Friday, January 14, 2011

Kenan Fellowship Artistic Projects: Jan. 21 - 23, 2011

We are thrilled to share the lineup of the this year's Kenan Fellowship artistic projects. The performances will take place on Friday, January 21 through Sunday, January 23, 2011 in LCI’s Clark Studio Theater in the Rose Building at Lincoln Center. We are all very excited about their projects, as it is not only a highlight of the Kenan Fellowship, but also a wonderful opportunity for the Fellows to present themselves as artists in New York City.

Over the past few months, the Kenan Fellows have been creating and producing the following programs:

Sacred Search
Collaboration between Drew Madland (Theater) and Benjamin Garner (Music)
Sacred Search, created by Drew Madland and Benjamin Garner, is a restless meditation on the role of space, memory, and dreams in the human search for the sacred. Combining a rich soundscape, live instrumentation, interactive projections, and theatrical text and movement, Sacred Search creates echoes of familiar images and nostalgic longing that reach deeply into the lasting questions that fuel the human search for home and ultimate purpose.
Performances: Friday, January 21 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, January 22 at 1 p.m.

The Orchard
Collaboration between Kayla Herrmann (Cello) & Kathryn Logan (Dance)
The Orchard features original choreography and video projection set to live classical music. Kathryn Logan, choreographer, and Kayla Herrmann, cellist, combine forces to explore how confrontation with space helps balance our drive for success with the need to recognize and appreciate the beauty and vastness of our surroundings. Today, as we face a teetering economy and catastrophic damage to our environment, it is important to find our place in this continuum; to find awareness and curiosity in the midst of a busy schedule. The Orchard invites the audience to consider their own experience with these poles and to recognize space as the catalyst for movement between them.
Performances: Saturday, January 22 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, January 23 at 3 p.m.

Everything Potent is Dangerous
Choreographed by Amanda Hinchey (Dance)
Everything Potent is Dangerous is a contemporary dance piece that began with a series of interviews designed to explore the sense of identity: how is our perception of self influenced by our cultural background? How do our circumstances shape us—how do we believe they shape us? And, perhaps most important, how is our perception of ourselves affected depending on whether we see ourselves as members of a majority or a minority? The diversity and the cohesion of the individuals who addressed these questions are illuminated as the dance unfolds.
Performances Friday, January 21 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, January 22 at 2 p.m.

There will be informal Q-and-A sessions with the artists at the end of the evening on January 21 and 22.

All performances will take place at Lincoln Center Institute’s Clark Studio Theater, and admission is free. Hope you can make it!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kathryn Logan on The Capacities for Imaginative Learning

The Capacities for Imaginative Learning:
Noticing Deeply
Identifying Patterns
Making Connections
Exhibiting Empathy
Living With Ambiguity
Reflecting and Assessing
Creating Meaning
Taking Action

I have really taken to all of the aspects of Lincoln Center Institute’s philosophy, but the Capacities for Imaginative Learning have really helped me to define my progress and knowledge more clearly.

I have a difficult time with specificity. Definition feels like putting myself, or different aspects of myself, into categories, into boxes through which I cannot seep, muddy lines, or escape if need be. As such, I struggle with clarity at times. Thinking about them in this moment, seemingly objectively, I cannot imagine from whence the idea has arisen in my mind that these two concepts are mutually exclusive: boxing oneself in and living with clarity and definition of self, knowledge, and action. But from the inside, they feel that way.

I feel as though the Capacities for Imaginative Learning have offered me a freedom from this dichotomy: they allow me instances of clarity in my artistic blur of an existence, and do not request of me finality.

This idea fits in with one concept that I am continually noticing and finding to be truthful in my life: everything flows-- everything is always changing.

