Dancing Into Summer with Brockport Summer Dance!

By Allison Bohman

As the Spring 2015 semester comes to a close, members of the Brockport dance community take a moment to pause and reflect upon a busy and successful year.  With commencement only a few days away, many students will be heading home for summer vacation, or planning visits to other regions of the country to embark on summer dance intensives.  This year however, students do not need to go all that far to find an excellent dance intensive.  There is an exciting new summer dance opportunity right here in Brockport!

This summer the Department of Dance at The College at Brockport is hosting the first ever Brockport Summer Dance—a weeklong intensive focusing on contemporary technique, repertory and choreography from May 18-22, 2015.  In this intensive, intermediate to advanced dancers will have the opportunity to study with internationally renowned choreographer David Dorfman and members of David Dorfman Dance, as well as other professionals in the dance field.   It is an outstanding opportunity for students from around the country to participate in an affordable dance residency program while providing the visiting professionals with rehearsal space throughout their stay.

Maura Keefe, associate professor and coordinator of the visiting artist residencies for the Department of Dance, is thrilled with the plans for this year.  In the press release she states, “The Department of Dance has a strong, ongoing relationship with David Dorfman. The company was in residence in 2013, with the support of an American Democracy Project grant. Students at Brockport have been exposed to Dorfman’s work through their experiences with Karl Rogers, who is both an assistant professor in the department and a member of the company.”  In addition to Karl Rogers (Red Dirt Dance), other Dorfman company members such as Kendra Portier, (BAND|portier), and Christina Robson will be leading activities such as open rehearsals, public discussions, and showings choreographed and/or performed by David Dorfman Dance.

Students are also looking forward to this inaugural year of Brockport Summer Dance.  BFA sophomore Chloe London states in an interview, “I am extremely excited to be intensively dancing with a professional dance company in the studios that I take class in throughout the year. Being able to implement all the information I have just absorbed in my body from this semester into a week of fresh and invigorating movement and educational experiences will positively impact how I take on the rest of the summer. I am looking forward to welcoming a variety of movers into our Brockport home to make a new chapter of memories with.  I can’t wait!”

MFA candidate Morgan Bernat is also attending the intensive to help prepare herself for a year of thesis work at Brockport.  “I’m excited to immerse myself in moving and thinking about moving for an entire day, following a year of hectic activity. I think it’s going to be a great way for me to ease into a summer of thinking, creating, and writing around my thesis. I’m also super thrilled to have the opportunity to work with David Dorfman, someone who I have not yet had the chance to work with. His work inspires and excites me in its’ creation and context. David Dorfman has this incredible ability to take large ideas and concepts and abstract them into work that’s rigorous and asks the audience pertinent, interesting questions.”

The Department of Dance is partnering with New York State DanceForce to select choreographers from outside the region to host at Brockport Summer Dance in 2016.  New York State DanceForce member and professor emerita from the College at Brockport Jacquie Davis stated in the press release, “This is an exciting opportunity to support artists in their research and to provide dancers with an intensive experience.”  Brockport has a legacy of bringing outstanding dance to the Rochester community and this summer intensive is another example of the Department of Dance’s drive towards building opportunities for dancers to develop their artistry.

To learn more about this intensive or to register, click here or contact Nicole Kaplan (Brockport MFA alumna), the administrator of this exciting event.

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Generating Momentum with the Philosophy of Dance

By Allison Bohman, based on an interview with Ian Heckman

Ian Heckman, originally from Allentown, Pennsylvania, is an MA in dance studies candidate at The College at Brockport: The State University of New York. He will be graduating in only a few short weeks and is going on to pursue his PhD in Philosophy at The University of British Columbia beginning in September 2015. Ian completed his BS in dance and BS in philosophy at Brockport as well. I had the honor of sitting down with him to learn more about his area of research and what it means to go on for PhD after completing an MA in dance.

Bohman: What are your plans upon graduation this spring?

Heckman: I will be pursuing a PhD in philosophy at The University of British Columbia beginning in September. The program can take three-six years to complete. There are two years of course work and then the amount of time it takes you to finish your dissertation. These generally average around 200 pages or more. I’m grateful to have received funding to support my tuition as well as extra monetary funding for my research. I am really looking forward to this next step in my life.

Bohman: What interested you about this track? How did you get here?

