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Dancespiration: Exploring Innovation in Dance Open Access

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An inspirational dance space was designed that encouraged teachers, students and visitors to explore innovation in dance and to achieve new heights of creativity in choreography, movement and performance, and that promoted a deeper appreciation for the art of dance. Dancespiration creates an area in which teachers and students come together to inspire each other and to learn from each other as they explored choreography. Students draw from a variety of dance traditions, and perform their choreography in monthly showcases that are open to the public. The footprint for the dance studio is the Wisconsin Avenue Giant, located in Cleveland Park, in the center of a redevelopment project designed to bring the community together. The goal of the thesis was to discover the impetus behind innovation in dance, and to design a space that translated the research into architecture and programming. Since great innovators in dance inspire each other, Dancespiration created a community environment in which students and teachers push each other to excel. Students at Dancespiration are encouraged to develop choreography apart from teachers, and to experiment with their personal dancing styles. Monthly student showcases draw new people to the studio to watch, and gave students a forum in which to show their original work.The main research topic is innovation in dance history and the socio-political-economic factors that influence innovation in dance. It is also important to note the affect artists in the dance world had on each other, which inspired forward movement in dance.Research for the thesis included a review of the architecture and programming of dance spaces and in particular on the theater designer Joseph Urban. The history of dance with a focus on the great creative leaders, such as Diaghilev, and the choreographers Balanchine and Graham, was also an important theme. Further research included socio-cultural events and movements that influenced the direction of dance. Cleveland Park, where the site was located, was a topic as it was necessary to learn more about Cleveland Park for social, cultural and architectural context. The relationship of classical ballet to modern dance was also studied through reading books on the history of both forms of dance. In addition to reading topical books, relevant documentaries were viewed in order to gain a better feel for the visual styles of various choreographers, and an interview with Constance Walsh, who danced with Martha Graham's dance company, was conducted. Facades and façade video projections were also studied via internet research.The research showed that the field of dance has given rise to numerous innovators. From Sergei Diaghilev, who started the original Ballets Russes, to George Balanchine, founder of the New York City Ballet, to Martha Graham, who popularized modern dance, to Merce Cunningham, who built on Martha Graham's foundation, the world of dance has a history of inspired leaders who develop new concepts and continually take risks. Leaders in dance are willing to challenge the expectations of colleagues and audiences in order to develop a different style of dance or to take dance to a new level. Although classical elements are always the basis for dance, innovators consistently question established tenets and showcase unique interpretations. The reasons for these innovations are multi-faceted. A combination of creative minds inspiring each other, influence from past traditions, and outside socio-political events and movements push innovation in dance.Dancespiration strives to bring the community together through making dance more accessible. Monthly student choreography showcases provide the students at Dancespiration with an opportunity to choreograph original pieces and to perform regularly for the public. People who might not attend a dance concert otherwise have a chance performance to see a dance in their community. An art gallery displaying work by local artists also brings the community to Dancespiration. Finally, the facade creates a public view into the space and forum. A projection of a dancer pirouetting plays continually on the windows of the ground floor lobby, while passersby can look up at the windows on the second and third floors and see dancers rehearsing, taking class, and walking through the building. The combination of community, a willing audience, and a forum in which students and teachers can interact and inspire each other pushes innovation in dance.

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