Injury Prevention Initiative

By Bethany Fagan Good

(with guidance from Stevie Oakes)

As dancers, our bodies are our greatest assets. Even knowing this, we are often beating up our bodies, pushing them beyond unconceivable limits, and then asking for more. What makes this never-ending cycle possible is devotion to the care of our bodies. Often our bodies are simply telling us to rest, take it back a notch, limiting movement in order to prevent detrimental injury. Unfortunately, these signals present themselves during the busiest of times, typically after some damage has already occurred – be it from over-working or sometimes ignoring. So what can we do in preparation? How can we focus on the care of our bodies as routine, rather than recovery?

Brockport’s Department of Dance has a tremendous reputation leading in dance science scholarship dating back to faculty like Sondra Fraleigh, Dr. Natalie Goodhartz and Susannah Newman and maintained more recently by Jacqueline Davis and William Evans, to name a few. Our beautiful facilities – from the glorious studios with sprung floors and open spaces to the well-stocked conditioning lab and health pool – are further testament to the value placed upon healthy practice. The emphasis on wellness and awareness in the body has certainly been preserved in somatic practices and teachings of our current faculty. Assistant Professor Stevie Oakes builds on this legacy with the development of an injury prevention initiative and its related education.

Stevie is a welcomed and appreciated resource for the care of our bodies during her Kinesiology for dancers course and individual meetings, she is taking another step towards the fuller initiative this coming semester with a Conditioning Injury Prevention course. This one-credit lab course will workshop stretching and conditioning techniques focusing on targeted regional anatomy as well as general biomechanics. Each student will have the opportunity to identify personal dance fitness goals and develop an appropriate individualized program.

In the future, Stevie plans to set up a robust Injury Prevention Program students will undergo a “pre-season” screening based upon an internationally implemented surveillance program, IPAIRS (International Performing Arts Injury Reporting System). Students will become aware of lateral discrepancies in strength and flexibility or other factors. From this screening, dancers will receive a personalized exercise program to follow during their first semester in the dance program, enabling them to address any “red flags” that have been linked to injury patterns in dance and sport.

Here’s a note from Stevie in regards to other details to be included in this program: “I hope to increase communication between athletic training department and dance faculty so that restrictions and rehabilitation timelines are clear in the event of an injury. Offering alternatives to technique observation and brainstorming the instruction of appropriate modifications for participation seem pivotal in promoting dancer health. To round out the program, I hope to offer periodic brown bag discussions – informal lunches aimed at answering questions and providing resources on various health and wellness topics like nutrition, meditation or strength training.”

Injury prevention and empowerment through information benefit our graduates as they enter the dance world in performance, choreography and education. All of our dance majors who bring their talents to other disciplines are also served by this arm of their education, encouraging efficiency in body and overall health for longevity.

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New Dancers Showcase 2014

By Samantha Johnson

I had the absolute pleasure of coordinating this year’s New Dancers Showcase alongside artistic director, Karl Rogers. In hopes of reflecting on this stunning performance more vividly, I asked our first year graduate students (and this year’s New Dancers Showcase choreographers) to reflect briefly upon their experience working with our 32 new dancers. Here is just a sampling of their responses.

Briana Kelly:

“Choreographing for the New Dancers Showcase was such an incredible experience. My dancers are so dedicated and they made my job as choreographer easy and enjoyable. My piece turned into quite the hodgepodge; mixing tap, modern, jazz and even some Brazilian influence. It has been fascinating watching my dancers bring the choreography to life.!”

Emmie Hatfield:

“It has been a privilege to work with such bold, talented young artists. As a choreographer, I opened up rehearsal as a time and place for suggestions and ideas from the artists.  I found they were oozing with possibilities.  What made this process rewarding was the fact that each dancer made significant contributions to the piece. Specifically, a large movement phrase from Nate Diaz, music by Matt De Luca, and titled by Glenna Kelehan.  The other artists offered suggestions in rehearsal that literally formulated the dance. I became interested in the way each dancer could convincingly dance hip hop and then switch to something different immediately.  We explored turning types of movement on and off.  We also explored underlying themes involving how we as human beings feel the need to “turn on” during certain interactions, and then when do we feel comfortable enough to ‘turn off’?”

Chiquita Limer:

“My piece titled ADHITTANA means perseverance in the language of Pali Buddhism. I think this word describes me well in my current experience of being thousands of miles away from home and trying to adjust and adapt with the circumstances here. My experience was distinctively new and exciting because I could work with amazing dancers from a different culture!”

Jessica Moore:

“Choreographing for the New Dancers Showcase was a fun and rewarding experience. Seeing the students grow throughout this process into receptive, accomplished, captivating performers was truly priceless. Serving as a mentor, pushing the students to tap into their creative and physical potential developed a bond and friendship that I hope will continue to flourish for the next several years. I can’t wait to see what they will become throughout the remainder of their time here at Brockport.

