Love for animals leads outstanding grad to different career path

December 3, 2021

Distinguished graduate student at the Herberger Institute explores the relationship between mind and body

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable Fall 2021 alumni.

Ri Lindegren graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in a unique field – dance, interdisciplinary media, and performance.

Lindegren, who has a master’s degree in fine arts, is an outstanding graduate student at the Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts this semester.

She calls her field of study “dance and technology” and describes it this way:

“Before I joined this program, I did a lot of video dancing. So I did a lot of dancing in front of the camera, or dance to a movie,” she said.

“Dancing on camera is a very specific genre. The director directs the camera’s attention. It’s not just the dance documents.

“I applied to film schools and master’s programs in dance, and chose Arizona State University because the College of Arts, Media, and Engineering had more options for technology—technology I had never heard of and was terrified at the time.”

I took a lot of engineering lessons.

“I have done a variety of different techniques to understand the field. My experience has been to explore what the field of dance and technology could be and what it looks like now,” Lindgren said.

“I had a lot of supportive faculty in the dance department who said, ‘We don’t quite know what to do with you, so you can tell. “And I appreciate it. I had a lot of freedom while I was still fulfilling the requirements.”

Lindegren discovered how to integrate dance and technology into the context of body movement.

“If I want to project work against a background, I think about motion that would work with that projection and how I could use technology to amplify what’s going on in the body.

“For me, it was a lot more about restoring technology and giving strength to the body, the dancer, and the human being in space, rather than making the human adapt to the technology.”

Here, Lindegren talks about her time at ASU.

Question: Can you describe Body Sleuth, your virtual adventure thesis project?

Answer: My research has been trying to find ways to remind us that we have bodies and to reimagine how technology can enhance our quality of life in a different way, a holistic mind-body connection.

It’s like, “Look at this augmented reality app on my phone” or “Look at this cool new interactive game.” And you realize that your body has curved and you have no awareness of it because you are playing the game. Technology is slowly starting to change your body and how you experience yourself.

I was interested in creating an online community during the pandemic that brings people together, specifically by and for the Queer community. Everyone who was a performer on the Body Sleuth project was LGBTQIAIt is often used to include the following identities: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gay/interrogative, bisexual, and asexual/gender., the people who played could be LGBT or Allies. He wasn’t trying to code people or get them out. It was an intentionally queer space, a space meant to uplift and support LGBT people during the pandemic when so many people had to return home, which could be an unsafe living environment.

They had avatars that they could move around, interacting with different characters in this world that was completely fictional. They met different personalities who represented different levels of body contact. It was all related to the movement in some way. They had organized improvisations. It was very important: “I have to walk across there in an automatic way or in a very free and smooth way or by rolling.”

They received mailboxes with tangible things. During COVID, a lot of what I experienced was a lack of communication and contact with people. There were a few small skateboards and tufts of soft cloth that they had to create a scenario with. There was an instant soup can, and we made a soup together that they can eat at the same time via camera to try the taste. It was giving a more spacious sensory experience to the people behind the camera.

Q: What was the “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study dance and technology?

a: My undergraduate degree was in Anthropology, Interdisciplinary Studies, and Gender Studies at New College Florida in Sarasota. (The college) didn’t have a dance program, but I did take a class every semester and loved it. I decided I wanted to practice dancing even though I didn’t major in it, so I needed a lot of practice. I would go to all of these intense, one to five week dance programs where you take three to five classes a day, every day.

I went to the Bates Dance Festival in Maine. They made this interactive space with all these techniques in this large studio. They had projectors and cameras connected to projectors and lights and video, and you could remix the room however you wanted. We learned how videography works, how to edit, and the technical skills behind the work. And suddenly, it just clicked and it made sense. I love dancing, I love some parts of technology, and definitely the video camera, and I love interdisciplinary work.

Q: What did you learn at ASU that changed your perspective?

a: For me, the biggest challenge was the technology hurdle, and I felt like I wasn’t tech savvy enough. There’s no class in the dance department like, “Here, dancer, here’s how you learn basic computing or coding skills to reach this AME concentration.” I had to take an undergraduate class as a graduate student to get the basic skills to catch up. The professors were very patient and supportive. It really helped build my confidence that I could learn these technology skills that I was so afraid of. I learned how to solder wires together and look at JavaScript and coding basic things. I still have a long learning curve ahead. But it gave me the confidence to pursue technology in a way I didn’t think I was capable of.

Q: Who are your influential faculty members?

a: I really appreciate Jessica Rajko, who is a graduate and was a professor here (she is now at Wayne State University), the work she has been doing and how she has talked about technology and dance. And Grisha Coleman guided me here.

There’s a professor, David Olarty, and I’ve taken an afro-LatexA gender-neutral term for Latin/preferred by some individuals and groups. Salsa is with him and TA’d his class on Afro-Latinx Salsa History, and I love the way he talks about the body as technology. No computers or coding. I love reframing technology as an object.

I also liked Marcus White (who died in 2020), who was a mentor and advisor to my thesis. His first class at Arizona State University was his trending class, and I love fashion. I’m not a member of the community and I’m not in vogue, but I appreciate it. And I’ll never forget that first class and I thought, “Wow! They have it all! They have vogue, they have house dance, hip-hop, salsa, all these options.”

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

a: I am passionate about social justice and making technology available to more people. Realistically, it would likely be something to do with media design or production consulting work.

Woman in a lunge pose outside the arts building

Ri Lindegren, who has a master’s degree in fine arts, is outside the Nelson Center for the Fine Arts. Photo by Charlie Light/Arizona State University News

Q: What is your favorite place on campus? (Asked on the patio outside the Fine Arts Center.)

a: Love this place, it has so many great memories. They always host what is now Sol Power and used to be called Urban Sol, and this is one of my favorite events. I have done many dance performances at this place. Other favorites are in (rooms) FAC 28 downstairs and FAC 122 that has this balcony where they do full length shows because they have a light grid. These are my favorite dance spaces. I love the Matthews Center at AME, it’s a place for graduate students and we have our own offices and we have an iStage. And any areas with plants or nature.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million, what would you do?

a: My dream is to have my own multimedia production consulting company, so that I can form networks between people. I hear a lot of my artist friends about their dream visions, and now I know what I know on the other side of technology, I’m like, “Here’s what you can actually do with this, and here’s someone you can talk to.” It is a matter of being like a translator between the two. It pays to have someone in the middle if you’re not of both worlds to help see the full potential of what you can do.

So I will definitely start my own multimedia company which will include training and training programs where people are paid to learn technology skills. I would do a lot of movement-oriented classes, as well as classes that support the mind-body connection. I have a very strong yoga practice, I take it very seriously and love to do mindful yoga and trauma conscious yoga that supports healing in different ways. There will be dance therapy and counseling that also connects people to technology, art and performance. And I would like to make sure that a lot of resources support indigenous communities, BIPOCBlacks, Aboriginals, Coloreds. Lesbian and marginalized communities and societies, as well as providing access for people of different abilities to come together.

Top photo: Ri Lindegren is the Distinguished Graduate Student at the Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts for Fall 2021. Here she is at one of her favorite spots on the Tempe campus, the courtyard outside the Nelson Center for the Fine Arts. Photo by Charlie Light/Arizona State University News

Mary Beth Faller

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