What the Capacities (and my awareness of the Capacities’ rubrics) have enabled for me is a way to use a specific vocabulary to note my work, specific skills that I am enhancing in my day-to-day life, and my progress. I think it can be difficult, as artists, to recognize when and if we are progressing forward. Because we move forward and backward in time and in style constantly (rehearsing, learning repertory, visualizing, revisiting ideas and works, understanding the now, cultivating presence, etc…) it is difficult to measure where we are, where we were, how far we may or may not have come. There is no real codified measurement of artistic sense and knowledge. Certainly there are specific techniques within each discipline to be mastered, but as far as the exercise and progression of the blanket artistic mind, there is no real test of progress. It is, in some sense, inherent in the artistic process that there not be! Art needs, for the sake of its definition, to NOT be systemically measured! It must be free and open ended, it must have no ceiling and no walls, it must exist in the midst of infinity.

The Capacities for Imaginative Learning give us a sense of artistic specificity. They allow for us lenses of language through which to view our processes and enhancements of skill.

There are ten Capacities for Imaginative Learning, and I notice them all in my daily life. But there are certain ones that really hit home for me-- that have really deepened my understanding of my self and enhanced my professional and artistic initiative.

Noticing Deeply. As a yoga teacher and practitioner, if in no other part of my life, this capacity is ever at-hand. It brings light to the lesson of true presence. If we are earnestly just noticing, not placing judgment or interpretation on our experience, then we are not caught up in our minds-- we are not escaping what is in front of us, the moment at hand. We are, by nature of the fact that we are simply noticing, exactly here and now. This sense of presence is something that, as a performer and choreographer, I work constantly to cultivate in my self and in my dancers. A sense of the now, of awareness, is necessary and captivating on stage, and helps to rear understanding of and empathy toward that which and those who surround us off stage. Noticing Deeply, by naming it, by giving it recognition, gives us a reminder that this is a thing toward which to work. Just the placement of this vocabulary in our minds.

Making Connections. This is the Capacity that has most surprised me. It confused me a little bit from the start-- I couldn’t seem to fully grasp the concept. For the first month of our training with LCI I was unsure about the differences between Making Connections and Identifying Patterns. How are these two concepts exclusive from one another? Aren’t they both just ways of saying “recognizing and putting pieces together so that they create a whole idea”?

And the answer is, “Yes. But.”

Identifying Patterns is Making Connections, yes, but Making Connections doesn’t necessarily mean Identifying Patterns. They aren’t mutually exclusive. There are connections inherent in patterns that we notice, of course (on some level, I suppose, this is all semantics) but is there necessarily pattern to be detected within every connection? Certainly not.

This has been a slow learning over time for me, the difference between these two Capacities, but the thing that has really hit home for me has been observing (noticing, if you will) other people as they make connections for themselves. Yes, of course, making connections within myself is always interesting to note, but watching someone else go through it can be jaw-dropping. At any age. Certainly in the classroom, when a child recognized that the exercise we were doing, making shapes with our bodies, connects to the dance piece we will be viewing; it was remarkable to watch their young mind make that leap. But observing, for example, a teacher who has been noticing and growing creatively for many years make an exciting connection in their minds-- it can be incredibly moving.

There is something inherent in the Making Connections capacity that suggests a relinquishing of our egos. We have to take a mental leap, we have to be willing to leave any preconceived notions where they are and make ourselves vulnerable to what we are Noticing in order to make a new connection in our minds.

I find myself now, daily, muttering under my breath to myself, “making connections, making connections, making connections” as I notice it happening both around me and within myself.

Living with Ambiguity. The most recent addition to the Capacities for Imaginative Learning list. This capacity is the most difficult for me and, I have found, the most difficult for most of the people I have talked to about it.

Built into Living with Ambiguity, similarly to Making Connections, is feeling of release. We have to be willing to let go of our control in order to accept ambiguity in our lives. By definition.

When I remind myself of this capacity I seem to sink back into myself-- to have a more earnest experience of whatever is actually happening because I stop trying to MAKE my experience into something: stop trying to put It into a box, into a category, and just allow it to be whatever it is-- stop making it swing in any direction or the other.

