All posts by Donohjea

Week 13: Writing My Way to Answers

I am not going to spend a lot of time on this post because I feel like every second counts. This past week was definitely the panic one.
Everything fell apart, nothing seemed connected. But what do they say about being in the hallway? Keep walking when you can't see the light at either end.

Still take breaks. Yesterday I had to put it away and not touch it. I was sick of everything about my thesis.

This morning, I picked up a section randomly and within five minutes made a bunch of connections. So.......More writing.

Hope everyone is well. I have been missing Thursdays.

week 12: Be Relentless About What is Missing….

Hard to see how it is all going to come together. In fact things feel like they are exploding apart. Kind of like cleaning out a closet. Everything looks much worse before it looks better. Getting rid of stuff. Moving stuff around. In general, assessing the usefulness of each piece. How does everything serve the argument and the through line?

I had been working with the idea that my theory about intuition was the main argument. I am beginning to feel that it is just part of the argument. More shall be revealed as this is a big work weekend for me.

I plan to be relentless about what is missing and flush out the ideas that seem vague and ungrounded.
One example, LS often refers to "the energy" of things. Very Vague and one of those "feminine" words that needs some attention. It has come up repeatedly as I am going through peripheral interviews. It ties in with her thoughts on unlocking a student's potential. I just spent some time on the interview I had with her son. He is so poetic and has these amazing things to say about his mother. But, after working with that interview it is clear to me that I have to spend some time with this concept, define it, place it in context and I think it will help with some of the things that have been hard to tie in.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Week 11: Momentum

Ok, this might actually come together. Steady progress. I have been working off of the the "intuition theory" from a few weeks ago and using it as an umbrella to link in stories. As was suggested, I am pulling out some different stories and finding nuggets that link them to my theory. And finally, something that has been really frustrating has started to move forward. I find that every time I sit and try to work with the chronological facts I get stuck. I can't move. The more I tried to muscle my way through chapters, the more I dreaded working on things. But the stories have been a door in. So I have chosen a couple of my favorite stories from each significant phase of Lynn's life and I am working at it that way. If I let the stories tell themselves, then the fun part is linking it to the theory.  So I guess what I am saying is that writing this week has been pleasurable. Crazy, but I continue to find freedom in theory. Go figure. Instead of my original 10 chapters, I have three main sections. This is working much better.
I am pulling some of the stories from people of significance in Lynn's life. These are the people I worked on for this week:The three teachers that carry on the legacy: for now I will just give them initials: LD, KK and DM.
I am also pulling from two other interviews: her SON and MS. Not ready to share yet.

My goal is to have a rough draft in place by the end of Thanksgiving week.

Week 10: 5am Religious Writing…. uuugh


This week has been particularly intense at my new job. The learning curve is high and almost everything has been unfamiliar. I am getting great comfort out of structured time to write in the morning. I know my morning hours are most efficient. I can get so much more done in that early morning time than hours spent in the daylight.  Every morning I get up at 5am so I can spend an hour writing before I go to work. 

I have let go of chapters for the moment and am working in three sections. I have identified three phases of development within the life of LS. I have been working religiously three documents but I am not yet ready to share. In these documents I am beginning to weave in the chronological information from the interviews I have summarized, theoretical themes and selective stories. I am also flushing out my Intro/ thesis/abstract. That will definitely be ready for next week, maybe before.

Also, this week I will have completed 10 articles for Dr. Nelson and will begin the task of putting them together for my thorough lit review.  

·      Intro/Thesis/Abstract
·      Early Years
·      Woodshedding: Adult beginners in Amsterdam, BAC (will explain & expand) begins to develop the festival circuit.
·      Golden years/ Dance Space: Becomes fully formed
·      Appendixes


Week 9: Grateful for the Bread Crumbs/ Infuriated by the Findings



Our meeting last week was so helpful. Thank you, Dr. Zamora for reading and reflecting back. Your clarity about the points of theory that were crystalizing gave me some real momentum.

