Dance and Democracy: Movement Improvisation and Liberation Pedagogies

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Hallie Aldrich and Eryn Rosenthal, by David Papas

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Dance and Democracy:

Movement Improvisation and

Liberation Pedagogies

Yale University, spring 2022
Fridays, 12-3pm
Visiting Professor Eryn Rosenthal

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Course Description:

This experiential, laboratory-style class will investigate the fundamentals of Contact Improvisation (CI), a dance form that evolved in the early 70’s, in part, as an experiment in democracy. CI involves a heightened sense of listening, sensory perception, and attuning of physical reflexes, as well as a careful attention to weight, momentum, orientation to gravity and physical connection or contact with one’s partner. Informed by developments in modern dance, improvisation, the martial arts, as well as political currents of the time, it can become highly acrobatic once an understanding of basic concepts has been achieved. In this interdisciplinary seminar, we’ll be examining connections and discrepancies between CI and democratic process, with special focus on activism in South Africa, Spain, Chile and the US.

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Eryn Rosenthal and Jennifer Harge in Freedom Suite: Transaction Being Processed. Photo by Andrea Rivera.

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This course will use the structure of a physical practice-based Contact Improvisation laboratory as a springboard for examination, discussion, and reflection on issues of democratic process, activism and transition, both on a larger structural level as well on as on a personal level. We will also investigate liberation pedagogies from the Global South, along with theories of cognition, behavior, and freedom, through both traditional seminar word-based dialogue and body-based conversation, as well as creative assignments and reflection activities. 

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Bradley Teal Ellis and Eryn Rosenthal in 60% OFF ALL CUSTOM FRAMING. Photo by Natalia López Muñoz.

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Through an embodied investigation of roles and habits in self-other relationships, the course carries strong thematic connections for students in gender, critical race and cultural studies; psychology, politics and anthropology; architecture and visual arts; physics, neuroscience, evolutionary biology and journalism. Work in this class will also foster a grounded sense of weight and presence in solo, duet and group composition, useful for performers in theater, dance and other forms. No previous experience in movement or socio-political action necessary, and all bodies, abilities, and backgrounds are actively welcome.

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Participants in Buoyant Wait workshop with Eryn Rosenthal, Freiburg International Contact Festival. Photo by Patrick Beelaert.

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Bio:

Choreographer and social practice artist Eryn Rosenthal examines the role of the body in transgressing previously legislated boundaries. She is also an active member of international Contact Improvisation (CI) research and teacher exchange networks, teaching and facilitating at the Freiburg Festival, ECITE, the Market Theatre Lab and elsewhere since 2003. Her ongoing series, The Doors Project, investigates transitions–political, social, intimate–through site-based performance in different doorways around the world. Eryn has worked with choreographer Sello Pesa, poet Elizabeth Alexander, and documentary theatre pioneer Anna Deavere Smith, and has performed and taught throughout the US, South Africa and Europe. Her research and performance have been recognized with awards from the Center for Artistic Activism, a Fulbright Fellowship to Spain and an Open Society Institute President’s Grant to South Africa, among elsewhere. This course is based on her ongoing oral history research and collaboration with artists and activists in South Africa, Chile, Spain and the US. Eryn is also honored to collaborate with CI maestra Karen Nelson on a series of social justice-based interventions in the form, premiering at Think Gravity – Dance Tank: Celebrating and Reckoning with Contact Improvisation at the University of Colorado-Boulder, March 2022.

Eryn recently taught Making Performance on Socio-Political Questions at Yale University, and was previously a King-Chávez-Parks Visiting Professor and the inaugural Artist in Residence for Dialogue-Building, Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives at the University of Michigan. She is delighted to be back again at her alma mater. www.erynrosenthal.com

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Eryn Rosenthal and Ashley Macqueen, by Ned Myerberg

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