Thesis Panel Master’s of Fine Arts: Contemporary Performance
This is a letter to inform you of my intent of study for my thesis work as a component of my Master’s of Fine Arts in Contemporary Performance from Naropa University. I plan on studying all three components, in varying degrees, in the research.
In order of time and effort spent, the first will be research and writing, followed by performance, then pedagogy.
The three facets will be completely different with no unifying theme (other than myself.) The first and focus of the majority of the thesis will be on research and writing.
The research will be focused on integration and support of Somatics and Body Mind Centering in aerial arts, (hopefully one day expound this work into other circus arts.) Aerial arts, (henceforth referred to as aerial), is a very strict art form required great strength, agility, composure, and awareness, much as gymnastics, acrobatics, or extreme sports. Aerial has grown over the past century, as a feat of extreme athleticism and physical prowess, a thing to be awed at from afar as a performer risks their life for the joy of the audience. It formerly revolved around an insular culture, i.e. circus families, with little outside access to training, and even fewer avenues of teaching and methods of performance. This has began to change with the growth of recreational circus (much like the growth of yoga as an exercise activity in the last twenty years.) This leads to the need for research to happen to expound this art from the professionally trained, e.g. former gymnasts, to wide held universal understanding.
Aerial, as it is now, is mostly based in the muscles and to some extent the skeletal system as a method of movement, but the possibilities for the other systems to underlie and support the movement are endless. From using the systems to support already established muscle paths to new systems being the primary movers, (the idea of the bladder as a balloon to help invert the pelvis above the head is one such idea I would like to research.)
I have already begun this integration and understanding in my own study of aerial and used basic concepts to further my understanding of the art, but believe many other avenues and connections exist waiting to be discovered and furthered. I plan on doing this first through my own work and understanding with work both in the air and in studio somatic research. I then hope to further this by working with both aerialists and somatic or BMC practitioners (cohort members or alumni). Ideally, I would hold two to three workshops with two to three members of each community (six individuals), in which I would instruct the aerialists in somatic work and the other practitioners in aerial. Then receive feedback from both parties to further the research. My final goal with the paper is to present the research and paper at ATHE and other theatre and circus educator organizations. I would do this research with outside advisors (Nancy Smith of Frequent Flyers Productions and her staff) as well as the support of Naropa MFA faculty.
The second facet of my research will be with pedagogy. I hope to return to Salina, Kansas, the location of my undergraduate university, Kansas Wesleyan University, and Salina Community Theatre. Two organizations I have worked with on numerous occasions. I know there are spaces to teach and students open to learning from me. My focus would be on bringing contemplative teaching, as well as, individualized experiential trainings to a location that has very limited access to anything but classical forms (ballet, tap, jazz, musical theatre, and Stanislavski based acting.)
I foresee this being a one to two day workshop of 4-6 hours a day with young adults and teens (sixteen to twenty-five year olds), in which half the workshop would be spent on somatic movement and experiential exploration, and half on Viewpoints based group improvisation. Tools from somatics, Roy Hart voice work, Viewpoints, and applied theatre will be used.
If a two day workshop is possible, I hope to work with a partner (briefly spoken with Bobbi, but no cemented work) in which my teaching and process would be the focus one day, with the partner assisting and recording the process, and switching roles the second day. The focus of my teaching would be on introducing young artists to the inherent possibilities and creativity found in oneself.
The last part of my thesis is geared towards performance and working in other’s processes. I am planning on working in multiple shows, to work on balancing multiple characters and processes at once, while integrating and growing in the work of the past year to eighteen months. This work has already begun, as I am an apprentice with Frequent Flyers Production’s Theatre of Vampires. This allows me to integrate tools I have developed in classes to outside production. I aim to do this with other’s thesis work, and help support them, as well as learn how I can use the tools I have in different ways with a variety of people and performances.
These are the avenues of study I have planned on pursuing, for now. There will be an emphasis on research into somatic integration and support in aerial arts, to teaching new comers to contemplative education, and finally I will be working on integrating the tools I have learned on myself, with multiple performance roles under different direction and guidance.