Blurring the Lines: Collective Resonance During COVID-19

Part of our “Art and Artists are Essential” collection and invitation.

Intermediate Ballet (Dance 122) completed the Fall 2020 semester by producing “Blurring the Lines.”  This short dance film explores the boundaries between classical ballet and contemporary styles. Undergraduate students sought to find a collective way of being, dancing, and breathing, despite physical distance. Students created phrases with an eye towards the future of ballet, worked with a nonlinear score, developed their capacity to attune to one another in both synchronous and asynchronous movements, explored improvisation, and moved towards flow states.

“My students in Dance 122 (Intermediate Ballet) and I were craving the energy of working towards a special event that we so often enjoy performing arts,” explains instructor Courtney Liu ’13, MFA in Dance ’21. In response, I teamed up with our brilliant accompanist, John Hanks, who composed the music and sound score, and then reached out to the MFA EDA program. I was connected with Emma Geiger, MFA EDA ’22, who filmed and edited the final video. We set a ‘film day’ and created ‘Blurring the Lines.”

Watch the video and read on for reflections from the three chief collaborators on creating within the parameters of social distancing.

“Working on this video performance with Courtney, John, and the students allowed us to experience a sense of community during a time that has been particularly isolating for many creators. The energy that this collaboration gave us was a reminder to seek out opportunities to work with other artists. Creative projects are still being made and it is more important than ever to share, engage with, and celebrate each other’s work.” — Emma Geiger, MFA EDA ’22

“Students were hungry to participate in the arts last semester. Being stuck mostly in their rooms taking classes via computer, the chance to go to a beautiful dance studio in the Ruby and dance with other people—albeit socially distanced—was important and therapeutic. Dancers gotta dance! We look forward to seeing everyone next semester!” — John Hanks, “Blurring the Lines” composer and Duke Dance Program music coordinator

“In the creative process, I’ve heard (and experienced), that there is first a period of excitement and then a period of uncertainty (why did I do this…. is this going to work…). As the momentum gets going, the joy of creation and art-making provides the energy to finish. In COVID-19, it has sometimes felt easy to abandon a project at the phase of uncertainty. When this happens, I draw inspiration from the artists and creative thinkers around me. They are using 2020 to hone their resourcefulness, dedication, focus, perseverance, and tech skills. They are using 2020 to learn more about their own cycles of rest and regeneration through creativity. They are expanding their horizons by working with new collaborators and uncovering inner creative voices that may have been drowned out by the constant shuttling from event-to-event. I am so proud to be a part of this community of artists/thinkers/makers and am especially thankful for eager students who were willing to try new things and experiment, and for generous collaborators who shared their time and talents to make this particular piece happen!” — Courtney Liu ’13, MFA in Dance ’21

Courtney Liu ’21 is an MFA student in Dance with the College Teaching Certificate, also Duke alum class of 2013 (Psychology major, MMS Certificate) and served as the teaching assistant for Intermediate Ballet Dance 122.