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NITA LITTLE: TEACHING PHILOSOPHY In the classroom and on the dance floor my actions orient around an intersection of theoretical inquiry, artistic engagement, and pedagogic concern. I am committed to dance as both creative action and practice as research so that I utilize the skills of physical inquiry toward the production of new knowledge. My classes bring their materials into people’s lives as they are lived, to their development as human beings and as artists/scholars. I speak to how the practice of dance art holds meaning within a larger sphere, one that potentially touches lives near and far. Relevance is something I understand intimately as my own work has changed lives on other continents, and I see that dance has socio-political, cultural, as well as personal implications. From setting up laboratories in Israel that enable dancer’s to embody their political insights to teaching ecologically enactive practices of presence in Brazil, I wish to empower dancers to inquire deeply of the body and its knowledge, question paradigms that don’t fit their experience, and extend the meaning of dance to include more than bodies, because of bodies. My professional work emphasizes the technical and creative training of body/minds. I have spent years examining dancer’s physical and relational capabilities toward the goal of bringing forward principles that underlie our mental/physical actions. Principle based movement orients dancers toward an integration of the whole being with their moving moment, such that experiencing how rising is distinct but inseparable from falling enables the detailing of weight placement, as does understanding that attentional oscillation between non-parallel embodied states knits the breadth of experience with the specific. Merging dance improvisation (Post Judson / Post Modern) and Contact Improvisation, I tour worldwide teaching and performing the materials of this research. My queries reconsider embodied states, the mind that moves through actions of attention in dancing and dance making. Training the mind endows the body with boundlessness that enhances physical capacities as well as awareness, imagination and creativity - yet more, spatial reach, an ability to open the boundaries of self-identity, and an environmentally engaged presence. This work enables people of many skills, abilities, interests, cultural backgrounds, orientations, and identities to meet in physical and verbal dialogue. When people who cannot speak the same language nevertheless meet over something basic to both of their embodiments such as falling or flying together, they learn to support not only similarity, but to respect the differences that give each greater range and potential - because of the other. I emphasize physical transparency through a broad actional range in the training of technique. Beginning as a modern dancer (Limon, Cunningham, Graham), my practice evolved through the release elements of Contact Improvisation and various somatic practices. Seeking functional efficiency together with expressive specificity, I guide bodies to be structurally integrated while released, organized, and informed by weight and the physics of action. Bringing improvisation into technical training enables dancers to experience actional principles that underlie pathways, phrasing and the materials that build strong, flexible, healthy, and lasting bodies. My target in teaching choreography and composition is to expose students to creative practices and imaginative thinking that can support explorations into the nature of the choreographic process, evolves original forms of knowledge, or provokes new personal, cultural or sociopolitical inquiry. I encourage a broad definition of choreography, one that integrates a multiplicity of compositional elements by considering, “everything dances”. I start broadly in my dance history classes, looking at the body and its changing history, until I focus on the post-Judson era to the present. I engage with ideas of postmodernism and with an expanding notion of dance / performance. Respecting diversity begins by appreciating individual learning styles. Whether working in choreography, awareness/somatics, performance, collaborative process, or contact improvisation I endeavor to be responsive to dancer’s needs, while seeking more in them than they may recognize. Discovering themselves as a distinct locus of knowledge, a unique being, not only self-identified but also culturally and globally relational, situates students’ artistic conscience. Mindful that I teach both from the outside in as well as from the inside out makes of teaching an act of exchange; one critical to my own learning.



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