InterArts Class Profile: Directed Graduate Projects

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Another puff of flour fills the air of the Raw Space. The particles give weight and force to the dancer that threw it in the air–the arc of her hand, the chiaroscuro features of her poised body. The moment is one of many in Alexa Rittichier’s dance film piece Corporeal Residue, a piece sprung to life through the Directed Graduate Projects course with InterArts. By stepping into Rittichier’s work, we can see how DGP functions for students wanting the independence to develop their line of inquiry.[flickr id=”7001438117″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”]

In her two years with InterArts, Rittichier has developed a visual language with emphasis on residue, reproduction, and mortality. From I Lost It. It Was Taken. to Liminal Breath, she has been developing and exploring new movements with interactive media, installation, and costuming. Corporeal Residue places Rittichier in the director’s chair, where she coordinates dancers, assistants, and shot lists to execute the piece. It is a shift in her work — from her own body to strictly those of others — and a project requiring practical and conceptual crews.

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DGP is a course specializing in individual attention with student projects. Two instructors head the class, and they meet with students every week for discussions about the work. Unlike, say, the Space & Place Installation class, where emphasis is placed on production of multiple large pieces, DGP focuses on a strong, singular work to develop over an entire semester. In DGP, students combine individual drive with personal meetings as catalysts for developing work.

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In Rittichier’s case, Corporeal Residue formed after ten energetic weeks of choreography, costume-making, rehearsals, and crewing. Four dancers are equipped with costumes that are a cross between lead vests and little girl jumpers. The rolls and undulations are in fact filled with flour. Plumes and billows of the powder escape these costumes as the dancers move, collide with each other, or strike themselves. Over time, the floor is covered with dunes and streaks of the stuff, marking the progression and erasures of the dancers’ movements.

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Documentation of this movement is crucial for the work to function. How else would Corporeal Residue exist if one wasn’t sitting–covered with a fine silt of flour–and watching the performance live? Under the direction of her instructors, Rittichier collaborated with Television and InterArts students to build a camera and stage crew. By Shoot Day, four camera operators and stagehands helped move the production along by doing everything from camera work and lighting to grabbing the dancers lunch.

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This preproduction work happened in the space of the DGP meetings and class structure. The size and scope of a project like Rittichier’s would be impractical in other InterArts classes, where the goal is producing many, many works during the semester. With DGP, the long build-up is to execute a layered, thoughtful performance like Rittichier’s and still have time to process the work in mind, body, and documentation.

After the dancers leave and the flour is swept, there is still the task of composing a video piece that captures what is long gone in reality. For Rittichier, it will be a compelling experience to go through the footage, which is slated and compiled by her shot list done weeks in advance. She is organized and ready to craft Corporeal Residue as if a viewer saw that puff of flour in real life.

As if the residue is all around the space in which the video will play, marking the moves of real, breathing, warm bodies.

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