Heckman: I completed my undergraduate degree in philosophy at The College at Brockport and during that time, I also dabbled in some graduate courses. I quickly became interested in philosophy as a field. I am also especially interested in a sub field of philosophy known as “Aesthetic and the Philosophy of Arts.” In addition to my undergraduate studies in philosophy, I was also a dance major. As a dancer and choreographer, this combination just felt right.

Bohman: What are your research interests?

Heckman: I am interested in how philosophy intersects with dance. There is a small and slowly growing field of study called the “Philosophy of Dance.” It is not very big yet, but more and more people have been interested in it recently and I think it will continue to develop over the next several years. My current thesis is a work in applied aesthetics. I look at philosophical literature and theories and apply them to dances I watch. These dances then inform how I theorize in my writing. In other words, I present a theory, I look at the dance, and then apply the theory. The theory and the dance both inform each other though.

Bohman: As part of your current MA in Dance studies, you have been working on a thesis. What is your thesis about?

Heckman: My current thesis looks at the “sublime.” I define the sublime as a particular emotional response to being overwhelmed and overpowered. You feel less than yourself for a while. You recognize the greatness of something outside of you. You eventually recognize something for yourself though. There are profound thoughts that ultimately uplift you. Originally, it is a humbling experience, and then you become emotionally overwhelmed and at some point, something happens (in my writing, I call this a “profound sentiment”) revealing something about human nature. I take this concept of the sublime and look at how it applies to dance and how dance evokes it.

In my thesis, I look at specific modern choreographers and dances. My two main focuses are Pina Bausch and Mark Morris. I also write a bit about Brockport alumnus, Elizabeth Streb, as well as about some European choreographers such as Tero Saarinen and Carolyn Calrson.

The project itself has been around for a long time in my thoughts. Once I discovered the philosophical literature on the topic of the sublime, I always thought this is what I was interested in, even before I fully understood it. As a choreographer, I have always tried to evoke a feeling of the sublime in my work. I discovered my first philosophical moment my sophomore year of college and I wanted to apply it to dance. Never had the time to really work it out. Reading more books allowed me to deepen my understanding. In the process of writing this thesis, I had the opportunity to watch a lot of dances through a particular lens that ended up contributing to my overall theory, especially while looking at works I would not have originally considered to be sublime. As a dancer, I came in with preconceived notion of what it would be, and through this lens, I reconsidered what I had originally thought.

Bohman: What are your long term goals?

Heckman: There are many possibilities. The most obvious route is to teach at a university in a department of philosophy. I would love to work in a dual appointment in dance and philosophy. I am still interested in choreographing because I am fascinated with how my choreography can contribute to theorizing, as it has in previous projects. They both deeply inform each other. I would also like reset some older choreography of mine.

Bohman: Are there any other thoughts you would like to share?

Heckman: I chose to pursue a philosophy PhD because there is so much to choose from. It is broad and I have the freedom to cross disciplines within that. Aesthetics and the philosophy of art is a minority portion of the field of philosophy and I am interested in pushing it further along. Dance within this genre of art in philosophy is important. I want to connect it to other parts of discipline—connecting the dots to make it more valued within the field. Philosophy of dance is generating momentum and I am excited to be at the forefront of this important movement.

Ian Heckman

Photo: Ian Heckman, MA Dance at The College at Brockport

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Sankofa: A Year of Celebration and Remembrance

Dance - Sankofa - 2015

By Daniel Reichert

This year, Sankofa will be a special celebration commemorating the life and work of Clyde Alafiju Morgan, who will be retiring this year, and Khalid Abdul N’Faly Saleem.  Many guest choreographers have come to Brockport to set work on the members of Sankofa, including Molly Christie González, Michelle Whitt and Kelly Johnson, who are all former members of Sankofa and Brockport Alumni.  Also coming in as guest choreographers are Sherone Price and Yesutor Kotoka.  There will be performances choreographed by Marcia Vanderlee, Eliana Slurzberg, Dr. Juanita Suarez, Khalid Saleem, Caitlin Mahon and of course, the show will finish with the Ijexa choreographed by Clyde Morgan.

With so many guest artists and returning alumni, the show has a very different feel from years past.  There will be several traditional African pieces, along with contemporary African influenced dances, a drummer’s piece, and numbers celebrating Sankofa’s rich tradition of inclusion.

