On transformation, transition, and losing a mountain

During her internship in July and August, Jessica Placzek assisted Cassie in preparing for the How to Lose a Mountain Summer Institute and in the planning for next spring’s walk. Jessica is a senior sociology major and “dance enthusiast” at Wesleyan University. She shares her reflections and discoveries from the Institute week in this blog post. 

Lately, the Dance Exchange has seen many transitions. In the last year there have been new logos, new people, new projects, new names and a new artistic director. Change has been a prevalent theme at the dance exchange, and during the How to Lose a Mountain Summer Institute, transition was a major point of exploration. This topic at times was both physically and emotionally challenging. Yet it also provided opportunities for innovation and fun as we explored the shift from dancing in the studio to dancing outdoors in Rock Creek Park. There we examined dance as part of a pilgrimage in the heat of noonday suns, and under the cool sprinkles of evening showers. Through this rollercoaster of a week I was constantly inspired by the openness, creativity and levity of my fellow dancers who rose to meet various challenges and quickly cohered to make transforming and thought-provoking works.


Dancing in the creek


One source of inspiration that generated an abundance of ideas were the day’s transitions. In the middle of the week we woke up at the eye-crusting hour of 4:30am for the sunrise and stayed up till 9:30pm for the sunset where we watched the final rays of light slip back over the horizon. For me, the light had a profound influence in creating a space and bringing me into the present. In the morning we saw the world go from dark shapes to brilliant textured objects and in the evening we watched entities lose distinctiveness and blend into mystical forest landscapes. We took in sights, sounds, shapes and themes, and together these personal observations and experiences of explicit shifts from night to day and day to night were used for movement generation and small, wonderfully improvised performances.


Dancing in the park


A surprising investigation during the week was a workshop led by Nancy Bannon, who gave us tools to key into very emotionally sensitive places. Insecurities were brought to the forefront as we were pushed onto very rocky emotional grounds. However, like periods of transitions, the off-centering was informative and useful. While it helped us enhance emotive aspects of movement it also enabled us to examine ourselves, and, hopefully, it allowed us to readjust and find a new center. Just like focusing a camera, we un-focused in order to refocus for the sharpest image.


Dancing in the park


And, of course, there were transitions within our bodies. We explored our parameters as dancers and challenged ourselves to move outside our own patterns of movement, adopting the movement of fellow dancers and pulling from text and acting workshops that explored impulse. We also further challenged the way our bodies interpreted text, abstracting text as we danced it. At the end of a full week, I personally experienced a change in my own body. Abs that had disappeared months ago made a glorious homecoming and a barrage of sore muscles announced their existence.


Dancing in the woods


After an invigorating week of change, bad tan lines, wet socks and new friends, I can say without a doubt that there are exciting things happening at the Dance Exchange. It has set the stage for the How to Lose a Mountain walk next spring and I look forward to watching and participating in the piece’s progressions and transformations.

About Guest Blogger

Dance Exchange intern and/or guest blogger.