My senior research project, titled what the horizon looks like at 4:48 pm, was a choreographed solo that was presented during the Ohio State University (OSU) Dance Senior Concert. This piece served as an investigation into my self-identity, my relationship with the environment, and how both of those parts influenced my artistic voice. Finding a way to combine my studies in dance and environmental science is something that I have been seeking to explore since my first year attending OSU. I originally started as a dual major in both of those disciplines, and I have always disliked the fact that the fields felt so separate. Through this project, I sought to find the intersection of the two seemingly-separate fields by investigating how choreography can be used as a tool to express science-based concepts in a more personal or human way.
I wanted to focus the concepts of place attachment/place identity theory and symbiosis/mutualism/holobionts for this project. The understanding of my own self-identity and values can be explored through lens of place identity theory. Place, or geographic location, plays a significant role in many artists’ identity and influences the work they produce, and I believe that this also holds true when looking at my past compositional studies. I grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, a place with its own unique ecosystems, both biologically and socio-culturally, that have informed many of the environmental values that I have today. Much of the movement was generated with a focus on descriptive and qualitative elements of the landscape and ecology of the Las Vegas environment. And though this movement could seem like a very direct translation of element into movement, they were abstracted and personified through my own personal relationship and anecdotal memories of the place.
This abstraction of ideas was a direction that I also took when involving the concepts of symbiosis, mutualism, and holobionts into my project. These three concepts, taken from biology, were paired with a definition of my relationship to the environment and its inherent value to me. The book Becoming Animal by David Abram and the collection of articles in Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet were critical reads to my understanding of these scientific concepts and seeing the possibilities of them within humanness. These ideas have an interplay between the formerly-mentioned ideas of place identity and place attachment; there is the thought of this cause and effect between the self and the environment. As I studied how these concepts related to my personal story, I began to see the piece as a sort of autobiography. It reflected my self-identity and the influences my home environment had on my values and artistic voice.
Reflecting on the process and performance of my senior project, I have an overall sense of pride for the work that I have accomplished. The process of choreography was certainly a challenge, but I believe that I have learned so much about myself within it. I have discovered an option for communicating ideas of environmentalism through personal anecdotes inspired by scientific theories. I have explored the reasons for why the environment has been an inspiration for my artistic work and how I can further translate those values through choreography. I have learned valuable lessons in choreographing through collaborating and hope to employ those skills for future projects. And, I have gained confidence in my artistic voice and the work that I have created. I was glad to receive great feedback on my project from my project advisor, faculty, and my peers. I have proven to myself that I have the ability to combine the two fields that I care so deeply about, and that I can create something uniquely beautiful out of it.