Transdisiplinary focus- Research opportunities in Dance and Science

Transdisiplinary focus- Research opportunities in Dance and Science

Academic Year:
2016 - 2017 (June 1, 2016 through May 31, 2017)
Funding Requested:
Project Dates:
Chair Uniqname:
Overview of the Project:
One-week residency by Beth Graczyk for teaching, talks, performances, symposia and conversations interrogating the creative process in art and science through a feminist lens, shaped by inter and trans-disciplinary experiences. Many of our Dance BFA students are dual majors, and the sciences are one area that many dance students choose to work in alongside their performing and technical training in dance. With this proposal, I will seek ways to illuminate the benefits of cross-pollination – how research methods and inquiry into the creative process in various disciplines apply widely and vibrantly. In making professional and pedagogical connections to Graczyk and her work, I’ll also benefit from locating language and methods to spark curiosity in my students. I’ll be able to offer pragmatic advice and perspectives on how inter and trans-disciplinary research and professions proliferate in 21st century callings. My network of connections outside the U-M community, formed through years of teaching, performing and working as a guest artist internationally, grows and accrues back to my work in the classroom through initiatives like this. Additionally, it is important to address the gender inequities that many of our students will face in both the professional dance world and in the sciences.
Number of Graduate Students Affected Annually:
7 graduate students
Number of Undergraduate Students Affected Annually:
45 undergraduate students
Proposal PDF:
Budget Administrator:
Megan McClure
Final Report Fields
Project Objectives:

To bring NYC based Dance Artist and Molecular Biologist to the Department of Dance for a teaching and professional exchange residency.

Project Achievements:

The Department of Dance and The Medical Arts Program were pleased to welcome Beth Graczyk to U-M for a wide ranging, informative and inspiring residency. She engaged with students in every class from first year BFA undergraduates to second year MFA students. In Dance, she taught two sessions of Performance Improvisation, a class that includes upper level BFA majors to Dance, Art & Design, Music Composition, and Performing Arts Technology MFA students. She taught a Friday Modern Lab course that includes Dance BFA majors and students from other disciplines. She made a lasting impact in visiting the second year MFA student rehearsals as they prepared for their thesis concerts. She also met with senior BFA students to discuss the dance field, and her path as a published scientist who works in an established research lab in NYC, (molecular biology), and a professional dancer and choreographer. Two special events were her showing of a work in process, Beast, to the full department, followed by a talk back. Beast is a work that she later performed in NYC to positive reviews. She joined me, a dual major in neuroscience and dance, Yoshiko Iwai, and a second year MFA, Molly Paberzs, whose research includes Parkinson’s and movement, for an evening session a The Medical Arts Program event. Joel Howell, MD, PhD, is the founder of the program and invites artists from the university community to conduct experiential sessions with medical residents.

Yes- I plan to organize another residency in Winter 2018. I have an newly established professional and creative relationship with Beth that may result in projects around dance, writing and medical research. Several students have established a working relationship with Beth.
She modeled ways that students can look to careers in dance and science. She taught very successful classes in the Department of Dance and led a session in The Medical Arts Program.
We will engage in a series of collaborative movement exercises that will help tune our senses and our thought-processes towards an increased receptivity both to others and ourselves. These exercises are playful, fun, and improvisational, allowing us to naturally engage in our creative impulses.  Through this work we will launch into a dialogue, opening up the possibilities of how we interact with others and our environment to generate pathways for inspiration and healing.  

Drawing on sensations and images created during the investigations, the dancer/ improvisers will complete the event with a short performance. A final Question & Answer discussion session will follow.

BFA Dance and Neuroscience dual major, Yoshiko Iwai wrote the letter below after the workshop and residency:

Dear Dr. Howell and professors,

Thank you so much for this incredible experience. I feel honored to have had this experience during my undergraduate career and truly hope these collaborative events continue into the future. I think there is a lot of material we can work with to bring these communities together.

I have had some more time to let the experience settle and marinate over the last couple nights. I am deeply moved by the sensitivity and humility that comes out of these seemingly polar silos coming together. I feel lucky to have been in a place where my two passions collide and intertwine. It is a true blessing to be at the University of Michigan where these things can happen. 

Thank you Beth for sharing your knowledge, and Amy for bringing our studio safe space to the MedArts program. Thank you Dr. Howell for making this event happen and your willingness to let our ideas in. I hope the Med Arts program participators can attend our bicentennial performance in the Power Center the first weekend of February. There will be lots of dialogue to follow the dances that will be presented this year!

On a slightly different note, I am writing a personal statement about this event and how it affected me. It will be published in the Michigan Daily's statement issue this Wednesday. I will be sure to send you a link, but if you would like a hard copy, please look out for the paper!

Have a wonderful weekend and Thanksgiving week! 

Best regards,
Yoshiko Iwai

Yoshiko followed up with a moving statement for The Michigan Daily
At The Interface of Dance and Medicine

The residency far exceeded my expectations. I gained a new colleague and collaborator, I was able to introduce the students to a successful practitioner in dance and medicine— an extremely beneficial action given our many dual dance and science majors. She demonstrated professionalism and passion in ways that really affected my students. I am hoping to organize another residency with Graczyk in Winter 2018.
Advice to your Colleagues:
The residency exceeded expectations. I learned how critical and valuable it is to continuing forming working relationships with artists/ researchers outside the university setting.