Last week I inadvertently began to create a theory around intuition in terms of LS. Dr. Zamora mentioned the feminizing of language and we discussed how feminization thrusts language into the world of emotion, silently and relentlessly rendering the language of women powerless, childish and without rigor. (See feminist theory of Judith? Literature is political) This week I continued the task of articulating a theory of intuition that restores the rigor to a word that has woven its way through generations, across lineages and historically embraced both feminine and masculine power. My job this week is to go back and bolster with citings and clean up/ condense pedagogy work. Below is a link for a small part that I refined. Continuing on with that process. More to read next week.


https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xWBj729SJdbS9EmhiCiNkGtcXQh4oxTdY-5mCThNDIQ/edit?usp=sharing

I ended our session together reflecting back to my original intention to work on a thesis that integrated the work of Aristotle on crafting an argument using three-pronged approach of ethos, pathos and logos. I had been working on a theory that social media has thrust this generation, and when I say generation I mean more the multigenerational group of people that communicate and receive their news through social media simply liking the sentiments they agree with and thumbs down for those they disagree with. Occasionally engaging in a partisan political cock fight, one “friend” is unfriended and the battle for the biggest, baddest emotional firestorm is back on. While this is a rapid-fire way to share information and connect people globally, as a political science undergrad I was drawn repeatedly to the work of Aristotle and the importance of crafting an argument that integrated logos, logic. Not an argument lacking in emotion, but emotion as a vehicle for logos that provides the appropriate accentuation of the argument’s finer points and connection with those the aerator is trying to reach. In other words, the balance embodied by a “whole person.”

I think I will try to find a way to ground each section of the book in a different “school of rigor.”
For example, Religions of the East. And document how these thoughts were filing into the performing arts through downtown Manhattan in the 1970s. Particularly through world music, dance and yoga. Highlight when Iyengar came to NYC and Papa Ladji of West African drumming and dance. Grounding the “world” sentiments of intuition in the Performance study landscape. (see article #3). Bolster my performance theory roots: (McKenzie)
Next example: Psychology: Jung and his influence on the performing arts. "perception via the unconscious": using sense-perception only as a starting point, to bring forth ideas, images, possibilities, ways out of a blocked situation, by a process that is mostly unconscious.

Philosophers: In his book Meditations on First PhilosophyDescartes refers to an intuition as a pre-existing knowledge gained through rational reasoning or discovering truth through contemplation. This definition is commonly referred to as rational intuition.[22
·      L. Mursell, James. "The Function of Intuition in Descartes' Philosophy of Science". The Philosophical Review. 4. 28. USA: Duke University Press. pp. 391–401.

Education theory: educating the whole child


I was contemplating that the feminization of words empties out the logos secretly and silently through the bottom and leaves it rooted in emotion or pathos. I think the article I worked on this week for Dr. Nelson gets to the heart of the matter and it the key to putting it all together. I feel obligated to report that this reading has just left me loaded with rage. A rage that renders me inarticulate and speechless. I am working through it by just writing whatever comes to mind and am pushing through what feels like a very emotional and childish first draft. Big emotions=little words. Words of a child. Small in comparison to the emotion. This is the dynamic that oppression supports.

Questions to be addressed though my thesis and an examination of the life of LS:
So, what is it in the language of men that has been altered by feminized language? Do women need to change their language? Do we speak in a passive voice and have to engage in more active language? Or do we need to just say it louder have more help from one another amplifying it? Or do we just have to bring focus to what has already been there rendered silent and invisible?
This week’s reading was an example of bringing focus to that which has been there all along.
What are the words that Lynn uses that render her “feminine.”

All of these reflections unexpectedly dovetailed with an article I am working on for Dr. Nelson entitled, The Women in Jazz. The Ladies Step Out. At Last! A Look at the Female Side of Jazz Dance Development, written in July of 1992 by, Judy Austin, for the magazine Dance Teacher Now. The article is one of those bread crumbs you mentioned in class. Thank you, Judy Austin, you will be cited for your work. You left a stash of nourishment for generations to come. And grateful that the Performing Arts Library in NYC had scans of your article.


