Steinhardt Research and Creative Project Grant Performance at NYU

I’m about to put a year’s worth of work on the stage for 2 culminating performances of my research and creative project grant through New York University, Steinhardt. It includes a year’s worth of research on linguistics, specifically Pidgins and Creoles, but also Universal Grammar and the mobility of words and word meanings.

dancer Jess Ruhlin

Twirling in the studio

artwork by dancer choreographer Jessica Ruhlin

I have learned so much! I know what a lexicon is. I know what morphology is. One thing I learned is that we have A LOT of (often boringly written) language to describe language. Thank heavens for Dr. John. McWhorter, of Columbia University. His books and articles were actually fun to read.

I could describe the process of learning audacity to mix the music and recorded text, which was new and exciting for me. I could describe dyeing the costumes myself and in the process a part of my fancy used-to-be white shower curtain. I could tell you about the overwhelmingly annoying task of transporting these 5 feet tall cardboard ‘wings’ from my apartment to NYU and how many people I have whacked on the street carrying bushel of orange floating balloons.

artwork by dancer choreographer Jessica Ruhlin

From little sketches in a notebook to these 5 ft tall wings. Acrylic on cardboard with integrated Langston Hughes text. Also some fun Math easter eggs, for my fellow nerds out there

artwork by dancer choreographer Jessica Ruhlin artwork by dancer choreographer Jessica Ruhlin

But I have the feeling these stories might only be of interest to me, my own  knowledge of how much effort I put into this performance.

However, I did learn one thing that I think is worth sharing, that maybe has not been said in any of the books I’ve read for my research.

In trying to learn why we continue to evolve language and methods of communication in everything from technology to changing aesthetics of ballet, what is true about an innate human desire to be understood and express ourselves as an individual?

Dancers Morgan Lamb, Dasha Schwartz, Wil S. Huntington, Amanda Clevinger

Dancer Amanda Clevinger

I made an attempt to answer that questions by asking my dancers and many friends about their childhood dreams and what they might advise their 10-year-old selves if they could now. Almost everyone said, ‘I would say to not be so critical of myself’.

artwork by dancer choreographer Jessica Ruhlin

One of my favorite poems by Hughes, ‘Out of Love’

It seems like the most universal thing that I’ve found with regards to language is the inner critic and that no matter what language it is using to communicate with us, it is speaking in a harsh tone. Perhaps if we universally could learn to speak with more kindness to ourselves….well, who knows. I will have to research. And then make another beautiful ballet. And I intend to.

 

 

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