Thesis Thursday!

MFA Mondays

Thesis Thursdays turquoise (1)


Happy Thursday!

One more day to the weekend, but more importantly ONE MORE DAY UNTIL ECOUTER OPENS!

Get your tickets here, still only $15 until tomorrow!



In case you’re not caught up with Frame’s newest weekly series, Thesis Thursday, you can catch up on the last three blog posts here. In a nutshell, this series features installments of my senior thesis written for Rice University’s Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality. It explores the topics of Contact Improvisation, Feminism, feminist performance art, and female empowerment through movement.

Here’s a re-cap of my general thesis statement:

I will argue that CI is a complex feminist practice. The relationship CI has to feminism is complex because it is not inherently feminist, but enables women to have a feminist experience.

If you don’t have time to catch up on the first two posts, have no fear! It’s a perfect week to dive in! In this post, I will explore the relationship between CI’s history and postmodern art of the 1950’s-60’s. Enjoy!


 Chapter I. Part II. CI and Postmodernist Influences

The Living Theatre opened in 1947 and is the longest standing experimental theatre group in the U.S. “Over the course of almost fifty years, The Living Theatre has been known as the most radical, uncompromising, and experimental group in American Theatrical history.”[1] It pulled Steve Paxton (see past posts for more info on Paxton, who is hailed as the originator of CI) into its vortex of action and awakened his political consciousness. The theatre is known for the radical politics of its founders’, Judith Malina and Julian Beck, specifically their commitment to nonviolence, anti-hierarchy and anti-commercialism of art. Their politics manifested in a unique theatre experience that transcended the specific medium such as film, painting, or dance, and aimed to engage the audience by dissolving the “fourth wall,” which separates audiences from the stage, and exposing them to what Antonin Artaud theorized as the “theatre of cruelty.” Artaud was a French playwright and actor prolific in the early 1900’s in Europe.[2] He is widely known for his writings regarding the theatre of cruelty, which was a stark portrayal of reality meant to propel the audience from passive complacency to thoughtful action. According to theatre critic Albert Bermel, Artaud believed that, “If theatre is a necessary part of our lives…[i]t has an obligation: it’s every performance must, by virtue of its cleansing and purifying, transfigure those audiences.”[3] One example of such theatre is Jack Gelber’s play, The Connection, which featured actors already on stage as the audience entered the theatre.  The actors are waiting for their heroin dealers and walk through the aisles asking for money to get a fix during intermission.[4] In the words of Julian Beck:

            To call into question

            who we are to each other in the social environment of theater…

            to set ourselves in motion

            like a vortex that pulls the

            spectator into action…

            to move from the theater to the street and from the street to the


            This is what The Living Theatre does today.

            It is what it has always done[5]

Robert Dunn’s composition (choreography) classes taught at Merce Cunningham’s studio in The Living Theatre from 1960 – 1962 were the impetus for the development of the Judson Dance Theatre two years later.[6] Dunn’s first composition class started with only Paxton and four other students. Paxton worked with Dunn for the next four years, and Paxton was forced to challenge the conventions of his modern dance training. Paxton says of the experience:

The work that I did there was first of all to flush out all of my “why-nots,” to go through my “why not” circles as far as I could until getting bored with the question…It was a very permissive time…which was my first contact with the rise of political consciousness – where I first saw a peace symbol, where I first saw dope smoked, where they were doing plays like The Connection and talking about prison reform.[7]

Yvonne Rainer, a fellow dancer in Dunn’s choreography class at The Living Theatre recalls a piece by Paxton in which he sat on a bench and ate a sandwich.[8] This piece was minimalist and its rejection of modern dance conventions and refined technical vocabulary was groundbreaking for the time period. It demonstrated anti-commercialism and criticized over-the-top entertainment. Dunn’s classes led to Paxton and his classmates creating many diverse dance scores. Eventually the classmates decided to present their collection of work as the Judson Dance Theatre (JDT), in the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, New York City on July 6, 1962. So began the Judson Dance Theatre’s twenty-year domination of the postmodern dance scene. According to dance scholar Sally Banes, “It was the seedbed for post-modern dance…The choreographers of the Judson Dance Theatre radically questioned dance aesthetics…”[9] The JDT is widely regarded as the first organized instance of postmodern dance. It defined postmodern dance as a reaction to modern dance that rejected many of modern dance’s technical constraints. The result was an embrace of everyday movement. The techniques of musicians who used non-traditional instruments, chance composition and improvisation complemented this new type of performance. These elements would be seen later in Contact Improvisation, which also utilizes improvisational musicians to create a musical score in jams and performances.