After introducing two amazing female pioneers in the dance world whom set the foundation for jazz dance to unfold, Austin highlights that in the 1940s it was virtually impossible for a woman to land the role of choreographer/ director for Broadway. Why? Because she wasn’t capable? No because she wasn’t allowed. Passive language for the hard, cold sexist truth. And women had no choice but to accept this truth and forge forward anyway. Women were not given the opportunity to choreograph on Broadway because they were not seen as equals. Agnes DeMille was an exception. She broke through the invisible wall and made it to Broadway choreographing Oklahoma in 1942 and Carousel in 1945.

Austin’s work brought to mind feminist scholar Judith Fetterley who examines the phenomenon of the invisible female through the lens of literature. In her book, The resisting reader: A feminist approach to American fiction, Fetterley claims that sexist ideology in literature is political, yet postures as apolitical. Fetterley believes that sexual politics are obscured behind a haze of “universals” which render the female invisible when only the male half of the story is told. She addresses the ways in which female readers have been trained to approach literature through a male lens in a way that maintains the patriarchal status quo[1]. Fetterley uses the concept of “immasculation,” to describe the idea that women have been forced to identify against themselves and instead identify with male characters or narrators. As a result, women have a dissociative experience as they are taught to identify against themselves.

Austin immediately sets things right beginning with life before Jack Cole and the women that made his revolution possible. She presents a fabulous historic lineage of the mothers of jazz dance. However, the implications of Austin’s work penetrate far beyond the presentation of female facts.  She establishes the female lineage as legitimate individuals not just instruments of the men. She quietly corrects the sequence of events, before the fathers there were the mothers.

The direction I am heading for next week:
I think I need an overarching performance studies theory in relationship to the Simonson Technique/ Dance Space and its impact on the downtown dance world. Integrating what I wrote about downtown, performance theory and filling out the dance space piece of the history. This is why I need to write about DSI.

Judith Fetterley’s work also applies and should be integrated into my overarching theory.

For next week:
This week I started to synthesize and filter some of the theory I have been creating into three phases of development within the life of LS. I have started three documents but I am not yet ready to share. Will get these together hopefully for next week. Also in these documents I am beginning to feed in chronological information from the interviews I have summarized:
·      Early Years
·      Woodshedding: Adult beginners in Amsterdam, BAC (will explain & expand) begins to develop the festival circuit.
·      Golden years/ Dance Space: Becomes fully formed





[1]Fetterley, J. (1978). The resisting reader: A feminist approach to American fiction. London. Indiana University Press.

Week 8: Wrestling with Pedagogy and Validating Intuition



This week has been very productive.

To Do List:
1)    Identify a story as a starting place:

2)    Writing LS pedagogy in my own words. This document is very much a work in progress.

3)    Begin Assembling the visual component
a.     Photos (I distributed photos for the first four chapters)
b.     Carol complete last of gestural sketches (Had last meeting to finish collaboration)

Week 7: Spiraling Through the Layers of My Themes


Working my way through the spirals and layers of material that I have while attempting to take vast unspoken concepts I have worked with my whole life and trying for the first time to articulate them in my own words. I think I had a break through this week and feel a bit of momentum. Although this post is a bit all over the place it indirectly touches on all three of my themes and puts into words things I have struggled with. I have been driven by this idea of defining the intuitive aspects of art and art instruction. I have embraced the idea that there is often an overlap with the language of world religions that remains unspoken. Art like religion addresses human suffering and a relationship to big life questions. So in the spirit of taking a stab at "big life issue," I have  continued to elaborate on theme #1 from last week: Defining Lynn with theoretical connections.


With an intended commitment to deepen understanding, academic theorists in the jazz dance paradigm look backward to codify, and make sense of historical and cultural differences within the jazz dance form. By sorting out differences, accentuating them, and creating boundaries around each perceived lineage, details of a more blended fusion becomes hidden and distorted through the lens of the hierarchical categories. This hierarchical stance renders subtlety insignificant and blinds us to the similarities that prevail across lines of difference, ignoring the possibility of a common ground.

Artistic forms often engage with broad concepts and ideas around “big life issues,” such as birth, life, and death that have generally fallen under the heading of religious. The ritualistic practice of any art form participates in broader conversations and addresses vital matters.

