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Open Access Publications from the University of California

CANON The Cinematic Story Ballet (Cineballet): & How I Learned to Create Cognitive Characters from William Shakespeare

  • Author(s): Jackson, Jehbreal
  • Advisor(s): Terricciano, Alan
  • Lupton, Julia
  • et al.



The Cinematic Story Ballet (Cineballet):


How I Learned to Choreograph Cognition from William Shakespeare


Jehbreal Muhammad Jackson

Master of Fine Arts in Dance

University of California, Irvine, 2020

Professor Alan Terricciano, Chair

As a young artist interested in many art forms, I yearned for a way to focus my attention on them all or focus them all into one singular vision. This total artwork was given form through various artistic encounters with the works of William Forsythe, George Balanchine, Stanley Kubrick and Johann Sebastian Bach, but was solidified upon discovering the plays of William Shakespeare. After falling in love with the plays of Shakespeare during a particularly tumultuous time in my life, I began to research his creative craftmanship. During my research I simultaneously encountered the beginnings of a pursuit of scholarship regarding Shakespeare and cognition, while also using my discoveries to develop an artistic practice of my own.

Shakespeare’s pervasive reach has many sources, but one of his primary gifts and innovations is in his creation of “cognitive characters” as detailed by the scholarship of Harold Bloom and the performance practices of John Barton. While researching cognition, I came to understand more clearly what Bloom and Barton meant by their claims of cognitive characters, but also discovered a paradigm shift in theoretical notions of cognition that have yet to reach the public consciousness. This paradigm shift proves the popular understanding of a separation of mind and body, initiated and disseminated by René Descartes, to be false and proposes that the body is a “thinking” entity itself through empirical evidence. The thinking body and how it initiates cognition has become my foundation for working towards creating cognitive characters, as Shakespeare did, in my cineballet CANON.

Cineballet, a story ballet written and choreographed specifically for film, is a new subgenre of screen dance that was created as a result of and a response to great trauma and adversity. It is my goal through this research to create works of art that speak to our current time as well as future generations to help people to live more enriched and healthy lives as the plays of Shakespeare have for me and countless others.

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