The group’s success was partly due to the egalitarian and democratic nature of the organization. Judith Dunn, a dancer in the first concert and wife of Robert Dunn, wrote, “No important decisions were made until everyone concerned and present agreed.”[10] Again, this lesson, taught by Cunningham and Limón, was not lost on Paxton as evidenced by the anti-hierarchical, cooperative and egalitarian organization in his own movement form and practice. However, the JDT pushed Paxton outside the technical and apolitical style of modern dance and exposed him to postmodern experimentation with the mundane and pedestrian as a form of political critique which I will argue set the stage for a feminist experience to develop.

[1] John Tytell, The Living Theatre: Art, Exile, and Outrage, (New York: Grove Press, 1995), xi.

[2] Albert Bermel, Artuad’s Theatre of Cruelty, (London: Methuen, 2001), vii-viii, 115.

[3] Ibid., 11.

[4] Jack Gelber, The connection, a play (New York: Grove Press, 1960).

[5] Julian Beck, “Our Mission,” The Living Theatre, history (accessed December 17, 2012).

[6] Banes, Democracy’s Body: Judson Dance Theatre, 2.

[7] Ibid., 9-10.

[8] Ibid., 9.

[9] Banes, Democracy’s Body: Judson Dance Theatre, xi.

[10] Sarah Doran, “The Judson Dance Theater,” Greenwich Village, (accessed November 8, 2012).

MFA Monday!

MFA Mondays

MFA right









This is the final installment from Sue Roginski! Enjoy! The Framers wish you a merry Monday to start the week! It’s definitely not too late to purchase your discounted tickets to our show this weekend, Ecouter!


Part 3 of 3

For some reason I was under the impression that after graduate school you would immediately pursue a job teaching in a college setting. This emerged as an unspoken expectation or perhaps something I concocted along the way.

job reality

I started the process of applying for jobs, specifically the full-time tenure track dance jobs in a college setting.

At this point I had a part-time job at a community college and was fairly settled in Riverside. It did not even occur to me to open up the geographic range of where I would begin the job search.

There might be more successful job search potential if you are willing to travel to another state. Nonetheless, I began seeking those full-time tenure track positions in state.

A few job applications began to lead to rejections.

side note

There are resources at school that enable you to always have a CV, cover letter and letters of recommendation on file, so that when a job becomes available you are already prepared to send those materials out.

job pieces

For whatever reason I did not take advantage of the school resource yet paid attention to job listing sites: HERC, Indeed, and the CCC Registry. Each time I applied for a job I would spend about two weeks gathering the pieces, and having contacts and colleagues write a letter or adapt an existing letter to speak to that job. I would typically create the cover letter to respond to a particular job listing. It seems the personal touch could be more effective.

I have had many thoughts throughout the full-time job search and process. Would I have better luck if I were a renowned choreographer (inside smile)? What if I could really fill all requirements of a certain job sometimes including the ability to teach ballet, modern, jazz, hip-hop, tap, dance history, somatic practices, dance pedagogy, dance theory, and specialize in a world dance form while trained in yoga or pilates?

There are rarely job listings that might speak to what honors you or your creative background specifically.

I don’t think I could fake a jazz class to get the job (although my teacher told me that I most certainly could-inside laughter)!

adjunct appreciation

Seven years post the MFA degree, the life of an adjunct has grown on me. I have had the opportunity to be in several communities at the same time and to move amongst a diverse group of individuals studying dance. I have witnessed the varied styles that full-time faculty bring to a program.

As an adjunct I am able to continue creating work and immersing myself in multiple community dance projects. A teacher of mine in college chose to be an adjunct because she just wanted to teach. Another professor I know retired because he “was overwhelmed with paperwork and just wanted to teach”.

What I have discovered as a dance artist and teacher piecing together the parts is that the possibilities for other ways in which to engage in a dance field are unlimited.


