Creative Research

Creative ResearchCreative research drives Dance at Illinois. We embrace diverse viewpoints, investigate new approaches, find connections, and immerse in the process of discovery. Our goal is not to establish a specific style or develop an end point but to explore and stretch the field of dance. We examine how Caribbean culture is expressed and lived, harness technology for interactive works, integrate mind-body practices into dance training, establish performance-centered science fairs, make dances that rupture forms and time, engage the public in rich sensory experiences of the environment and natural systems, craft mobile performance dwellings, and much more. Through investigations in our collaborative laboratories, our award-winning faculty, our current students, and our alumni engage dance in today's critical issues and generate new possibilities for future generations.

Jane Desmond

Jane Desmond works on issues related to embodied identity and social categories of expressivity and belonging. A specialist in performance studies, she has written widely about dance and the performative dimensions of daily life, such as tourism, and includes questions involving embodied dimensions of life beyond the human—especially the nonhuman animal realm. Expanding out of dance studies per se, she now investigates how the performative dimensions of daily life, including aesthetic forms, are crucial to understanding the constitution of human categories of social differentiation (such as gender, sexuality, race, and national belonging) as well as the socially specific notions of belonging to species—including notions of a more-than-human world. While dance is her home location, she has expanded that focus to engage with questions of how bodily identity and movement in space are crucial dimensions of understanding social and political relations, one that ultimately expands beyond the human species.

Lisa Gay Dixon

Over the past decade, Lisa Gaye Dixon's academic research has centered on physiology and physical impulse in acting work, specific to the effect of emotional and psychological states on movement and sound and the resultant action demonstrated in the moment onstage, with or without text. She continues to develop exercises for the actor's (and mover's) body and voice that address these ideas in an extreme and challenging manner. This exploration—which combines elements of voice, speech, and Laban movement work, addresses the entire entity of the actor's body—their kinesphere. When coupled with the physiological impulse work, this helps the actor to discover and expand the limits of their vocal and physical abilities, thus leading to a greater awareness of their bodies in space and a wider array of possibilities of expression in rehearsal and performance.

Jan Erkert

Jan Erkert Training the Next Generation of Dance ArtistsGiven the shifting landscape of the field of dance in the 21st century, questions have shaped the trajectory of my creative research in four primary areas.

Sara Hook

Sara Hook and Paul Matteson in Bored House GuestsHook's aim is to contribute to the art of dance by being a good role model/citizen, to create opportunities for other dance artists, and to make work that both honors our artistic forbears and enlivens our experience of contemporary culture. She seeks to synthesize contemporary sensibilities and training within an enduring dialogue with the ideas in masterworks of past artists. Because of a natural mistrust of trend, her investigations are often fueled by a need to embed critical comment on contemporary dance within her work. Therefore the very nature of performance is often the subject of her dances; she is compelled to reveal the tragicomic traits of the life devoted to dance.