Poster: Sharon Lockhart and Ariel Osterweis: Talent Show

CalArts Courses

Talent Show

Graduate Course, Co-Taught with Sharon Lockhart (School of Art), 2019, 2021.

The Spring 2019 Graduate Topics in Performance Studies course is “Talent Show” and is co- taught by Sharon Lockhart (Photo/Media) and Ariel Osterweis (Dance). This is a course in practice and theory, and explores topics such as amateurism, aspiration, and adolescence. Working through questions of format (stage, television), function (in schools and community centers), audience/judgement, documentation (photography, TV, film), geography, and culture, students will collaboratively explore their own latent or shrouded talents that lie beyond their métier training and expertise as well as visit with (or study) artists working through these ideas. Artists include: Jerome Bel, Mike Kelley, Marnie Weber, Jim Shaw, Phil Collins, Chuck Barris, Jack Smith, Edgar Arceneaux, Tara Jepson, and more. With an eye toward U.S. and global entertainment, this course will interrogate the troubling relationship between freak shows, circus, talent shows, and reality TV. Fieldwork will include attending school talent shows, visiting the set of America’s Got Talent, and visiting LA artists’ studios and rehearsals. In addition to generating and documenting (on various media) weekly performance exercises, students will have the opportunity to write in several modes; the semester culminates with a group talent show! This course is open to the Institute (with permission of instructors)— including selected BFA4s (especially Photo/Media and Dance)—and all interested MFA, MA, and BFA4 students must meet with the instructors on course registration day to determine enrollment.

Clubbing

Graduate Course, 2018, 2020.

The Fall 2020 Graduate Topics in Performance Studies course is “Clubbing” and explores topics such as queer nightlife, subcultural community-building, dance music and movement, collective effervescence, intoxication, and traditions and cultures such as the rave, the cipher, the ballroom, and the dancehall. We will read and generate theory and practice at the intersection of performance theory, dance studies, queer theory, anthropology, and critical race studies in a global context. In addition to sharing practices, conducting fieldwork, and writing, we will explore artistic works that draw from experiences of the club. We will interface with guest speakers (Ron Athey, Julie Tolentino, Anne Garréta, Joe Sanchez, Kareem Khubchandani, and madison moore) and read creative and scholarly work about clubbing. Given our current cultural moment, we will also ask and archive, what is “clubbing” during COVID? Students will have the opportunity to write in several modes and to create a final project and paper. The course will culminate in two collective endeavors: a zine and a COVID CLUBBING ARCHIVE. This course is open to the Institute.

View zine made by Clubbing

The Extreme Body in Performance: Sexuality, Race, Labor

Graduate Course, 2017, 2019.

The Extreme Body in Performance: Sexuality, Race, Labor is a graduate course that engages students in the interdisciplinary field of performance studies, paying particular attention to how the “extreme” body generates and disrupts socio-cultural constructions of sexuality, race, and labor through performance and live art. How do we “read” bodies; how do bodies “read” us? Keeping in mind that performance operates as both a critical lens and an object of study, this course inquires into practices of queer and feminist artists of color who call upon the live (often explicit or “difficult”) body in performance. We will analyze the ways in which such performances critique culture at large and trouble distinctions between dance, theater, performance art, activism, and visual art. Concepts explored include embodied memory/archive, surface/mutability, queer of color critique, racial kitsch, mixed-race and trans identity, abjection, reskilling, vital materialism, difficulty, obscenity, freakery, and pain/pleasure. The artists in question (many of whom comment on their training in dance) include Adrian Piper, Narcissister, Yoko Ono, Julie Tolentino, Ann Liv Young, Annie Sprinkle, Carolee Schneemann, Yve Laris Cohen, Carmelita Tropicana, Marina Abromovic, Senga Nengudi, Ron Athey, Lee Bul, Aliza Shvarts, and more. We will read writing by scholars and artists such as Adrian Piper, Rebecca Schneider, Amelia Jones, Claire Bishop, Judith Butler, Jane Bennett, Tavia Nyong’o, Linda Williams, Jennifer Doyle, Jose Munoz, bell hooks, Susan Stryker, Roderick Ferguson, Saidiya Hartman, Alison Kafer, Mark Anthony Neal, Hortense Spillers, and Anne Anlin Cheng. Moving from the 1960s to the present through international contexts, we will study these artists and concepts through the interdisciplinary lenses of performance studies, gender and sexuality studies, critical race theory, critical dance studies, porn studies, and visual studies. In addition to generating written work, students will attend up to two performances in LA, and may have the opportunity to create a short performance work. Requirements include close reading of text and performance, weekly written responses on text or performance, up to two short essays, and one longer final essay. This course is open to graduate students across campus.

