Singletrack: Choreographer Raphaelle Ziemba

Raphaelle Ziemba
On the participatory series, "Dance: A Moving Canvas"

"Dance: A Moving Canvas" is program that seeks to expand dance audiences in Chicago by enabling participants to deepen their understanding of the choreographic process. Three choreographers were chosen by jury to develop work for the program. CAR Dance Researcher Victoria Bradford spoke with one of them, Raphaelle Ziemba, a choreographer and member of Cerqua Rivera Dance Theater, about her experience with the jurying and choreographic processes.

I developed my proposal for "Dance: A Moving Canvas" out of my ongoing research into the process of perception, and how that process impacts our awareness of our own bodies. This research stems from my interest in phenomenology—the structure of consciousness during experience. Specifically, I am exploring the body’s physical response—how it moves—during experiences.

My proposal for "Dance: A Moving Canvas" included strategies to engage the audience through participation in the creative process. I was excited to see how my previous research involving non-dancers would extend to engaging a non-dance-experienced audience. My goal was to create a work that provided a safe place for the audience to network their individual experiences. 

I developed movement exercises to encourage my dancers to deepen awareness of their consciousness, their bodies and each other. I wanted to empower the dancers to see themselves as more than "artworks" or objects to be perceived. These exercises were designed to break through established patterns in order for the dancers to be able to move as their true selves.

My research into phenomenology led to a connection with color by way of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Theory of Colours. Goethe believed color was a result of the interaction of light, darkness and shadow. By exploring the different ways we see color—the natural variations of light throughout the day, our spatial relationship to a colored object, artificial lighting (or lack thereof), and the bodies surrounding the colored object—I began to focus my research into structures for movement.

The choreography itself took shape as a modular composition. It consisted of five color-related sections, each of which comprised smaller sections. I specifically designed the work so that sections could be reordered to give the audience easy access into the creative process. I wanted to give them the tools to structure the piece as they saw fit and to think about their own process of perception. 

In the end, I felt the audience possessed a sense of agency. They played with the structure of the dance, gave direction to the musician and were excited to get close and personal with my dancers. The evening became a collective work that challenged our perceptions and encouraged us to expand our experiences with art.

Raphaelle Ziemba grew up in Oak Park, Illinois and began her training at the Academy of Movement and Music. From 1995-98, she attended Interlochen Arts Academy where she continued to perform and choreograph, in 2002 she graduated from SUNY Purchase with a BFA in dance performance. In May of 2013 she received her Masters of Arts in arts education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Ziemba has worked with Instruments of Music, Concert Dance, Inc., The Civic Ballet, Tyego Dance, Hedwig Dances, Corpo, Chicago Opera Theater, Sarasota Opera Theater, The Lira Ensemble ,and apprenticed with River North Dance Chicago. Currently, Ziemba is the associate artistic director, outreach instructor, resident choreographer and company member of Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre. She performs and choreographs for MOMENTA, and is a performance artist with A House Unbuilt.

On this track:
Raphaelle Ziemba, Choreographer
Laura Chiuve, Dancer
Rachel Cortes, Dancer
Andrea Deline, Dancer
Rachel Pike, Dancer
Becky Mikos, Dancer
James Sanders, Violin
Zac Whittenburg, Moderator

"Singletrack" is CAR's Artist Story for Chicago performers in which songwriters, bands, playwrights, actors and writers discuss the creation of a recorded work alongside audio or video clips of the performance. To submit your song for consideration, please email our researchers.

Submitted by CAR_Dance on Wed, 02/05/2014 - 7:49am