Hiplet Ballerinas

Homer Hans Bryant and Hiplet

The Dance Theater of Harlem and founder Arthur Mitchell

Maria Tallchief (Osage): Indigenous Dancer and Innovator 

Inclusivity, Diversity, Access, and Social Justice in Dance Background

Storytelling & the Performing Arts

The performing and creative arts provide unique, expressive ways of rendering stories and narratives. In the same way that historians use primary texts, or archaeologists inspect long- buried artifacts in order to make meaning out of the past, so do performing artists use their chosen tools - dance, music, movement, visual art, text, spoken word, theater - to shine light on, represent and celebrate the complexity and diversity of human existence. Performing artists are often best positioned to tell stories that evoke and confront pain, trauma, violence, and inequality; their work can also offer guidance to those of us who wish to change the present in order not to repeat the past.

As you experience this curriculum, think about the ways that the performances you see use their unique tools to bring a new perspective or lens to information you might encounter via news articles, textbooks, scientific inquiry, or statistical data. Challenge yourself to imagine what happens if you put those experiences and perspectives together to tell or hear a more complex story.

The artists engaged in this project all have a unique and important relationship to storytelling, and have used different methods to tell their stories. Some of those methods and forms have been: liner notes, playlists, film scores, poetry, mixtapes, spoken memory and bodily self- expression through dance.



Considerations for the Performance

Darren Canady, KU Professor of English

Experiencing a live performance is dynamic by design. When you are in the same physical space, these artists intend to affect you on a palpable, human level. But for that to happen, you have to be an active and engaged collaborator in the experience. The best way to do that is to do some simple tracking during the piece.

Questions for Engaging a Performance

The best way to do that is to do some simple tracking during the piece. Pay attention to:

  1. What visuals catch your eye? What “pictures” are being created by the artists?
  2. How is the space being used? Does it feel expansive? Does it look compact?
  3. What’s in the soundscape? What are the textures of the music that you hear? What’s sounds exist that are NOT music?
  4. How are the human bodies you see affected by the above? What is the relationship between body, voice, sound, and space in this performance?
  5. What story is being told? What are the major points of that story?
  6. Now this one is major so make sure you’re giving it some attention: What emotions do you feel throughout the piece? Why? What moments arrest you? What moments leave you with questions?
  7. After the performance finishes, take just a few seconds to write down a list of sensory words, adjectives, or emotions you’re left with. Use these to form questions for the artists and as artifacts to explore during the rest of the curriculum.
  8. How does this performance allow you to notice or experience your own body in a new or different way?

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