Noticing what we notice at Wesleyan University

Adjunct artist Ami Dowden-Fant fills us in on her recent trip to Wesleyan University to teach with Liz.

Friday January 14, 2011

On the day Liz Lerman received the first copy of her new book Hiking the Horizontal (which will be available this spring), Liz and I began working with a group of students at Wesleyan University to explore what we know, don’t know, and how that can change into completely new knowings and un-knowings. In developing this interdisciplinary course, Liz and Pamela Tatge, the director of the Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University, were seeking to find the connection of dance and science to the thought process, and how these elements can alter our outlook on education and life. Wesleyan students of various years and multiple majors were asked to step out of their comfort zones, and explore new ways of learning, teaching, and thinking. With the students, we will discover what we know, what we don’t know, and what we want to learn to expand the outcomes of our thought processes.

Once we settled in after a full morning of traveling, Liz and I had an evening of meetings ahead of us: connecting with Erin Roos-Brown, our events planner, meeting with Jolee West and other Informational Technology Studies staff to find the connections between our course and the performance of Time Has Set the Table For Tea: A Matter of Origins Project, which we’ll perform at Wesleyan this February. Closing out our evening of meetings was dinner with the three professors that agreed to lead a session in our course: astronomer Bill Herbst, physicist Brian Stewart, and Mary Jane Rubenstein, an educator of multiple concentrations such as religion, feminism, gender and sexuality studies. Over great food and delectable drinks we discussed our values, plans, stories, and hopes in helping this course thrive.

Saturday January 15, 2011

Liz and I started the morning by sharing our expectations for the day, and our excitement to meet the students and see their perception of the course. We started class with our seven students with brief introductions, and headed straight into a physical warmup, which I led, that focused on using movement to wake up the body and the mind. Liz took this simple exercise to the next level by asking the students to record what was happening in and around them. She wanted the students to provide content for the research that was accruing, and at that time the research was our environment: what was happening in the room, in our bodies, to other individuals’ bodies? After this evaluation, we partnered up and shared the notes we collected about the physical exercise and categorized them. Right away, Liz encouraged the group to note key points as the other groups shared their discoveries, but not by pen and paper, by watching, listening, and mentally recording the information. We noticed that many of our categories during this lesson were about collective experiences: moving vs. not moving, what has happened?  vs. what was happening? And finally, what is the value in all of these observations?  Closing out our movement portion of the day was Blind Lead. This exercise gave us the opportunity to see how comfortable the students are with themselves and movement.

After our lunch break, Bill Herbst joined our course and lead us to the Observatory. There he presented many questions: Where does the earth come? How did the earth become a plant? How did the stars and plants form? Throughout his lecture Liz reminded us about using the act of noticing to help with the note-taking process, like recording some type of movement or phrase Bill did or said to help locate the key factors and highlights of his lecture.  As a group we explored the observatory and its telescopes to see how Wesleyan scientists discovered the ” the Winking Star”. Today, many discoveries happened, but the most ground breaking for me is that stars are like raindrops and that I can let my research lead me.

About Guest Blogger

Dance Exchange intern and/or guest blogger.