October 20, 2021

Yale Dance Lab launches virtual dance poetry project

The term “dance poetry” seems to be an oxymoron. Poetry is textual, dance is physical. Put the two together and maybe Walt Whitman could have stunned us with a few spins going down that road in the yellow wood.

Instead, the Yale Dance Lab and the Yale Schwarzman Center have put together something a little more elegant.

“Transpositions: Dance Poems for an Online World” is a 16-episode series featuring virtual dance poems by 66 dancers exploring “continuous and interrupted dance practices in digital life”.

Emily Coates, Associate Professor and Director of Dance in the Theater and Performance Studies program, designed “Transpositions” last spring.

“It became clear that as we looked ahead to plan for the coming year, we could very well still be in this situation in the fall,” she said.

“So I started to think about a project that could involve as many dance artists as possible and could reach out and help connect as many students as possible with projects that could bring together different communities at Yale and at New Haven and in the wider dance. world with the ultimate goal of promoting creative research in this unprecedented year.

This creativity has led the dancers to transform into what Coates calls “dance poets”. But this poetry has very little to do with an actual text. Dances are metaphors, physical manifestations of stories and feelings, put into a structure with practical structures.

“Don’t let the word ‘poem’ mislead you,” Coates said.

Emily Coates, associate professor and director of dance in the Drama and Performance Studies program at Yale, designed “Transpositions: Dance Poems for an Online World” last spring.

Peter Gannushkin /

“There are limits within the structure and with Zoom, so that way it’s like a sonnet. And when you have a poetic structure, there are limits that can produce a wide variety of creation and creativity.

Coates paired students with professional choreographers from the area. The students and the choreographers had two two-hour sessions together on Zoom to reflect on and create this art. Meanwhile, video artist Kyla Arsadjaja filmed the sessions and artistically compiled the video to create the finished video project.

She witnessed first-hand the creative process between choreographers and dancers.

“They just did [the dancers] so comfortable being in such a small space and making it super fun and experimental and using their bodies and objects around them just in that Square Zoom setting, ”said Arsadjaja.

“They created very beautiful choreographies and compositions.”

Kellie Ann Lynch and Lindsey Bauer founded Elm City Dance Collective and acted as choreographers for the “Transpositions” project.

“We kind of approached it with choreographic prompts and questions and asked the dancers to come up with a phrase already prepared,” Bauer said. “And sort of organized the time with prompts to provoke exploration and play. Talking about a zoom environment is a really different place than a studio where everyone is together.

Bauer and Lynch worked with the students to experiment with how to interact with the camera on the device they were using to record, whether it was a computer or a phone. They said that experimentation led to creative ideas on how to use the space and get out and into the frame in a way that contributes to the art rather than harming it.

"Transpositions: dance poems for an online world" is a 16-episode series from Yale Dance Lab featuring virtual dance poems by 66 dancers.

“Transpositions: Dance Poems for an Online World” is a 16-episode series from Yale Dance Lab featuring virtual dance poems by 66 dancers.

Courtesy of Big Voice Communications

“As with all or a lot of art processes, you come up with maybe a general idea of ​​what you want to explore, and then it takes a life of its own once you start, especially if you work with people who are open, curious. and player, ”Lynch said.

Lynch and Bauer both said the project was more than just a chance to help emerging dancers. It helped rekindle their love of the profession during such a heavy and uninspiring time as the pandemic.

“When the pandemic hit, I didn’t want to dance. I didn’t want to move. I mean, I was moving my body, but I wasn’t dancing, ”Bauer said.

“I was angry, I think, about [the pandemic] and on the circumstances and all that and so … [this project] has been very positive for me as an artist, professionally, emotionally and personally. I think it was really fun for everyone involved, because even the choices they make in the video aren’t dramatic, heavy, and expressive, they’re playful, curious, and exploratory.

Coates also expressed gratitude for a project that turned a difficult year into a time of transformation.

“I feel so proud of this project as a real act of collective community creation,” said Coates. “And I feel like together we’ve created a document for this year that transcends or elevates our social circumstances into art.”

Transpositions is available online at schwarzman.yale.edu.

[email protected], @bysarajane on Twitter


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