Arts & Culture / Dance / Mosaic / March 6, 2008

Dancers as instruments: artistic integration

Sophomore Kate Cochran, majoring in psychology and minoring in dance, has been active with Terpsichore since her first year and has been dancing since she was nine. She was in seven of the 13 dance pieces for Terpsichore’s latest performance, Forget Me Not, as well as choreographing “I’m So Tired–(Heavy) set to The Beatles “I’m So Tired.” A piece she described as “lighthearted, [something] that you could just enjoy, dancer and audience alike.”

Cochran’s experiences as a dancer and as a choreographer were quite different.

“As a choreographer you’re in charge…it’s always a priority to make sure [the dancers] feel comfortable with what you’re having them do.” It’s also important to be “open-minded to ideas beneficial to the dance” given by the dancers. Being a dancer is “like acting, a tool or an instrument.” As a dancer “you’re an instrument—even if you don’t understand or agree with [the] choreographing.”

This piece, “I’m so tired,” was chosen partly as a response to Cochran’s choreographed piece last year. The dance was based on the life of John Wayne Gacy, the convicted serial killer. Cochran wanted to portray Gacy as “a human, not a monster.” She worked from the lyrics of a song dedicated to him, which described his childhood, then “incorporated certain movement qualities” that would depict a child-like quality onto the piece. The piece was “more sad than aggressive, more reflective than hateful.”

Dance has become Cochran’s medium for expression.

“I think it’s important to know what you’re saying with your body. What you’re doing is essentially conveying a message. Your body language is always very strong, even if it’s really abstract, there is a tone in the movements. You’re still admitting a feeling,” said Cochran.

Cochran finds inspiration from her interest in psychology and other art forms like writing and collage.

“I just feel like some people always have to express themselves artistically,” she said.

In her improvisational dance class this term, Cochran had an activity where the class was instructed to create a dance piece based on art they create and their classmates written responses to the art.

“Writing to influence movement can be fruitful,” Cochran said about the exercise. With constant “influences by outside stimuli,” a piece of visual or literary art “is helpful, it’s very fresh.”

This term she is taking both Advanced Modern Dance and Theory and Improvisation. She dances an estimated 15 to 16 hours a week.

“I love to improvise,” she said. “Before this class I was really uncomfortable improvising. It’s been really rewarding.”

Cochran’s interest in psychology has also influenced her dance. She finds that dance is “about understanding people. Often times I think there isn’t a separation between body and mind. Being able to interpret movements is easier if you understand how people think and work.”

One of Cochran’s favorite dance pastimes is working with senior Eric Ratzel. They get together to make a two-way collaborative practice where Ratzel drums, Cochran dances, and they respond to each other’s art.

“I plan to continue dancing for a long time, hopefully I can use what I love with my career, but I don’t know how that would work out financially,” said Cochran. She may pursue dance therapy as a career goal instead.

Klayr Valentine-Fossum

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