NYU Steinhardt Research and Creative Project Grant; Text and Dance

Happy last-day-of-winter. Not an official holiday, but a day worth celebrating, nonetheless. I’ll be celebrating the day in the same way I have spent pretty much everyday since May of 2018, when I was awarded a Research and Creative Project grant from the Steinhardt School at New York University.

arts grant

When grant writing pays off….this was one of the best days of my life. An email that isn’t a bill reminder or from some list serve that I can’t get off of.

None-the-less is a weird word, isn’t it? Does anyone say this anymore besides me? None-the-less seems to be an accurate description for individual artist grants, because there are either none or they often give less funding for individual artists than funds required to adequately caffeinate artists during the grant writing process. None-the-less also sums up my ‘how much coffee is left?’ situation.

My research is centered around the concept of universal grammar, the biophycial processes humans posses which give us the ability to learn languages and the structures used that make communication possible and continuously evolving. I’m focusing particularly on the evolution from Pidgins to Creole languages and then considering the linguistic patterns in this transformation and applying them to the nonverbal language of dance.

I call it, diving into the word stream. One of my favorite authors on the topics of linguistics, Creoles in particular, Dr. John McWhorter calls it, Lexical Springtime.

“You can’t keep them apart. Words, that is. You can try, with your spaces between them- but wait, that’s only on paper. We don’t speak spaces. Just say that last sentence and notice that you uttered no spaces. One word comes immediately on the tail of the other one. The Ancient Greeks didn’t even bother to indicate spaces when they wrote, and in that, their writing reflected speech more accurately than modern writing conventions do, despite what a pain it was to read such text.

When things are pushed up against one another they have a way of sharing and blending, as we know from a stew, the history of jazz, and dormitories. Words are similar: something else that can happen to a word is that it can join with another one to create a new word entirely.”

-McWhorter, Words on the Move, p. 172

Oh, I get it. This must be why my spacebar keeps breaking on my laptop. Itallmakessensenow.

I think this is one of the reasons for language, for communication with another. Language allows us to bump into someone else, their experiences, jokes, perspectives on the world, to hopefully reshape and reinforce our own. Language roots identity and creates an open magnetic charge for connection.

Here are some rehearsal shots. Enjoy!

Jessica Ruhlin

Jessica Ruhlin

Look at how perfectly they find the light! Totally intentional….

No joke, the movement here was inspired by an IKEA instruction manual

Jessica Ruhlin choreography

Words are similar: something else that can happen to a word is that it can join with another one to create a new word entirely.

sharks and little fishes in the word stream. This movement is preceeeded by a Game of Thrones quote, because I’m a scholar.

What will you be doing on Mother’s Day weekend this year? This will be a day worth celebrating for me for two reasons:

  1. Saying eternal thanks to my Mom for putting up with me
  2.  I will be presenting my research in ballet form at NYU with a cast of 5 of the most spectacular artists, text written by yours truly and including excerpts of poems from Langston Hughes and Shel Silverstein.

I am trying to examine why we have language when a series of grunts and points, frankly, conveys most of the information we need to get food, avoid danger, get by. Why do we keep inventing words, why do some fall out of fashion? How do we communicate with others when there is no shared vocabulary? How does language shape our reality? I will defend compound words like Brangelina and Hangry. And I am trying to put a stop to the non-communicative and rude AF ghosting.

I’m still tweaking the script because it seems like I am learning more and more all of the time that ties in with this topic. Once you’re looking, it is just everywhere! I’ll be sharing more of what I learned in the days to come on this here site.

Maybe you’ll join me either in the stagespace- it would be so great to meet some Bodies Never Lie readers!-  or in spirit for the show. In how many languages can you say, ‘Merde Jess! Don’t mess it up!’

Or you can say ‘happy mother’s day’ and express some gratitude to your moms. Surely there’s some universal grammar happening there.


6 thoughts on “NYU Steinhardt Research and Creative Project Grant; Text and Dance

  1. Pingback: Dancing Outside; Dance Pictures in Central Park | BODIES NEVER LIE

  2. Hello! I know this post is almost a year old, but I wanted to know if you’ve ever read Walker Percy’s Message in the Bottle and Lost in the Cosmos? He has some very intriguing thoughts about language. He seems like a writer totally up your alley.

  3. Pingback: From India to New York; the Ever-Growing Multi-media Artist Making Family Proud | BODIES NEVER LIE

  4. Pingback: Steinhardt Research and Creative Project Grant Performance at NYU | BODIES NEVER LIE

  5. Pingback: Dawoud Bey; An American Project at The Whitney Museum of American Art | BODIES NEVER LIE

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