Michelle Whitt, a Sankofa alum since 1992, choreographed a Guinean celebratory dance titled “Mendiani Kuku.”  Mendiani is an initiation dance where young girls compete to be the menjani, or best dancer in the village, which was combined with Kuku—a celebration dance which fit the theme of this year’s Sankofa show.

Kelly Johnson is resetting a dance, “Dig, Sift and Bury” which was originally performed at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.  This piece was created to teach young dancers about the roots of the things they see and hear in hip hop by setting a traditional West African and Jamaican movement vocabulary to music put together by a contemporary  hip-hop DJ.  The dance feels cyclical and speaks of digging up roots and sifting new things, burying your contribution for someone else to reap later, referring again to the theme of Sankofa.

Yesutor Kotoka, created the piece “Aza-Fafa,” meaning Festival of Peace.  It celebrates the power of the drum and is dedicated to the world we live in.  It speaks of the troubles of Africa, both past and present and acts as a prayer for peace.

These celebrations of movement and music, along with many more will be shown this Thursday through Sunday at The College at Brockport in Hartwell Theatre. This year is a celebration and a remembrance—there will be people coming from across the globe to be with us this week.  Get your tickets early, as Sankofa may sell out!


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The Perfect Blend of Imperfection: Chamber Ballet Brockport

Chamber Ballet Maleda

(Photo: CBB company members, Maleda Funk and Konrad Morawski.  Photo by Matthew Yeoman, The College at Brockport)

By Sara Palmisano

One of the most gratifying experiences that dance offers an artist is an unlimited number of experiences. One dance, with set movements to a particular piece of music presented on the same stage, does not exist as a perfect replication of itself despite the attempts to do so. This makes dance paradoxical: practicing choreography until it becomes one with the dancer’s body while knowing a dance never exists more than once. Each day, dancers grapple with the struggle of finding perfection within an imperfect world. Enticed by the hope of achieving perfection, dancers tirelessly rehearse long hours for the sake of achieving the impossible. Each day, each experience, gives dancers the opportunity to attempt to obtain this throughout their careers. These experiences culminate a dancer’s artistic voice, and the voice of a dynamic group. One such group lives, here, in Brockport: Chamber Ballet Brockport (CBB).

Still relatively new, Chamber Ballet Brockport, curated by faculty member Vanessa Van Wormer, offers students a unique opportunity to explore contemporary ballet beyond the typical class structure. These students do not just learn dances for the sake of performance; they become an intricate part of the process. These young artists face the wonderful challenge of collaborating with musicians from the Eastman School of Music, through the leadership of Hilary Glen, and guest artists, such as Phaedra Jarrett and Brad Parquette. The potential for greatness drives these individuals—Van Wormer, Glen, Jarrett, Parquette, and the students—to unite in order to produce powerful works of art that captivate their audiences. Chamber Ballet Brockport embraces the endless possibilities that commence when multiple people of various talents decide to facilitate a night of music and dance. Yet, the true beauty does not lie just within the boundaries of the performance, it also exists in the process that ends in the performance.

Chamber Ballet Brockport performs high caliber dances, but the group dynamic itself sets these students and their mentor apart. Perfection has managed to become part of the language surrounding ballet. Yet, these dancers know that perfection of one cannot support the group. Therefore, these students have created a sanctuary for their artistry amongst themselves. While rehearsing, these young artists continuously communicate in order to help guide one another through choreography and musical cues. They trust one another in order to produce the seamless pieces that the audience eventually witnesses. All the while, the hardships of their tasks do not deter this group from finding moments of laughter and ease throughout the rehearsal process. Even as they enter the time period of last minute rehearsals and tech nights before they appear on stage this coming weekend, this group supports each other without hindrance.

As a spectator, one can observe a sense of intimacy that comes with the time these dancers spend trying to attain the seamless bonding of music and movement they work with. Chamber Ballet Brockport expands beyond learning movements and dances prescribed to contemporary ballet. Although they seek perfection, this group recognizes the beauty of letting themselves exist within the moment with music. We may never experience or see the same dance twice, but we experience the same emotions time and time again. Dance, and music, has the means to evoke memories and emotions from our lives we had long since forgotten. Because of this, Chamber Ballet Brockport teaches its audience the beauty of this craft happens in the now.