This week I read from An Aesthetic of the Cool, by Robert Farris Thompson. Thompson is an American historian and writer with a focus in the art of Africa and the Afro-Atlantic world. He has been a member of the faculty at Yale University since 1965.This article provides an in-depth foundation for the etymology of the word cool, tracing its African origins. Written in 1966, Aesthetic of the Cool is cited as being the first academic article documenting the concept of cool and has been referenced by jazz music historians, including Lewis MacAdams in Birth of the Cool. Beat, Bebop and the American Avant-Garde[1]. Accepting the belief in current jazz dance academia that jazz music and jazz dance evolved synchronously[2], Thompson’s research provides language that is inherent in the pedagogy of LS and her jazz dance technique. LS states, “For me, everything begins with the music[3].”

Raised in the taunting melodies and harmonies of classical music, trained with the heartbeat of Russian ballet, vetted by the Broadway jazz dance circuit and infused with the African polyrhythms of jazz music in the 60s, 70s and 80s, LS’s life evolved in a way that crafted vast musical principles into a foundation of impenetrable spirit. Moved by the rhythm of generations before her and conducted by the wisdom of experience she created a dance pedagogy that transformed countless lives across multiple continents. Given her integrated relationship with music and dance, there are two pieces of Thompson’s article that directly link to the legacy of LS.

The first significant piece of this article relates cool to transcendental balance as it evolved from West African Manding divination[4]. Prior to the European colonization of West Africa, divination was an accepted form of religious practice in which a diviner was consulted and accepted methods practiced to access what was considered to be spiritually authenticated knowledge regarding the life’s “big questions.” These questions included things like relationships, marriage, birth and death. Depending on the African tribe, the methods for divination varied in form. Methods ranged from basket divining where sacred objects pertaining to the question at hand were placed in a basket, a ceremony performed and symbolic answers provided by the diviner to secret water drumming ceremonies invoking the spirit of the dead[5]. Within divination there is a convergence of the spiritual seeking, ritual, symbolism, community, social redress, and ultimately transcendence. Similarly, in An Aesthetic of the Cool,Thompson explains that the concept of cool is related to spiritual transcendence, representing the mastery of body mind integration. This mastery is exhibited when an artist can channel their emotion into the work of their artistic craft and remain aloof in their composure as opposed to being consumed by the emotions of reality. The goal of this aesthetic is to act as though one's mind were in anotherworld, the world of spirit. This does not imply disconnection, but rather a spiritual development to the higher self.

The language of West African divination, and Thomspon’s Aesthetic of the Cool is reminiscent of McKenzie’s definition in The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticismregarding “cultural performance” that was permeating the artistic landscape of theater and dance in downtown Manhattan during the 1970s. McKenzie outlines three identifying components of cultural performance. First it involves social and self-reflection through dramatization or embodiment of symbolic forms. Second alternative embodiments are presented. Third, inherent in cultural performance is the possibility for conversation or transformation of both individuals and society.

LS is a practitioner of body mind integration. She lived her life seeking answers to life’s big questions through the vehicle of movement, teaching movement and the training of movement teachers. Jazz music and dance has been her backdrop and provided the tools. Her quest for answers to her own suffering have led to the evolution of her Simonson Technique. Contained within her class structure, including her renowned 10-minute warm up are the solutions she conjured in the form of anatomy and alignment principles. Elia, in Simonson Says, reminds the reader that LS has been a teacher for more than thirty years in fifteen different countries[6]. LS draws on these experiences to continuously hone the ritualistic nature of her jazz dance class and pass it on to generations of new teachers. The four basic principles of S…. Jazz Technique are built on the personal mastery of body mind integration and the aesthetic of the cool outlined by Thompson: According to LS, by increasing awareness, a dancer has the potential to dance injury free throughout their lifetime. Every student contains the capacity to be taught to dance by integrating their body and mind. When the student is recognized and witnessed as a whole person, not just as a technician, then their awareness changes. The rhythms, energy and style of jazz music are the foundational inspiration for movement.

LS performs her role as teacher not unlike that of the Manding diviner. The sacred space created in her movement studio contains a convergence of the spiritual seeking of the student, ritual repetition of the warm-up and structure of the class with its improvisation segment and the expressive component of the performance time at the end of the 2-hour transformation, symbolism in the physical movement, community, social redress, and ultimately transcendence.