Performance Studies

Graduate Course, 2017, 2020.

This graduate course introduces students to the interdisciplinary field of performance studies. We will investigate performance and performativity as theoretical concepts influenced by—and influencing—trends in anthropology, theatre, dance, and visual, rhetorical, gender, and cultural studies. This course takes into consideration and complicates assumptions about embodiment, spectatorship, agency, subjectivity, action, ritual, and community. Troubling the supposed divide between practice and theory, this course will provide the opportunity to exercise performative writing and ethnography, as well as live performance in an academic context. In a collaborative spirit, we will share work with each other. Readings will include selections from R. Schechner, S. Jackson, P. Phelan, S. Foster, A. Lepecki, D. Taylor, V. Turner, M. Taussig, B. Brecht, R. Schneider, F. Moten, S. Hartman, J.L. Austin, J. Butler, J. Muñoz, B. Browning, E. Sedgwick, F. Fanon, R. Ferguson, C. Bishop, N. Thiong’o, P. Kuppers, L. Althusser, A. Cheng, and more. Artists explored include, among others, Guillermo Gómez Peña, Coco Fusco, Rashaad Newsome, Trajal Harrell, Jerome Bel, Adrian Piper, William Pope L., Vaginal Davis, Carmelita Tropicana, Ron Athey, Julie Tolentino, Wooster Group, Young Jean Lee, Narcissister, Yve Laris Cohen, Ann Liv Young, and Faustin Linyekula. In addition to generating written work, students will attend up to two performances in LA, and have the opportunity to create a short performance work. Ultimately, we will keep in mind that performance operates as both a critical lens and an object of study. Students will be expected to engage in invested textual, theoretical, and formal/performance analysis, relating the course material to their own theses and other critical or practice-based investigations. Requirements include close reading of text and performance, two short essays, a short performance, a presentation, and one longer final essay on a topic of their choice. While this course fulfills a Dance MFA requirement, it is open to graduate students across campus.

Choreography and Textuality: Bodies on the Page, Words on the Stage

Graduate Course, 2017, 2019.

Choreography and Textuality: Bodies on the Page, Words on the Stage is a graduate course that will explore relationships between choreography and writing. Presumably, choreography is to dance what writing is to language; what would it mean to “choreograph” words onto the page or to “write” dance onto the stage? Alternatively, what does text bring to questions of the corporeal, and what do dance and the body bring to questions of the textual? In mining such questions, we will attune ourselves to works of dance, performance, prose, and poetry that deconstruct and rearrange conventions of meaning, representation, communication, embodiment, and abstraction through unexpected treatments of form and content. When and how do choreographic, poetic, and critical modes coexist? This course inquires into William Forsythe’s engagements with the work of Anne Carson and Virginia Woolf, Germaine Acogny and Kota Yamazaki’s collaborative choreography based on a novel by Boubacar Boris Diop, work by The Wooster Group that draws from William Forsythe and Gertrude Stein, Ralph Lemon’s parachoreographic texts and use of Kathy Acker’s writing, Richard Move’s archival work on Martha Graham, Arthur Pita’s production of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Nijinsky’s diaries, Pina Bausch’s tanztheater, Gelsey Kirkland’s autobiography, choreography by Miguel Guttierez, Jerome Bel, and Ohad Naharin, and writing by Franz Kafka, Barbara Browning, Maggie Nelson, Nathaniel Mackey, Fred Moten, Robert Grenier, and Elfride Jelinek that takes up the body, explicitly or otherwise. Students will write several essays, engage in live writing during performances, and have the opportunity to experiment with “performative” writing. Placing importance on issues of race, gender, sexuality, and class, this course will be informed by critical paradigms such as corporeality, embodiment, “difficulty,” reperformance, reenactment, reskilling, translation, and gesture. This interdisciplinary course brings together performance studies, critical dance studies, and literary studies. While this course fulfills a Dance MFA requirement, it is open to graduate students across campus.