As soon as a movement is executed, it has passed by the time we register its happening. In order to fully welcome all that dance offers us, we let go of the idea of perfection momentarily. We exist in the beautiful perfection of the imperfections that the dance offers. However, these “imperfections” do not actually exist. One could argue, that every dance in every performance exists perfectly within its own right. The only fact that deters a dance from perfection is the mindset of the individual. During the Chamber Ballet Brockport Premiere, the audience will see how losing oneself in a dance is the perfect dance during any performance. Perfection will always exist and never exist within the framework of a dance and music. We simply have to have to decide what to see in the dance.

The Chamber Ballet concert takes place Friday, April 24 through Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 7:30 pm. The performances are in the Rose L. Strasser Studio in Hartwell Hall, Kenyon Street, on the Brockport campus. Tickets are $5, and are available at the door. Proceeds benefit future programming and community outreach by Chamber Ballet Brockport.

Chamber Ballet Poster

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Scholar’s Day 2015; A day of research and remembrance

Scholar's Day

By Marissa Aucoin

“As expected, the dance department showed up in full force for this year’s Scholars Day. This annual event supporting the creative and academic research of Brockport undergraduates, graduates, and staff showcased over twenty dance based presentations. This array of presentations included conference papers, lecture demonstrations, works-in-progress showings, poster presentations, and more, making dance one of the most represented disciplines of the day. As a 2nd year MFA candidate within the department of dance, I had the privilege of sharing my personal research in the form of a conference paper earlier in the day. The feedback and interest that both I and my fellow presenters received left me proud, not only of the work I had done, but of the community here at Brockport. Witnessing and experiencing how students, especially those from disciplines outside of dance, were able to engage with the research, further affirmed the importance of stimulating inquiry and interdisciplinary exchange.

This Scholar’s Day in particular was a very personal one for the department of dance.  In “This dance exists in the present and the future, but not in the now” : Defining a dance, Associate Professor Maura Keefe shared a thoughtful yet gut-wrenching paper, documenting her process of creating a dance that never came to fruition. Our worlds were turned upside down after the unexpected loss of Christina Gorman this past October.  Ms. Keefe along with myself and fellow dancers Marissa Subik and Maya Gonzalez had the honor of working intimately with Christina, creating a work to be presented in the department’s annual Danscore concert. With her passing, not only did we lose a cherished dancer, student, and friend, but we were left with the haunting of a dance that could no longer subsist in the way it was envisioned. Without Christina, without her presence, the dance did not exist. While, as a cast, it continues to live on in our minds, bodies, and memories, only those few who had the privilege of witnessing it know the work in its truest sense. We struggled with not wanting to leave the dance behind, all the while knowing that it would never be the same. Keefe’s presentation allowed us to share our struggle. Her presentation was our catharsis. Together, Ms. Keefe, myself, and fellow dancer Marissa Subik finally shared the fragments of the movement that remain.”

In addition to Marissa Aucoin’ s experiences at Scholar’s Day 2015, many other students in the Department of Dance and all around the Brockport campus shared their scholarly work.  Take a moment to check out this short and sweet recap of Scholar’s Day: In 30 Seconds!

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Transcending Cultural Barriers…Through Balloons?

Sacrifice For Paradise

By Ian Heckman

The image of balloons conjures up visions of children, birthday parties, revelry, laughter, and joyfulness. It may even make you remember a particularly special birthday party you had as a child. But in Siwen Jiang’s MFA thesis, balloons take on a completely different tenor.  Siwen Jiang, a third year MFA candidate at The College at Brockport, is from China and has spent the last three years studying dance in Brockport. Her thesis, which will be shown in Dance/Hartwell at SUNY Brockport at 7:30 April 9th through the 11th, transforms balloons into much more serious objects. Jiang transforms balloons into objects of emotion. Not emotions of merriment, but emotions of hope and potential loss. She shows us another side of balloons, apart from their usual associations with parties, a side where we look up at the balloon, above us.