The second significant piece of An Aesthetic of the Cool, relates to the historical significance of the word cool as it relates to specifically to jazz music, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. According to Thompson, the word cool has political implications as it is an expression of community. That community may be a relationship between more experienced musicians in a jazz club excluding the less experienced, or a relationship between a musician and a dancer connected to a rhythmic vocabulary beyond the onlookers. Thompson claims that, cool can be a function of craft in fields of expressive performance like dance and music. Used in this way, the term is an acknowledgement of a deeply motivated, and complexly intertwined sense of elements serious and pleasurable, disciplined and playful, consciously and artistically interwoven. It is from the mastery of these skills that relationships are formed. Inherent in these skills is a collectedness of mind that allows for availability to the relationship at hand. Thompson clarifies that according to Yoruba tradition, drumming is only cool if the drummer is not too self-involved and therefore open to the shared communal expression of the music. The 1940s and 50s gave birth to some of the finest jazz artists ever to exist. The introduction of heroin into the landscape fueled the ephemeral rise and fall of many a cool jazz musician. Drug addiction does not allow room to be anything but self-involved shifting the journey from integration of body and spirit to one of the spiritually bankrupt drug-high. However, at the height of cool, many jazz musicians have been documented in their ultimate marriage of body and soul through their instrument of choice, inspiring countless musicians and dancers.

In Birth of the Cool. Beat, Bebop and the American Avante Garde, author Lewis MacAdams weaves a cultural history of the American avante-garde in the 1940s and 1950s through the lens of jazz musicians in New York City. MacAdams documents the history of “the cool,” tracing its origins to the fringes of society, particularly African American men living in resistance to the oppression of white America, the Jim Crow laws and the betrayal of the same country they were expected to fight for in World War II. MacAdams follows the concept of cool from its darkest days in the shadows of Manhattan to its journey to mainstream America via the fusion of musicians, poets and philosophers of the time. Jazz musicians like Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus. Poets like Allen Ginsberg and Juliette Greco. Writers like Zora Neale Hurston and Jack Kerouvac. With a focus on jazz musicians of this period, MacAdams brings a cultural foundation, local history and superb storytelling to life in the present. The author traverses the boundaries of social class, race, and art form making connections between people, places and language[7]. LS was an artistic product of these times, and for her everything was motivated by the music. She responded to the interdisciplinary call of the cool.

Cool Jazz followed on the heels of Bebop. It merged the philosophical underpinnings of Existentialism and the music of Bebop[8]. It signified the transition of jazz musicians from clowns and entertainers to that of artist. It was a marriage of classically trained musicians, African rhythmic foundations and culturally savvy individuals. In 1957, cool jazz pioneer Miles Davis released his famous album entitled, The Birth of the Cool, on Capital Records. In this compilation, Davis treated his ensemble as a single section based on a model of choral music to achieve a voice like quality with a “purified aesthetic[9].” It was an overtly modern sound with radical implications.


In the 1950s, LS’s girlfriend Vicki brought the cool jazz of Miles Davis back from San Francisco and the two started improvising around the living room. Hearing that kind of jazz transformed LS. It was as if there was already something familiar in the sound and it was new all at the same time. Her connection to the music was intuitive. Or perhaps, it was the coolness as achieved by Davis and transported through the notes to LS. Suggested in the lore of the West African etymology, through the aesthetic of the cool, one person can restore another to serenity though the newness, purity, rebirth and healing contained within. LS’s connection to the music of Miles Davis marked the beginning of a life-long journey intertwined with jazz music and the spiritual metaphors contained within it.

In 1984, Dance Space Inc was founded at 622 Broadway, NYC by LS and four of her students, LD, DP, MG, and CW. It was to be the home of the Simonson Technique for more than ten years.  It contained five studios, two performance spaces, a Pilates room, an Alexander Technique room and a non-profit wing that provided funding for independent artists. The five directors formed a community around the principles of the Simonson Technique and ranging through four levels from beginner to advanced. Jazz music was at the heart of this community and all five directors would eventually follow the call of the cool down different pathways in relation to the music of jazz. However, the community had a political leaning as described by Thomspon simply by aligning around the Simonson principles. Blocks away, another new dance studio opened within months on Dance Space Inc. Dance Space Inc, its foundation vibrating with the live musical rhythms of ancient African traditions, would long outlast the short-lived Pineapple Dance Center.