Critical Dance Studies: Corporealities and Cultures

Graduate Course, 2016. Undergraduate Course, 2016, 2017, 2018.

Critical Dance Studies: Corporealities and Cultures is a graduate course that familiarizes students with the interdisciplinary field of critical dance studies and its historical, ethnographic, and theoretical approaches. Dance studies provides students with ways of analyzing bodies in socio-cultural contexts while also developing an understanding of historical trajectories of dance on and off stage. Students in this course will learn and generate vocabulary to analyze formal aspects of choreography. This course pays special attention to issues of race, gender, sexuality, and class. The types of dance examined include concert dance (ballet, modern, contemporary), social dance (from salsa to hip-hop), and dance on screen in contexts as diverse as the proscenium stage, the museum, the space of ritual, the club, television, and other public and domestic spaces. This course will address the ways in which bodies, dancing and otherwise, reflect concepts and realities of nation, politics, gender performance, racial dynamics, power, taste, and labor. In addition to gaining a background in the history of dance discourse itself, students will acquire facility with critical concepts such as “choreography,” “corporeality,” “embodiment,” and “performance.” Students will engage in close readings of texts and dance, developing discursive tools of analysis (formal/aesthetic and cultural) in written and presentation form. Students will also develop an understanding of how dance interacts with other arts. This course will be conducted in seminar format; as such, it is participatory. Requirements include weekly readings, writing assignments in response to readings as well as live and recorded dance, two short essays, one research paper, one presentation, and attending up to two live performances in Los Angeles as a class. While this course fulfills a Dance MFA requirement, it is open to graduate students across campus.

The Body in Performance: Liveness, Activism, Feminisms

Undergraduate Course, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020.

The Body in Performance: Liveness, Activism, Feminisms is a course that inquires into the practices of feminist artists who call upon the live (often explicit) body in performance. We will analyze the ways in which these performances critique culture at large and trouble distinctions between dance, theater, performance art, activism, and visual art. The artists in question (many of whom comment on their training in dance) include (but are not limited to) Adrian Piper, Narcissister, Yoko Ono, Ann Liv Young, Annie Sprinkle, Carolee Schneemann, Yve Laris Cohen, Carmelita Tropicana, Marina Abromovic, Senga Nengudi, Ron Athey, Lee Bul, and Aliza Shvarts. We will read writing by scholars and artists such as Amelia Jones, Claire Bishop, Judith Butler, Rebecca Schneider, Adrian Piper, Trinh Minh-ha, Jane Bennett, Tavia Nyong’o, Anna Fisher, Jeanne Vaccaro, Linda Williams, Jennifer Doyle, Jose Munoz, bell hooks, Susan Stryker, and Coco Fusco. Major topics include performance, presence, abjection, embodiment, sexuality, dance in the museum, de-/re-skilling, vital materialism, transnational feminism, difficulty, obscenity, racial kitsch, and pain/pleasure. Moving from the mid-twentieth century to the present through international contexts, we will study these artists and concepts through the interdisciplinary lenses of performance studies, gender and sexuality studies, critical race theory, critical dance studies, porn studies, and visual studies. While we will attune ourselves to the history of performance and live art, the course will be organized thematically (not chronologically), and case studies will include an artist (or set of artists) and theory/scholarship relevant to that artist. This course requires close reading of texts and art. It also includes a practice-as-theory component in which you will have the opportunity to experiment and make performance to supplement otherwise written work. While this course is designed as the fourth semester BFA dance studies course in a series of four, it is open to students outside of dance with an interest in the material.

The Anthropology of Dance: Diaspora, Identity, Culture

Undergraduate Course, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020.