The dance begins with two people on stage: one is Chinese, the other, American. The balloons are arranged around the space, at varying heights. They enter a movement dialogue with one another with the Chinese dancer beginning and the American dancer responding. This Chinese dancer and the American dancer are coming from two very different points of view, but they are trying to breach the divide between one another. Proceeding this movement dialogue is a series of people walking across the stage. The two dancers from the beginning are there, with a collection of others, some Chinese and some American. The dancers keep walking across the stage and eventually, I pay less attention to how the dancers are walking across the stage and my attention is drawn to the balloons themselves. I begin to notice how the balloons are swaying and moving as a result of the dancers walking across the stage. This is where it seems that the balloons are the key–the key to linking the cultures to one another.

The dancers then proceed to move with the balloons and then something happens: the dancers elevate the balloons far above their heads. And I am reminded of the space balloons occupy, above us. It is here, above us, where all of our hopes and dreams lie. But at the same time, if the balloons go too high, our hopes and our dreams may be ungraspable. Several times during Jiang’s thesis, as the dancers raise the balloons further above their heads, we are reminded of this unfortunate truth: Even though we are hopeful, we sometimes have to let our dreams and hopes go. The image of balloons becomes a dual symbol of both hope and loss. And this is a truth that transcends cultural differences. No matter where we are from, no matter what language we speak, we all still long for the fulfillment of our dreams, and sometimes those dreams get away from us.

In her thesis, Siwen Jiang evokes these ideas and emotions through the simple image of balloons rising. She shows us this much more serious side of the balloon, but the emotions are not exaggerated or overdone. My hope and fear while watching those balloons rise is subtle and quiet. They match a yearning which is not apparent or obvious, but reflects a more everyday concern with hope and loss. Jiang transcends cultural barriers through balloons, which are symbols for the hope and fear we experience on an everyday basis.

Be sure to catch Siwen Jiang’s thesis work as well as other student choreographed pieces at DANCE/Hartwell on April 9th-April 11th at 7:30pm in Hartwell Theatre!

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Reflecting on Guest Artist Visits

By Christina Williams

Walking into yet another guest artist master class was a gift for me as a student. It’s often mentally challenging and physically demanding to allow your mind and body to constantly experience different dance forms, however it’s a privilege to take so many classes with such talented and experienced artists. More than ten guest artists have come to Brockport this spring, teaching master classes and setting work for Sankofa. We have had opportunities to learn varying contemporary techniques from guests ranging from Laura Peterson, who spent a week-long residency with us, to Alexandra Beller who taught one technique class and returns later this month, along with three candidates for a faculty position who taught multiple classes each over several weeks, among others. With so many guest artists in seven weeks, the minds and bodies of the dancers at Brockport experienced genuine exhaustion but also genuine exploration this semester so far. The most recent guest artist to visit Brockport was Darrell Jones, who brightened our Tuesday morning with a House dance-inspired Vogue aesthetic.

Jones, a Bessie Award-winning choreographer, received his MFA in Choreography and Performance from Florida State University in 1995. Having performed internationally with Min Tanaka, Bebe Miller, Ralph Lemon and Urban Bush Women, Jones’ diverse training in improvisation, Butoh, contemporary and traditional dance forms greatly informed his work with his rich, unique taste in movement.

Entering Jones’ class felt like walking into a new space after watching how he fiercely conquered it the previous evening. Seeing Hoo-Ha (For Your Eyes Only) performed the previous night on March 9th by Jones and two collaborating dancers, before taking his class was the ideal introduction for his work. There’s no better way to meet artists and their movement than watching them throw it all at you before you’ve even had a chance to say hello to them. Reading a description of his work would not have given me the appropriate illustration that I needed before trying it on myself.

If I had read a class description about ducking and whacking, I wouldn’t have been as excited for his class as I was after watching him own the stage with extended ponytails and confident struts. No words would have produced such an excited anticipation to learn from him than seeing his unbothered coolness pour throughout his quick-firing movements as well as the subtle details of his focus and hand gestures. His personality filled the room and flooded my mind with drive to try such a new attitude on myself. When the time came to take his class the next day, the dancers were filled with anticipation.

