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ISSUE 116 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/11/2002

Survival of the female artists

By Emily Judd
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 11, 2002

Several feet of paper filled with drawings of moving bodies covered the walls and mirrors of Dittmann Center’s Dance Studio Three early last week. These drawings were remnants of the Art and Dance Survivor weekend that took place Sept. 27 through Sept. 29. Five artists and five dancers accepted the challenge to be confined to the Dittmann Center for 36 hours in an attempt to integrate the two art forms.

The challenge was the joint idea of Assistant Dance Professor Sherry Saterstrom and Assistant Art and Art History Professor John Saurer. They came up with the idea late last spring and made it a reality last month.

According to Saterstrom, she first started thinking about the "Survivor" concept and why people seemed to be so fascinated with it a couple years ago. She wanted to figure out a way to transform the concept into a learning environment. She also wanted to find a way to integrate the fine arts more on this campus, especially with the plans to build the Dittmann Center to house both Art and Dance. "I felt the need for something different," Saterstrom said.

After a couple of conversations, Saterstrom and Saurer agreed that dancers and artists both have similar skills to offer and it would be interesting to put them together in a survivor situation.

"We’re both image-makers; dancers just do it in a kinetic way," Saterstrom explained.

The students were required to arrive at Dittmann by 7:00 p.m. Friday evening and were not allowed to leave until Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. Their time was filled with many different activities and challenges including drawing lessons to learn how to put movement onto paper and a touch exercise that transitioned into partner dances.

On Saturday afternoon, each of the participants were given a roll of electrical tape and were told to use it all up in the amount of time it took for water to empty out of a bucket with a hole in the bottom. Students also explored on their own, either by choreographing, practicing improvisational dance or going down to one of the art studios to paint, draw, or sculpt.

However, just because the students were given these challenges and activities did not necessarily mean they had to do them. For every assignment, they had the freedom to choose not to do it. Most of them took advantage of the opportunities though, since the environment was perfect.

According to dance major Kate Bronson ’04, "The activities got us talking. They made us realize that we are both trying to create art, so we found a common bond."

Bronson said the best part of the weekend was its renewing effect on her.

Saterstrom agreed, "It built great community. Everybody wanted to learn each others’ skills."

On Sunday morning Saterstrom and Saurer rejoined the ten students for a "debriefing" on how the weekend went. Saterstrom said that one student felt it was the most meaningful thing she had ever done at St. Olaf. Another said it was the healthiest creative environment she had ever been in.

"It was a place with no judging, no leader, no product expectation, and no wondering if this is good enough," said Saterstrom.

Noah Holm, a fifth year apprentice in the Art department, took the responsibility of coordinating the activities and making sure the students had food to eat and videotaped the events of the weekend. There was a camera set up in Studio Three the entire time, drawing live feed down to cameras set up in the halls of Dittmann. Holm also videotaped certain times himself, in order to produce an unedited 20 minute documentary of the process. This video will be shown at the dance department’s "Movimento" performance on Oct. 26 at 3:00 p.m. in Studio One of Dittmann.

The students that participated in the survivor weekend were Lauren Asheim ’03, Bronson , Rebekah Decker-Soltvedt ’05, Asra Halvorson ’03, Elizabeth Honl ’03, Allison Lorenzen ’04, Kate Monson ’04, Sarah Perry ’03, Christiana Reader ’05 and Katherine Yehling ’04.

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