PhD proposal pic









My research asserts that a close but under-utilized relationship exists between dance and landscape architecture.  From 1960-1990, Anna and Lawrence Halprin established the foundation for my work with their interdisciplinary efforts, which resulted in built and performed design forms and choreography that mutually represents their disciplines with dialogue and methodological exchange. The Halprins’ work together created landscape architectural designs that consider the human occupant and the design more equally.  Few design curriculums currently include studies of dance in any form.  In fact, “Dance Studies” itself is a relatively new field, and is not named as an area of inquiry in many “Dance Departments.”  However, invited by Walter Gropius, then chair of the Harvard School of Design (HSD), Anna Halprin notably taught dance courses at the HSD to design students while Lawrence Halprin was in attendance.  Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus, in Germany, where theatre designers, dancers, architects, furniture designers, and costume designers, et al. deliberately worked and studied together to foster connections between their disciplines.  I believe that public space design can be made richer by employing dance and choreographic knowledge in the design process.


Having already launched from the Halprins’ substantive base, I plan to continue my work with William Forsythe and OSU’s Video Abstraction Tool and expand from it to additional choreographic softwares.  I see these softwares as making the invisible interstitial space between dance and design visible.


Pedagogically, I will develop appropriate dance courses for design students to create a fundamental repertoire of spatial techniques to guide designers in physical explorations of space.  To this end, I will engage in dance technique, choreography and performance opportunities at OSU to inform my own physical research.


I intend to fortify my knowledge of the scholarship in my interdisciplinary field by comprehensively interrogating these areas:


  1. The gardens of Andre Le Notre in parallel with strolling and dancing of the same time period.  My focus will be on the gardens of Versailles and Vaux le Vicomte.  Emerging from rural spaces, these designs created paradigm shifts in the design of urban public spaces.
  2. Merce Cunningham, the paradigm shifter in stage organization and the concept of dance and performance.  I see his work as a bridge for understanding landscape architecture as parallel to dance.  (Maybe Balanchine and Alwin Nikolais additionally?)
  3. William Whyte’s urban fabric work.  Whyte famously published work on human choices in designed city environments in his The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces.  His work laid the foundation to consider the city as theatre.  (Maybe Jane Jacobs and Roberta Gratz additionally?)




I feel that my work must include a choreographic research methodology.  This involves observation and analysis of specific designed environments.  An iterative process here will reveal some type of inherent patterns and shapes in design and pedestrian movement. I hypothesize that, in a sense, moving building blocks like the pliés, tendus and dégagés in ballet exist in the pedestrian choreography of designed spaces.  The unearthing of these elements may be similar to Jérôme Bel’s Disabled Theater where handicapped individuals unveil preconceived notions about theatre in regards to “edges” of performance space, who is a performer, and what is rehearsal.

This research will culminate in a rigorous dissertation which, in addition to prose, will include imagery, diagrams, a number of design processes and choreographic works embedded on a DVD or CD in electronic format.



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