Blog (GWU MFA)

If you missed the concert, please feel free to click the link below to view this work.  A Photo Gallery from the event is coming soon!  

Revelations from the Process:

With any artistic or creative process, the art often takes on a life of its own.  Much is not even revealed until the artist really digs in and gets their hands dirty in the process.  At this stage in the game, the mini-versions of different ideas and directions have helped me realized the vastness of this topic and that there is indeed great value in creating work that inspires social awareness and change.  I tend to be one that create work that has meaning to me and I see that a very clear direction that I am being guided in, through this creative experience is leading me to develop questions about the use of art for social awareness and change.  In essence, bringing the ideas and topics that are of meaning and interest to me, to the forefront through in depth research, discovery and presentation while simultaneously unearthing the possibilities of what these ideas and topics mean to society.

For the purpose of this choreography class, I am very interested in exploring my topic of HIV/AIDS on a smaller scale of awareness and perhaps using this same topic to create a larger body of work with the focus and intent on dance/art for social change.  In this semester's work I intend to share the following:
Section 1: Video Marsha Ambrosia

Section 2: Testify (at least 6 six dancers dancing to  poetically jumbled testimonials of individuals affected by HIV/AIDS - live musicians)

Section 3: Duet between Graham Pitts and Chelsea Green depicting the relationship between mother/son, sister/brother, or just friends where one has been diagnosed with the disease and deals with the range of physical and emotional struggles and the other, can do little more than to stand by as a witness attempting to provide comfort and support despite their own inner emotional turmoil and sadness for their loved one.

Section 4: Stereotype (a very brief video documentary created during my research process)

Section 5: Ordinary People (Solo vocal by Sydney Pollard with a live musician)
Throughout a backdrop/painting will be created by visual artist J'Nell Jordan inspired by the piece

Below I have included video clips of rehearsals and will post more as the process progresses.  My most recent challenge is: 
*  finding the ideal venue to showcase the piece *
I am torn between a very beautiful outdoor venue in Silver Spring, MD, a lobby space at Howard Community College with very interesting lighting and backdrop showcased in some rehearsal videos and a traditional theater space.  I have listed and outlined benefits of both but and still not able to decide.  But, feeling the pressure of deadlines, I need to make a decision and set a specific date and time to share this work.  Any feedback from classmates in the cohort or Prof. Withers would be greatly appreciated.  My inclination is toward the theater space merely b/c of the technical requirements.  Were that not an issue, the outdoor space in Silver Spring would be my preference.  




 "AIDS is such a scary thing and it's also the kind of thing that you think won't happen to you. It can happen to you and it's deadly serious. "
                                                                                            -Ice T    
                                                                                                                                                Stacey Yvonne Claytor
                                                                                                                                                 Prof.  Maida Withers

Assignment: Identify five specific areas and approaches that constitute "research" related to your choreographic project for this course, Spring 2013.  Research can be through interviews, texts, video and other documentation of artists work that relates to your project.

1. Interviews: As part of my research for this project I am in the process of conducting interviews with individuals from the following demographics: 
                    a) persons who are living with the disease HIV/AIDS (various races, African American, men, women, homosexual men, mixed economic class, mixed age)
                    b) persons who lost loved ones as a result of the disease HIV/AIDS
                    c) women in the DC Metropolitan area (varying age ranges from 11-90, various races, African American, mixed economic class)

From each of these interviews, I hope to acquire greater knowledge relating to the subject matter and how it effects individuals, families and this community.  In addition, I hope to better understand the possible reasons for why certain populations are more effected than others as well as  discover the range of ways the human condition is affected by this disease from the physical issues and discomforts to the emotional and psychological stresses and stigmas.  This found information has and will continue to inspire my choreography and structure of this piece as well as serve as a foundation for a sound score that will be comprised of interview excerpts, pre-written and original poetry/spoken word inspired by the interviews as well as live and recorded music both pre-recorded and original.  

*** Recordings will be made available online once all permissions have been submitted by the participants.  Some excerpts have been and will continue to be sent to Prof. Maida Wither's Choreography class cohort at The George Washington University for the MFA in Dance program share progressions in the development of this piece...research and conceptualization to realization.***    

2. General Research on the DISEASE---Past, Present, Future: As part of my research for this project I am currently working with Ms. Cara J. Person, a dear friend and doctoral candidate in the field of Women's health issues specializing in infectious diseases.  Ms. Person's work and research in the health systems of various communities  as well as her  work for the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia make her an expert in the field and a great resource for research assistance in seeking understanding about the disease HIV/AIDS and how it has and will effect the United States of America, past, present and future.

