Panel: Multidisciplinary Performance as Change-Agent: A Framework for Replication | Genevieve Durham DeCesaro & Rachel Hirshorn | Moderator: Cristina Goletti

Multidisciplinary Performance as Change-Agent: A Framework for Replication

Interpersonal and “inter-web” conversations about dementia tend to focus on the devastation of the disease, particularly the ways in which it bulldozes individual identities. Frequently, individuals living with the disease become subordinate to the disease itself. They lose their identities twice: first, to dementia, and, second, to larger narratives that focus on the disease rather than the person. This panel serves as a forum for exploring the challenges and opportunities associated with creating a multidisciplinary performance that crosses traditional boundaries between the arts and sciences, performers and audiences, and patients and caregivers with an end goal of affecting a shift in the way audiences perceive dementia and individuals living with it.

Multidisciplinary Performance as Change-Agent: A Framework for Replication, offers participants a structured approach to working across academic disciplines to reexamine socially constructed narratives. In particular, the panel will deconstruct a performance project titled Remember This? A Participatory Performance Experience. To execute this project, faculty members from the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and Texas Tech University’s Department of Psychological Sciences worked with faculty members from Texas Tech University’s School of Theatre and Dance to reframe ways in which communities affected by dementia engage with and understand the disease.

The panel will focus on describing our collaborative approach to the larger project, including: 1) examining the logistics of piecing together key sections of the performance, including revising and reconceptualizing an existing original dancework; 2) analyzing attitudes about the disease and questioning whether a performance experience has the ability to shift those attitudes, and; 3) reflecting on the challenges inherent in multidisciplinary collaborations with an eye toward suggesting strategies to overcome them. The panel will encourage attendees to consider the ways in which dance, and in this case, dance in collaboration with other arts and sciences, can facilitate social change at both the micro and macro levels.

Genevieve Durham DeCesaro is Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Professor of Dance at Texas Tech University. Her choreography has been commissioned and performed across the country, with notable presentations at Virginia Tech, Spelman College, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. She served as Director of the South-Central Region of the American College Dance Association from 2012 through 2018 and is a Visiting Evaluator for the National Association of Schools of Dance. She maintains an active performance career and focuses her research in the areas of feminism in dance, transformative curricula, and equity in dance education. Her book, Ordinary Wars: Doing Transdisciplinary Research, coauthored with noted social scientist Dr. Elizabeth Sharp, was published in 2016.

Rachel Hirshorn-Johnston is an Assistant Professor of Voice & Speech at Texas Tech University, where her research examines the intersection of performing arts methodologies on vulnerable (i.e. patient, female, veteran) populations. She is a certified teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework®, and a professional actor and dialect coach. Rachel regularly contracts in regional theatre throughout the country. As an actor, her work has been critically acclaimed (NY Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, among others) throughout the US and Europe in professional theatre. She is an active member of Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), the Voice and Speech Trainer’s Association (VASTA), and the Pan-American Vocology Association (PAVA).

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