Jennifer Maiko Kishi: Former Ballerina En Pointe With Dance Heritage Coalition Fellowship

The recent MLIS graduate looks forward to preserving dance and performing arts documentation for students, scholars, performers.

Although Jennifer Maiko Kishi (’13, MLIS, Archival Science and Informatics) studied classical ballet, her latest contribution to the dance world is far from traditional. The recent graduate of the UCLA Department of Information Studies was awarded a Dance Heritage Coalition (DHC) Preservation and Archives Fellowship. The thirteen-week fellowship, which was funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, includes a weeklong orientation session on working with dance-related materials, training at a host institution supervised by leaders in the dance library and archival field, and attendance at professional conferences including the annual meetings of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and the American Library Association (ALA).

While the other DHC Fellows have been processing records, creating online exhibits, and digitizing the performing arts collections from dance companies and other related institutions, Kishi recently completed a project with the Ohio State University Libraries Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute (TRI) and the Motion Capture Lab at the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD).

“I was interested in working with dance preservation technologies and the Ohio State University is renowned for its innovation, experimentation, and collaboration with art and technology,” says Kishi. “I’m thrilled for this opportunity to help contribute to the preservation of OSU’s performing arts motion capture materials. Unlike most traditional forms of dance documentation – notations, oral traditions, and moving and still images, motion capture technology allows a unique opportunity to conduct in-depth analysis of movements through multi-angled views in three-dimensional space.”

Working with ACCAD’s growing performing arts motion capture collection which includes works by performance artist Marcel Marceau and choreographer Bebe Miller, Kishi provided a collections assessment of materials. She also researched and provided recommendations for managing motion capture materials for ACCAD’s long-term archival access and preservation.

To develop an archival planning report for ACCAD, Kishi interviewed the staff members at the motion capture lab, communicated with various institutions and companies working with motion capture, as well as departments at OSU to discuss copyright, metadata, digital preservation, and technical issues and requirements. Her final report included recommendations for creating an archival inventory, developing policies and procedures, digital preservation techniques, and potential sources of funding for developing a performing arts motion capture archive.

Kishi says the preservation of dance materials is often regarded as an afterthought by many choreographers and dance companies. During her fellowship orientation in Chicago, she had the opportunity to contribute to a group archival assessment of a dance company.

“Dance is multifaceted – you need to take into account many different components of dance from the choreographer and the dancers; the music and the costumes; the rehearsal footage and photographic documentations; and the actual choreography and performance itself,” notes Kishi. “Choreographers and dance companies are often too busy, don’t have allocated funds for archival preservation, or the knowledge of how to preserve their materials.”

MLIS alumna Jennifer Kishi (’13) attended orientation for her Dance Heritage Coalition fellowship at the Newberry Library in Chicago earlier this summer. Pictured with a pair of toe shoes that belonged to Anna Pavlova at the Library’s Ann Barzel Dance Research Collection. Photo by Lyla Medeiros

The next phase of Kishi’s fellowship is her practicum assignment, where she and another DHC Fellow, Lyla Medeiros who completed her fellowship residency at the UCLA Special Collections, will be working on a collaborative project. They will conduct research for DHC’s Dance Preservation and Digitization Project (DPDP), which will provide prospective users – educators, students, institutions, dancers and choreographers, with dance-related primary source materials in one central database.

Kishi says that having studied dance is an advantage in her work to preserve techniques and performances. “I have an understanding of what the process is – how dance develops, from beginning to end,” she says. “The way choreography is taught, rehearsed, and performed.”

“Although I no longer dance, it’s gratifying to be able to contribute to the documentation and preservation of dance heritage materials.”

Kishi is also attending “Archives 2013,” the joint meeting of the Council of State Archivists and SAA in New Orleans this month, and will be sharing her DHC Fellowship experiences at the Performing Arts Roundtable.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science at UCLA.

Kishi has recently worked as a special collections cataloging intern for the Getty Research Institute, and an archives intern at the Yosemite National Park Archive. She served as vice president of the UCLA Student Chapter of SAA from 2012-2013.