Physical Listening : The Influence of the Black Arts Movement on Free Jazz-Inspired Movement

Date of Award


Document Type

MSU-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


College of the Arts


Theatre and Dance

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Maxine Steinman

Committee Member

Lauren Grant

Committee Member

Claire Porter


For my thesis project, I created an afternoon of dance inspired by my exploration of “Free-Form Body Motifs” performed to free jazz music within the context of the Black Arts Movement. Through my investigation, I was able to transcribe jazz music into movement motifs , exploring the idea of free and how active listening translates music into body movement. In essence, this project enabled me to learn how to speak the language of the music by reacting to rhythms through isolated body parts. In particular, I focused on specific musical elements to create movement: ostinato (a repeated rhythm) and melodic phrasing (line of the melody). In my research and choreography, the musical ostinato is comparative to a dance motif and melodic phrasing is like physical listening , which is my method of translating music into movement.

My choreographic process, in addition to my research of the Black Arts Movement, led me on a new pathway of creating and expanding modern movement vocabulary. This project taught me that there is nothing random about this type of improvisation; it accentuates intention in the hearing and specificity in the musicality, while elevating a story in the movement with an undeniable intimacy between the dancer and musician.


The performance video is restricted to the Montclair State University community but the PDF file of the thesis, which is located at the bottom of the screen, is available to anyone interested in reading it.

File Format


White, Lauren Putty_Redacted.pdf (706 kB)
PDF file of thesis

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