May 18, 2010
10-095

Kate Elliot
Communications Specialist

Schaeffer Performs Abroad

VALDOSTA -- Associate Professor Catherine Schaeffer will perform a multimedia dance “Soul Descending” at the world’s largest arts festival -- Edinburgh Festival Fringe, held Aug. 6-31, in Scotland.

The abstract piece -- which blends Americanized Butoh dance with spoken word, props, and dance for camera -- traces the soul's journey as it merges and contrasts with life. Associate Professor Duke Guthrie will read poetic text from "Metaphysics in Motion," by Sondra Fraleigh, as an environmental dance film plays in the background. As the audience’s eyes and ears are engaged with words and film, Schaeffer transforms herself into a conduit for thought through conceptual, hyper-controlled movements on the stage below.

“I hope people will think -- think about the soul, and the process of living, dying and what is beyond,” said Schaeffer, who was awarded the University Excellence in Teaching Award in 2008. “I think they will enjoy the multimedia aspects as they all overlap and allow for open interpretation of the work.”

Schaeffer, who has built on the dance for three years, said the performance is designed to encourage people to interpret -- not literally, but aesthetically. There is plenty to critically dissect in life; “Soul Descending” invites audiences to move beyond traditional views into the chaos of the obscure.

“The piece began with my summer study of metamorphic dance over the last eight years, followed by the creation of the “dance for camera” film, Inmost Sway. Once I felt I had a handle on performing in the Butoh style, I began using motifs from the film both mirroring and contrasting the movement,” said Schaeffer, who has taught at VSU since 2001. “I crafted some hand props from plants I found on the beach and use a long piece of maroon fabric to symbolize the river of life, life-blood, the souls’ journey, and to create a strong diagonal on the stage from up right to down left.”

Schaeffer developed the dance into a quartet, which she performed with three students in the 2010 VSU Annual Dance Concert, “The Spirit of Dance in America” in late April. In preparing for the dance concert, Schaeffer saw an opportunity to fuse spoken word into the performance. She was convinced that Guthrie’s strong voice and presence would add dimension to the performance.

“I wanted to layer the dance more, and Duke is such a strong voice on stage. He serves to ground the piece as a presence cloaked in dark gray fabric moving on the stage in semi circles,” she said. “My background in visual art, theatre, and music inspired me to create multimedia works, while my spiritual side supports my interest in the soul.”

Schaeffer, who specializes in modern dance, dance sciences and pedagogy, is the president of the Eastwest Somatics Network -- an international group of somatic practitioners, who incorporate Zen philosophy, yoga, bodywork, and movement. In early January, she presented a keynote paper, “Somatic Pedagogy: Teaching dance and movement somatically,” during the group’s national retreat.