Exploring the Female Experience through Dance

By Ruby Samuels

Girls are filing into Lenwich at 10am on a Sunday morning, clutching notebooks against scarves. Some are obviously dancers. They wear oversized sweatshirts with leggings and buns and feet that are casually turned out as they wait in line for a bagel. The rest of us are dressed like tired brunch-ready college students. We make eye contact and come to a gradual understanding that we are all here for the same reason. All the girls gather around one table.  

There is one man with us: a tightly built black man with a turtleneck sweater and flawless posture. The word regal comes to mind. His name is Nathan Trice. He is a dancer, choreographer, ex Navy man and fervent feminist. He is the reason we are all gathered in Lenwitch on a Sunday morning, sitting around a plastic table. In 2001, Nathan began the Recognizing Women Project as a way to bring social scientists into the world of dance in order to create performances that express the psychological, sociological and cultural meanings inherent to a woman’s experience in the world.   

Every year a new university is chosen to gather a new cohort of undergraduate social scientists. Those students are paired with a dance company to choreograph a performance based on a few months of researching the social worlds of women. So far, the Columbia cohort is made up of mostly Barnard girls, who are also mostly dancers themselves. In just two sessions we have discussed everything from self-objectification, sexuality and race to vocal fry, gender specific body language and up-speak. We have even sat down for a two hour talk with a psychiatrist who specializes in eating disorders.  

By February, we will have studied women and girls of all different ages and circumstances to assist Nathan Trice in choreographing a dance that represents a sociological and psychological theme of the female experience. A panel of young social scientists and dancers will present the research behind the dance and answer questions about a project that is truly unique. This interdisciplinary project makes academic research and intellectual concepts tangible through the art of performance.

This is just one of the research projects that Columbia University and Barnard College offers undergraduate students. Whatever you are interested in, know that you can use the institution that is your place of study to immerse yourself in the subjects you are passionate about beyond your current course load. Be intellectually active in the world around you by doing more than a term paper or a graded class. Look into joining a club, a research team or a publication and engage your brain in a personal and tangible way.

Screen Shot 2016-10-24 at 3.01.07 PM.pngSome of Nathan’s past projects have focused on motherhood, romantic love and other female-centric topics. If you are interested in more of his work, visit his website at http://www.nathantricerituals.com

(Image courtesy of nathantricerituals)

 

Ruby Samuels is a Junior at Barnard and On-Campus Editor of Barnard Bite. 

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