Meet Ari: She took her research to the stage & battled it out

Ari K


“It’s easy to punch. It’s hard to maintain the story of it.”

A brawl breaks out: One combatant lunges toward the other, but her adversary uses the force from her strike against her, and sends her hurtling.

It’s a fluid, continuous motion — and SO much went into making it look that way. An entire research project, in fact.

While it looks like one fighter is using the other’s momentum against them, that’s all show. “If they had actually had used the momentum, it would have been unsafe, and one of them would have slammed into the ground.”

Ari had to work out all those little details with her Honors Fellowship project. She learned a new combat style (aikido) and translated it into a choreographed fight scene. Then, she took what she’d learned to coach 2 actors through the scene.

I had to understand how it felt, not just what it looked like,” she said. “It’s not just a punch and a kick. That’s a really 1-dimensional way to look at it. The point isn’t for someone to watch and think, ‘Look how well choreographed it is.’ The point is for them to go, ‘Ow!’ and think it’s real. Because when it lands, you can feel it in the audience.

“You can feel when they flinch. That’s what theater is — it’s in the room, visceral, and experiential.”

That storytelling aspect of fighting is part of what drew Ari to the flowing style of aikido.

“When I explained the punches, it gave them more meaning, because it became about ‘sending energy through your arm.’ You have to create a common dialogue to get the actors on the same page.

“When you speak in terms of fluidity, it gets you out of the mindset of ‘this is violent’ and makes it more of a shared activity between the actors.”

Now living in Chicago, Ari is still using her stage-battle and teaching skills as a combat lead in plays and films.

“I’ve always been a mover. Violence is not ‘feminine,’ so to be seen not as ‘beautiful dancer,’ but ‘ass-kicker,’ that’s really empowering.”


You can lead independent projects like this, too. 

Learn about Honors Fellowships »