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Mar 20 / Audrey Johnson

In Pieces …

In Pieces: Presence and Objecthood in the Aftermath of Technology is the current exhibit in the Elaine L. Jacob gallery in Old Main that has been running since the end of January and closes this Friday, March 24.  I have had the awesome privilege of being a part of the current exhibit as a collaborator  in Biba Bell’s piece Souci de Soi: AUDREY JOHNSON. (translates to “care of the self”). In Biba Bell’s description, the work is described as:

Each day the gallery is open Audrey performs 10 minutes of personal, subtle, and transformative actions, a two-fold offering for both herself and the public. Throughout the nine-week period of the exhibition, a choreographic score guides the movement practice. One image is captured each day during the performance, to be printed, installed, and left in her absence. Throughout the course of the exhibition the images accumulate, revealing a fragment-like trace of her daily practice, a repeated effort whose fullness is better felt than seen.

For 4 days of the week for the past 8, going on 9 weeks, I have been able to have a performative and personal experience in this gallery. The score, which delegates one word/thought for each week has given me a sort of daily practice. Each gallery visit is like an opportunity for personal reflection and growth, and the ability to share that with the space around me. I am grateful for the ability to experience this.

This is the last week of this exhibit. I am excited to carry with me the memory of what I experienced through this process as a personal bodily archive of being  present. If you are around Old Main this week, please check out the exhibit; each of the works are unique and captivating. Additionally, this week there is a Panel Discussion, Thursday, March 23, 6-7PM, in the Purdy-Kresge Library Auditorium; a Gallery Talk, Thursday, March 23, 7:30-8:15PM, Elaine L. Jacob Gallery; and the Closing Reception: Friday, March 24, 5-8PM, Elaine L. Jacob Gallery. Catch me in the space Tuesday around 4:30pm or Wednesday around 4pm to see Souci de Soi in “performance.”

Jan 9 / Audrey Johnson

new year thoughts: letter to a freshman me

Happy New Year and happy start of a new semester! As my last semester as a student at Wayne State, I feel excited to make the most of my last few months here. Reflecting on the past few years, I have learned so much about myself and who I want to be, and also have realized there is so much more I do not know. As a way to reflect on my own time here and my growth as a person, and also in hopes of reaching out to students just starting their journey in college, I want to write a letter to myself as a freshman, in my first semester at Wayne State. I hope you can gain something from this as well. So, retrospectively speaking from the present me, to the past 18 year old me, here goes.

Dear You,

Here you are, starting your time at Wayne State. You didn’t think you would end up here, and you’re feeling stressed about how things are going to work out. You’re living away from home, which isn’t a new thing, but living in a dorm with people around you all the time is a new and sometimes anxiety creating thing. You have a lot of ideas about what being a dance major might be, but you have no idea of all that being a dancer can be (and you still don’t know it all). You’re questioning your purpose, you’re questioning yourself, you’re questioning your decisions. I can tell you a few things. Significantly: whatever you are questioning, you are going to be okay.

You’ll meet so many people, and become immersed in a community of artists and young people at school and in and around Detroit. Don’t worry if the first people you meet your freshman year don’t become your friend group immediately. You are on your way to making some of the best friendships of your life: these people will hold you up, inspire you, bring joy to your life, and help you be a better person.

You will learn to appreciate your parents so much more than you did as a kid. You will learn that though you sometimes might not feel on the same page as them, your bond with them is ever important. At times the roles might switch, your parents as the ones that need your help, and when this happens, you show up 100%, and you’ll be a better person because of it.

You will dance. A lot. You will sweat, be sore, cry, laugh, scream, get injured, heal, get injured again, heal again, persevere, grow, get paid, create, improvise, improve, become exhausted, become inspired, and continue to persevere, all because of dance. You will learn that dancing will not be an easy life to pursue, but there is nothing else that makes so much sense for you to do.

You will also learn that you like a lot of things other than dance. Though dance is your major, you will begin to see that your interests are varied and that pursuing them is worthwhile. And also: don’t dread taking your science general education requirement, because learning about geology is actually really really cool.

You  will learn the importance of self care. Taking care of your body is an ongoing commitment to yourself, and no one else is going to do it for you. You can’t show up for other people if you can’t first show up for yourself. Value what you eat, how you treat your body when it’s tired, how you talk to yourself mentally,  how you schedule your time, and overall, value yourself.

You will learn that you have so so so much left to learn. Be present and find pleasure and growth out of all you do. Know that things will be difficult, but that is just the nature of being a human. Accept discomfort and do your best, and remember that whatever it is, you will probably be okay.

Relax a bit, say hi to someone, be kind to others and yourself, eat good food, and do your best. You’re here now so enjoy it!

love,

Audrey

Nov 30 / Audrey Johnson

Detroit Arts Spaces: 3 you should know about

Happy last day of November! With about two weeks left of classes and finals, winter break is nearing… Until then, good luck to all on the remainder of the semester!

