If you want to know about creation of site-specific dance and performance art, Stephan Koplowitz is one of the best people to talk to. As someone who has been creating site-specific dance performances for years under a variety of circumstances—including works created and performed in Grand Central Station, in a defunct German factory, in London’s Natural History Museum, and in the Los Angeles subway system—Koplowitz has much to share on the basis of his personal experience. And luckily for us, he is offering a career’s worth of wisdom for free to anyone with Internet access.
”Creating Site-Specific Dance and Performance Works” is a MOOC (massive open online course), available through the California Institute of the Arts, where Koplowitz is dean of the Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance. This second-time offering of the course provides the rigorous research, pedagogical consideration, and resources of a university seminar without the obligation of physical attendance. Designed to function as a guide for creating a site-specific performance, the workshop is being used by many participants to inform their own creative process. The course website makes it very clear, however, that anyone with any curiosity about site-specific performance is welcome to join.
Course content consists of a series of video lectures, on-air conversations with influential choreographers working in the field, assignments that can be submitted and discussed with classmates, and forums in which participants and facilitators can discuss related ideas. The lecture videos cover a brief history of the field, the artist’s creative relationship to a site, logistical issues of production and funding, and techniques for documenting work. New lectures are uploaded each week, and students can be as actively or passively engaged as they choose. Guest speakers for this term include Elise Bernhardt, Betsy Gregory, and Meredith Monk. The current term runs from September 29 to November 14, 2014 (students can still join). Those interested in obtaining a certificate for completing the course can do so for a small fee, for which financial aid is available.
After Koplowitz’s successful first run, this term he has invited several participants from the founding class to facilitate as community teaching assistants. Surely he will need the extra help—nearly 1800 students from 125 countries have checked out the site since the course began on September 29, including a butoh/video artist in Budapest, a Brazilian drama teacher in Mumbai, and a ballerina-turned-psychologist in Australia. Obviously, one of the strongest features of the course is the diversity of the student body and the variety of perspectives and insights they will share throughout the six-week term.
Throughout the lectures, Koplowitz and guest speakers continuously stress how one of the greatest draws of site-specific work is its ability to re-contextualize how we relate to performance and to a specific space. How appropriate, then, to discard the traditional settings of dance studios and lecture halls and bring this course into all the places where one can find wifi.
Louise Eberle is a Brooklyn-based writer, dancer, and adventurer.