3.  Related Works:  As part of my research and desire to create an artistic experience that is new and different as it relates to the topic of HIV/AIDS, I have started to research other artists' works that relate to my project and subject matter.  While I anticipate this list growing as my research continues, some of particular interest at this point include:  Bill T. Jones Still/Here   
                            Music by various artists such as: Janet Jackson - Together Again, Bruce Springstein - Streets of Philadelphia, Madonna - In this Life, Elton John - The Last Song, Sarah MacLachlan - Hold On, Jermaine Stewart - We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off, TLC - Water Falls, Lou Reed - Halloween Parade, Coolio - Too Hot, Spearhead - Positive, Dionne Warwick & Friends - That's what Friends are For, and the song and video of Marsha Ambrosius - Late Nights and Early Mornings.
                            Visual Arts: I am working with painter/artist J'Nell Jordan on this project to incorporate visual arts into the piece.  Props and other live painting on stage will be part of the performance. Some of my inspiration is derived from the images below and I look forward to including preliminary works of Ms. Jordan's in relation to this project.


4. Community Service:  As part of my research for this piece, I am actively involved in community outreach and service projects through numerous organizations such as: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, AIDS Alliance, AIDS Institute, Food & Friends, Whitman Walker Clinic, Metro Teen Aids, National Minority Aids Council, Women's Collective and Greater Little Zion Church.  Some activities include: volunteering to pass out information, providing services to infected persons such as transportation to and from doctor's appointments, assistance with nutrition, volunteer staff at events and performing in events to name a few.  Below I have included a flyer for one of the upcoming events I will be attending and will possibly share a small performance at during the open mic portion.  I plan to gain hands on experiences with the people in this community that are fighting this dreadful disease so that I will have greater understanding and awareness thus giving me a richer pool from which to draw inspiration and insight for choreography and structure for this piece.  

5. Articles, Videos, Poetry & Texts: As part of my research for this piece, I am gathering a wide range of sources.  I believe that having resources that are broad and diverse will assist me in finding expressions that are different from my normal choices and will influence the body of my work positively.  Some items that have been of interest to me thus far are:

Below are excerpts of various rehearsals for this piece on HIV/AIDS that still remains untitled.  One new discovery as of March 1st, 2013 is that additional cast members of varying ages are required to bring this piece to realization.  I am still working on the inter-disciplinary aspect of the piece and recently added in one of our musical collaborators in the rehearsal process.  More to come!

(This audition was to find talented youth dancers (high school or middle school aged) to participate in a specific section of this piece.  Collen Jacobs and Marina Damon were selected and  C4 Performing Arts dancer Sydney Pollard from Lab 2 has also been added to the cast)



"We need men and women to sit down and talk to each other about sex honestly and openly. That would help us fight Aids so immediately. But our lack of communication is hugely problematic. "    - Emma Thompson 


Photo by:                           

                                                                                                                                                                                                Stacey Yvonne Claytor


                                                                                                                                                                                                Maida Withers




Statement of Intention:

HIV/AIDS (also known as Human immunodeficiency virus infection/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a pandemic disease outbreak that has affected people around the globe.  Since the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s discovery of AIDS and its causal infection HIV, in 1981, it is projected that AIDS is responsible for more than 30 million deaths.  More than 34 million humans are reported to have contracted HIV globally and an estimated 1.1 million Americans are currently living with HIV of which a staggering 21% are unaware of their infection.  It is common to witness HIV/AIDS in the arts community and by race in America, the HIV/AIDS burden is pressing most heavily on the African American community.    To me, as both an African American woman and artist, I am increasingly eager to speak out.  Too many are content just to put their heads in the sand and hope this pandemic goes away but I have a new motivation to be an advocate for our survival.  I intend to research and explore this topic of HIV/AIDS and its effects on the American population in addition to its global effects. With the work that I intend to create in this semester’s choreography class,   I aim to educate communities on the facts we all face with regard to this dreadful disease.  It is a disease that in my opinion cannot be compartmentalized because it impacts everything from health to housing, education to family and economics to religion.  In addition, I intend to encourage hope and to inspire civility.  I believe that as a community, whether an arts community, an African American community, an American community or a global community, we must take care of each other and do everything we can to see an end to this disease.  I aim to give HIV/AIDS additional attention and I aim to give our communities greater ammunition with which to fight and to leverage governing bodies in support of finding a cure once and for all!