I thought I’d talk about a few art spaces in Detroit that are important to me. I think every CFPCA student has their own Detroit art “spots”, whether that is a favorite gallery, performance venue, studio, etc. Here are some of mine that I think you should check out too!

Spread Art. Located off Rosa Parks Blvd. just north of Warren Ave, Spread Art is an artist run “creative incubator” that frequently presents a multitude of performances, including music, dance, art, and often an experimental combination of these disciplines and more. Spread Art also has a residency program that supports local and national artists for various lengths of time. The work I see at Spread Art is always engaging and real, and the community of artists that the space brings together is an incredibly supportive and loving group of people. I have had the chance to be a part of a few shows and the performative intimacy and support here is like no other space I have performed at. I highly recommend checking out a performance here! Spread Art frequently posts through their facebook upcoming events.

Light Box.  An artist run space led by Stefanie Cohen and Corey Gearhart (of performance collaborative Upended Teacups), Light Box was once a bank, then baptist church, and now hosts artists in creative processes, classes/workshops, artist residencies, and more. Light Box is  “dedicated to providing opportunities for artists to share from their process through performances, discussions, classes, skill-shares and social forum.” This space feels very special to rehearse in (I rehearse here for Harge Dance Stories) and I definitely recommend coming to a program at Light Box.

Carr Center. The Carr Center is a uniquely beautiful and  historic arts space, in downtown Detroit. According to the website, Carr Center is dedicated to the “preservation, presentation, promotion, and development of the African and African-American cultural arts traditions within our  multicultural community.” There is an art gallery with changing exhibits of visual artists, frequent music performances, and theatre and dance performances throughout the year as well.

These are just 3 of my favorite spaces in the city that are dedicated to artists, feel free to add some your own favorites to the comments!

Have a wonderful rest of the year ~

Audrey

Oct 17 / Audrey Johnson

It’s gonna go how it goes..

hey all.

the semester is moving along, and we are hitting the half way mark. I’m currently thinking about a lot of ideas on being present, and at this point in time for me and for others (midway through the semester, nearing graduation, a monday, middle of the day, october, etc) I think it’s a good time to remind yourself to be right where you are. to try to be IN whatever you are in, and question and challenge your tendency to get caught up in the future or the past.

some of my thoughts on being present amidst whatever you have going on:

“it’s gonna go how it goes” this is actually something I heard in a Grey’s Anatomy episode and I have thought about it frequently whenever I am stressing about an outcome, or whether things will work out. reminding yourself that regardless of how much you do or don’t want to control an outcome, something will happen. accepting what is and letting go of your tight grip on /control/ is something to help you breathe with life, instead of breathing against it.

finding pleasure in effort. this is actually a thought from Gaga technique, a movement language developed by Ohad Naharin. but I think it applies to a lot of things. while things can be difficult, school is hard work, working and busy schedules is a lot of effort, we can find pleasure in the work we do. find pleasure in the sweat, learn from your tiredness or fatigue, and find some joy in any situation.

don’t forget about your connection with the ground, the earth. life can sometimes bring our energy up, distract you from your center. the “go go go” mentality of our culture makes us feel like moving is always a constant. remember that you can be still. take time to remind yourself of gravity, a stable force keeping you right here where you are.

acceptance acceptance acceptance acceptance acceptance. accept yourself, your being, what is out of your control, things that go well, things that don’t go well. let go of your attachment to control and accept what the world has to give you and through this perspective, see what you can give back.

happy monday, happy fall, happy living, happy day —

 

Audrey

Apr 29 / Audrey Johnson

happy end of the semester!

here’s to a summer of relaxing, taking time for yourself, working, traveling, sleeping, taking summer classes, hanging with friends, hanging with families, getting ice cream, swimming, riding bikes, and having fun. regardless of what you do, here’s to summer!

Mar 14 / Audrey Johnson

ACDA Thoughts

Last week I was able to attend a dance conference called ACDA (American College Dance Association) at Western Michigan University. It’s a 4-ish day conference where all of the colleges/universities with dance programs in your region come together to perform pieces, take class, attend panels and lectures, watch performances, and simply meet other dancers. I had a great experience taking class and watching performances, and a lot of great things happened, but I want to just talk about a few new ideas and words of wisdom/insight I experienced while there. I think these ideas apply to any person who makes art. A few things that stuck with me: (take them as you will)

On being present in your own work, (from Kendra Portier, at a panel discussion about dancing in New York): Ask yourself what it is that you look forward to? Ask yourself, how can I be a potent contributor to the work I am doing? For example, when dancing in a work, yes the choreography is great, but how can me being in it make the dance even better? By looking forward to things, you can contribute to the work you do. If you can’t look forward to it, either find a way to, or do something else.

(From a ballet class with Julie Nakagawa, Artistic Director of DanceWorks Chicago): Think of ballet class as organizing your body for what you need to do today. Learn the combinations quickly so you can organize your mind, then you are free to focus on your body as well (not being hung up on what it is, but just doing it). Take pride in your work. Think of preparations as what you need to do to prepare, not an automatic habit.

