“The goal of our research is to learn through the observation and facilitation of dance classes,” says Eull. “I plan to use my experience to craft a dance film, teach courses, and create choreographies.”
Simpson says, “I want to introduce Movement Fundamentals to high school and middle school students so they can apply it to their lives outside of the studio.”
Eull and Simpson worked in collaboration with professor Jane Hawley at Luther’s Dorian Dance Camps and summer dance workshops this past summer. “It was a great way to introduce new ideas and concepts to the dancers and watch them learn in the process,” says Eull. “It allowed us to experiment with different choreographic techniques and push predetermined boundaries.”
Eull and Simpson appreciate how their research was different from their experiences in the classroom. “It’s very hands-on and gives us immediate feedback from the dancers,” Eull says. “The body is the source material, and the feedback you get and give while facilitating choreography is immediate. It's a living experience.”
Simpson says, “We found that a student came in as one person, and after a week of training and working on their talents, they left changed. It was rewarding to watch them grow into their own artistry.”
Professor Hawley thought the camps provided an ideal learning environment. “It helped us discover best practices for the bodies in the room using an ephemeral form like dance,” she says. “The documentation can go away or become nonexistent immediately after it happens. Our only feedback was from people explaining what they were feeling or thinking, seeing how it was being expressed through their body, and if it made sense with the idea and concept.”
Throughout the project, Hawley noticed how the experience had a positive effect on the research team. “The process emboldened them. It has empowered them to know that they can show up prepared but they don’t have to guide every minute in a classroom.”
Eull put what she learned into practice by working with some Luther alumni on a dance film. “Implementing creative choreography and refining my dance artistry was something I really wanted to dive into this past summer,” she says. “Getting input on the process while creating a dance film helped me see different ways to direct or bring the process of choreography into film making. I find that I gravitate toward choreography, movement concepts, and art that makes people think, whether it's by an aesthetic looking very bizarre or just out of the ordinary.”
Hawley discovered that having the student researchers teach at Dorian Camps was an ideal praxis for working with middle and high school students that had a lot of dance training or none at all. “They worked with me for two weeks, and we created an informance (sharing information through performance) that resulted in sharing the choreography and the concepts that inspired the choreography from three classes (Learn Your Body, Dance Composition, and Dance Company).”
The student researchers also organized and taught dance workshops for community members along with Luther dance alumni. “We brought in four alumni to teach different genres of dance, such as lyrical, ballet, hip hop, contemporary, freestyle, and somatics,” Hawley says.
Another project that Eull and Simpson participated in was helping organize and perform a Body of Water performance at the inaugural Iowa Water Festival in Des Moines. Hawley says, “They orchestrated some of the behind-the-scenes work of communicating with alumni performers and re-staging the choreography from 2015 for this 30-minute performance. Cory and Julia also negotiated the stage needs for the dancers and participated in filming the performance and reading quotes about water issues in Iowa.”
Eull and Simpson witnessed many emotions while helping with the Body of Water performance, including audience members crying, rejoicing, and expressing that performances like Body of Water should be given more often. The researchers also felt the struggles that are part of “finding the funding” to produce such a project.
Hawley enjoys being around people who understand embodied research and how it differs from theory. “Experiencing the research often reshapes the theory.”