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First Amendment: Dancemaking Concept

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About the Project

 In the pursuit of my M.A.M. - Masters of Arts, Media, Entertainment Management degree, I came across two courses that made an enormous impression on me. I have immensely enjoyed both courses in Arts, Media, and the Law & Managing Intellectual Property - these classes have equipped me with preliminary/introductory knowledge of the U.S. legal environment and stirred up in me a profound curiosity and interest in Constitutional Law. Under the mentorship of Monique Maye, I designed an Independent Project with the goal to study the Constitution more deeply and comprehensively. Within the timeframe of a semester, the project specifically aimed to explore the First Amendment, the Bill of Rights, and general political philosophies that influenced the U.S. Constitution. Going a step further from informational research, the project becomes personal by contemplating how the Constitution and artistic liberties impact me as a dance-maker. The project is two-pronged: the first part consists of a 50-page paper that is a product of rigorous research, it can serve as a nuanced and beneficial annotated guide for readers. The paper portion also proposes a dance-making model that empowers dancers to use the medium of dance to exercise the freedom of artistic expression. The second part actually applies the model and rehearses with dancers throughout the semester to culminate in a staged performance. This project was featured at the Manifest Rises Digital Festival, representing the Business and Entrepreneurship Department at Columbia College Chicago.

Presented By:

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Every project begins with a rough sketch of the overarching "concept" & rehearsal plan.

In Response to Covid-19

Though, this is where the unexpected turn of events comes in. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the daily lives, projects, and activities of many, and ours were not spared. As the leader of this project, I quickly changed course and created structures for virtual rehearsals/engagement. I’m grateful for the participating artists who continued to invest in this journey despite the compromising of tangible/in-person physical interactions. Even though performing on stage with a live audience was not possible at the time, we still wanted to take this opportunity to share our work via a process-driven film. The documentation provides vignettes of our creation process thus far, and is an act of resilience that resists the limiting of art practices in the midst of sheltering-in-place. Our surroundings need not control or prohibit our spirits, the work goes on.

Creation Process

Collaborating with dancers Marceia L. Scruggs and Hillary Mason, we richly discussed what Freedom of Speech means to each of us and how the Constitution might empower or take away our freedom of speech through dance. We each selected a Supreme Court case from the paper that involves the First Amendment of which we individually resonated with. We read and analyzed the history and stories, reflected upon them and composed writings of our interpretations/responses. A large part of our discussion was facilitated on a FaceBook group, as we stayed connected this way throughout the process.  This was then translated into movement phrases and sound scores that  can be viewed in this video. We also collaborated with Christa J.S. Monroe, a talented musician/singer whom I’ve always admired, to produce original music based on our writings. Furthermore, this project also enjoyed generous contribution from designer/illustrator, Edgar Rios, who created a stunning graphic after reading through the paper. His illustration interprets and captures the concept of freedom of speech visually and I envision utilizing the image as a projection backdrop for a staged live performance someday. You can view the full paper to learn more and reference the weekly rehearsal agendas designed that helped inform our process. You can also check out our individual writings/responses produced from remote rehearsals.


Illustration created by Edgar Rios

Interpreting freedom of speech - who holds power?

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Leveraging social media to

stay in conversation.

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Final Thoughts

In 1822, James Madison wrote a letter to W.T. Barry stating: “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” All in all, this Independent Project is a response against civil ignorance by putting forth effort to reclaim history, taking up the armor of power which knowledge bestows, and presenting the findings artfully. I personally think everyone should participate in the democratic society by studying history/humanity & seek to understand why we have freedom today. Anyways, do you know what the 1st amendment says?

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