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November 27, 2000

Teague tackles meaning of dance
from all sides

By Michael Alpert

The brightness that blinds stage performers to their audience is a warm limelight that’s illuminated Lori Teague’s life. Yet her focus recently has been on breaking through the partition between dancer and viewer and commingling with her audience’s energy.

“I want to break down that barrier,” said Teague, assistant professor in the Emory Dance Program, part of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Dance. “I really enjoy the exchange I have with my audience when I can see them.

“There’s a dynamic of playing with them that I like,” she said of her occasional preference for stages surrounded by audience members, where viewers feel more a part of performances. “I think movement can be just as dynamic from the back and side of my body as from the front of my body.”

Teague is currently working with nine student dancers to restage a 13-minute piece entitled “Echo Nest,” one of seven works that make up the program’s fall concert, “7 Considerations,” at the Mary Gray Munroe Theater, Nov. 16-18. “Echo Nest” is presented conventionally on frontal stage, unlikeTeague’s other fall creation, “Runway Dances,” which was presented in September in the Performing Arts Studio with the audience flanking the stage, similar to a fashion show runway.

Teague has conducted choreographic research focusing on three-dimensional, site-specific dance since the early 1990s, when she began making dances in settings other than a traditional theater. Her exploration of the dimensional elements and psychology of space complements that of Emory’s three other full-time dance faculty, whose research interests combine with Teague’s to make Emory’s still-small program a burgeoning one.

Sally Radell, associate professor and director of the dance program, is studying the integration of movement and text and how verbal and non-verbal communication combine in presentation. Associate

Professor Anna Leo is devoting her efforts to the study of duet forms and gender roles in dance, and instructor Wayne Smith dedicates much of his energy to individual performances portraying life themes.

But while Teague’s point of reference begins near her department colleagues’, her research since coming to Emory in 1992 has set her on a slightly different path. She’s focused on the analysis of movement, first developed by renowned movement theorists Rudolph Laban and Irmgard Bartenieff.

Teague said movement can be analyzed in primarily four ways: “body,” or what part of the body is speaking and how; “shape,” or the form the body creates; “space,” or the directions, dimensions and planes in which movement takes place; and “effort,” or the qualitative use of energy. Teague looks specifically at effort phrasing and the use of space in her work.

Her teaching focus has come to include movement fundamentals, improvisation, dance literacy, composition and modern technique.

Teague’s efforts help make up a curriculum enjoyed each year by an estimated 10 dance majors, 30 minors and another 600 or so students in the general dance courses. The program’s curriculum attempts to develop students’ awareness and appreciation of movement in diverse styles, as well as how to communicate through non-verbal expression.

Teague’s research has revealed dance’s continuing departure from its more constructive and often restrictive roots, and has exposed her to a freer and less restrained genre that respects fundamentals but at times branches almost out of bounds.

“It’s like our verbal language,” she said of choreographic research. “You learn the mechanics of writing, like point of view, etc., but then you aquire more tools to create a different and very specific result.”

“She loves to take risks and dives right into the creative process,” Radell said of Teague. “She never shies away from large and complex projects.”

“You learn rules, then you want to break them,” Teague said. “Dance movement now is much more abandoned, and there’s a lot more risk in dance now.”

Leo, who’s handpicked Teague to perform in some of her presentations, complements her colleague’s intangible energy.

“She’s unafraid to investigate new ideas with her dance,” Leo said. “The time spent in the studio with her is very rich—she creates a rich, creative environment.”


Back to Emory Report Nov. 27, 2000