For recent Alumna Laura DeAngelis (BFA Dance with Distinction and BA History, 2019) to tell a story including the cultural narratives of World War II and the Holocaust using dance and media, she realized early on that she not only had to research the time period, but she had to study the history of how artists have approached making works so grand in scope. She knew she wanted to use dance, video and photography to investigate the psychology of what it meant to be an SS or Gestapo member juxtaposed with the experiences of Holocaust victims, while considering the contemporary implications of WWII crimes. As a history major, DeAngelis focused on European history and took courses such as the History of the Holocaust, History of WWII and Transnational Histories in WWII. She also has deep family roots with personal histories in this time period as her grandmother lived in Fascist Italy, one of her grandfathers joined in the partisan movement against the fascists and another grandfather served as a soldier on Omaha Beach. Pulling from these experiences, DeAngelis used her focus on composition in her dance major to craft what became her senior distinction project, titled Dancing Narrative of the Second World War.
DeAngelis’ journey into this venture included a three-week summer study abroad in Europe with the Department of History’s WWII Study Program. While in Europe, she collected film and video assets and kept a journal to document her emotional arc in order to pinpoint aspects that intrigued her. The College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of History also commissioned her to document the tour, which she did with photos and a documentary film. As a true collaborator, DeAngelis also relied on the personal family histories and/or the cultural affinities of her dancers to grasp the key moments of the WWII genocides that the ensemble wanted to memorialize.
The result was the episodic work Post Memoriam, presented as part of the Department of Dance Senior Concert March 6 - 8. The performance had many elements, including a male duet about being an SS or Gestapo member, a group work memorializing Holocaust victims, and a film, Erschbuld, which DeAngelis made while she was overseas. “Dance as a corporeal medium forces an audience to look into the eyes of another human being and confront their own complicity,” says DeAngelis. “There is nothing more inspiring and thrilling than creating your work. Whether it’s a physical dance, a dance film, or even photos, knowing that without your craftsmanship this work of art wouldn’t exist induces authentic pride. Whether people are left moved, provoked, or even disturbed, knowing that with my mind alone I can be evocative is the reason I wake up in the morning and commit myself to tedious technical foundations.”
DeAngelis’ won first place for her work in the category of “Redefining the Human Experience” at the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum on March 3. The Ohio State Office of Research selected Dancing Narrative of the Second World War to be one of only two undergraduate research projects at the university featured in their Research and Innovation Showcase on April 24. DeAngelis plans to continue making work after her undergraduate career and to eventually attend graduate school to pursue a career in academia.