Sue Roginski graduated from Wesleyan University in 1987 with a BA in Dance and from the University of California Riverside in 2007 with an MFA in Dance (experimental choreography). She is a teacher, choreographer, and performer who has produced her own work as well as performances to benefit Project Inform, Breast Cancer Action, and Women’s Cancer Resource Center. In the past few years, Sue has had the opportunity to share choreography at Anatomy Riot (LA), Highways Performance Space (Santa Monica), Unknown Theater (LA), AB Miller High School (Fontana), Culver Center of the Arts (Riverside), Society of Dance History Scholars (conferences ’08 and ’09), The Haven Café and Gallery (Banning), Back to the Grind Coffee House (Riverside), Heritage High School (Romoland), KUNST-STOFF arts (SF), and Riverside Ballet Arts (Riverside). She also has been privileged to dance and perform with Susan Rose and Dancers since 2005. Sue teaches at Mt. San Jacinto College and Riverside City College and divides her time between Riverside and San Francisco where she had a ten year career as dancer and collaborator with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. Sue performs with Dandelion Dancetheater (Bay Area based ensemble) and Christy Funsch (SF dance artist) whenever possible, and in 2010 created P.L.A.C.E. Performance (a dance collective) with friend and colleague Julie Satow Freeman. Her ongoing creative process infuses choreography with improvisation.backyard


Links We Like

Links We Like

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It’s Friday!!!

May your weekend be very very merry!

Here are some links that we like from this week!

First of all, there’s ONLY ONE MORE WEEK until Ecouter! Woohoooo! That’s right opening night is exactly one week away! Get your tickets here.


Second of all, Cultured Cocktails with the Framers at Boheme was a SMASHING success last night! Check out some more photos here!


Ok…on to more links!

An interesting article on why ballet dancers make awesome employees.

More from the composers behind our upcoming show, Ecouter! They are AWESOME!

Check out these classic sculptures dressed as hipsters.

Of course, I’m obsessed with So You Think You Can Dance, check out my favorite performance from this week!


And last but not least: Framer, Jacquelyne Boe, has an awesome website that I discovered this week!




It’s an EXCITING week!!! Stay tuned for a blog post that takes an inside look into the FINAL rehearsal for Ecouter on Tuesday and Thesis Thursday will be resumed! And of course our evening-length dance performance extravaganza, Ecouter, to end the week – are you excited yet???

Links We Like!

Links We Like

Links colors-1

Hey Framers!

It’s Friday! It’s Friday! It’s Friday!

Whewwww it’s be a loooong week, but it’s finally the weekend! What better way to start than to peruse a few links we liked from this week??? Enjoy!


A beautiful series of photos in honor of 50 years of Texas Ballet Theatre. IMG_7021_0

If you haven’t watched this great video of an afternoon with Frame composers, do it NOW!

 Get pumped for Ecouter coming June 28-29!!!quiverpress_framedance

A great list of “Angel” startups – how many do you recognize?? See all the up-and-comers of data, electronics, cooking, education start-ups!

This will make you swoon from cuteness!!! An adorable 2 year old and his father perform “Don’t Let Me Down” by the Beatles.

A little random, but it made me smile because everyone is a dancer!


Long live Chicago the musical and its inspired dance numbers!!!


Have a Happy Weekend!



Thesis Thursday

MFA Mondays



Thesis Thursdays turquoise (1)








In case you’re not caught up with Frame’s newest weekly series, Thesis Thursday, you can catch up on the last two blog posts here. In a nutshell, this series features installments of my senior thesis written for Rice University’s Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality. It explores the topics of Contact Improvisation, Feminism, feminist performance art, and female empowerment through movement.

Here’s a re-cap of my initial post:

I will argue that CI is a complex feminist practice. The relationship CI has to feminism is complex because it is not inherently feminist, but enables women to have a feminist experience.

If you don’t have time to catch up on the first two posts, have no fear! It’s a perfect week to dive in! This is the first post to go beyond the introductory material and into the “meat” of my first chapter. Enjoy!


