Zena Bibler is a dancer and researcher, recently relocated from Los Angeles, California where she received her Ph.D. at the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at UCLA. Working across critical dance studies, performance studies, and choreography, she explores dance as a relational practice—an opportunity to learn how to collaborate sensitively and responsively with others across numerous forms of difference. She shares her research in different ways, including through live performance, scholarly and poetic writing, and participatory workshops and festivals. Her work is rooted in two decades of practicing diverse improvisational movement forms, including contact improvisation, capoeira, Argentine tango, contemplative dance practice, zydeco, and surfing. Recent writing projects have been published in Dance Research Journal, Imagined Theatres, PARtake: The Journal of Performance as Research, Contact Quarterly, and the LA-based performance writing blog, Riting. Bibler’s performance works have been presented domestically and internationally at venues such as Pieter Performance Space, HomeLA, Movement Research at the Judson Church, NADA Hudson, Lublin International Dance Theatres Festival (Poland), Museum Perron Oost (The Netherlands), Cairo Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (Egypt), and SESC Villa Mariana (Brazil).
Bibler’s dissertation and current book project, “Attention Matters: Political Choreographies of Noticing in U.S. American Experimental dance,” considers attention as a source of choreography in both dance and everyday spaces. She has found that any skillful movement activity requires equally specialized sensory practices and states of focus. Each dance, then, proposes its own way of perceiving and being in the world. Many of Bibler’s past projects have used dancing as a tool for opening up new ways to understand “place.” From 2012-2016, she founded and directed Fleet Moves Dance Festival with Katie Schetlick. This site- and community-specific festival in Wellfleet, Massachusetts invited 25 visiting and local artists to create collaborative performances in dialogue with the topography and social environment of a small fishing town. She also explores this idea through “HereS,” a practice-as-research workshop that uses improvisation to interpret the hyper-local written and unwritten “scores” that govern how bodies should move (or not move) within public spaces. HereS has been activated in diverse cities, including New York City, Brooklyn, Charlottesville, Columbus, Evanston, Lublin, Montréal, Mexico City, and Cairo.
As an educator, Bibler invites students integrate critical moving as part of critical thinking. She has implemented this approach in courses that include contemporary dance and ballet techniques, improvisation and composition, and topics in critical dance studies. Her approach pedagogy has been recognized by the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award and is outlined in a co-authored article “Ballet Pedagogy and a “Hard Re-Set”: Perspectives on equitable and inclusive teaching practices” (Dance Chronicle). Bibler is thrilled to be joining the University of Iowa as a Visiting Assistant Professor.