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Stanford’s Chocolate Heads Movement Band Brings High Energy Dance to Campus

Courtesy of Jae-Young Son.

Courtesy of Jae-Young Son.

Last Thursday, the Chocolate Heads Movement Band lifted the edge of the curtain to reveal our creation-in-progress: the second annual UnShow. The standing audience looked down from the stairs and balconies of the Cantor Arts Center lobby as our story unfolded in black light.

Created in 2009 by Aleta Hayes, a lecturer in the Dance division of the Theater and Performance Studies department, Chocolate Heads brings together energies from all molecules of Stanford, including graduate medical school students, computer scientists, writers, researchers. All are artists. Why? “Because everyone in Chocolate Heads is a rock star,” declares Hayes. And what she declares to be truth becomes it. This woman embodies creation, disseminating it at every step.

It was last year at the UnShow that my obsession with the group began. The invisible fingers it projected, breaking down the wall between spectator and spectacle, were addictive to me. It was connected, it was alive, and I had to become a part of it.

My first question upon joining in fall of 2013 was the name… a movement band? Isn’t this a dance troupe? Am I supposed to bring an instrument? The band originates from the power of our live musicians who co-create each piece with us as the movement evolves from sparks of ideas to a polished whole. Movement, as understood by the Chocolate Heads, involves physical displacement, velocity, air, connectivity, stillness and dance.

Our intention is to offer others the experience of being moved to tears, to laughter, to contemplation and to rejuvenation. We seek to provide experiences of recognition, of connection. Should the audience remain static, we have failed.

Finally, as an impact geek, I’m always thinking about social change.  Movements describe coordinated and passionate human efforts against oppression and toward unity. Each Chocolate Heads rehearsal begins and ends with unified action— bouncing, swinging, walking, jumping, all to one heartbeat. When all become one, a new heartbeat of feet is created. It is from that place that social movements have and always will arise.

The movement trifecta informs each decision in Chocolate Heads. “Why?” is constantly being asked. Our narrative is in constant consideration. We share consciousness, piecing together individuals and movement cycles in order to tell a story. Nothing is for exposition.

Our power comes from connectedness. From oneness. From nowness. This is incredibly appropriate for our era, so dominated by immediacy. The Mayfield Fellowship experience demonstrated to me that technology generates movement from the same constraints and ingredients as Chocolate Heads does. Are not production processes founded in communication and collaboration? That’s movement. This spring, Chocolate Heads will be releasing an app, Chocolate Head-Space.

Being a band member of Chocolate Heads has provided me another arena to practice problem solving. Diverse, iterative and empathy-driven, this group brings what I find most addictive about Stanford into one experience. Moving, we move others to create a movement. Won’t you join us?

 

Contact Elizabeth Woodson at ewoodson “at” stanford.edu.