Non Verbal Communication: Whole Body Performance in/as/for Oral History


Nightingale-Brown House

Image: Jeff Friedman performing his oral history-based work titled "Muscle Memory" (Savage Photography)

How does one communicate a story?  Beyond verbal and nonverbal communication, what else speaks?  This workshop frames how oral history IS an embodied performance itself, and will also explore oral history AS performance.  Participants will explore oral history in performance, as a source for the production of performing arts events, such as music, dance and theater. Participants will discuss interviewing techniques that focus on non-verbal channels of communication and will be challenged to develop more global awareness of their own bodies.  Participants will also learn how to listen to narrators with the whole body, how narrators tell their stories using their whole bodies.   How we communicate our experiences, to some degree, is based on 'embodied experiences'.  In illustration, facilitator Jeff Friedman, Professor of Dance, Rutgers University, will perform excerpts from his dance-based solo work titled 'Muscle Memory'.

About the Facilitator: Jeff Friedman is a dancer and choreographer currently on faculty in the DanceDepartment at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University. He studied dance at Cornell University, while pursuing a degree in Architecture; in Boston and at Brown University with Julie Strandberg, while a member of the Rhode Island Dance Repertory Company; at the University of Oregon, while completing his degree in architecture; and in San Francisco, from 1979-1997, where he was a performing member of the Oberlin Dance Collective (now ODC), from 1980-1989. He toured nationally and internationally with ODC, including a U.S. State Department tour of Southeast Asia, throughout the former Soviet Union, and performed with the San Francisco, Los Angeles and Santa Fe Opera Companies. As a soloist, he performed throughout the U.S. as LOCUS Solo Dance, on a California Arts Council Fellowship and on the Arts Council Touring Roster. 

In 1988, Jeff founded Legacy Oral History Project in response to the AIDS crisis, helping to remediate the loss of many dance artists in the San Francisco Bay Area by collecting oral history interviews with dancers, choreographers, administrators, writers and educators. Legacy is now a program of the San Francisco Museum of Performance & Design, serving all the performing arts communities of the Bay Area. As Legacy’s founding director and senior editor, Jeff began exploring converting oral histories into live choreography to honor the oral histories of performing artists. This project led to his Ph.D in Dance History and Theory at the University of California, Riverside, where his research investigated the role of embodiment in the qualitative interview process, exploring cognitive linguistics as a theoretical framework. Jeff has been at Rutgers since 2003, teaching dance history, writing and criticism as well as technique, choreography and improvisation. He has published articles and book chapters, lectured and taught workshops nationally and internationally including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Argentina, and throughout Europe, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand and Korea. He is the recipient of the James V. Mink and Forrest C. Pogue Awards for service to the oral history community, the Isadora Duncan Award for service to the dance community, and 8 National Endowment for the Arts grants to support Legacy’s work. Jeff was a Fulbright Fellow in Frankfurt, Germany in 2010, and is currently the Allen Smith Resident Scholar at Simmons College in 2014.

Advance registration is required.
Registration fee: $30, waived for Brown and RISD students. 

Please visit the secure registration site to submit both student and regular registration requests. (