Thesis Abstract

As a choreographer who has worked predominantly in Musical Theatre, I seized an opportunity to relocate from Chicago to spend a year and a half living in Grand Canyon National Park. I treated the situation as a self-conducted Artistic Residency and experienced this natural environment through a variety of excursions into its wild landscape. Practice as Research was the central methodology used in the studio by which I began translating these somatic imprints into choreographic material through a series of improvisation tasks. I explored the use of Somaesthetics to see if it may benefit a choreographer in capturing embodied knowledge gained through somatic experience in nature to generate artistry in a performative event. I found that Somaesthetics enriched and deepened my understanding and practice of movement creation as well as my conception of a work. By engaging this active philosophy in an austere location, a specific somatic signature emerged through a conscious aesthetic meliorism, rooted in the layers within. (Zaremba,2018)

Thesis Trailer

This video was created to publicize the performance portion of my Thesis Research in Grand Canyon. 

(video conception and editing done by myself)

Watch it!

Excerpts from the Performance in Grand Canyon National Park, and the Talk Back session that followed. For full video- contact Melissa by clicking below.


Read it!

Coming Soon! - There will be a link to the written work:

"Embodying a Natural Environment as Catalyst for Emergent Movement: A Somaesthetic Approach to Choreography in Grand Canyon National Park" - in the Jacksonville University Library

(An Introductory Chapter taken directly from the Thesis writing)

The Basement Layer….

The Vishnu Basement Rocks of the Grand Canyon are 1.8 billion years old. They are the result of a collision between the North American Continent and a chain of volcanic islands that subjected them to intense heat and pressure, in which point they re-crystallized through a process known as metamorphism. (NPS, 2017) Metamorphic rocks are set apart by this process; Sedimentary rocks - collect, Igneous -start as liquid and crystallize, and Metamorphic are subjected to an entirely different process that is transformative. What you have before is not what you have after, but, what you had before dictates what you have after. Quite literally, you have all the same things, in an entirely new structure.  I view this as a metaphor for the process I hope to place my choreographic practice under.


In my case- I am looking to see what I must do to myself, to create a new result out of the same ingredients. I am seeking to find this type of transformative process within my choreographic process by placing it under new sets of conditions, pressures, and environmental factors which will act as catalysts within a PAR (Practice as Research) framework. I am walking in a dancer/choreographer who works predominantly in Musical Theatre, and has 36 years of formal training in Ballet, Tap, and Jazz, among other styles. I will use the embodied philosophy of Somaesthetics to help push beyond this known catalogue of movement that has been reinforced within my body by focusing on body consciousness and lived somatic experience of excursions in Grand Canyon. Somaesthetics seems a perfect match for my catalytic location, which is rich with opportunity for unique and meaningful experience through physical interaction with landscape. My hope is that this will erode superficial layers and promote growth as a choreographer in revealing a deeper form of movement from within that will resonate with others. Somaesthetics’ roots in Transcendentalism and Pragmatist Aesthetics benchmark the multi-faceted approach to embodied ‘living’ that will carry into my improvisational research activities to break past “dance technique,” and root me in “existence.” Then, I will be connecting with my body from a deeper place, which will further my understanding by identifying movement by which I (we) utilize to live and experience life on earth (specifically this location). The aesthetics will come back – as you cannot remove the dance from the dancer – but when they do, they will be tempered by this approach to Choreography that is drastically different than former processes I have employed, resulting in a transformation.

("Embodying a Natural Environment as Catalyst for Emergent Movement: A Somaesthetic Approach to Choreography in Grand Canyon National Park, Melissa Zaremba - 2018)