It seems as though being willing to Live with Ambiguity allows us the opportunity to Notice Deeply, by taking away the obstacles (control, outside force) that would keep us from seeing exactly what is happening, untainted.

And this is just one small example of how the Capacities for Imaginative Learning loop around each other. They all give to each other and feed off of each other around a common goal of sustaining creativity, clarity and self-awareness, and (a bit of an interpretive leap on my part, but) kindness. For me, the Capacities are lenses through which we can notice the progress of ourselves and our surroundings, but also a way to cultivate understanding within ourselves and our surroundings.

I will take away from this Fellowship a deeper understanding of (and names for!) these traits, these capacities, these things I can hope to foster more of within students and myself.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Megan Szymanski on Leading a Lesson

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to lead part of a lesson during one of our visits to a first grade class. For me, I knew this experience would truly reveal how deeply I’ve adapted LCI’s teaching philosophies, and that was a little bit daunting. I was worried about a few things, like not knowing how to transition smoothly to the next activity, or forgetting what to say in front of all these kids and my mentor and the teacher. On the other hand, I knew I was dealing with an excellent classroom which Lisa and I had worked with twice before, and I knew the kids would be excited to have me take over for a little while. Having someone new in the classroom was obviously a treat, and they behaved extremely well for both Lisa and me.
One of my fears came true: After getting caught up in an activity, I did forget what came next. I had the luxury of having Lisa catch me when I suddenly was at a loss for words, and the kids didn’t seem to notice. After reflecting on the experience, I came to the conclusion that I probably wouldn’t have “blanked” as much if I had created the lesson myself (I was following the lesson plan created by Lisa and the teacher partners). Another difficulty I encountered was time management. I didn’t realize how quickly time passes when you are completely involved in an activity. This must be why masterclass teachers always need an audience member to tell them when they have 5 minutes left (and why the classes usually run late no matter how hard they try). So I guess “time flies when you’re having fun” is a pretty accurate expression.

I tried to use the Capacities for Imaginative Learning, especially: Embodying, Questioning, Reflecting/Assessing, Noticing Deeply, Making Connections, Exhibiting Empathy, and Taking Action. That is almost all the Capacities. After seeing Lisa lead so many lessons before, I had no trouble with asking certain questions and guiding the noticing. I definitely would have not known how to do that before I started this Fellowship, although I think my thinking would have been on the right track. These Capacities really just enforce what I already thought was the right way to teach, which is a good sign to me that the Capacities are intuitive and organic tools of teaching and learning.

After reflecting on this day, I think what I realized is that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to being a Teaching Artist, and it’s important sometimes to just give it a shot. I honestly would have been too terrified to try if Lisa wasn’t there to encourage me, but I’m glad I did. Now that I have attempted walking in the shoes of a TA, I can more easily see myself wanting to do it again in the future. I can also see that there is a lot to learn about being a TA, and it must be a continuous growth process, which makes sense because art-making is all about growth anyway. Being a Teaching Artist is an art in itself.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Amanda Hinchey: Managing Head Space

Managing head space over the course of the Fellowship has been an ongoing work in process. At the start of Phase 2, I was definitely overwhelmed by the number of different opportunities that I was suddenly able to explore. While the freedom of self-structured time was one of the things that I was initially most excited about, when the time actually came I was suddenly very intimidated and wound up initially not pursuing as many different goals as I wanted to. This anxiety and feeling of being overwhelmed has filtered down into every part of my life, including my artistic project, as well as my time completely outside of the Fellowship, although I am happy to say that this has slowly but surely been improving.