Beginning the class with a simple walk down the lines of the marley, a sense of personality and commanding presence immediately filled the giant palace of Strasser Studio. Quickly moving into more physically demanding movement, we found our limits and pushed them by testing how many steps it took us to cross the floor. We accessed muscles we’d never needed before through stylized gestures. We bent joints we didn’t know folded through intense transitions into and out of the floor. The comfort in our individuality that Jones planted inside all of us through a driving sense of community and motivation during this class made his seemingly impossible movement less intimidating. His insanely fast movement felt utterly foreign on my body because it required a self-knowledge about my presence that I had never accessed before. It didn’t feel as unmanageable and difficult as it would have, however, without the immense amount of positive energy and motivation filling the room. Darrell Jones gave us a brilliant show, fresh movement for our bodies, and really sore quads. Most importantly however, we were given inspiration as artists to try on a new dance form confidently, without self-judgment.

Hoo Ha

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Faculty Interview: Mariah Maloney

Written by Morgan Bernat (MFA candidate)

Based on an interview with Mariah Maloney (Assistant Professor)

Maloney Fly

As students we often have the pleasure of hearing about our professor’s lives outside of the university. I had the opportunity to sit down with Professor Mariah Maloney not once, but twice in the last year and a half to discuss her travels and experiences as a performer and educator. In the winter of 2014 Mariah traveled to the Theatre Academy Helsinki for three weeks to work with two different groups at their academy. This is the second time she has had the opportunity to travel to Finland for this particular program and she is deeply invested in a bi-annual trip to continue the development of this program.

Her first two weeks were spent with their MA students; spending each day deeply invested in somatic practices, technique, and finishing off with Trisha Brown Repertory. At the end of her two weeks, the students had the opportunity to perform for the college what they had learned thus far with Mariah. Her last week was spent with the academy’s pedagogy students, she had the incredibly rich opportunity to teach teachers using her work with Trisha Brown as a starting point.

While a similar program could have been just as fulfilling within the United States, it was the Finnish people that she found to be so incredible. Mariah reflects on their deep thinking, quiet demeanor, and profound sense of themselves within the world. It was within the intensive environment sans interruption that she found a deep fruitful experience that brought her back to The College at Brockport feeling refreshed and excited.

Mariah was then invited to attend the FIDIC IV Festival Internacional de Danza Cocoa in September of 2014 in Argentina; an invigorating way to kick off the school year. This trip, however, differed from her trip to Finland in that she was traveling as a choreographer and was able to perform her own work. Along with performing four of her own pieces, she was able to teach for part of her day as part of the festival incorporating her work as well as Trisha Brown’s influence. What was immediately apparent in speaking with her about this trip was the excitement and spark the performance experience had given her. The four pieces were solos that she had made over the last five years. Three of those four solos were based on a structured improvisation; one dance leading into the next. When asked what was the most challenging part of performing four solos in a row, Mariah spoke of the mental transition between each piece as well as the vital need to be present on all levels; physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally.

Another difference that Mariah found interesting to navigate was the language barrier that was not present when traveling to Finland. In Argentina she had a translator present everywhere that she went. This proved to be an interesting teaching experience; however, she felt lucky upon realizing her translator in the classroom was a somatic practitioner.

As a student of Mariah’s for the last six years of my life, I’ve learned that while words are important, it is your physical body that speaks the loudest. I find her experience to be a direct example of how true this is and lucky that as her student, I get to continue learning from her even in her absence.

To learn more about Mariah’s travels and teaching, you can visit her company’s website or the Department of Dance at The College at Brockport.

Irish Solo

(Photo from Irish Solo)

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Brockport Dancers at ACDA


By Marissa Subik

On Wednesday March 11th, 2015 a group of Brockport dancers and faculty traveled to the American College Dance Association Conference (ACDA) which was held at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. Jordan Lloyd’s solo “Pieces of Intention,” Andrea Montez’s duet “Rockaway,” and my group piece “Switching Gears” were all invited to present at the conference alongside over 20 regional colleges and universities. Our adventure began by going to see a concert promoting and sharing current Philadelphia artists and choreographers works. Witnessing these diverse works was a wonderful way of kicking off the conference.

Thursday morning the group shuttled over to the campus and participated in classes from 8am to 6pm. Being able to choose from at least five or six classes in each block was amazing and a great way to meet new people, see familiar faces, and learn to take class from different people. I began my day with a contemporary technique class taught by a faculty member at Lockhaven University. The class was a great introduction to the conference and also a nice transition into dancing with new bodies in new spaces. There is something invigorating about taking class with people you do not know because it forces you to dance with different bodies—it makes you step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself, and it allows for different perspectives to develop in the ways in which you view dance.

