How passionate students of the arts respond to class cancellations, part I
Nalani Brown (any pronouns) is a sophomore dance student pursuing an independent study in choreography instead of taking Composition II, a course that didn’t run as planned this term due to insufficient enrollment.
His group piece draws on an exploration of isolation he did while taking Composition I titled “A Study in Longing” as well as an innovative idea he was excited to flesh out in Composition II: a dance film about the sexualization of the Black body consisting almost exclusively of closeups on dancers’ hands with an occasional torso. He can’t execute his vision exactly as expected, but “it’s so interesting how dynamic hands can be,” he effuses. Though the dance is not restricted solely to hand gestures, the motif provides just enough of a limitation that it challenges Nalani to find new angles to familiar movement vocabulary.
To construct her work, Nalani devises phrases before getting into the studio with her cast. This enables her maximization of the 90-120 minutes per week she gets together with them. She recognizes that the most knowledgeable person about anyone’s body is the individual it belongs to, expressing that if there is a trick someone doesn’t know how to do yet, she invites them to figure it out on their own during rehearsal. She also acknowledges the gravity of pain, promising dancers that if something they attempt in practice hurts, it will not be in the final piece. While this seems like a logical approach to many, pain is often ignored in US concert dance culture. Nalani explains that this more human outlook means dancers are much more willing to try anything at least once without fear that it will be necessary for their participation.
In reflecting on the process, Nalani admits that the scholarly side of dance making demystifies the artform. Rather than being carried in any direction he may fancy, he has qualitative goals he intends to achieve.
“Things have to continue to progress the way that I’ve planned them to a degree, and I think that’s made it easier for me to work as an artist because I also don’t have to live in that nebulous state that many artists live in where you go, ‘Maybe it’s never done.’ I know it’s done when my objective’s been reached and the piece reached the length that I said it would be. It sucks cause it’s adding capitalism into art, but it’s already there… and it may be effective.”
He comments that while this attitude is not romantic, it creates a distance between himself and the work that is beneficial to his mental health; this independent study does not interrupt his sleep like past works have, nor will his soul be at stake when he submits the piece for grading.
Unlike Composition II students, Nalani is not guaranteed a final performance of their work—they are merely conducting research. They will submit their group piece for adjudication to hopefully be viewed in the fall concert this November, and will also contend to represent Goucher at the American College Dance Association conference series in 2024.
By Tess Seibert ’25
Image courtesy of Getty Images