am exploring when discussing the hip wine as praxis.

How do you combine your choreographic technique of CaribFunk and your research in excavating the repressed, curious and awkward sentiments towards issues of love, death, success, disease, and sex? What does that look like in the studio in your creative process?

CaribFunk was created out of my own experiences with oppression, body and identity politics, colonialism, and the politics of respectability. As with most activists, our movements are birthed out of conflict. CaribFunk is my approach towards addressing the sentiments that you mentioned. I see CaribFunk as a physicalized expression of finding voice and agency, particularly for those that have been shamed and policed because of how they engage with their bodies. In the studio, I ask my dancers to allow their senses to be a part of the experience. Carnival and Dancehall culture is used as a metaphor in the technique class. I remind the students that I have given them the blue print (the phrase/sequence). From the next moment on, I am interested in how they are going to accomplish the task of traveling through space, life etc. I ask them several questions: where are they in the process; where are they on the journey and who are they? The hips and torso are free! CaribFunk is the language for them to express themselves—not only their pains but also their pleasures.

Are there any non-dance practices important to you as an artist for your emotional, physical and spiritual well-being?

As far as non-dance practices, I am an avid gym junkie, which is why the movement takes on elements of cardio, fitness, and kick boxing-esque type expressions. I am also very spiritual. I pray and read my bible and really try to connect with my higher power. I am very thankful to my God who has blessed me with tremendous talent. My prayer is that I see my vision come to fruition. Like the verse says in Habakkuk 2: 2-4, essentially write down your vision, pray and meditate on it, though it tarry, wait for it, and it will surely come. I believe that! I am woman of faith. I am walking this journey often times not seeing where I am going but I know that God has given me a gift and purpose that needs to be shared. I believe He will provide all that I need for that to manifest.

I see in your bio that you're still performing and I'm amazed and impressed! How do you do all that you do?

Ha! I’m impressed too! I performed a solo “Corporeal Discourse” choreographed by Carlos Jones and myself last year (2013). One venue was at the Association for Blacks in Dance Conference in Washington, DC and at the Black Existentialisms: Situating Black Existential Philosophy Conference in Pittsburg, PA. I do miss performing! I am only doing solo projects these days and the purpose behind the performances are to really present the technique to diverse communities. I am just trying to get the world to know about CaribFunk in whatever way possible!!

Is CaribDanco here at the U with you or is it still located at SUNY Potsdam? What is new with CaribDanco?

CaribDanco goes wherever mama goes! The company is on hiatus currently so, no it is not at SUNY Potsdam. The company was developed as a research and performance based company. I essentially wanted to provide students with the opportunity to engage in my process as an artist/scholar. I really wanted to provide training for those dancers who were interested in cultural anthropology and ethnography. The model was built for college students because that’s where I am situated at the moment. I also wanted to provide them with as much professional experience as possible as well. When the company was with me in New York, we performed all through the state performing. Every year I took them to Manhattan to study dances of the Diaspora. We researched and study these dances throughout the year and then we had an opportunity to take class in as many forms and styles as our body would allow. They students took classes in Haitian, Samba, Afro-Cuban, West African, Sabar, Afro-Caribbean, and Congolese! It was amazing. I do miss providing these experiences and opportunities to the students. I am also interested in taking the students on a research trip with me at some point. Finger, toes, and eyes crossed. I really need to secure funding! The work that I am interested in pursing is not cheap…I am hopeful that I will get what I/we need!!!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Alumni Profile :: Michael O'Connor

Photo: Georg Scheu

Michael O'Connor is a choreographer, performer, improviser and teacher. Since 2007 he has been based in Vienna, Austria. He worked with cie. Willi Dorner from 2003-2010 and performed and assisted in creating the work 'Bodies in Urban Spaces' worldwide in over 30 cities.  His Deborah Hay adaptation of 'NEWS' was presented at ImpulsTanz festival and he was part of David Zambrano's 'Tierras Enamorades' which was presented in Bruxelles.  He was listed in BalletTanz Magazine as the 'young dancer to watch' in 2008 for his piece 'a waiting dog dies.'  Additionally, his own work has been supported through residencies at ImpulsTanz with the guidance of Keith Hennessy and Ivo Dimchev, leading to works 'You are the Subject of my Seeing' and 'A General Theory of Love.'  His work looks at the intersection of cognitive science and dance, and he is currently furthering this practice with the support of the MA Choreography program at the Amsterdam University of the Arts with the mentorship of Guy Cools.  Michael has been guest artist faculty at Arizona State University twice and has taught at ImpulsTanz, SNDO, SEAD, TanzQuartier Wien and with festivals like DanceUmbrella: London, Tanz im August: Berlin and Philly Live Arts:Philadelphia. He is also a Fieldwork facilitator who helps guide artists in methods of feedback.  He has been able to develop Fieldwork in Vienna as an established program as well as bring this method to Istanbul, Turkey in 2012. Since his time at the University of Utah, Michael has been a proponent of art as research, and he is currently interested in love-empathy-metaphor as a triad that when approached from a cognitive science perspective, can possibly address ontological questions of body, relationship and environment as a performance practice.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