After chatting with my fellow peers from Brockport, I was curious as to what they thought about these experiences.  Sometimes, taking a class that maybe does not fit your idiom, helps engage your mind and body in a different way. Learning how to take class from different instructors is informative in the sense that you learn how to take class for yourself. Knowing how and when to listen to your body is a really important skill for a dancer to have. Witnessing different approaches to how the instructors taught their classes really informs you of which teaching method works for you and what does not. For me, this conference felt like research in the sense that all of us were seeing and doing and it was all informing our relation to dance and how we can articulate the way we talk about it to people who may not be so familiar with it.

My favorite part of the conference was the concerts we were able to see. I must have seen at least forty or more pieces and each and every one informed my ideas and research about dance in a different way. I was able to see works that shared similarities with mine and works that were completely different. I witnessed different musical choices and costume designs, lighting choices and choreographic choices that I would have never even thought about before. These performances opened up a whole new world to choreographing for me because I saw what I liked and what challenged me to think about dance. I was able to discuss what I was seeing with my peers and learned how to talk about it, which only made us more confident in our articulation later on in the conference. I also was able to sit in on one of the feedback sessions for the adjudicated concerts and listen to the feedback and information the three adjudicators gave for each work in that specific concert. Listening to how these adjudicators used their language and talked about what they saw only taught me how to see and discuss dance better.

The American College Dance Association Conference is an incredible opportunity to experience and be a part of. Being able to watch my fellow Brockport peers perform,  sharing my own work, and witnessing all of the creative and extraordinary talent throughout the conference is a gift. There is something really special about the dance community; we all have this common and admirable respect for one another, an endless support system. Although our work may have different aesthetics and qualities we appreciate and relate to sharing art with the community. I, along with my fellow Brockport peers, feel so grateful and so blessed to partake in this conference and witness all of the amazing art that took place.

Jordan Solo

(Pictured above: Jordan Lloyd in his solo “Pieces of Intention” at ACDA 2015.  His piece was selected for the Gala Performance.)

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An Interview With Guest Artist Laura Peterson

“You don’t have to put yourself in the dance, you’re already there. You are enough.”

-An informal interview with guest artist Laura Peterson by Christina Williams-

Brooklyn-based Laura Peterson was warmly welcomed into our department a few weeks ago as our annual guest artist through the Student Dance Organization. Currently teaching at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, Peterson also teaches in various studios around New York City. Having performed at Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Inside/Out and recently funded by the 2014 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, her work has made its way around the world. For one week, we were privileged with her teaching and dance making here in Brockport, NY. Through several master classes during the week as well as a lecture-demonstration of original work she set on some of our dancers, Peterson left her artistic mark on the minds and bodies of the better part of our entire department.

During my trek to Hartwell through a few feet of stubborn snow to audition for Laura Peterson’s guest residency piece, I was not aware at the time that the woman I was about to meet would soon influence my thinking and moving in just six days. What I thought was going to simply be a short amount of time to make a long dance, became an exposure to an artistic process that opened my mind. Having such an available mind herself, walking into an foreign department and working with these hungry, unfamiliar college students for a week, provided us with an inspiration to not fear the unknown of a situation. Giving us a sense of gutsy stamina with her work, we became a stronger group of dancers through our dancing but also with our processing. She selected eighteen dancers to work with and we all benefited from her gift of confidence in our dancing and our minds as artists through this intense week. She believed in us and our ability to create this exhilarating piece of work and in return, we finished the week reciprocating that sense of advancement in ourselves. Our brief time together resulted in a sixteen minute dance; a rich breadth of unique information that would not have been possible without Peterson’s cheerfully quirky, inspiring and inimitable presence.

As the incredible week was wrapping up, and the first public showing of the work had passed, I was curious how this residency had resonated with Peterson and how her time here might have an affect on her work on a larger scale. I conducted an informal interview with her in a casual chat in the seats of Strasser Studio before her last class.

Christina Williams: With your residency here, what goals did you have for this week and how have they changed, if you had any at all?

