Theatre – Dance – Dramaturg

jeanmarie higgins – new performance projects

score: a pyramid that is not a pyramid

AGA Collaborative has completed Week 1 of their summer residency (at Davidson College’s seriously beautiful new dance spaces). The scores they’ve been working with pick up on themes from last year’s residency’s work on placed. In fact, some of the scores feel like answers to placed. In one of the 2015’s dance’s signature sequences, the dancers place and replace each other in a pyramid reminiscent of an Olympic awards ceremony.


During a working session last week, AGA worked with a score called “A pyramid that is not a pyramid”:


This score created images of ever-shifting hierarchies that have little to do with who wins and who loses. This continues their work of asking what constitutes success, and how collaboration and care might contribute to it.

Howlround: “The Youngest People in the Room: Dramaturgy in BA Theatre Programs”

Howlround published an essay about the way we do dramaturgy at UNC Charlotte, featuring some excellent photos and artifacts from our 2016 production of Heiner Müller’s Hamletmachine.

matt and ophelias

“the ruins of Europe in back of me”

Introducing the Tumblr blog for the UNC Charlotte Theatre Department Spring 2016 production of Heiner Müller’s 1977 play, Hamletmachine. Designed and maintained by Dramaturgy Team Lead, Megan Parker (UNC Charlotte Theatre Ed ’16), “the ruins of Europe in back of me” is an ongoing, group-sourced archive with contributions from Dramaturgy I students, the cast and designers, and me.

Follow us at Tweets and Instagrams use the hashtag #HamletmachineUNCC.

Hamletmachine, directed by Robin Witt, and designed by Tom Burch, Gordon Olson, Beth Killion (Theatre & German ’16), Benjamin Stickels, and Nate Fitzsimons (Theatre), opens March 18th, running for five performances in the Belk Theatre, Robinson Hall at UNC Charlotte. Tickets can be purchased online.


Postcard art by Mikale Kwiatkowski

“Iconicity and the Archive” published in REVIEW: Journal of Dramaturgy

Read my process article about Kim Jones’s reconstruction of Martha Graham’s Imperial Gesture“Iconicity and the Archive: Martha Graham’s Imperial Gesture 1935/2013″ appears in the current issue of Review: Journal of Dramaturgy.

Charlotte Viewpoint piece on UNC Charlotte Faculty Dance Concert

Julianne McCollum’s piece in Charlotte Viewpoint about this weekend’s UNC Charlotte Faculty Dance Concert, which includes the premiere performance of AGA Collaborative’s piece, placed:

I’m drawn to choreography that asks questions and leaves space for answers,” says Alterowitz, a classically trained ballet dancer who has taught at UNC Charlotte for six years. The collaborators are all academics at various universities known to be particularly competitive and political workplaces. But their work process is anything but.

Each choreographer goes through a very different process when composing a new work; some are inspired by a piece of music or a story first — such as the Hitchcock-inspired Forward/Rewind —and choreograph the bodily movement to tell the story literally or interpretively. Some of the best contemporary choreographers actually create the story as well as the movement. But very few have as collective and creative an approach as the AGA Collaborative, consisting of three dance faculty academics: UNC Charlotte’s Alterowitz, Davidson College’s Bory and University of New Mexico Albuquerque’s Hamp.

AGA’s placed to premiere at UNC Charlotte’s faculty dance concert

Track Suit has a new name (placed) and a premiere performance date.

“Created and performed by AGA Collaborative (Gretchen Alterowitz, Alison Bory, and Amanda Hamp), placed (2015) explores the concept of competition – the pressures of accomplishment and achievement, the perpetual nature of preparation, and the experience of performing presence.”

Premiering at the UNC Charlotte Faculty Dance Concert along with new pieces by E. E. Balcos and Rachel Barker.

Buy tickets here.

Collaborate / Compete / Critique

As AGA pursues several research questions regarding gender, sports, and dance, one issue that comes up is how ideas of competition, winning, and awards might affect the group’s (normally) collaborative way of working, moving, and presenting their work. What can a dance company that emphasizes “intimacy over display” contribute to conversations about the public, spectacle-driven world of sports?

This “continuous pyramid” score from yesterday yielded some images that captured both of these seemingly unrelated ways to relate to competition, as in this more intimate expression of winning as a product of being held up by others.


As AGA continues to explore movement vocabularies of competition and sports, critiques will emerge, the dance presenting alternative ways to think of “winning.”

When I say “track suit,” you say . . . ?

AGA’s work-in-progress is currently titled Track Suit. Which makes me think of RUN DMC’s Addidas track suits and gold chains from the 1980s. They also make me think of the 2000’s trend for women made popular by Juicy Couture — those matching velour track suits, usually worn with very large gold-encrusted sunglasses, and — in a nod to Run DMC maybe? — gold chains.

AGA’s interest in track suits inspires their embodied exploration of gender, athletics, and nostalgia. In “looking back,” the richest recent use of track suits as nostalgia has got to be music duo Jungle’s videos for The Heat and Platoon. If you haven’t seen this video yet, take a few minutes. I guarantee you’ll be happier than you were before you watched it:

This same feeling of joy and nostalgia is in Platoon.

Platoon turns the idea of the Adidas track suit (watch the video – literally) on its head. This purple and pink track suit-clad young girl shows the track suit as a marker of masculinity that informs the dance, but it’s just that, a costume that helps her get the job done.

Taken together, these videos show how track suits, nostalgia, and gender might form a productive way to think about athleticism and childhood, especially what we take from childhood into adulthood. We’ll see how track suits inform AGAs work this summer going forward, as they work with ideas of nostalgia, sports — and the costumes appropriate for both.

(prepare to) “participate in the apocalypse” – and other scores

AGA is back in the studio with a working plan and a title, “Track Suit.” During the first few days of a residency, AGA tries out scores that come from the idea or theme the group has decided to explore, or from responses to individuals’ impulses (even the dramaturg’s). Today AGA revisited some scores from yesterday:

The difference this year is that each score has an additional direction, that is, “to prepare to. . . ” So instead of “participating in the apocolypse,” the group works to “prepare to participate in the apocalypse” (likewise they work to “prepare to mask the seriousness of the activity,” and so forth). Early days, but one question coming out of this work is, “What is the difference between preparing to do something one knows how to do, versus preparing to do something one does not know how to do as in, “prepare to finish the draft” versus “prepare to harvest the field.”

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