UK Exchange & Ugurt

Before moving to Salt Lake City Modern Dance Assistant Professor Shaun Boyle spent three years in England studying, teaching and making dance. While an undergraduate student at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts she danced in Austria at the Salzburg Academy of Dance for a semester. These international dance experiences inspired her to think about dance on the international stage. “I want to create forums for international collaboration.” Shaun explained to me when we met. "How do we exchange dance across borders and nations?"

Shaun has collaborated with Janet Smith, Principal of The Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD) in Leeds, England to build one such forum for dance exchange. The exchange is for 12 undergraduate dancers; six dancers from NSCD and six from the University of Utah’s Department of Modern Dance. The UK dancers will travel to Salt Lake City for Salt Dance Fest, and our dancers will travel to NSCD in the beginning of July for two weeks. The dancers have already begun connecting via Facebook and are looking forward to meeting in person soon.

Assistant Professor Shaun Boyle (left) & University of Utah dancers

“The NSCD is a good fit for the U because of their cutting edge, forward-thinking movement invention.” Shaun told me. She explained that in England dancers don’t know much about the emerging choreographers we are interested in at the U and vice versa. “This is a chance to broaden perspectives for students on our side of the pond and on their side of the pond.”

Support the UK Exchange by eating at Ugurt this weekend. Friday, April 18 from 6 pm – 12:00 am, Saturday, April 19 from 6 pm – 12:00 am. 20% of all proceeds will go to support the Exchange. The UK Exchange also has an online fundraiser here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Humans of the MCD :: Abby Fiat

"Sometimes the things that are the most vulnerable can be the most empowering."

Modern Dance Professor Abby Fiat has an uncanny ability to get to the heart of something in just a few simple words. In this installment of Humans of the MCD Allison and Abby talk about dance, pedagogy, and the U.

"I love to teach personally, I love to watch teaching, I love to think about it, I love to talk about it. It's been a real passion for me for many, many years, and I knew at a young age that I loved teaching." 

Full interview here.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Screendance Pick of the Month

During my recent interview of Ellen Bromberg she agreed to launch a new blog series highlighting one of her passions; Screendance. For her inaugural Screendance Pick of the Month Ellen has selected Dom Svobode by Thierry De Mey.

"This section (an excerpt from a longer film) directed by Belgian filmmaker and composer Thierry de Mey, demonstrates site, sound, camera (gravity at play), editing  and extreme risk possible only on screen."

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Humans of the MCD :: Brian Nelson

In the third installment of Humans of the MCD Allison tracked down busy sophomore Brian Nelson; the MCD's one and only double modern and ballet major. Beautiful, interesting interview. Don't miss! 

"My favorite piece to be a part of was Jay Kim's piece for Utah Ballet... he definitely had an idea as a choreographer and he came in every day with material for us but at the same time it felt like a collaboration... My favorite one to watch was honestly, every time I see a show by the Modern Dept I get so jealous that I haven't done any rep like that because it's just so fun to watch how free people move. When I saw Eric's piece for PDC last year [Disappearing Days] I started to cry because I couldn't imagine moving like that ever, and that made me feel very trapped in my body and sad..." 

Full interview here: 

Photo Credit : Allison Shir

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Humans of the MCD :: Glenda Staples

"I love the students. When I watch them I just feel like 'Wow, look at how successful they are at what they're doing!' I love that feeling." 

In the second installment of Humans of the MCD Allison Shir interviews Glenda Staples, the MCD's Administrative Officer and mom-away-from-home. 

Full interview:
Humans of the MCD :: Glenda Staples

Photo Credit: Florian Alberge