Nya Johnson

Nya Johnson

Westfield State College

Mass Communication


Mentor: Dr. Sally Jacoby, Department of Communication

The Creation of Non-Verbal Performing Art: An Ethnographic Study

In Spring 2004, I undertook an independent study in New York City, supervised by Prof. Mattie Cahill at Westfield State College. In that study, using participant-observation, interviews, and journal entries, I focused on my experience as a dancer in a production called "Moses," based on the story of the Exodus.

For my current project, I plan to do a study of the relationship between dance and communication, exploring the choreographic process through which a dance is created. I will investigate choreography as a medium of communication; from the choreographer's original ideas and the communication of those ideas to dancers and designers, to how the final work of art embodies the ideas. This study examines how the process of collaborative creation as a form of communication-in-the-making results in an independent work of non-verbal dance art that is itself a communication medium.

The study will answer three questions: 1. What is the process through which choreographers conceive of an idea and communicate it to artistic collaborators? 2. What influences play a role in the formation of the choreographic ideas? 3. How do the ideas become embodied in the work? To answer these questions, I will follow the development of one choreography from first rehearsal to performance, using ethnographic methods: live and videotaped observation of rehearsals and production meetings, and regularly scheduled interviews with the choreographer, designers, and dancers. My analysis will focus on recurring patterns of communication that contribute to the collaborative creative process. I will examine what is often overlooked as an important component of the development of non-verbal performing art, namely, the verbal communication which goes on between a choreographer and artistic collaborators. I plan to show how dance, as a form of embodied non-verbal performing art, is a communal product, in which many artists have a role in the making.

« View 2004 McNair Scholars