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Lyndsey Vader holds a Ph.D.  in Dance Studies from The Ohio State University and an M.F.A. in Dance from The College at Brockport, State University of New York. Her research examines the use of audience participation in immersive performances that imagine new ways of being together during these politically divisive times. Vader has presented her research at national and regional conferences, with reoccurring participation in the Dance Studies Association annual conferences. Her writing has appeared in Dance Chronicle and was recently commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive essay series.

While at The College at Brockport and The Ohio State University, Vader developed a pedagogy that nurtures community-sourced knowledge and honors embodied archives. Her student-centered classrooms emphasize collaboration through activities that synthesize experiential knowledge with theoretical understanding. Vader has taught a range of semester-length courses, including Arts Management for Dance (original course design), Western Concert Dance: Renaissance to Present (course redesign), Writing About Dance, and Looking at Dance; in addition to studio courses in Introduction to Dance and Contemporary Practice. 

Before pursuing her doctorate, Vader served as General Manager and Director of Education and Public Programming for Andrea Miller’s critically acclaimed Gallim Dance (NY).  As an integral part of the administrative team, she helped the company grow over 70% in a single fiscal year and was a crucial player in the co-development and management of its National Endowment for the Arts award-winning education and community programming. Additional arts management experiences include Moving on Center: School for Participatory Arts & Somatic Research and The Center for Kinesthetic Education under the direction of Dr. Martha Eddy. Vader worked with Eddy to secure funding through Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which supported the multilingual program Moving for Life, a dance exercise approach to breast cancer recovery. The program partnered with medical centers, libraries, and community centers to offer free or low-cost classes.

Vader’s creative research agenda encompasses a continued investment in the practice and theory of devised performance and community-engaged artmaking alongside collaborative choreographies. While at Ohio State, she served as the Audience Engagement Consultant for Be the Street–a project fostering sustainable partnerships between OSU and local community organizations with a creative focus on placemaking. Vader has also choreographed, performed, and taught nationally and internationally as Artistic Co-Director of Treeline Dance Works since 2009. The company has toured to venues including Les 7èmes Rencontres UPPA danse (France), Abundance International Dance Festival (Sweden), and Jazz at Lincoln Center (NYC). Treeline has also received choreographic commissions and teaching engagements from Cobequid Dance Academy (Nova Scotia), Southern Mississippi University (MS), and Franklin & Marshall College (PA), among others. 

Research Statement

Across my creative and print research portfolio, I consider what experimental audience strategies and immersive performance pedagogies may offer audiences, artists, institutions, and social relations alike. I am committed to maintaining a vibrant profile as an artist-scholar by unpacking what it means to choreograph, stage, study, and respond to “the encounter”—an open-ended term intended to address the meeting of artwork, artist, and audience.

My current manuscript—Spaces of Encounter: Repertoires of Engagement: The Politics of Participation in 21st Century Contemporary Performance—responds to the growing use of experimental audience strategies in recent performance practices. I study performances by United States-based artists and creative collectives that premiered and toured between 2014-2020 against the political backdrop of a rise in nationalism and nativism in the United States. Responding to social conditions fueled by hatred and greed, the performances I discuss offer empathetic spaces where at least a subset of participants may experience modes of human interdependence. Through various choreographic and design strategies, which I call “repertoires of engagement,” the artistic works I analyze allow participants to imagine new ways of being together in these politically divisive times. Each performance scenario encourages audiences to envision alternative, more just, futures. In the process of future visioning, the artists call upon audience labor as a central creative component. By theorizing repertoires of engagement, I offer a model to interrogate the political and aesthetic dimensions of performative structures that invite audiences into the artwork.

The second function of my inquiry concerns the proximity between neoliberal governmentality and audience productivity, with a particular focus on shared practices of audience-consumer engagement. Neoliberal political-economic practices grounded in rhetorics of individualism and entrepreneurial freedom jeopardize forms of social solidarity. Immersive performance practices counteract this erosion of social connection, but they also call on participants to contribute in ways that mimic neoliberal structures. Therefore, my research additionally examines the contradictory politico-aesthetic aspirations of audience participation. Despite the inability for many participatory works to fully realize the democratizing or community ethos they rhetorically promote, I contend that there is socially progressive potential in the aesthetic strategies contemporary artists utilize to reconceive the role of the audience in manners that counter driving forces of neoliberalism. Analyzing performance processes, I posit what a corporeal critique of neoliberalism might look like within participatory aesthetic trends that, at times, enact the very ideologies they seek to resist.

In addition to my print research, I maintain an active choreographic profile through projects that translate my print research into performances that explore experimental audience strategies in practice. Since 2009, I have choreographed, performed, and taught nationally and internationally with Treeline Dance Works—a performance co-op based in NYC and Chicago. As Artistic Co-Director, I actively honor the creative voices of multiple collaborators jointly invested in movement research. Our choreographies bring movement, text, music, narrative, and design together to pursue intimate storytelling. As a choreographer, I am interested in the possibilities of relational aesthetics, and craft works—immersive and proscenium—that are sensitive to audience-performer exchange.