MediaScape Musings # 10 : All In Your Head 🧠

Today, I’m excited to unveil a groundbreaking project I’m currently immersed in, titled “All in Your Head.” This innovative endeavor brings together dancers, musicians, artists, and neuroresearchers in a captivating exploration of the trial-and-error landscape of mental health treatment, the scientific intricacies of depression, and the intricate inner workings of the brain.

“All in Your Head” unfolds as a four-movement multimodal masterpiece, seamlessly integrating visual art, dance, and live improvisation and composition. By challenging the conventional notion that mental illness is merely “all in your head,” this project invites a profound shift in perspective. Instead, it prompts us to direct our focus precisely where it needs to be—into the individual’s unique brain chemistry, circuitry, and holistic life experience. This distinctive world demands equally unique and tailored treatment approaches.

Join us on this transformative journey by following our Instagram account @neuroartsprod for updates on upcoming events and a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process. Together, let’s delve into the realms of art, science, and human experience to redefine the narrative surrounding mental health! 🧠 🤯 🎆

MediaScape Musings # 8 : Asking Alice

I hope you’re having a wonderful start to the new semester! I am thrilled to extend an invitation to you for the upcoming performance of “Asking Alice,” a collaboration between creators from Performing Arts Technology and Dance!

Event Details:
* Date: January 19th & 20th
* Time: 7:30 pm (Doors open at 7:00 pm)
* Venue: Arthur Miller Theater (Adjacent to Pierpont Building)
* Tickets: Free- available at the box office a half-hour before the show

“Asking Alice” is a futuristic reinterpretation of Lewis Carroll’s novels, in which Alice ventures through a cyber Wonderland on a journey of reinvention in an increasingly digitized world. Along the way, she encounters iconic characters and creatures from the original tales. The work features dance, robotics, and an original score featuring a solo cellist. Don’t miss this whimsical show, playing this weekend only! 

We looking forward to welcoming you to Wonderland!  

MediaScape Musings # 7 : Missing Piece

Hello everyone!! As we approach the end of the semester, I wanted to take a moment to extend warm regards and share a unique collaborative endeavor that has been brewing in one of our classes, involving students from the PAT, Stamps, and Dance departments.

Titled “Missing Piece,” this project is more than just a performance; it combines live performance art, dance movements, and live piano interludes. What makes it truly special is the active involvement of our audience. We’ve extended an invitation for them to bring objects of personal significance, items that hold meaning and significance to them, and seamlessly incorporate these objects into the fabric of the performance itself.

As we eagerly await the culmination of this project, I can’t help but anticipate the final recorded performance. It promises to be a testament to the power of collective creativity and the magic that ensues when diverse talents intertwine to create something truly special.

Stay tuned for the final performance video, as it’s sure to encapsulate the essence of our collaborative efforts and the meaning behind “Missing Piece.”

TOLAROIDS: Favorite shoot

I’ve been sorting my photos recently and I stumbled across so many pictures from the past that I wanted to share, but this still probably remains my favorite creative shoot. It was for my own exhibition that I curated in 2019 and it featured dance in different transformations. The problem with capturing dance is that a photograph only captures a short snippet, freezes the dancer in one moment, while the entire idea of dance is that it’s continuous. That’s why I used long exposure to capture the continuum and to really show the act of dancing.

If you hover over the images you can see what settings I used, just if you’re curious 🙂 I am working on editing some new photos so there should be some new exciting content soon.






With any questions/comments/concerns you can find me at:


Instagram: akilian,jpg

A Reminder


On Friday evening I had the pleasure of seeing Teac Damsa’s Production of  Loch Na Heala (Swan Lake). If you haven’t heard of it, it is and Irish take on the tale of swan lake, with an Irish myth and a true story also mixed into the plot. It was presented by UMS in the Power Center for two nights only, this past Friday and Saturday.

I was encouraged to go see it for one of my classes and I am so glad I did. I managed to get one of only 2 student tickets left for Friday night, which was exciting. Going into the theatre I only knew that it was a take on swan lake and that it had good reviews. But what I actually saw was much different than expected.

For probably the first half of the 75 minute show, I thought I was going to leave the theatre with a sense of disappointment in not liking it. It started in such a strange way, that I’m still not sure what it was supposed to mean. But perhaps that was point.

But as the show continued, things began to click. It turns out that the show deals greatly with themes of abuse and mental illness, and is very raw in its portrayal of each. The sparse set and small cast, many playing multiple personas, was to the shows advantage. It allowed you to hone in on those themes, and to truly see the beautiful dances performed by the cast.

Though the themes were quite dark, it managed to end with an incredible scene of catharsis. At the end of the show, the audience immediately stood up without a pause for a standing ovation, and clapped for so long that the cast had to come back out on stage three times to bow before it died down and people started to leave.

As I left, I couldn’t stop thinking about the show. It was beautiful, haunting, at times disturbing, but mainly it was something different and unique. It wasn’t some American tour of a famous broadway show. It was a work of passion for these dancers and choreographers and they were able to create something that people of all ages and backgrounds seemed to love, despite the themes that are still hardly talked about in today’s society.

