Each semester Mosaic students select seminar courses, where they learn the fundamentals of a creative discipline and then use that discipline to interpret aspects of a personal inquiry project related to their academic understandings. At the conclusion of the semester, students share their learning process and creative process in Exhibitions of Learning. Below is an Exhibition of Learning by an 8th grade students, Camille Staats, who studied the art and life of Frida Kahlo and conveyed her understandings through contemporary choreography.
I’m going to be creating a dance about the life of Frida Kahlo. I want to look more into her interpersonal issues and how she showed this through her art. One of the aspects of her I’m partially interested in is how she conformed or didn’t conform to Mexico's strict gender roles. My two driving questions are:
How can I as a choreographer convey the story behind the emotions of Frida Kahlo through the technique of contemporary movement?
How is Frida’s life reflected in her art work?
To start off my research process I watched a movie created about Frida’s life. I was very moved by her life, and I admired how she was a strong women which was harder in that time in Mexico. In Spanish class my partner and I researched Frida’s marriage; how that affected her emotionally which in turn affected her art. Diego and Frida were very in love, there was never a doubt about that, but Diego was a notorious cheater and, in turn, Frida also had an affair. One of the most memorable moments to me was when Diego cheated on Frida with her sister, and Frida ended up cutting off the majority of her hair. She later painted a deeply emotional self-portrait. This is one example of when she clearly showed her more masculine side. Another time Frida clearly showed her masculinity was in her family photo, when she decided to dress up like a man while all of her sisters were wearing nice dresses. These two situations show her very obviously rebelling against gender stereotypes. Through my project I will most likely show these drastic examples, but I want to focus more on when she was subtly playing with the rules of femininity in Mexico.
I believe that people become more engaged or invested when there is an emotional aspect they can connect to. Frida’s life is a very emotional story, and you can see this through her artwork. I want to play around with the idea of using paused shapes to represent her art and movements with show what is going on in her life at that time. I’m going to use both what I learned about creating narrative dances and abstract dances. In Spanish class, I created a more narrative dance that focused on Frida’s life with Diego. While I will use some elements of narrative contemporary dance I want to focus more on how her life made her feel and how that affected her emotionally. I will also apply what we learned about personal-expression. By researching the more personal aspects of Frida I will then be able to show through dance. With the focus of my dance on being how Frida was emotionally affected by what was going on around her I’ve decided to have this dance primarily be a solo without much support from other dancers. As I begin the choreography process I will decide if I want to include dancers to abstractly represent the outside affects of her life. Other than me representing Frida Kahlo, there won’t be any other characters. Another creative choice I’m making is emphasizing the two techniques of contemporary (ballet and modern) at different points. While showing her more traditional Mexican feminine side I will emphasize ballet techniques. Then while representing her more rebellion to masculinity I will use more modern dance. To show the subtly in this situation I will have to be creative with my choreography props is one way I could show the subtly. This is also something I will have to address during the spoken part of my presentation. Showing subtly could be shown by having some balance in between the two techniques but then for a moment switching techniques to show the subtle differences.
Through my dance I want to communicate the emotions Frida Khalo communicates through her art. In a sense I’ll be translating her emotions from art to dance. Then I’ll also show her life to show the reasons behind those emotions. Examples of these emotions she was feeling were, hurt, pain, hate, love, loss etc. There are extreme examples in this list to show that she expressed a lot through her art and like most humans she felt a range of emotions. By communicating Frida’s life through dance instead of art of words I will be bringing Frida’s story to a new medium and her story to a new audience.
One of the challenges I’m going to face is creating choreography that I really enjoy and I feel properly displays Frida’s emotion and nature. Since I am a perfectionist, expressively with creative creations I make. I feel that this will be more of an issue during this project because Frida is a complex person and not only will I have to try to understand how she thinks but I will also have to find a way to show that through movement. Another challenge will be choreographing and for the most part performing the dance by myself. I will explore different ways to show the change in time and different periods of her life. These could include, props, changes in songs, a sound effect etc. I’m not always going to have someone to bounce my ideas off of. To help myself with this struggle I’m going to seek out dance’s feedback on my own. I have a created list of dancers I can reference when I need support. To overcome the challenges with perfectionism I will make sure I have a sufficient understanding of my topic before I begin the choreography process. I will also make a timeline for my creation process so I can make sure that my procrastination and picky-ness doesn’t interfere with my productiveness. The timeline will be created on a weekly timeframe so on every Friday I can check to see if I have completed my goal, if not then I will work on my dance over the weekend until I reach my goal. Through it will be semi-flexible in the case that some sections are hard to choreograph than others I will be holding myself to more strict deadlines then I am use to. I will share this timeline with my advisor, Mrs.Meyer, my academic teacher, Mr.LaCrosse, and my seminar teacher, Mrs.King. After every week I will I’m also going to practice my dance full out in front of people to help with my confidence. This is something I’ve struggled with every time I’ve preformed I’m going to seek out help from my peers, Mrs.King, and Mr.Lacrosse depending on what I need help with.