Chapter One: Influences, Feminist Connections and Contact Improvisation

Part I. Modernist Influences

By Lena Silva

Contact Improvisation, like feminist performance art, has a clear link to modern and postmodern dance as shown through the early career of Steve Paxton. He considered himself an outsider to the dance establishment. Despite having studied gymnastics in his childhood and modern dance at the University of Arizona, Paxton did not believe he was a “real dancer.” Only while dancing for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company at age 22 did Paxton begin to identify as a dancer. Paxton admits, “It took me a long time to admit that I was a ‘dancer’…Because I held dancers in such high esteem… it took me a long time to feel I was part of [the New York arts scene]”.[1] Perhaps his affinity with postmodern dance and egalitarian approach to dance making was related to his outsider mentality.


Steve Paxton worked alongside or under many women and men during his formative years as a dancer before CI was initiated. These included Merce Cunningham, José Limón, and Yvonne Rainer. Rainer identified as a feminist performance artist, and Paxton had other colleagues that did so as well. Feminist belonged to the three dance communities that were most influential for Paxton: the Judson Dance Theatre, The Living Theater, and the Grand Union. These individuals and groups provided an influential legacy of egalitarianism and non-hierarchical organization for CI.


Steve Paxton

portrait-biographyMerce Cunningham (1919–2009), a major influence on Steve Paxton, was a dancer, choreographer and leader in the American avant-garde for over fifty years, at his most prolific in the 1950’s and 60’s when he worked with Paxton.[2] The most important legacy of Cunningham’s for Paxton was Cunningham’s reliance on collaboration with artists of many different types (including musicians, architects, painter, and actors) and his willingness to experiment. He coined the postmodern technique of chance choreography, which required collaboration John Cage a musician and Cunningham’s life partner. Cage composed musical scores for the dance shows independently of Cunningham’s choreography so that the resulting dance abandoned conventional efforts for dance to match music.


Merce Cunningham

However, Paxton’s style of dance making diverged from Cunningham’s insistence on heteronormative partnering. According to Sally Banes, “Cunningham could not, or would not, escape the heritage of classical ballet… men still supported and lifted women…in quite traditional ways. Men did not partner men, nor did women lift or support women.”[3] Paxton and other members of Cunningham’s company questioned the heteronormative conventions, which opened them to a less traditional choreography of gender relations in dance. As early as 1961, while still dancing with Cunningham, Paxton began complicating the gendered nature of choreography in “Proxy,” which the female dancer of the duet lifts the male dancer.[4]

Jose-Limon-40247-1-402Also during the early 1960’s in New York City, Paxton spent one year dancing with one of the most influential modern dancers in history, José Limón. Limón refused to codify his technique to avoid stifling the creativity of his students. He encouraged them to find their individual expression of a movement, an improvisational element shared by postmodern dance.[5] Limón’s sensitivity toward creative hierarchy was important for Paxton who also chose to set out a minimal frame of reference of movement for dancers rather than impose on them the necessity to dance exactly like him.



Jose Limon

humphrey_portraitLimón appointed Doris Humphrey to be the artistic director of his company rather than personally assuming the position. That he chose a woman is notable. Despite the prestige some women had in the modern dance world, such as Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham, many others struggled to attain prominence at the level of their male contemporaries. Humphrey is acclaimed for opening up modern dance to the nuances of gravity with her principle of “fall and recovery,” which focuses on organic falls and rebounds of the body that arise from shifts in weight.[6] Humphrey said gravity was “…the very core of all movement, in my opinion.”[7] Her style is similar to what became central to CI movement technique: focusing on gravity and sharing changes in weight between partners as impetus for spontaneous movement.

Dorris Humphrey

[1] Steve Paxton, “How Important is Dance? I Think it May be Critical!” The Wise Body: Conversations with Experienced Dancers, ed. Jacky Lansley and Fergus Early (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), 89.

[2] Sally R. Banes, “Feminism and American Postmodern Dance,” Ballett [sic] International,  no. 6 (1996): 34-41.

[3] Ibid., 35.

[4] Banes, Democracy’s Body: Judson Dance Theatre, 1962-1964, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), 58-60.

[5] June Dunbar, Jose Limón: The Artist Re-Viewed (New York: Routledge, 2000), 38 and 113.

[6] Lesley Main, Directing the Dance Legacy of Doris Humphrey, (Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2012), 16-17.

[7] Ibid., 17.


Stay tuned for the next installment of my thesis that will focus on the postmodern influences on CI!


My partner and I performing a CI duet for Rice Dance Theatre’s Fall 2012 show.