From Word to Movement

by Sarah Freeman 15CDancePicMy friends tell me that when I walk around campus they can always pick me out from the number of bags I am carrying. There hasn’t been a backpack invented that can handle a laptop, chargers, 7 packs of gum, water bottle, seltzer bottle, coffee mug, 2 notebooks, a folder, running shoes, change of sweatpants and a sports bra, lapa skirt for African class, sculpture reflection for modern dance class, packed lunch, silly string and candy bar props for rehearsal, costumes for 21 dancers, and 17 library books. For three years I embraced the bag lady look, even playing it up with a homeless style hairdo that was really just laziness. Being a dance major is a different kind of study all together, so the supplies I need are much different from a normal student, and usually I am happy to get a workout by lugging around 50 pounds of life. But last fall, when I started choreographing my senior honors thesis concert and researching for my corresponding paper, things got out of control. My car looked like a person had lived in it for 4 years with leftover snacks and enough changes of clothing for the entire dance department. It might sound silly and unimportant, but a physical space of my own on campus was the greatest gift anyone could have given me.

The Fox Center Fellowship came in with just that gift, and the small office I have on Clifton Road has been invaluable this semester. I can store my books on the bookshelf, my costumes in the closet, retreat from the rest of the campus into a comfortable desk and get a cup of coffee. Motivation comes in all forms. For me as a dancer, the physical location is almost as important as how my body feels, how tired I am, what deadlines are coming up, in inspiring or forcing me to get to work. My thesis is both paper and performance, and the latter aspect is a continuous source of inspiration. I work with a cast of 10 phenomenal dancers to create two dance pieces based off the writings of Flannery O’Connor, in particular the short story The Displaced Person. It’s easy to come to rehearsal excited to create with my friends, or to reread and reimagine a brilliantly bizarre piece of writing. I find it much harder to motivate myself to sit down and research methods of combining dance and text, or write about my process.

O’Connor was forced to move back to her childhood home in Milledgeville, GA after being diagnosed with lupus at age 25. My thesis performance examines how physical limitations both affected her interpersonal relationships and provided a writing environment of rich landscape and emotional intensity. Having the environment of the Fox Center as location of sanctuary and retreat on campus gave me a new and particular understanding of how the routine and comfort of O’Connor’s setting played into the development of her work. As the date of my thesis performance approaches (2 weeks!) I know that whether I need to hole myself up in a cozy room to write or lay outside on the grass to de-stress, the physical location of my process will make its way into the work itself, just it did for O’Connor.

Freeman’s senior honors thesis All Being Displaced: Movement Translations of Flannery O’Connor will be presented in the Schwartz Center Dance Studio on March 26 and 27 at 8 pm. Admission is free and no reservations are required.

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