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Haley’s Final Project: A Thesis Through Movement

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I was inspired by Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper to choreograph a dance that highlighted tensions felt by the narrator in the story. Throughout the story there is an ever blurring line for the narrator between reality and the mind’s life. This separation, and disassociation, is one often found in the mentally ill.  The mind assumes a life of it’s own, creating new worlds; The Yellow Wallpaper exemplifies this division perfectly. As the story progresses the reader can trace the deterioration of the narrator’s mind as she becomes lost in the wallpaper’s web. In order to express this internal battle visually, I change tempo, speed, direction, and location in space frequently. My movements are intended to convey the intense struggle the narrator has as she attempts to resist, and eventually succumbs to, the wallpaper’s power.

I use the floor extensively in the start of the dance, as it is allows for great use of the limbs and core. I hinge back and forth, kneeling and moving my upper body, being pulled towards and attempting to push away from the wallpaper’s enrapturing picture. At first the paper completely sickens the narrator. She is disgusted by it’s hideous color, odor, and pattern, but intrigued at the same time. I move about on the floor in a visual representation of her mental affliction and conflicting thoughts about the wallpaper.

When I start the dance I am on the floor, positioned awkwardly as if thrown down and broken. The uncomfortable prostration is intended to relate the narrator’s confined circumstance, brought about in part because of her physician husband’s insistence that she is not truly ill, merely having “temporary nervous depression — a slight hysterical tendency” (Gilman). I start to move, struggling to rise up and eventually falling back upon the floor.

In the writing, the narrator is constantly struggling to keep some thoughts from her mind. She writes in her journal, “I wish I could get well faster. But I must not think about that” (Gilman). I use tension and release to physically represent the dichotomy between her thoughts and desires to control them. By arching, angling, and contracting my back I move in many opposing directions throughout the piece, a visual expression of the narrator’s struggle.

As the story carries on, the narrator’s mental situation continues to deteriorate. I begin to move more quickly across the dance studio, jumping, spinning, and leaping. The narrator describes the uncomfortable state the paper creates for her, “Round and round and round — round and round and round — it makes me dizzy!” (Gilman). The pattern of the wallpaper is unknowable, and similarly my choreography pertains no discernible pattern. My movements convey the narrator’s desperate attempts to discover the wallpaper’s “secret”. She tries to find what it is hiding, eventually finding the woman. Although the narrator is ecstatic at the end of the story for unveiling the woman in the wall, it really is a sign that her mind has taken possession of her sanity. The end of the dance is choreographed to show the slowing and eventual extinction of the rational thoughts in the narrator’s mind. I am curled upon the floor at the end of the dance, a physical representation of the deep sadness and loss that occurs in the story.

Works Cited

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. University of Virginia, 1997. Web. 28 Nov. 2010.

Written by Haley

November 29th, 2010 at 11:51 am