Theatre/Dance and Psychology
Brenna is currently a hip-hop dancer and show choir choreographer. She is the co-director/founder of B E A T: Bloomington Expressive Arts Training in Bloomington, Indiana. The website can be found here. She has a Jr. High Community Show Choir called Syncopation that is in its second year of existence as part of the BEAT program. She also started a prep group called Mini-Sync for grades 1-4 this year. Along with her studio, she travels throughout the United States choreographing for high school and middle school show choirs.
Upon entering the Theatre/Dance program, and specifically the Movement Fundamentals (MF) curriculum, what were your initial reactions/feelings/thoughts?
The first classes I took first semester of my freshman year were Contact Improvisation and Intro to Theatre/ Dance. These were my first immersions into the curriculum that I would spend the next 4 years learning and growing through. I remember being curious and a little scared because I had never had any dance training outside of hip hop and show choir. I was also excited because it was the first time that I was going to get to dance the majority of the time! This is a journal entry from my first contact class:
“When I first walked into the classroom, I had no idea what to expect. I was curious as to what I had just gotten myself into. I must admit after that first class; I was very apprehensive. It made me nervous to touch other people and have them coming in contact with me. As I began to get to know the people in my class better, I grew more comfortable in expressing what is inside of me. I am constantly learning more about myself and others.” Reading this now, it is hard to believe that those are my words, considering how differently I respond to everything now. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of a practice I would continue to implement even after college. I entered the program interested in both Theatre and Dance which was one of the many reasons I chose this particular curriculum. It offered the intense study of both areas. The other reason was that there was no weight requirement for the dancers and every shape and structure was supported and accepted. It helped me fall even more in love with dance and movement than I knew was possible.
My feelings on leaving this program were that I could do anything. I felt like I had gained the tools and support to accomplish anything. My hip hop dancing had improved significantly and my choreography offered more depth and dimension to it than ever before. Moving into the crazy dance world that is Los Angeles, I still feel like I know something most other dancers in my classes don’t understand. There is a knowledge of my body and how I respond to the environment and people around me that gives me a different perspective of both choreography and performance. This perspective embraces how each body moves differently and is unique. It isn’t about copying someone’s movement to “look just like them.” After leaving this curriculum, I feel like I am able to enter an audition in any dance style and hold my own. I learned the value of patience with my body and how to keep myself safe. I gained awareness of space and time. This isn’t just a dance program, it’s a way to become more present and “tuned in” to what’s going on in and around you. This is a personal practice that once experienced, one can’t imagine living without!!
What is your current career/life path?
I am currently on year TWO in Los Angeles. Dancing, choreographing, auditioning and living. I would say my career path is to open up my own dance studio called “SOWHAT!” implementing the MF curriculum along with hip hop and various other styles. I want it to be a place people can come together and move together, gaining insight through bodily practices. A place for young people to gain confidence, feel safe to express ideas, improve self-worth and be loved!! This is my ultimate goal, but I am still learning and performing and teaching!
How does the MF curriculum inform this career/path...how do you use MF in your day-to-day life?
I think the MF curriculum is essential to my path because without it, I don’t think I would even be on this path in the first place. I want others to be able to get the unique experience I got, so my goal is to continue to inform and teach within this particular curriculum and realm. I believe in it and the benefits of it, therefore, I want to share it with the world!
I use the concepts and techniques in my everyday life by how I treat my body. For instance, I learned in MF that when change occurs in one part of the bodily circuit, many other parts must adjust themselves to it. And that change does not necessarily obstruct or divert the flow of energy throughout the body as a whole. This has been especially important on days where I feel tired, but must still audition or when I am feeling sore or dealing with an injury of some kind. When I remember to acknowledge what the change is and how the rest of the body will indeed, adjust, I can continue on and move with that cultivated energy. This has positively changed many days in my life where I have woken up in a less than productive state.
I am in and out of auditions and dance classes every day so I am always implementing MF techniques by thinking more from an anatomical perspective, when learning choreography. It improves the quality and feeling of my movement within myself and in the end, makes it a hell of a lot easier to “pick up” and remember the steps. I also have a personal practice that I do each Sunday that begins with constructive rest and moves through a score/exploration that I set for myself. At the end of my practice, I always create a phrase to teach my roommate (also a graduate of this program) based on that particular focus. I always surprise myself with how great I feel to start each week and how it aids in my connection to the program which could easily become detached from given the dance scene I currently live in. I am trying to keep it as much of a part of my life as possible. Which is totally what the curriculum ultimately teaches- how to self-inform, continue, and practice! I am able to constantly grow and work through new information on a bodily level, on my own. It took 4 years of intense study for me to be able to accomplish this. I would’ve never been able to cultivate a healthy personal practice OR known that I even needed one before this program. Life. Changing.
In a paragraph, how would you describe the core philosophy of the MF curriculum at Luther?
The MF curriculum at Luther is creating awareness of the self in direct relation to one’s body, others and the environment. To become aware is of the utmost importance when in any movement situation in order to keep yourself and those around you safe. Learning where you are in space and developing knowledge of your own body as an instrument capable of a full range of movement and information is an essential part of this program. How does the body inform the movement and vice versa? This process is a collaborative one with the facilitator, self and others in the room. In summary, the core philosophy of this program teaches awareness, movement initiation by understanding the anatomy of the body and intention in creating, performing and practicing movement.
What part of the curriculum was most valuable to you?
The most valuable part of the curriculum for me was learning and moving through the process of collaboration. It was in this process that I had the opportunity to play many different roles as an artist. I got to be a performer, a director, a choreographer, an assistant, work on costumes, run a lighting and sound board, and organize props. I was able to be a part of production meetings at times and notating choreography at others. I appreciate the many projects and shows I got to work on. Through this collaboration, I was able to directly learn by witnessing my teachers’ process. At times this can be challenging, especially as an artist, and I learned that throwing out ideas is important, but even more important are the skills of listening, editing, and letting go.
Although hard to answer, this is my shot at conciseness and focus.