Master of Fine Arts
MOTIVATION In Richmond, there are 1.21 times as many African Americans as any other ethnic group. Yet 63.4% of African Americans live in poverty (Richmond, VA). African Americans face greater exposure to stress due to low socioeconomic status and poverty. In these communities, “discrimination and deprivation undermine individuals’ ability to accumulate the social and material resources to mitigate the effects of stress” (Brondolo, 2018). In this city’s African American community, where stress levels are high and consequential health concerns are prevalent, dance can be a remedy for managing stress and improving health (Hanna, 2006).
DESIGN PROBLEM How can an intentionally designed interior environment support dance as a remedy for stress and its negative health effects? How can the design of this environment celebrate the culture of the African American community?
METHODS Literature reviews on the relationship between space and dance will help inform design decisions. Studies of programmatic precedents will focus on spaces involving dance, healing, community engagement and cultural specificity. Studies of conceptual precedents that involve movement, rhythm and the body will take place. Rudolf Laban’s notation system for studying movement in dance will be utilized to analyze the movements required of African dance, resulting in a more targeted design approach. A dancer with a background in African dance will serve as a research advisor. Interviews of African American dancers will be conducted to gain insight into the practice of dance and the needs of a dance space.
PRELIMINARY RESULTS Research shows that dance reduces stress levels. Specifically, African dance, significantly decreases perceived stress and repeated practice can lead to overall stress reduction (West, J. et al). African dance’s main purpose is to serve as an expression of the physical and psychological states of individuals, allowing for emotional release.(Welsh-Asante, 1996). Dance can be used to cope with stress by discharging repressed aggression, improving self-esteem and allowing for self expression . Dance also prevents stress through physical exercise (Hanna, 2006). Additionally, research from Steven Holl, Santiago Calatrava and other architectural masters discuss the relationships between dance and architecture.
CONCLUSION The research will inform the design of a cultural dance center for the city’s historically African American neighborhood. The interior design of this center will support African dance and culture, foster creativity, and encourage stress reduction. The design will also support the secondary programs of dance movement therapy, seminars, celebrations, community outreach, educational programs, and exhibitions.
© Tashiara Scott
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