Kate Blair '08

Decorah, Iowa

Kate is grateful to be integrating her experiences of working with movement, music, and community arts projects with women, children, and families in Mexico City at a domestic violence shelter and in Tucson. At the shelter, Kate worked at an arts magnet primary school, lived in intentional community, and danced with New ARTiculations dance company.  Currently, she is working as a cook at Luther, where she is grounding herself through mindfulness of the many details of everyday life. She is also co-creating a flute concert with a former teacher, singing in community concerts, and learning piano and guitar. She is auditing Contact Improvisation and doing a nature based sensing project called "reawakening reverence" with Movement Fundamentals One students at Luther.  She feels blessed for these opportunities to continue to die to old ways, re-create, and begin again through reconnecting to fundamentals.

Upon entering the theatre/dance program, and specifically the MF curriculum, what were your initial reactions? Upon leaving?

I took my first three Luther theatre/dance classes in high school. In high school, I was shy. I remember being drawn to the classes because they were helping me open up, and it was fun being with people older than I was. I remember thinking, these people are so wacky, free, and fun! I wish I could be like that!

When I started out in the MF program, I was transferring from St. Olaf. I remember noting many similarities to Sherry’s classes, but a different, more free and improvisational spirit in students at Luther (in general). Luther felt slower to me in some ways, and less directed from the outside. This is also because I was letting myself experience similar material in a different way than I had at St. Olaf, and I was not pushing myself in the same way.

It was more explorational than some of the classes I had taken at St. Olaf. I also enjoyed that there were guys and sometimes older professors in the classes—there were a couple guys in the St. Olaf dance classes as well, but I don’t think there were as many. I enjoyed the intergenerational aspect of some MF classes at Luther. I felt curious when I first started out with the MF curriculum, and intrigued to learn about movement from a similar yet different perspective. I felt there was a lot of raw creative energy in the professors and other students and that’s why I liked being part of it.

As I left, I felt and still feel, there is a lot of potential and possibility to use what I’ve learned...and there is a lot more to learn. Everything I’ve learned, I can deepen and expand. Even though I took Movement Fundamentals II several times, Movement Fundamentals III once, took other similar classes at St. Olaf, and have shared this material with others in a variety of ways, I constantly feel that I am just starting out, and that I don’t really understand it. At times I feel that I do understand, but that I can’t embody it yet. At other times, I feel it is frustratingly basic and simple material and that everyone knows this without studying it. Yet, while everyone may know it at a subconscious level, I think it is the awareness, the ability to re-pattern, and to continue being an active agent in the shaping of this body and life that is a constant process I will never fully understand and that will always energize me with its possibility. This makes me curious and hungry to improvise and continue in it.

What is your current career path?

I just finished an almost year-long placement through ELCA Global Missions, where I worked at Espacio Mujeres para Una Vida Digna Libre de Violencia: Women’s Space for a Dignified Life Free of Violence. There, I did dance, theater, and choir workshops for women, adolescents, and children. Many of the women, adolescents, and children I met had experienced family violence. The center there provided professional attention to women with the focus on gender; at the core of the center was the study and reflection of how gender shaped experiences of violence for many women and their children. I did the workshops with the intentions to liberate expression (through non-judgment of oneself and others), increase self-esteem, provide space to reflect on gender issues, and help women see the links between transformation in art and daily life. Many women I met in Mexico and beyond are over-worked and so the simple act of making space to create art begins to address gender issues and imbalances. I am exploring possibilities right now, and am interested in doing more study and work using artistic movement as a transformational tool—perhaps through a Dance Movement Therapy and Counseling program at Columbia College. I am interested in gender and violence stories and issues, immigration stories and issues, learning from people of different cultures than my own, learning about and shaping my own culture/community I am in, traveling, languages, gardening-farming, caring for kids, writing, creation in general, and music. I am developing as a writer, artist, activist, dancer, and musician.

How does the MF curriculum inform this career/path? How do you use MF in your day-to-day life?

The MF curriculum informed(s) this path a lot! I used Irmgaard Bartinieff’s six patterns of fundamental movement in almost every workshop at Espacio Mujeres. Many of the women who come to the center saw the poster for dance workshops and ask me, “What kind of dance workshops?” I explained how I integrate lots of different dance forms, and how the workshops have structures but that they are designed so that each person can experience and explore their own creativity. Many of the women also said, “I don’t know how to dance.” Then, I explained how they do know the 6 patterns of fundamental movement, because they know how to walk. I explained how we all learned these patterns as infants/young kids, and how these patterns move us through daily life. These six patterns are the same that a professional dancer uses, and while many don’t aspire to be professional dancers, the patterns can still help us move through life with more awareness, joy, and possibility. I explain how returning to these patterns and re-patterning within them can help us continue to develop and give us new access and awareness to possibilities in life.

The MF philosophy also influences me, and the director of the center, Pilar, was especially enthusiastic about the way I saw dance and art being an integral part of transforming life. She loved how I did not focus on teaching set steps, but how I used different structures to help the consultants experience themselves and their unique bodies and choices.

In my day-to-day life, I use Movement Fundamentals to check in with myself, and to be mindful of my emotions. I have allowed myself to slow down, and I have realized that even though I feel a certain pressure about it, dance does not have to mean being frantic, and reaching beyond myself. Yet, dance and learning about myself through Movement Fundamentals for me does mean honoring and stretching my dynamic, ever changing limits. In this process, I am learning to move from where I am. I have worked on a solo dance in the past year off and on, a practice of being present, emotionally and physically, and I use MF concepts to analyze movements that are difficult for me. I use my knowledge to strengthen my weaknesses.

How would you describe the core philosophy of the MF Curriculum at Luther?

Movement is fundamental to life. Studying our bodies and our movement through direct experience and reflection reveals much about how we interact with ourselves, others, and the world through our body-mind-emotion-spirits. Transformation is something we can inspire and direct. As artists, in community, we can learn from each other, through witnessing, sharing reflections, and being present to each other’s processes, in a non-judgmental, free and open way. This creates space so we can also discern when art is true, and helps us expect ourselves and others to grow, trans- form, and shine through art. This community strengthens us in ourselves so that we can sometimes get a glimpse of our own selves, and be witnesses to our own process. When we are able to change in a movement class, we also can create transformation in daily life and the reverse.

What part of the curriculum was most valuable to you?

Practicing non-judgment is/was very valuable to me, especially at the time I studied. The sense of group communal transformation to support each person’s creative process was also important to me; I felt that because of the intentional practices around witnessing and sharing with others, that sometimes my purpose was more in witnessing than in creating art. Being present to others’ processes also helped me keep perspective in my own movement struggles, and see that we are each in a process of learning.