Even though I had been living in NYC for a year prior to coming to LCI, I still had not yet gotten a firm grip on how to exist in this city and find the balance between personal and professional. One of the things that I envy the most about the rest of my family, and am reminded of when I visit them at home, is that they have jobs that they genuinely enjoy doing, but at the end of the day they are able to come and completely separate themselves from those jobs. Anything that they didn’t accomplish in that day can wait until 9 a.m. the following morning. Working in the arts is an all day, every day job, and even when I’m not actively working on something, I find myself constantly planning and worrying about the next email that I need to send or the next section of my piece that I need to choreograph. I would feel guilty about any time that I would take for myself, because the weight of what it is that I’m trying to accomplish through this Fellowship was always bearing down on me. More recently, I have been recognizing that it is very important to make sure that I take that personal time for myself to ensure that I am still a well-rounded individual. This can include anything from taking a visual arts class to volunteering at the local animal shelter, as well as making sure that I take the time to get to dance class.

When I first officially started rehearsing for my artistic project with Sara (my duet partner), I was frantically trying to manage all of the different logistical aspects of the piece, from booking rehearsal to postcards and other promotions, and it was only after I realized that if I just trusted that I would find a way to make things work no matter what that the process became more bearable. I also had to spend a great deal of time coming to terms with accepting my creative process for what it is right now, and recognizing what is the enjoyable and efficient way for me to work. Since that has happened I have felt much more liberated as a choreographer.

Although there is a part of me that is finally starting to feel at ease with the Fellowship, there is now a new sense of panic that has started growing in me regarding what is going to happen after it’s over. Ultimately, the biggest challenge for me has been my head getting away in my professional and creative process. Currently, my goal is to take everything one step at a time in order to make sure that I am able to be as fully invested in the Fellowship as I can be until the very end.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Kayla Herrmann on Writing a Lesson Plan

One of the Fellowship assignments was to brainstorm a work of art and come up with a 45-minute lesson plan. Easy, right? Well, actually, yes. This worries me. To tell the truth, I probably only took 10 minutes to come up with the activities, and then maybe 20 minutes typing them and making sure that I was choosing the best language. The brainstorming took a little longer, but I didn’t struggle with that, either. I felt like it should’ve been more difficult for me, so I wonder, did I do it incorrectly?

Let’s examine each step. First, I watched the work of art, Mountain Music. As I watched the video, I immediately started noticing aspects of the performance that would be interesting to children. I wrote down the things that were interesting to me from a teacher’s point of view. I wrote down what I noticed using language that I would want to use in a classroom. The difference is that if I was talking to a colleague about the performance, I might use language like tempo, dynamics, ensemble balance, stylistic techniques, etc… I might choose to introduce one of these words to the students, but I would assume that they know the words already. It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t talk about tempo, for example, but I would talk about it using words like "slow" and "fast". It wasn’t hard for me to view and write about the work of art with this lens, perhaps because I have been teaching for a long time, and I have a lot of experience looking at music from the point of view of the student. The way that I brainstormed helped me, because I already had the language written down for my lesson plan.

I’m doing okay so far, I think.

Next I needed to pick an aspect of my brainstorming to turn into a line of inquiry (a line of inquiry is part of LCI’s Imaginative Learning approach. I find it similar to a thesis—it is that main focus, the tree from which ideas and activities grow out of). I didn’t "finalize" my line of inquiry before I made the activity. I wrote a first-draft sentence which had the main concept, but it wasn’t until after I came up with all the activities that the line of inquiry really took shape. I wonder if I did it backwards?

Part of coming up with activities is layering them in a certain way so that they build upon each other, and this layering is what allows the students to have a deeper connection with the activities as the lesson moves along. I looked at the activity that I wanted to end the lesson plan with and worked backwards. My final activity was to have the children be able to work in a group, playing rhythms while taking turns playing a solo. The idea being to study the way the bluegrass uses facial cues to communicate, and in a previous lesson, they have learned about different patterns found in bluegrass music. So I looked at each aspect of this final activity and picked the most basic idea: noticing cues. Because the students must be able to notice the cue before they can practice giving the cue. And I worked from there, layering each activity so that when they got to the end, it wasn’t an unmanageable task.

I had a really fun time creating this lesson plan, and I hope to learn during the rest of my Fellowship whether my approach (brainstorming through a student’s eyes and then picking the final activity and working backwards) and lesson plan is typical of an LCI lesson plan.