The WHATness of a Project

These are the books that are serving as allies and references for this project.

In my Interdisciplinary Research Studio this week we were asked to begin formulating the “WHATness” of our projects. This is basically the general and specific ideas of a project based on the groundwork of setting yourself up for fruitful creative research. Of course, the groundwork process can continue as you move forward with the research and the making, but the question of “WHATness” is designed to begin the scaffolding on top of that groundwork. What are your ideas, keywords, materials, references/guides/allies, objectives, hopes and dreams, the stuff of it? 

We were asked to answer these prompts:

  • Tell us about your project and any key themes.
  • What final forms do you imagine it might take? If you don’t know, that’s fine – but if you have dreams, share them.
  • How do you go about making this project? What methods do you have and where might you seek new methods? 
  • Who is your audience? What specific communities do you hope to engage through this project?
  • What is at stake in this work for you? For your community/audience?

So, here is my WHATness. I don’t know if I’ve answered all these prompts, and I don’t know that I have to. I wrote what was in my notes – I wrote what was in my head – I wrote what came to me in the moment. I’m finding the joy in having the luxury of this course to explore process and not rush to a product. I’m leaning into what has heat – this is a term that my professor, Norah Zuniga-Shaw, uses to describe what is important to us right now, in this moment – so enjoy the heat.

Trace: WHATness

Key words: 

  • Gender/Sexuality/Queer Identity
  • Gestures
  • Signaling 
  • Code switching/coded language/coded movement
  • Research: text, lived experiences, reflection 
  • Collaborators/Performers
  • Community
  • Digital Performance
  • Words

What is this project about?

This project is about the embodiment of sexuality, specifically through a queer lens. I’m interested in the concepts of signaling, gestures, code switching and body language, and the sensation experienced by queer bodies as they inhabit different spaces. In my own experience, I have found that I move and speak differently when I’m with a group of gay men than I do when I’m around my family. In a public place, like a store or a bar, we signal our identities whether intentionally or unintentionally. The environments we’re in inform our gestures, speech, stance, and mannerisms. In researching this embodied shifting I hope to understand the emotional and sensorial experience that people in the LGBTQIA+ community live every day. 


  • How do we signal queerness?
  • What are the choreographic possibilities of signal/signaling?
  • What is the sensation and physicality of code switching? 
  • What does it feel like/look like to embody queerness in heteronormative spaces?
  • How does our body and language change when we move from one community to the next? (gay friends, straight friends, family, co-workers, students, formal, informal)
  • What does kinesthetic speech look like?

Books as allies (for actual content or just the idea of the book):

  • “Queer Dance: Meanings and Makings” by Clare Croft
  • “Dancing Desires: Choreographing Sexuality On & Off the Stage” by Jane C. Desmond
  • “A Queer History of the United Sates” by Michael Bronski
  • “Queer Phenomenology” by Sara Ahmed
  • “Digital Performance: A history of new media in theater, dance, performance art, and installation” by Steve Dixon
  • “Darling Days: a memoir” by iO Tillett Wright

What will the final form look like?

My goal is to have some sort of digital performance. This might mean a dance film or an archive of short dance films. It could be a live performance on Zoom (right now this one feels very low heat because the logistics of Zoom stress me out). It could be a combination of recorded and live happenings, or it could be something I haven’t even thought of yet. I would like to incorporate some of the skills I’m learning with Isadora software in my Interactive Media Processing course, but I don’t yet know all of its capabilities and I’m not sure if I will feel confident in my skills by the time this project is birthed. There will also be some kind of word element – written word, spoken word – words are holding a lot of heat for me now. This might consist of anything/everything from a blog post to spoken text in the performance, or maybe an online gallery of poems, free writes, and essays created during the creation process. 

What is my next step?

Play – Research – Investigate – Indulge (Let’s play in the SANDBOX)

Get into a space, alone and with collaborators, to begin digging into these questions. Lean into the heat and indulge in the exploration of movement, words, sounds, sensations.

Something that is holding heat for me right now are words. Maybe it’s because I’m reading and writing a lot more this semester, maybe it’s because I got back into touch with creative writing and journaling/blogging last semester – either way words are speaking to artistic intellect and creativity right now. Exploring the physicality of words is bubbling up for me. Improvisation always plays some role in my dance making, and it often makes it into the final product. I find the play in improvisation can be extremely truth telling and I’m also finding the play in free writing and prompted writing has that same effect. So, my next step will be to get some people together and play – using dialogues about experience to inform both improvised movement and writing, reflecting on those experiences, using my research questions to guide exploratory processes, and ultimately creating a space where discovery can foster community. 

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