Procedure for Choreographic Project:

This is a topic that is very important to me for numerous reasons and is also one that carries an incredible range of possibilities.  In my research and improvisational studies thus far, I have learned that providing/creating structure and even limitations can help yield profound results that are direct, clear, concise and thoughtful.  In this aim to be specific in my research and choreographic intent, answering the following questions will guide the various steps of my procedures for this choreographic project: What does HIV/AIDS do for art? What can art do for HIV/AIDS? In addition, I hope to further educate myself on how HIV/AIDS has affected the global community since the 1980’s and how different communities are dealing with this disease.  Finally, I plan to engage in an interview process with persons affected by HIV/AIDS, persons whose family members or friends have been affected by HIV/AIDS and to create some community focus groups in which I can gather a firsthand account of how the community feels when it comes to the disease and to the subject in general.  All of the information acquired will be utilized in the making of   this choreographic project.    I also plan to utilize the visual arts in this project as well as voice overs from interviews and focus groups to help create the sound score.  All of the above will undoubtedly aid in my preparation for my final choreography for public performance and presentation in the Fall 2013 semester.  I am currently gaining clearer perspectives on my target audience, community of supporters and potential collaborators. 

a)      I plan to cast former student Gabby Johnson to perform in this work.  At this point, I am envisioning a series of vignettes with Gabby as the lead female performer and male dancers Graham Pitts, and Antonio Beverly as supporting cast.  All casting will be done by invitation only and should the piece develop in such a way that more or less performers are required, they will more than likely be invited to perform by me.


b)      Rehearsals will take place at my studio location in Fairfax Virginia and via the internet/Skype


c)       We plan to meet every other week in person to rehearse for anywhere from 2-5 hours and will meet on the bi-weeks via internet/Skype


d)      I hope to perform this piece in various stages numerous times throughout the semester however aim to arrange a public showing near then end of April.  The location is TBD but I hope to enlist the efforts of non-profit health organizations and perhaps a local DC Gallery in presenting this work.  If at all possible, I would like to align the performance with National HIV/AIDS observances…which according to my research fall in Feb., March and May.  Perhaps an April showing of my work can bridge the gap between these National events.


e)      I am hoping to secure all dancers/performers for the local MFA student showing on May 6th, 2013 in building J on the campus of George Washington University.         


(1)    Have you ever created a work about HIVAIDs previously or been in a dance on this topic?(Prof. Withers)

I have never created a work about HIV/AIDS or been in a dance related to this topic.  I have witnessed family and friends fall victim to this disease however and was recently made aware that HIV/AIDS is the leading killer of African American women in the DC Area.  Because of this, I felt intrigued and compelled to research this topic further for personal knowledge and also to share my findings by using the visual and performing arts as the vehicle. (Stacey Yvonne Claytor)

(2)    Please state your intention in one sentence that summarizes inclusively what you intend to create. (Prof. Withers)

 I intend to create a piece that incorporates dance, music, singing and visual arts to: 1) educate its viewers about the severity of the pandemic disease HIV/AIDS, to: 2) share the stories of men and women who are living with HIV/AIDS or have lost loved ones to this disease, and to: 3) inspire its viewers to take action in the fight against HIV/AIDS in hopes of securing our survival as a global community. (Stacey Yvonne Claytor)

(3)    Worried about your ability to accomplish all of this in one rehearsal a week since you indicate you will begin performing it as well.  Clarify for us. (Prof. Withers)

 I will be engaging in weekly rehearsals with my lead dancer on the weekends in person and once a week via skype.  We will have 2 rehearsals a week in which I will work on choreography with her as well as introducing the stories I recover in interviews with men an women living with HIV/AIDS.  The performances I hope to do prior to the final showing (projected for April at this point...still working on the right location) will be "work in progress" informal showings to gather additional insights.  There will be one at the end of Feb. and one at the end of March. (Stacey Yvonne Claytor)




  • "More than one million people are living with HIV in the U.S.
  • One in five living with HIV is unaware of their infection.
  • MSM, particularly young, black MSM, are the most severely affected by HIV.
  • By race, African Americans face the most severe HIV burden." -


                                                                                                                                                                                                    Stacey Yvonne Claytor


                                                                                                                                                                                                   Maida Withers



Lab 2



INTENTION: This script was designed to assist in my exploration and investigation regarding the topic HIV/AIDS as a topic of inspiration for choreography.  After researching the topic through readings, informal Q &A’s and an interview with a close friend,  I developed a strong foundation for creating and participating in a movement improvisation/investigation in which my aim was to explore the movement potential of my topic.  I believe this topic to be a rich source of inspiration for movement and choreography and that it also speaks directly to an issue that faces the art community.

