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Subject To Change

A Dance Film 

Supported in part by a Faculty-Student Research Award from the Graduate School, University of Maryland.

Subject To Change

 Loosely based on Virginia Woolf's feminist work Orlando: A Biography, Marielis Garcia, and six Graduate Students will create a new dance film entitled Subject to Change.

Subject to Change

7 sections/ideas for structure

Subject To Change

Description and Graduate Student Collaborators


We are treating this work as a site-specific performance to be performed in April of 2021 in the University of Maryland’s Kogod Theatre.  The seven graduate students in scenic, costume, lighting, projection, dance, sound and film will come together with faculty to create a live-streamed performance and dance film. 

            The impetus for this project arises from the abandoned designs for a theatrical production of Orlando that was originally scheduled to be performed in Fall 2020, but was moved  to an outdoor venue, and is now scheduled for Spring 2021 (all due to COVID-19 restrictions on indoor performances). Subject to Change adapts the foregone  production’s design ideas and adapts their concepts to work in collaboration with dance graduate students and faculty in an innovative repurposing of cast-aside scenic, costume, lighting and projection elements. Subject to Change envisions unconventional processes of production design and reimagines virtual performance.    

            This work developed out of support for the scenic designs of graduate student Mollie Singer and costume designs of graduate student Austin Conlee, whose designs were abandoned in response to COVID-19. Given the limitations around gatherings, and the inability to host indoor performances, the theatrical production of Orlando had to be shifted to an outdoor venue. Because of the limitations of that outdoor space, the scenic and costume designs which had been created throughout the last year were to be cast aside. With the help of the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS) faculty and staff, I seek to create a new original work in conversation with these designs that were fully conceived but have now been removed from their original context. 

            Treating these designs as a theatrical framework, I will work with graduate students in the Dance MFA program to create a live-streamed performance that leads to a dance film. 

            This collaboration will support the graduate students in the MFA in Design program by providing them the opportunity to fully realize their designs (albeit in a different context). Additionally, this project will support the graduate student designers and dancers professionally by initiating their artistic careers, especially having the timely experience of being part of a live-stream production. 

            Subject to Change will also challenge my own modes of creation. As artistic director of this project, I will be productively constrained by the existing design elements, forced to consider how to create a live-stream dance performance and film inside of an existing theatrical world, a sequence of production that is reversed or inverted from a typical process, so that the stage designs come first, and the choreography responds to the space. In essence the design elements will influence movement material, camera shots and the contextual underpinnings of the work.

Methods and Work Plan

            The multidisciplinary approach of this project will have significant and impactful repercussions because it promotes research and collaborative development, it supports thoughtful investigation and timely productivity; but this project especially pushes all artists involved to reconsider and evaluate their approach toward virtual performance. The budget includes a request for the technology necessary for the project., We will need two cameras, a motion rig and support for live streaming. The innovative technology embedded in this project will push the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies to join the artistic and timely conversation around virtual performance. This project will give UMD graduate students the essential experience of creating a performance that adopts and utilizes new technological concepts, through live stream. 

            Scenic and costume designs for this work have been created, and in my role as artistic director, I will help unite the various elements of the work: dance, scenic, costume, , lighting, projection, and sound designs and film. As the Dance Artist in Residence in TDPS, I am responsible for (among other things) choreographing and setting work on student performers and mentoring graduate student dancers and choreographers; this project bridges my interests as an artist and teacher. I am eager to create this new work with the invaluable support of the graduate students and TPDS faculty and staff. 

             During this time of protest and social reckoning, it is important to create and propel work forward that supports non-binary and genderqueer lives. Subject to Change is a work that speaks to the humanity and complexity of those who do not simply identify as one sex. The importance of this project during the current social unrest reinforces the School of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies’s support of LGBTQ community.


Graduate Students and Other Collaborators

            Two graduate students in the MFA in Dance Program, Carlo Villanueva and Cyrah Ward, will work with me to create and perform this new production. We aim to develop a work where there is fluidity, not unlike the eponymous Orlando. The fictional narrative tells us of Orlando, a poet who at the age of 30 has a mysterious sex change and lives for 300 years. Virginia Woolf weaves the reader through a raucous story of self-love, art, and the history of an individual inside an empire. In Subject to Change, the performance score and film will be influenced by devised theater methods. We will develop the performance score through (1) collaborative improvisatory concepts, (2) movement research where each of us takes the role of facilitator, and (3) shared personal discoveries. The process will also be inspired by Tanztheater, a performative style born out of expressionist dance at the start of the 20th century and can be defined by the way dance and dramatic elements are created in tandem. Subject to Change will use the physicality of movement to navigate theatrical content. The dancers and I will meet briefly in preparation in December (upon award news), followed by a week of intensive rehearsals during winter break, in January 2021. Using the off-session allows the dance artists to devote their full attention to this project. Throughout the Spring semester we will continue to have rehearsals and clarification sessions, culminating in the performance/filming week in April. 

In addition to working with the two dance graduate students, and the two scenic and costume design graduate students, I will hire lighting graduate student Eric Pitney and projection graduate student Sean Preston to consider the lighting and projection elements of this new dance film. Lighting and projection are an essential element of this work as I see it artistically, because these elements both create visibility for the audience and dancers, and play a pivotal role in creating the atmosphere of the work. We are also seeing the involvement of a graduate student in film who will help coordinate the film-making piece of the project. Lastly Sam Crawford, UMD’s new Sound & Media Technologist  will work with volunteer undergraduate students of TDPS to create a sound score for the performance/film, constructed around notions of textual collage and vocal hocketing drawn from the original Woolf text.

             Please note that everyone mentioned here by name will be invited to work on this project, but as the Artistic Director of Subject to Change, I am waiting to send official invitations for this project until we have confirmed funding.  

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