The Anthropology of Dance: Diaspora, Identity, Culture examines dance in a global context, placing diverse examples of choreography in dialogue with foundational theories and contemporary debates in globalization, nationalism, transnationalism, diaspora, orientalism, and postcolonialism. With a special focus on the anthropology of dance (and dance in ethnography, past and present), this course further explores the interdisciplinarity of dance studies, which draws from fields such as anthropology, performance studies, critical race theory, and queer theory. At the core of this course is an investigation of subjectivity and the relationship between the body and agency. Is dance merely a reflection of society? Can it incite political change? Keeping in mind the relationship between self and other (and individual and society), we will look at the work of dance artists from countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Brazil, India, China, the US, France, Morocco, Senegal, and Thailand to see how they conceive of the body in relation to space, society, and nation, and to consider the ways movement circulates globally in and across time. We will also bring in discussions of the dance studies-specific terms, choreopolitics (Lepecki) and geo-choreography (Osterweis). In looking at dance—and its scholarship—as a practice, we will keep in mind the ways social and vernacular dance become translated onto the concert stage, in various cultural contexts of circulation and exchange. Our readings will be informed by anthropologists and theorists including Michael Taussig, E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Theresa Buckland, Sally Ann Ness, Deidre Sklar, Anya Peterson Royce, Achille Mbembe, Barbara Browning, Mark Franko, Karl Marx, Edward Said, Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Ananya Chaterjea, Thomas DeFrantz, and more. This is a participatory seminar; students will be expected to attend every class, write weekly responses to readings and performances, and submit a final ethnographic or research essay. Given this unique moment of COVID pandemic remote learning, you will be researching and writing about a special, current COVID-related dance topic that you will either analyze through an anthropological lens, *or* choose as a “site” of ethnography (this can be auto-ethnography—for example, a weekly distanced dance practice you attend, an analysis of dance in your domestic space—or it can be an ethnography of a chosen site that you “visit” regularly in person or online). We will compile all final projects to create a collection called DANCE ETHNOGRAPHY DURING COVID! While this course is designed as the third semester BFA dance studies course in a series of four, it is open to students outside of dance with an interest in the material.

Dance After 1960: Virtuosity, Reskilling, and the Postdramatic

Undergraduate Course, 2016, 2017, 2019.

Dance After 1960: Virtuosity, Reskilling, and the Postdramatic interrogates international and local developments in concert, popular, screen, and subcultural dance, within and across decades, focusing on the 1960s to the present. It is a critical dance studies course in which students will continue to practice multiple approaches to researching and writing about dance. Because dance studies is an interdisciplinary field that engages with performance studies, history, anthropology, literary studies, critical race studies, gender studies, disability studies, film studies, and postcolonial studies, students will learn to identify and employ various lenses in their readings and analyses. Methodologies practiced in this course are ethnography, performance analysis, and the argumentative essay. Students will also have the opportunity to embody theory through praxis, improvising informally in various locations throughout the semester. Keeping in mind relevant historical and political events, concepts explored include the body, race, class, gender/sexuality, nation, virtuosity/disability, postmodernism, dramaturgy, de-/re-skilling, and the postdramatic. Dance works and practices from the U.S., Africa, Europe, Latin America, Asia, “home,” and the internet will be represented. The following are examples of artists, movements, and works considered in this course: The Judson Dance Theater, Merce Cunningham, contact improvisation, aerobics, Fame, MTV, voguing, Twyla Tharp, William Forsythe, Pina Bausch, Narcissister, Miguel Guttierez, John Jasperse, Trajal Harrell, Desmond Richardson, Ralph Lemon, and Faustin Linyekula. Theorists and historians include Susan Foster, Mark Franko, Brenda Dixon Gottschild, André Lepecki, Judith Butler, Shannon Jackson, Tavia Nyong’o, Susan Stryker, Claire Bishop, Ramsay Burt, Hans Thies Lehmann, and more. This is a participatory seminar course. Students will be expected to attend all classes, possibly attend performances in Los Angeles as a class, write weekly responses to readings and performances, write three short essays, and give a final presentation. While this course is designed as the third semester BFA dance studies course in a series of four, it is open to students outside of dance with an interest in the material.