I believe that Thompson’s etymology best suits the jazz culture and rests at the foundation of Lynn Simonson’s evolution as a jazz dance artist and teacher. Thompson states that,

“Manifest within this philosophy of the cool is the belief that the purer,the cooler a person becomes,the more ancestral he becomes. In other words, mastery of self enables a person to transcend time and elude preoccupation. He can concentrate or she can concentrate upon truly important matters of social balance and aesthetic substance, creative matters, full of motion and brilliance. Quite logically, such gifted men and women are, in someWest and CentralAfrican cultures, compared in their coolness to the strong, moving, pure watersof the river.”

Thompson’s description provides the framework for Lynn Simonson’s approach to dance, choreography, jazz music, improvisation and life. Simonson emphasizes the importance of carrying things forward while honoring the past. The balance of these components create the transcendental balance that connects back to the Manding people of West Africa. This honoring of the continuum past was lacking in the definition of improvisation outlined by Carter in Improvisation in Dance. On the other hand, Thompson points out the notion of full embodiment symbolized in the aesthetic of the cool. In this sense, argues Thompson, “coolness imparts order not through ascetic subtraction of body from mind, but quite the contrary, by means of ecstatic unions of sensuous pleasure and moral responsibility.” This description explains a sense of ordinary lives raised to an idealized level, not the childish nihilism referenced by Carter.

(Next up…..How does Lynn represent the ecstatic union??)


This week I would like to flush out the details of LS’s pedagogy. Outlining her technique, the principles, and her framework for training teachers.



Resources:

Elia, S. Dance Teacher Magazine.  Simonson Says. 2001.

Gioia, T. The History of Jazz. Second Edition. Oxford University Press. New York. 2011.

Gridley, Mark C.  "Styles", in Ron Wynn (ed.), All Music Guide to Jazz. San Francisco. 1994.

Guarino, L. & Wendy Oliver. Jazz Dance. A History of the Roots and Branches. University Press of Florida. FL. 2014.

MacAdams, L. Birth of the Cool. Beat, Bebop, and the American Avante-Garde. The Free Press. New York. 2001.

McKenzie, J. Performance studies/ The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism. Performance Studies. Second Edition. 2005. https://www.brown.edu/Departments/Joukowsky_Institute/courses/architecturebodyperformance/files/257077.htm. Retrieved on 8/1/2019

Silva, S. Taking Divination Seriously. From Mumbo Jumbo to World Views and Ways of Life.
Silva, S. Taking Divination Seriously: From Mumbo Jumbo to Worldviews and Ways of Life.  
settings
Religions 20189(12), 394; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9120394
Received: 24 August 2018 / Accepted: 29 November 2018 / Published: 30 November 2018

Thompson, R.F. An Aesthetic of the Cool.  UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center.    https://www.jstor.org/stable/3334749Accessed: 14-09-2019

Zimmer, B. When Cool Got Cool. Visual Thesaurus. May 27, 2010. Retrieved on 10/10/2019:




[1] MacAdams, L. Birth of the Cool. Beat, Bebop, and the American Avante-Garde. The Free Press. New York. 2001. P. 70
[2] Guarino, L. & Wendy Oliver. Jazz Dance. A History of the Roots and Branches. University Press of Florida. FL. 2014. P xvii.
[3] Interview with Simonson on 3/15/2019/ Book 2.
[4] Thompson, R.F. An Aesthetic of the Cool.  UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center.    https://www.jstor.org/stable/3334749Accessed: 14-09-2019

[5] Silva, S. Taking Divination Seriously. From Mumbo Jumbo to World Views and Ways of Life.
Silva, S. Taking Divination Seriously: From Mumbo Jumbo to Worldviews and Ways of Life.  
settings
Religions 20189(12), 394; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9120394
Received: 24 August 2018 / Accepted: 29 November 2018 / Published: 30 November 2018
[6] Elia, S. Dance Teacher Magazine.  Simonson Says. 2001.
[7]MacAdams, L. Birth of the Cool. Beat, Bebop, and the American Avante-Garde. The Free Press. New York. 2001. P24.
[8]Ibid. P24
[9] Ibid

Week 6: Three Themes



I spent a lot of time this week trying to define my overarching themes that connect the theoretical components with the biographical details of LS. I made some very good headway and still have a long way to go.

