Katherine Dorn dance

ASU choreographers to showcase work in Emerging Artists dance series

By

Sarah A. McCarty

Cooking. Car maintenance. Dance techniques. There’s a video tutorial on YouTube for almost anything, giving us one more reason to depend on the internet. And for third-year MFA in Dance student Katherine Dorn, this easily accessible knowledge exacerbated potential feelings of “imposter syndrome” as a graduate student and is the crux of her solo piece “You Are Here,” one of two performances featured in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre’s MainStage production Emerging Artists this weekend.

“Imposter syndrome is when you feel like none of your accomplishments are actually from your own talent — everyone else actually earned the right to be here whereas I’m just pretending,” she said. “The fact that there’s so many ‘how-to’ videos on the Internet and on YouTube [means that] we have this place where we can reference and say to ourselves we don’t actually know how to do anything, we just have the internet all the time.”

Dorn, who has been dancing since she was 3 years old, calls her piece a choreographic memoir exploring anxiety in the YouTube generation.

She says dancing is her life, but in grad school she decided to also pursue her talent for writing, merging the two fields. In her time at ASU she has presented pieces that deal with the physical movement of words and writing as well as dancing to recorded stories. For Emerging Artists, her multidisciplinary postmodern dance production incorporates these ideas with the tools authors use when writing memoirs.

“I took some creative writing courses, worked with some specifically memoir writers and actually used their tools and their teaching methods as part of my choreographic process,” Dorn said.

She hopes when audiences see her choreographic memoir on stage, they see the potential power that dance has to ease any anxiety from living digital lives. 

“What I hope to communicate is the power of dance to basically help ground you in reality, especially when more than half of your life is online and intangible,” she said. “Dance can save you from that — make you feel more real when you don’t.”

Yingzi Liang also hopes people experience the power of dance with her piece, “INK.”

 

Liang, another MFA in Dance student who is featured in the Emerging Artists show, says her work is more abstract, and she often uses metaphors “to create a bridge of communication between cultural differences” she experiences as an international student from China.

Her piece started as an exploration into why she loves black-and-white photography.

“At the beginning I was kind of overwhelmed because there is a lot of theory about how whiteness means goodness and blackness means badness,” she said. “Then I realized what I believe is that people are born as a blank paper.”

Liang says this could be a black sheet of paper with white writing or a white sheet of paper with black writing. The color of the paper and the color of the writing don't matter. What matters is the writing itself, the details we add to the paper as we grow.

“I made my decision to explore my personal perspective about growth, like how my family raised me and how I went to school and all of the training that shaped my movement, and then how I created this piece,” Liang said. 

Using a cast of six dancers plus herself, Liang’s piece looks at that growing process as drawing on that blank paper.

“If I imagine the whole space in the studio as a blank paper, I’m the person, or the environment, or the context, that’s pulling the ink onto the blank paper,” she said.  

To do this, she focuses a lot on the production of the show, including costumes, the set, lighting design and multimedia aspects. The piece also includes video installations in the lobby.

Liang said because her work is abstract, people might have to guess what she’s doing, but that’s not the point.

“If you could just enjoy the piece, that would be great,” she said. “I respect all different understandings.”

What she does hope people get out of the show is that dance is a powerful art form that is more than movement. 

“I always want more audiences to realize dance is not just movement,” she said. “I’m presenting a whole creative process.”

How to watch 

When: Emerging Artists will be held at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 and 19 and at 2 p.m. Nov. 20.

Where: Dance Laboratory in the Nelson Fine Arts Center, Room 122, on the Tempe campus.

Admission: $16 for general admission; $12 for ASU faculty, staff and alumni; $12 for seniors; $8 for students. Purchase tickets online or call the Herberger Institute Box Office at 480-965-6447.