One of the main questions people ask when they find out that you’re going back to school is why…and why Ohio? And before I moved to Columbus or even knew what this would be like at all my answers were a combination of the following:
- I want to learn more and get better at dancing/making dances
- I am sick of teaching Pilates so much of the time (and being defined by that work)
- I have an opportunity to get paid to dance, perform and choreograph without writing one grant proposal after another
- Philadelphia is amazing in some ways and artistically lonely in others aka I want to cultivate artistic community
- The Ohio State University (yeah, I included “The”) has a fantastic dance department…really
On the eve of my fifth week of graduate school I am starting to have a bit more context with which to answer this question and so I’d like to try again.
Why I am pretty psyched that I walked away from an established dance company, a relatively lucrative profession and a wonderful community of friends to attend graduate school in central Ohio:
- CONTEXT!!! I have always known that there was a lot of dance happening concurrently to what I was making and I did my best to see other choreographer’s work pretty much every weekend (Philly-based and touring work) but now I am required to want 3-5 hours of dance/week, most of it created and performed 20-30 years ago. It gives one an fantastic sense of continuity and insignificance – this field is relatively small but our output is…not.
- Building awareness of my own lens: We all have a point-of-view (duh) but we are not always asked to situate our viewpoints within a cultural, gendered, racial, class-based framework. An unspoken reason why I decided on an MFA was that I had the sneaking suspicion that my ethos of accessibility only applied to people who were already pretty similar to myself – and I hated that. Now I can get called out on this privileged bias all the time and it’s unpleasant but also helpful! Particularly if the outcome is making work and contributing to the field in a way that resonates for people who may not identify as white, middle class, liberal, urban, arts-affiliated peeps.
- Owning my interests and standing up for myself: It seems like graduate students are pretty big on the word ‘agency’ – how to we get it, share it and use it. In previous academic environments I often, but not always, sacrificed my agency on the altar of doing what the professor indicated would be the right path for me to follow: doing the readings, making a study guide, writing paper, taking tests and just generally following preset rubrics. So far graduate school at OSU does not feel like this at all. Of course there are expectations and requirements – pretty stringent ones – but they are all based on students following their own instincts and interests and then finding scholarship to discourse with. This means a lot more legwork (probably) but pretty much zero boredom, especially if you love watching/discussing/reading about dancing – which I do.