1). Defining LS as a person. 
LS is unapologetically a deeply spiritual person. She is a seeker of wisdom, inspiration and healing through the arts and beyond. Having gathered her own brand of spirituality from life's circumstances, LS remains relentlessly open to whatever comes her way through the rhythm of the universe. 

a. What made LS unique and valid? Her technique, her international recognition and following and validation at European and American dance festivals, Dance Space as a home to her technique. Her ability to adapt and fluidly change forms like a chameleon. Her openness to change.

b. Why  hasn’t LS been documented? Her intuitive nature may be seen as invalid. (This week my research led to the ways in which intuition is used by different philosophers and religions.) Fusion and cross-pollination in the community and how that process developed the forms that exist now. Her ability to adapt and fluidly change forms like a chameleon. Her openness to change. She was young and female.


2). Music as a way of life. Metaphors within the musical form of jazz that assist in creating a sacred space. The universal chord: Improvisation, clave, rhythmic repetition, polyrhythm & the aesthetic of the cool.


3). Creating a Sacred space for students to have a personal transformation.
Defining LS’s technique and its relationship to “cultural performance” as defined by McKenzie. How the technique of LS and class formatting create space for personal transformation as a result of the surrender to the artistic practice. Distinguishing the Dance Space version of downtown dance (the more nihilistic theater dance.) My belief is the relationship to the music and the proximity to the other “world” music in the Dance Space building brought a spiritual component to the practice. This vibration at the foundation must be articulated carefully or rendered invalid in academia.
I think I have been dancing around this theme and not quite wanting to put it into words as it almost minimizes the experience. But I have to face it head on and find language that validates it in alignment with the west African forms that are at the foundation. It is indeed at the heart of who LS is. Joseph Campbell, renowned writer and mythologist used the phrase “to follow your bliss.”  When asked what he meant by that he explained the following:

“I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence: Sat, Chit, Ananda. The word “Sat” means being. “Chit” means consciousness. “Ananda” means bliss or rapture. I thought, “I don’t know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don’t know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So, let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being.” I think it worked.”
— Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, pp. 113, 120





Week 5: Digging Around in my Lit Review


I find it very humbling to take on the responsibility of documenting something historical. I am reminded of the lesson in our theory class about the importance of multiple stories and the danger of the single story. Sometimes academic writing feels to me like the ultimate battle of the single story, each author fighting for their own point of view as if it were fact. I am thinking a lot about this question: who gets to define history? I came upon this quote in the novel, A Gentleman in Moscow P.173, by Amor Towles.

“History is the business of identifying momentous events from the comfort of a high-back chair. With the benefit of time, the historian looks back and points to a date in the manner of a gray-haired field marshal pointing to a bend in the river on a map. There is was, he says. The turning point. The decisive factor. The fateful day that fundamentally altered all that was to follow.”

This idea of the benefit of time hit on something important that is swirling around in the thesis of my thesis and as of yet has not quite allowed me to put my finger on it….so here I will continue writing to shape thought….Defining something that has already happened may be astute and capture an element of reality but it must never be overlooked that it is one person’s perception of a myriad of experiences that go into any given reality.

I know my focus at this point is supposed to be on churning out chapters. I have been working consistently on this task and am always shocked how much time everything takes. I find that I generally have a creative burst after I have worked on some academic component of the work For example,  I find that digging around in my lit review is helping me create a vocabulary for the experiences I wish to document that have felt elusive and beyond words. So, in honor of that I would like to talk about an article from my lit review entitled Improvisation in Dance, written by Curtis L. Carter for The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism in Spring 2000 that I worked on this week.

Curtis has been a professor of philosophy at Marquette University since 1971 and is chairman of the university committee on fine arts. He considers himself an aesthetician and a curator and has been deeply involved in the dance field as both a critic and a writer. He is also member of the National Executive Committee of the American Dance Guild. This read was a feast of history, philosophy and varying perspectives. Ironically, it is unclear to me if the man has any personal experience with dance himself or just as an observer.

