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Remembering Dr. Doran George

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Remembering Dr. Doran George ~ Following a successful career as a childhood star in musical comedy in the United Kingdom, Doran George came into the Culture and Performance PhD program in the department in 2008 with a degree in Experimental Dance from School for New Dance Development in Arnhem and an M.A. in Feminist Performance from the University of Bristol. Receiving the Ph.D. in December 2014, George wrote a brilliant dissertation entitled “A Conceit of the Natural Body: The Universal-Individual in Somatic Dance Training” that excavates the cultural and political impact of Somatics’ approach to dance training, viewed in global perspective.


In the dissertation George argues that somatics pedagogies have introduced a new approach to acquiring facility at dancing that relies on intensive study of anatomy and promotes an economy of motion in executing any action. The vocabulary implemented in instruction, composed almost entirely of metaphors from anatomy, physics, and mechanics, constructs the body as a universal given that obeys predictable laws in response to motion and gravity. This system of training charges dancers with greater individual responsibility over cultivating their own expertise, but it also exerts a strong set of values concerned with pursuing the “naturalness” of the body and efficiency of motion.

In three chapters, George provides a genealogy of Somatics that focuses on the distinctive phases of its development since its initial concentrated appearances in the late 1960s and 1970s. In these early years Somatics training offered an antidote to more regimented training systems such as ballet or Graham technique by focusing heavily on individual awareness of anatomy and discovery of one’s own physical predispositions towards movement. Subsequently entering the concert stage as a matrix of choices within which performers could maneuver, Somatics signified a radical potential to embrace alternative identities even as it began to be exported as a more systematized regimen of study, eventually creating global networks of teachers and practitioners who, it was assumed, shared a common vision of the natural body. George aligns this transformation with the cultural politics of the period, noting the similarities between early Somatic training and the feminist movement of the 1970s and the subsequent emphasis on entrepreneurship and the global circulation of goods and ideas. Consistently interrogating the unmarked white and heteronormative assumptions underlying the training, George shows how the initial transnational connections that formed around Somatics practice supported U.S. expansionism, on the one hand, and global capitalist values, on the other.

George’s writing demonstrates a strong command of choreographic analysis and a precise style that vividly evokes the performances being described. Drawing from archival sources and extensive interviews with key practitioners as well as intensive personal exposure to the training, and with great nuance and sensitivity to the specificities of each locale, whether London, Amsterdam, Sydney, or New York, George is able to dis-locate Somatics from its seemingly universal status and demonstrate the cultural and ideological work that it performs. George’s dissertation is one of the first major studies in dance to focus on the technical training of the dancer and to connect that training to a larger body politic.

While completing doctoral studies, George also pursued a number of choreographic projects, as a performance mentor for artist Julie Tolentino through a CHIME fellowship; a silent durational one on one performance, Unspoken, at Pieter Performance Space, a project in collaboration with UK dancer and disability activist, Catherine Long. George also conducted a number of movement workshops through Pieter Performance Space and informally mentored many of the department’s MFA candidates.

Since graduation George developed expertise in the areas of LGBTQ and Disability Studies, teaching regularly in those programs at UCLA and also teaching a variety of courses at California Institute of the Arts and UC/Riverside. George also published the following three notable essays while working on the revision of the dissertation for publication: “Common Embrace: The Choreography of Wellbeing in Rosemary Lees Inclusive Dancing Communities.” In The Handbook on Dance and Wellbeing, edited by Vassiliki Karkou et al., 293-309. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017; “The hysterical spectator: Searching for critical identification among dancing nellies, andro-dykes, and drag queens.” In Queer Dance: Meanings and Makings, edited by Clare Croft, 83-108. New York, Oxford University Press, 2017; and “Negotiating the Spectacle in Transgender Performances of Alexis Arquette, Zackary Drucker, DavEnd, niv Acosta, and Tobaron Waxman.” In Transgender Studies Quarterly 1, no. 1-2 (May 2014): 273-279.

Vibrant, vital, and ALIVE, George was highly respected, revered, and adored by faculty, peers, colleagues, students, and friends.

 

A Remembrance Ceremony was held in the Kaufman Hall Courtyard on November 27, 2017. A video of the ceremony is available for viewing here. 

 

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UCLA Department of World Arts Cultures/Dance
Box 951608, 150 Kaufman Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1608
Tel 310.825.3951
Email: wacinfo@arts.ucla.edu