Workshops & series for inquiry into sustainable pedagogies

This ongoing research is a consideration of the larger ecology of western dance technique: how dance techniques are taught, and the implications of these teaching methods on the progress of the field. Using Cunningham Technique as an anchor, my work centers on the pedagogies of studio dance courses, the various attitudes on teaching and learning rigorous dance techniques, and the development of alternative learning contexts for the study of technical movement practices.

American Dance Festival: Looking at dance technique through the lens of “freedom” (can we?)
July 9, 2019

Referencing her recent fellowship work Cunningham Technique as a Practice of Freedom, Justin will discuss some of the philosophical principles at the foundation of the Cunningham class—this work links big ideas to the action! Making clear connections between Zen Buddhist thinking, Merce Cunningham, and his technique class, the research goes on to ask: How can knowing these ideas provide us with new perspectives on approaching and practicing technical dancing in any form? The sharing of this research will serve as a jumping off point for the group to consider some of the questions that swirl around in the dance field: Why study dance techniques? What is “technique,” really…? How has the practice of class changed over time, and where can we take it from here?

Duke University: Cunningham Technique as a Practice of Freedom
April-May 2019

Marking the centenary of legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham, dancer and choreographer Justin Tornow will present a series of master-classes that reframes some of Cunningham’s methodology for the technique. This series acts as a basic introduction to Cunningham Technique as well as a launch pad for Tornow to infuse it with contemporary agency. Tornow is a 2018-2019 Merce Cunningham dance research fellow at the New York Public Library.

 Cunningham Technique-- developed by the avant garde choreographer Merce Cunningham-- is well known for increasing a dancer's range, physical strength, and possibilities for movement. Notably, the practice is also rooted in an ideology based on freedom, individuality, and experimentation. Over the course of the 5-week series, we will use each class as a laboratory to research how we can apply Cunningham principles to our own movement interests. We will begin by exploring the traditional Cunningham class format, then gradually erode the set structure to extract some essential elements and features of the work to embody in guided composition studies and improvisations.

justin tornow