I found two parallel themes to this article by Curtis. The first is the idea that improvisation has contributed to the democratization of dance and to the development of an open form leaving history behind to create new pathways.  Yes, those were his words, “leaving history behind.” I still am stunned as I read it. As you can see, I disagree.
The second theme takes the traditional forms of dance and music from around the world and analyzes improvisation within the structures of the lineage it builds upon. I would argue that at times this opposes Curtis’s first theme in that by building on a lineage one is automatically incorporating history, not abandoning it.

Carter asks the question: Why is improvisation important to the arts? He then states with conviction that “improvisation is a means of suppressing the historical conscience that is necessary to break the causal chain between existing conventions and new developments in an artistic practice[1].” While I agree that improvisation has been one of many vehicles in changing artistic convention, I do not agree with the assertion that these developments must be about suppressing the historical conscience.

The historical landscape of improvisation is important to my work on the Simonson Legacy project because it is a defining characteristic of both jazz music and jazz dance. There are several aspects of improvisation that I felt were missing form Curtis’s analysis. Lynn Simonson often refers to the following terms when talking about jazz dance and music as it unfolded in New York City and Europe during the 1970s and 1980s: fusion, cross-pollination, openness to change, exploration and evolution. Simonson has always focused on the premise of curiosity as opposed to a nihilistic crushing of the past.

Dance Space Inc., the home of the Simonson technique from 1984-1999 was a hive of cross pollination and fusion. Simonson classes ran all day every day. Other studio spaces within the complex were rented for modern dance in all forms. Ballet classes peppered the schedule. The third floor of the building housed Lezly Dance and Skate school which pumped the air shaft full of roller disco, Motown hits and a full roster of Afro Caribbean and Haitian classes accompanied by traditional drumming. The basement space was home to Fareta School of African Dance and Drum, offering traditional West African dance and drum from Senegal and Guinea as well as Samba dance and drum from Brazil. The dueling rhythms at any time of day within the airshaft of the building would leave one unsure as to which continent they were on.

It is no surprise that Simonson remembers the following:
“We watched all of the real jazz teachers start to explore more world music and slower movement. And more modern movement. And then we watched the modern teachers get quirky and rhythmical. You know it’s all exploring. It’s that label thing again. Why does it need a label? And who is it that’s doing the defining?”

Simonson believes that fusion must be part of evolution, that there is always change. It’s part of the growth. It’s part of the exploring. It doesn’t make the past or the new form right or wrong, better or worse. It just is. Each element is informed by the last and brought forward into the new. We bring history with us.

I would argue that in order for improvisation to be a vehicle for change, as Curtis states, then the foundation rests on history and is carried forward through evolution. I do not believe that we can discard historical forms completely. Even if we move in a different direction it is in response to the past, therefore the past is contained within.

I am searching for the framework that defines Simonson’s perspective. And I have the luxury of seeking her approval once I think I have achieved my goal.



[1] Carter, C. Improvisation in Dance. The Journal of Aesthetic and Art Criticism. 58:2. Spring 2000


Week 4: In the Weeds….

I have been trying to define the physical sensation I have every time I sit down to work on this material. My heart races, my mind flits all about, and the anxiety becomes stifling. It is reminiscent of my days working in the restaurant business. When you had ten tables and more were coming in and the kitchen was behind and people wanted water and the bartender took a smoke break and you couldn't remember the specials and the chef was yelling and.......we called that being "in the weeds." I don't know why. It is part of the world of restaurant lore. I find it a fitting phrase for my thesis work.

I keep trying to remind myself I only have to have a rough draft. It helps for a second. However, I now understand that it is more about pulling on so many sources from so many directions to create a simple timeline. There is so much information coming from so many directions. I think this is just a necessary part of the process.

I worked on two articles for Dr. Nelson this week that helped me see some clarity. Both articles set down parts of the Simonson timeline. There were many generalizations and complete inaccuracies. It helped me see how much I do know and see a pathway to putting it down. I will forge onward and try to get to all of my tables.....