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‘Like Water,’ senior dance major’s project stays fluid

April 3, 2020

Ann Basu
GO WITH THE FLOW: Lucia Gagliardone '20 explored themes surrounding water in her performing arts thesis "Like Water." After the College announced its transition to remote learning, she adapted her final performance to a film format.

Before spring break, Lucia Gagliardone ’20 put up posters for her Senior Studio performance, “Like Water.” The first dance major at Bowdoin, she wanted the performance to serve as the culmination of her years-long study at Bowdoin, as in any other department. But with the recent switch to remote learning, she will not see her four dancers perform her honors project in Wish Theatre on April 1 as she had hoped, and is now rethinking how she will put her research into motion.

Gagliardone has been working on the 45-minute-long performance since the summer of 2019. Each week this academic year, she spent between 10 and 20 hours on the performance, including an hour-long rehearsal with her four dancers: Felicia Wang ’20, Shayna Olsan ’20, Emma Dewey ’22 and Lucy Sydel ’22, under the guidance of Senior Lecturer in Dance Performance Gwyneth Jones.

“It’s been a year of pretty intensive movement research and building this piece from the ground up over the past nine months,” Gagliardone wrote in an email to the Orient.

Upon their return to campus after spring break, Gagliardone and her dancers were supposed to begin daily rehearsals to prepare for the April 1 performance. Instead, when the College announced its transition to remote learning, Gagliardone began thinking about ways the piece could be interpreted without physical proximity.

“[Aoki] wisely shared with me the image of my piece as a living creature with many tentacles and said that going forward there will be many versions and evolutions of the piece,” said Gagliardone.

Ultimately, she decided to create a film version of the performance, a choice that her dancers affirmed. Each dancer, plus Gagliardone herself, will record themselves performing the whole piece somewhere in nature, and Gagliardone will combine the five videos into one film.

Gagliardone is also planning to submit the piece to summer dance festivals in her home state of Vermont, and she is working with the dance faculty in the hopes of performing her piece live at Bowdoin sometime in the fall.

The piece is Gagliardone’s meditation on identity and self, explored through the imagery of water.

In the fall she began a series of improvisations across Maine’s wilderness. Each time, she videotaped herself dancing in nature and then wrote about the experience—a technique she has adapted for a new dance blog she is working on while at home now. She then spent the next months combing through footage and finding movements that interested her, while also incorporating choreography from an improvisation she did at Muelle del Alma in Chile during her semester abroad last year.

“I found myself in this initial process coming back to water a lot,” she said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “The image of water—the way that water moves, but also thinking about it as a being. [I’m] really interested in the way that water dwells.”

The fluidity and movement of water allowed her to explore the experience of being an embodied, dynamic subject.

“I think that it’s a pretty radical experience to tune into what you actually see inside yourself and to tune into your actual body as a form that you exist in,” she said.

Despite the disappointment of losing the live performance, Gagliardone praised the Department of Theater and Dance for its continued support of students whose capstone performances, like hers, were cancelled because of the College’s transition to remote learning.

“I can’t speak highly enough about the department,” she said. “I think [remote learning] is pretty heartbreaking in a department that thrives off of in-person togetherness in a pretty radical way—for both theater and dance. It’s so much about the physical art form together.”

But Gagliardone said she is finding hope, both for the life of her piece and for the community around it, in the sustained dedication of her dancers.

“I still am grieving many things being a senior, but one of the biggest one was this community of dancers and this piece as a living thing,” she said.


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