That is what this is a reminder of. If you have a story, you can tell it your own way. People will listen. People will care.

Theatre can do this for some people.

And this is the kind of theatre I want to create as a theatre artist.

The Buried Beauty of Butoh Dance

You are standing still. Close your eyes. Imagine an ant crawling over the bones of your left foot. It finds a nest in the space between your toes. Then, more of them appear. They surround your feet, tracing their shape…and then, they start the ascent. Trailing up your legs, between them, up your belly. One tickles the thin skin on your wrist. You swat it away only to find two more have replaced. You are swarmed with them. This has become a full-on infestation. The ants with their furry feet and beady abdomens journey across the map of your face, your hilly nose, into the depths of your ears, until they disappear into your hair.

Feeling a bit disturbed? This, says the dance instructor, is how you should always feel when you perform Butoh.

This semester, I’m taking Asian 200 – Introduction to Japanese Civilization. It is just that – an overview of each major period of Japanese history from the Heian Era to the Meiji to World War 2 and today. As we near the end of the semester, we have just begun our discussion on the 20th century. Because an entire course could be dedicated to World War 2 and Japan’s role in it, we have focused more on the effects of the war on the people, the economy, and the arts.

One of the most innovative arts to come out of the post-war era in Japan was the avant-garde dance called Butoh (which literally translates to “dance which steps on a political party” or any dance that is not sanctioned by the Japanese government). 

Hijikata Tatsumi performing Butoh; Image via

Created by Hijikata Tatsumi and Ohno Kazuo in 1959, butoh strove to become the new Japanese dance, which broke away from both Western modern dance and traditional Japanese dances. Especially after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there wasn’t a time when nationalism was more necessary to unite the country after tragedy. Butoh was the catalyst for young Japanese artists and intellectuals of the early 60’s to reject the status that Japan had been reduced to by Western superpowers. They wanted to subvert the sense of “alienation,  dehumanization, and loss of self-identity” ( Klein, Susan Blakeley. Ankoku Butoh. Ithaca: Cornell East Asia Papers, 1988: p. 9) that had been assigned to them.

Through the performance of Butoh, the dancers embrace a grotesque beauty – where they often make their expressions as revolting as possible, yet move across the stage with a paradoxical grace of controlled spasms. In a way, the more alienated and dehumanized the dancers become on stage, the richer the social critique.

The emaciated (and often naked) bodies of the dancers are covered in a thick white powder, highlighting ribs muscles, and especially the facial features. The dancers are enrobed in a mist macabre and their movements further unsettle the audience. We watched a few videos in class and had to define our emotional response to them.

Classmates answered “confused,” “creeped out,” “disturbed.” I think this comes from how weak the dancers appear (which of course is all an act). We feel awkward watching extreme suffering (even if it is fake) before us. The dancers become hyper-human in their ability to decompose and waste away. They become an alternative form of the humanity we thought we knew.

But how do they do it? Understanding that such a foreign dance would be difficult to talk about without experiencing it firsthand, my professor brought in a Butoh artist/scholar named Dr. Katherine Mezur to teach my class real exercises that are used in professional Butoh troupe lessons. We were instructed to wear loose, moveable clothing and white, cotton socks (though it was ambiguous which was more important: the whiteness or the cotton-ness). We were given the option to sit out if we ever grew uncomfortable. While I promised myself that I wouldn’t let myself sit out, I was pretty sure that at least one person in our class of strangers would feel shy or embarrassed, and gratefully accept the role of observer.

But no! Everyone participated. One of the first exercises after getting loosened up was the immersive imagination scene I referred to earlier: the one with the bugs. Because we had our eyes closed, we were all embarking on our own experience, yet we shared the energy of everyone in the room. We then learned a shuffling step, which provides the base for all Butoh movement. Moving around in the same space, we had to be aware of each other’s persons. We became each other’s obstacles. To complicate things even more Dr. Mezur would yell out an animal or a kind of material (glass, steel, wood) and we’d have to internalize these properties and incorporate them into our basic movement. This exercise was to teach us to realize the materiality of the body.

The most bizarre, and most striking, element of the Butoh dance is the facial expression. Dr. Mezur taught us to roll our eyes back (Exorcism-style),  cover our teeth with our lips, open our mouth, and draw in your neck like a gobbling turkey.

Image via

Luckily, everyone else’s eyes are turned up to the ceiling too, so no one could make fun of how ridiculous we looked.

Not only did I feel extremely ugly, I felt an internal pain from imitating the appearance of suffering. And that’s just the cherry on top of the revolting body image of Butoh. It’s about experiencing all aspects of being human: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The dancers of Butoh seem to say: ‘Not only are we humans who die and kill and begrudge and heartbreak and destroy. We are also humans who can turn the scariest, saddest, unexplainable parts of our stories and create something hauntingly stunning and beautiful and emotional. We connect with you through a shared fear that we might not make it through this performance. But we always do.’