Connecting Today's Diversity with Yesteryear's

February 14, 2018

One reason I love to teach is that sometimes students come up with great ideas.

Ceremony of Us The original Susan Landor photo of Ceremony of Us workshop from 1969

In the six-minute video below, you’ll see how an exhibit at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts prompted Branden Kazen-Maddox, an MFA student in my graduate seminar at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, to envision a photo shoot that echoes a historic dance moment of the ’60s. The whole class was taken with Susan Landor’s beautiful 1969 photo (above) and were totally game to “recapture” it.

The idea was not only doable, but loads of fun. We stepped into history—into Anna Halprin’s ground-breaking workshops that integrated black dancers from Los Angeles with white dancers from the Bay Area in 1968-69.

The original photo of Halprin’s Ceremony of Us had appeared in an exhibit called Radical Bodies that originated at UC Santa Barbara. I was a co-curator, so when Radical Bodies came to the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, I took my class there on a field trip. When Brandon saw that photo he immediately wanted us to replicate it in this time. His idea allowed me to re-enter that period in a different way, and it allowed the students to feel they were touching history.

I am posting this just as my MFA students are heading into their concert at Tisch Dance this weekend. And for the poster announcing the concert—it’s “Ceremony of Us: Recaptured.”