Laura Peterson: I’ve done these choreographic residencies before and I love them, I really do. And you can confuse yourself if you have a set idea because when you walk in, you meet these people with all different skill levels and experiences to bring to it, and you have this set thing and you ask yourself how can you possibly fulfil this? These are different kinds of people so I think it’s helpful if you remove all expectations and you walk in, you’re open, and you see who is in front of you, and meet them. I think that’s for any kind of choreographic project, that you create the dance for the dancers who are in the room with you. You listen to their artistic voice and watch their artistic interpretation of a concept or a task. And you let that piece shape itself.

 CW: How does your process with your company and with your solo work differ from your process here at Brockport?

LP: The people that I work with are a lot more experienced, they’re older, they’re professionals and generally around 30. I think that’s important to me; I guess that working professionally and working with people with a lot of experience can bring different viewpoints to the work. And I think that when you’ve had your body longer, not that dancers are more or less mature when they’re 30 but when you’ve been with yourself longer, there’s a sense of how to work efficiently that you just gain over time. It’s not dissimilar from working here, I mean I’m the same person, but the dancers contribute a lot more conceptually. Also we work for a long time, around eight months, and we make a lot of material and a lot of it gets thrown out. But we do more talking about it and I come in with a concept already versus when I just meet you guys here I think, “Well really can I walk in with a concept?” Because I don’t know these people in front of me. I could think about bringing something in but I don’t know how many people there will be, or maybe I go somewhere and they’re not as good as you guys are here, I mean the expectations are the main difference.

CW: How have your personal goals changed throughout your career as an artist, as a person or as a dancer?

LP: They change all the time, they really do. Sometimes I really want to have residencies, so maybe I’ll start applying for things that are directed that way for a while, or maybe I’ll shift my interest every couple of years, but when I was really young I think I was pretty confused. I had some peculiar expectations of myself that were not in line at all with reality and I don’t feel like I was particularly prepared when I left school to deal with the way New York City really is, the way dancing really is. When I was in school, nobody said to you “Okay, here’s what auditions are like, here’s what it’s like and here’s what it isn’t like”. So I felt very mixed up. So I was thinking “Should I be in a big company, but I also want to choreograph, so how would I go to an audition, am I good enough?” Just judging myself all the time. So as I got older those things fell away and I tried to focus again on what was most important to me. I remember I was in a weird situation that led me to be in that movie Across the Universe and I had this tiny dance part and I had this weird hair and I was thinking to myself should I work in commercial work? Should my goals shift to that and then I thought “No that was a fluky thing, that’s not really artistically interesting to me to be in a show”. And then I got a call to audition for this Vegas water show and I was down to the last four people, it was me and these 5’8” blondes and I asked myself again “Are those my goals really?” It would be nice to be paid really well, but I’m not going to be artistically satisfied. My goals get confused, they shift and that’s okay. I think it’s okay to shift your goals all the time.

 CW: If you could give all of the students here, who range from late teenagers fresh out of high school to students in their twenties about to be set free in the dance world one piece of advice, what would it be?

LP: If you really, really, really want to dance, you can. You can make your own dances. But dance is really hard and it takes a really long time. And I would say my advice is don’t stop. Eyes on the prize. You just keep looking forward and have a short memory, so that means let go of things that were negative behind you and look straight ahead towards what you want, what your goals are and just keep doing it. And you’re going to fail and people are going to reject you all the time but if you keep your eyes on the goal, those things can just fall away, they can. It’s really hard and it takes a lot of grit, a lot of determination and perseverance to be a dancer, but if that’s the most important thing to you, you can do it, you absolutely can. But if there’s something else that you’re kind of interested in where you might actually have a job, you might want to think about how you could transition into something that would actually pay you… if you don’t really want to dance. If you don’t really, really, in your deepest part of you, really want to do this thing more than anything else, then try other things, the world is big.

Our time with Peterson was indeed short but inarguably well spent. With the laughter filled-long rehearsals, and a rigorous creative progression, the eighteen dancers are proud of our collaboration with Peterson. And proud to have represented the Department of Dance. Keeping her values of grit and perseverance in mind, it’s clear to see that she saw that drive in all of us through our high speed but crystal clear movement. She provided us with an unmatchable experience not to be forgotten when she leaves. For a taste of what Peterson and eighteen smart dancers here have created, our piece titled “Silvery” will be performing on Scholars Day on April 8th, 2015.

Guest Artist

Photo: The cast of “Silvery.”

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