Professor of Dance Ann Cooper Albright Receives 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship

April 16, 2019

Amanda Nagy

woman posing for portrait with pinck shirt and long white hair
Professor and Chair of Dance Ann Cooper Albright
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones ’97

Ann Cooper Albright, professor and chair of the dance department, has been awarded a 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship to support her latest work, which takes place at the intersection of practice and scholarship and writing and dancing.

A scholar and dancer, Albright says her new book project, Simone Forti: Improvising a Life, connects her interests in improvisational practice and performance with her desire to write embodied history.

“Given that my energies over the past few years have been spent researching and writing a broadly interdisciplinary discussion of bodies and the world, it feels very good to come back to a dance-specific project, especially one that is so fully rooted in my own extensive experience with the genre of contemporary improvisation,” says Albright, whose most recent book How to Land:  Finding Ground in an Unstable World, came out in December.

“Because Forti’s work integrates text and movement, her improvisations lend themselves particularly well to my scholarly method of interweaving textual sources with embodied experience—connecting, once again, thinking and moving with philosophy and dance.”

Forti is a dancer and writer who integrates voice, language, and movement into compelling and groundbreaking improvisational performances. From her early forays in movement constructions of the 1960s and 1970s, to her use of text with works like “Logomotion” and “Moving the Telling” of the 1980s and 1990s, to her more recent performances such as “News Animations,” Forti has consistently stretched the boundaries of postmodern dance to mix abstract movement with storytelling and political commentary, Albright explains. Now an octogenarian and still performing, “Forti has spent a lifetime weaving together the movement of her mind with the movement of her body to create a unique body of work at the intersection of dancing and art,” she says.

Guggenheim fellows are appointed on the basis of past achievement and exceptional promise for future accomplishment. Albright is among 168 scholars, artists, and writers chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in this year’s competition.

Combining her interests in dancing and cultural theory, Albright teaches a variety of courses that seek to engage students in both practices and theories of the body. She is the founder and director of Girls in Motion, an award-winning after-school program at Oberlin’s Langston Middle School, and is codirector of Accelerated Motion: Towards a New Dance Literacy in America, National Endowment for the Arts-supported website that facilitates active learning and the exchange of teaching strategies and resources to support educators who teach dance studies as a humanistic discipline. She also is a veteran practitioner of Contact Improvisation, a form of improvised partner dancing, and has taught workshops throughout the United States and abroad.

Albright says the Oberlin dance department boasts highly productive faculty who teach, perform, and lecture nationally and internationally.

“What is exciting for me is that hopefully this honor will raise the profile of the department within the college, so that colleagues from other departments will see how our work connects ideas with embodiment,” she says. “We do not just move in the studio, we move in the world.”

Albright’s other books include Engaging Bodies: The Politics and Poetics of Corporeality (2013) which won the Selma Jeanne Cohen Prize from the American Society for Aesthetics; Modern Gestures: Abraham Walkowitz Draws Isadora Duncan Dancing (2010); Traces of Light: Absence and Presence in the Work of Loïe Fuller (2007); Choreographing Difference: the Body and Identity in Contemporary Dance (1997).  

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