RESOURCES: The following items are required in completing this script:

·         A dance studio with sound equipment


·         Random mix CD for background music (at least 20 minutes worth) I believe that diverse music often helps aid in the discovery process


·         At least three participants (2 movers and 1 sound)


·         A bouncy ball


·         Video Equipment & Videographer


*** This script should last for 20 continuous minutes***

Step 1: Dancer(s) start in the center of the room and determine person A and person B

Step 2:  Person A (me) Person B (Sydney) - - - Person A can dance freely with the topic and research materials in mind.  At any point they have the option to fall down, cough or recite a poem.  Person B responds to person A --- if person A falls, person B bounces on prop, If person A coughs, person B sings This little light of mine like and old grandmother, when person A gets up from falling person B strikes a pose.

Step 3: When person B sings, the sound person stops the music

Step 5: Continue with this experiment for 20 mins at which time the sound and/or video person will give a signal to let persons A and B know that they have completed 20 mins and can find an organic ending.

ASSESSMENT: This script was interesting and created different images and patterns than I expected or anticipated.  I appreciated having time to investigate my topic in greater detail.  By engaging in a research exploration prior to the improvisation session, I was able to utilize aspects of the research emotionally, physically, and conceptually. For me, this was more of an exercise in generating new movement or structure for choreography that relates to a given subject, in this case Aids.   I have so many ideas that were generated as a result of this exercise and I am looking forward to continued research and exploration as I work towards my final project for this course.  



“Structure ignites spontaneity. Limits yield intensity. When we play … by our self-chosen rules, we find that containment of strength amplifies strength. Commitment to a set of rules (a game) frees your play to attain a profundity and vigor otherwise impossible. Igor Stravinsky writes: ‘The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self of the chains that shackle the spirit . . . and the arbitrariness serves only to obtain precision of execution.’ Working within the limits of the medium forces us to change our own limits. Improvisation is not breaking with forms and limitations just to be ‘free,’ but using them as the very means of transcending ourselves. If form is mechanically applied, it may indeed result in work that is conventional, if not pedantic or stupid. But form used well can become the very vehicle of freedom, of discovering the creative surprises that liberate mind-at-play.”

- Stephen Nachmanovitch

Photo by: Melissa Greco-Liu

                                                                                                                                                                                 Stacey Yvonne Claytor


                                                                                                                                                                                   Maida Withers



Lab 1


TITLE: That’s Soooo Cliché

INTENTION: This script was designed to assist in my exploration and investigation regarding the use of common American cliché’s as a topic of inspiration for choreography.  I intend to engage in a movement improvisation/investigation in which I will explore the movement potential of my topic.  It is my belief that cliché’s will prove to be a rich source of inspiration for movement and choreography.


RESOURCES: The following items are required in completing this script:

·         A dance studio with sound equipment


·         Random mix CD for background music (at least 20 minutes worth)


·         At least one dancer, at most 4 dancers


·         Notecards with different clichés written on them (at least 4 different cliché’ sayings)


·         Video Equipment


*** This script should last for 20 continuous minutes***

Step 1: Dancer(s) start lying on the floor, next to a notecard, in any position. 

Step 2:  Once the music comes on, the dancer(s) will flip over the notecard, and embody the cliché’ saying written on the card to the best of their ability.

Step 3: When the next song comes on the dancer(s) must run to their opening floor position, lie down and then flip over the next notecard and begin their new improve based on the cliché’ on this card.

Step 5: Repeat step 3 until all cards have been turned over and danced.

Step 6: Once all notecards have been flipped and all cliché’s have been attempted, the dancer(s) should go back to their opening floor position, lying down on the floor.  This will be done in silence and will conclude the piece. 

ASSESSMENT: This script was attempted twice; once as a solo and once as a group piece.  The outcomes were fairly similar however it was refreshing to see other dancer’s approaches to the same source of inspiration.  In both versions, I witnessed distinct quality changes, a unique impetus for movement development as well as a natural means of coaxing the dancer(s) out of their usual movement patterns.  I believe this to be a very interesting topic and resource for potential choreography.  The movement extracted as a result of motivation on the topic of clichés was quirky, abstract, unique and even comical at times.  Success in this script was measured by providing room for discussion when performed in a group setting and time for journaling when performed as a solo.   The dancer(s) were prompted with questions regarding the efficacy of the experience in helping develop choreographic ideas, encouragement to move outside the box of normal movement patterns and any other thoughts reflective of the overall experience.  A survey, free writes from the participants, and/or a performance for an audience that has to guess what the cliché’s are that have been danced etc., could also be thought-provoking ways of assessing this script. 


CLICHÉS in this exercise included:

1.      A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet

2.      Hindsight is 20/20

3.      You’ve got your head in the clouds

4.      I can’t see the forest for all the trees

5.      You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make ‘em drink


Click here to view: Lab 1 Version 1 - Video