Crossing Ponds, Crossing Disciplines

Clare Schweitzer '12

Clare Schweitzer '12

Clare Schweitzer '12, Masters Candidate

Double Major: Dance and Mathematics

Concentration: Dance Science, Somatics and Art Therapies

Study Abroad: Arcadia, Glasglow: United Kingdom

Graduate Program: London Contemporary Dance School

One of the most important takeaways I received from my time at Mount Holyoke was an appreciation for the possibilities of collaboration between different disciplines, as disparate as they appear to be. As a double major in dance and mathematics, I found that many threads ran through my two fields of study and deepened my understanding and appreciation of those fields.

I look fondly back at all of hours spent in the studios at Kendall where a group of dancers similarly integrated their dance practice with other fields of study ranging from biology to philosophy. I have embarked on various endeavors since my graduation from Mount Holyoke in 2012, from tutoring mathematics to working at dance-related non-profit organizations. Its is a given that the arts are struggling in this day and age and many artists and arts organizations work tirelessly to stay afloat and continue to use the somatic medium as a communicator.

Through my experience, I have come to realize that the advancement and survival of the arts rely on a flexibility of artists and arts organizations to collaborate and co-create with other fields of study. My experiences engaging in cross-collaborative dialogue at Mount Holyoke were valuable, as I took my studies to the United Kingdom.

Over the past year, I have been studying for my Masters in Contemporary Dance at the London Contemporary Dance School (also known as 'The Place’). As a part of the program, I have been a member of EDge, the graduate company associated with the school. The company essentially operates as a simulation of a repertory dance company. Over the course of the year, the dancers become involved the creation of four pieces by established choreographers (typically three new works and one previously created work to be staged) and a five month European Tour throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.

The goal of the program is to offer an unvarnished look at what it is like to be a dancer in a professional setting and offer resources for the dancers in order to facilitate their learning experiences. I originally chose the program as it was one where I could delve deeply into my dance and performance practice. For the majority of the year, I was immersed in a daily routine of technique classes and long hours of rehearsals. Although the intensive nature of the environment allowed me to expand and improve upon my somatic practice, I saw first hand how difficult it could be to break out of pre-conceived ideas of dance practice. The normative idea of employable dance technique, no matter the so-called “style” or “genre,” is a set of skills and affects that can only developed through a lifetime of ritualistic practice.

Thus, life as a dancer is often seen as something beyond a mode of study or a potential employment opportunity. The moniker “Dancer” identifies a person who is willing to walk a rigorous path that can waver between artistic enrichment and unforgiving heartbreak. It can be difficult for someone so immersed to see outside the moniker given the amount of time and energy they have devoted to it. It can also be challenging and sometime hostile for someone who is not familiar with the form to get involved, having missed those years that bring so many dancers together.

However, the need for cross-collaboration continued to fuel me and though my interactions of the community, I continued to understand how dance could be used to propose creative solutions. One of the solutions that resonated most with me came from an organization called Maths Dance. Mathematics is a subject that is commonly stigmatized as the often regimented nature of its teaching tends to deter students from a young age .

The Maths Dance organization recognizes this and alternatively utilizes kinesthetic teaching to teach mathematical concepts. By doing so, they are offering a broader look at the subject of mathematics to areas beyond the textbook and facilitate the teaching of the subject for students with different means of learning. While I continued to analyze dance’s role in the community, I specifically focused my research on the marriage of dance and technology.

As a part of my studies at The Place, I had the opportunity to further studies of screendance, a field that utilizes both the languages of dance and film to create a new medium of art. The field is one that, while intriguing and certainly rich with many practitioners, is still being established as a field of study that is unique from either dance or film. The establishment and survival of such a field involves both a deep understanding of each field but also relies on the challenging of pre-constructed notions of what either field has to be.

The EDge program culminated in a tour of 20 performances through six European countries. I gained many practical skills during this unique experience, like how to maintain physical consistency while traveling and how to adjust to different performing environments with the limited time you have (in addition to learning how many dinners you can make with hot water as the only cooking tool and the various clothing items that can function as neck pillows).

However, the most valuable experience came from working with other artists in exchanges and workshops, which provided opportunities to create with other artists from areas in Europe, like Switzerland, Austria and Paris. One particular residency was a series of workshops entitled CAMPING, presented at the Conservatoire National de Paris. At the residency, artists from a myriad of fields ranging from theatre studies to the visual arts took the same classes and freely interrogated both the politics of art inside the studio to external structures of dance outside.

This experience further reinforced the importance of liberal arts education to facilitate such a dialogue and illuminate the possibilities of co-creation. I aim to complete my Masters in London with a focus on Screendance in the Fall of 2015. However, I will continue to explore how art of movement with which I have grown up with can illuminate the journeys we take through life. In a day and age where many people are fixed on screens of varying sizes, there is a desperate need for a communicator in the kinesthetic experience. That communicator is dance.