(From Millicent Johnnie at a feedback session): When creating work that is representative of a group of people, ask yourself, who are the people you are representing? How do they feel about this? What are your experiences with the topic, and how can you draw from this knowledge? What is your source material and how is it serving you?

On being happy as a “career performer” (from Phil Simmons of EMU): “Surviving is not enough.” Be present in your life no matter what you are doing. Don’t plot for the next thing; enjoy where you are at. Be open to saying yes. And, there is nothing wrong with seeing a therapist!

I think that it is good to constantly keep reflecting on your experiences and doing your best to grow from them. This past year I have had a lot of “growing” experiences where what I thought I knew to be true for myself or for what it meant to be a human has not exactly changed, but has shifted. Being open to what is happening around you, taking in knowledge from those spreading their own knowledge and taking in knowledge just from your own experiences is something that I think we can all continue to work on. Most of all, I am -trying- to learn how to slow down and just appreciate the present, however good or bad it is. Take these tidbits of knowledge and learn from them what you can, and keep being open to the present moment around you.

happy spring

best –

Audrey

Jan 25 / Audrey Johnson

WSU Dance Workshop Showcase

It’s that time of year again..WSU Dance Workshop is presenting their 2016 Showcase Concert this weekend! I am so excited to be presenting my own full length work, alongside choreography by 8 of my friends and inspiring peers!

The concert features 6 student choreographed pieces by dancers in Dance Workshop, the student run dance company at Wayne State. There are also two other pieces by Wayne State students. The concert also features 3 works by high school groups, Arts Academy in the Woods (Friday), Eisenhower Dance Center (Saturday), and Grosse Pointe Dance Center (Sunday).

12419022_10156760852440179_4727851151801115215_oCome out and see the amazing work we have been doing this past year!

Friday, January 29th, at 7:30 pm
Saturday, January 30th, at 7:30 pm
Sunday, January 31st, at 2:00pm

Allesee Dance Theatre, Third floor of the Old Main Building.

Tickets are available through wsushows.com or by calling the Hilberry Box Office at (313) 577-2972.
$20: Regular Adult
$15: Senior Citizens (age 62+) WSU Alumni, faculty and staff
$10: Advance student tickets (sold before opening date of Jan. 29)
$15: Students (sold after Jan. 28)

Oct 29 / Audrey Johnson

GERME @ the DIA

Earlier this month I had the incredible opportunity of performing at the DIA, which I wanted to share my experience here. As a member of Dance Workshop, the student run company of the dance department, we were lucky to have choreographer/performer/artist Stefanie Batten Bland as a guest artist to set her work Germe on us. She was here for two days (Oct 1 & 2) and we performed Saturday October 3rd. Germe was essentially a structured improvisational performance art piece. Wearing and dancing with the germes, long tendrils of fabric cords that hung around our necks, we learned a number of “modules,” actions/tasks/explorations, that could be done with the germes. These modules along with frameworks for the piece overall was the structure of Germe; through making choices in the performance itself, our performance of Germe was an experience of being completely in the moment, rather than simply a choreographed piece. What made the performance so special was that Stefanie herself performed along with us. This was a performance I will never forget.

To read more about Germe and Stefanie Batten Bland visit her site at: http://www.companysbb.org/germe-2/

Germe will be performed as a pre-performance installation in Dance Workshop’s showcase on January 29, 30 and 31.  To learn more about Dance Workshop and see what new things we are up to, visit the facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WSUDanceWorkshop1928

Aug 21 / Audrey Johnson

aaaaaand we’re back….

Regardless of if we want it to or not, our Fall 2015 semester at Wayne State is approaching. But this can be an exciting thing! Especially in the CFPCA, the new school year brings an unlimited array of possibilities to embark on. New projects, new art things to create, new and old friends, new experiences, the list goes on.

The biggest thing on my mind regarding the new school year is taking all I have gained from my summer and applying those experiences as I move forward. This summer I did a lot of typical “summer things” such as working, hanging out with friends…the usual. But I was also so incredibly fortunate to attend Bates Dance Festival in Maine for three weeks and then a week long Gaga summer intensive in Brooklyn, NY. (this gaga, not Lady Gaga) At these programs I was surrounded by what I love, dance, and was challenged to move, create, and think in unfamiliar ways. I took classes in modern dance techniques unlike methods I have studied before and met so many interesting and inspiring dance peers from around the country. Reflecting on these experiences, I am beyond excited to apply all I have learned to this school year and really push myself to do new things and work on my craft with new enthusiasm. I am excited to dive into this school year.

Thus, my only “back to school” advice would be to dive in. Take what you have gained from your past experiences, be it this summer or whenever, and apply such new perspectives to the work you do this year. Dare yourself to create, think, explore, write, experience, more.

And don’t forget to take moments to just breathe along the way. Here’s to a great year!

Apr 30 / Audrey Johnson

Hello summer!

Congrats on the end of the school year!

Whatever your plans may be this summer, make time to relax, enjoy the moment and experience cool things. (especially all the cool things Detroit has to offer!)