Ellen Oliver

Ellen Oliver, MFA student, dance

Transcends disciplines through dance

“Ellen Oliver has risen to the top of her class, won several fellowships and awards, and has been a force for gathering artists and graduate researchers across disciplines. She is a wonderful model for artists in the liberal arts, with a voracious curiosity and an unusual capacity to produce multiple good projects at once.” -Jennifer Kayle, professor, dance

Hometown: Blackstone, Massachusetts

Faculty mentor/advisor: Jennifer Kayle, professor, dance, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

What is your degree program and expected graduate date? MFA dance – choreography, spring 2024

Please describe your research: My research looks at the technologies of rock climbing. I am interested in creating digital art, choreography, and sculpture that explores climbing movement, materials, postures, and spaces. Currently, I am looking at the translation between indoor and outdoor climbing.

In simple terms, why does this research matter? My research uses a performance and technology lens to highlight the expression of the body in climbing. My goal is to see how dance and climbing can inform each other. Expanding the notion of choreography into climbing opens the possibilities for interdisciplinary collaborations and conversations.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? Immediately. The climbing community is very open and welcoming in Iowa, and the Department of Dance continues to support and encourage this research.

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? This research has been successful in that it has revealed a deeper corporeal significance in my movement practices. It has widened my understanding of climbing and choreography, and I have learned new ways to merge these disciplines.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? My goal is to continue making collaborative art. I would like to create a touring dance performance in climbing gyms through projection and sound design.

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