My work INTERtribal was an expression of my personal interests in movement generation. The piece was inspired by integrating Native American characteristics common among my own cultural, with elements of contemporary and hip hop dance. The music, a hybrid of traditional Native American music and dup-step, electronic dance music, served as the driving force of the work. The dancers truly embraced my way of moving and performed with all of their fierce, warrior-like energy. I couldn’t be more proud!”

 

We could not be more thrilled with the work of all of our new undergraduate and graduate students. I, personally, am honored to have worked with each individual and am excited to welcome them to the Brockport Dance family!

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Living Through Watching

by Sara Palmisano

Amid the lights, music, and movement of a dance concert, an audience member begins to see beyond the superficial as these aspects begin to fade away and the person allows what he sees to be transposed to what he feels. Without realizing how, a person becomes lost in the world that a choreographer creates. Those little details blur together as we become engulfed within the emotions that a dance evokes in us. When we give over to these emotions, dances have the ability to give us the opportunity to view the world in a new light by means of another’s movement. Danscore, November 13-15, 2014,was comprised of multiple dances capable of transporting the audience to another world. Artistic Director, Kevin Warner, assembled a unique show that took the audience on a journey through a variety of emotions.

The show opened with Grewingk, choreographed by Mariah Maloney. The dancers wove in and out of one another in a continuous stream that mirrored waves lapping up onto the sand. It evoked a sense of peace and ease. Joy of music was then presented by Khalid Abdul N’Faly Saleem in his original piece entitled Djembekan (It Started With a Pulse). Saleem invited his audience to participate in his song and to participate in the happiness that music can bring us. The beat of his drum lead way to the live accompaniment for Vanessa Van Wormer’s Shade Unfolding (Part I) – Chamber Ballet Brockport’s premier performance. Violinist, Aimee Lillienstein, and cellist, Nadine Sherman, coupled with the beautiful movement, offering a lightness that made one appreciate the joys of watching dance. Then Juanita Suarez showed us that sometimes the greatest understanding we come to is realizing that we lack understanding. At times, the best part of a dance has to do with the feelings we cannot put to words.

This wonder was brought to rest by Rhythms of the Earth choreographed by William Evans. Evans, similar to Saleem, used the music created by the body as the music to the dance. These layered rhythms reminded us of the complicity of life, but that beauty lies within that complexity. Jim Hansen also touches upon this idea in his duet Clash. As his two dancers moved across the space, the audience could feel the complexity of the interplay that two bodies have in even the most minuet ways. These choreographed interactions have a striking resemblance to those we experience in “real life”. The interactions showed a truth about how we live.

This truth translated to Karl Rogers’s backhanded, as well. Rogers created a quirky dance that invited smiles throughout the audience. The show as a whole brought the audience on a journey through a wide variety of movement. It represented dance as an art form, as a means to evoke and relate to the humanness of life. We are all human and, therefore, all have something in common. Dance seeks to manifest these commonalities and allow them to grow so that we can live through the movements of another.

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Danscore 2014

The Department of Dance at Brockport will present Danscore 2014 Thursday 11/13, Friday 11/14 & Saturday 11/15 at 7:30pm.  All shows will be performed in the Hartwell Dance Theater featuring the gorgeous dancing of our talented graduate and undergraduate dancers.  Works by faculty Mariah Maloney, Vanessa Van Wormer, Juanita Suarez, James Hansen and Karl Rogers will be performed alongside a work from guest artist William (Bill) Evans.  Music specialist Khalid Saleem will also perform an original work.  Click here to  purchase tickets.

Danscore poster

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Chamber Ballet Brockport

By Maleda Funk

Taking an inside look at the Chamber Ballet Brockport (CBB), I can proudly say that I am one of twelve dancers involved. Essentially, this new three-credit class is a touring contemporary ballet company within the Dance Department. Under the Artistic Direction of Department of Dance Ballet Faculty Member, Vanessa VanWormer, and collaborating musician Hilary Glen, we are introduced to fresh, original works, professional choreographers, and extensive performance opportunities. Chamber Ballet is a performance course with a strong focus on the ballet and contemporary genres. A highlight of this course is the opportunity to work alongside musicians from the Eastman School of Music and Rochester community. Hilary Glen, a passionate chamber musician completing her PhD at Eastman School of Music, is collaborating with Chamber Ballet Brockport by connecting us with local musicians as well as developing community engagement programs.

Having this course offered at Brockport is a huge advantage for the aspiring professional dancer entering the world of dance. We work in a professional setting with high expectations and responsibilities. Dancers were accepted by audition, based on technical skill, artistry, and professionalism, to be a member of Chamber Ballet Brockport. We have committed to learning a diverse body of repertory and new dance works from faculty and guest artists, enhancing our musicality and artistry by working with live musicians, and participating in community outreach through designing and participating in workshops and lecture demonstration performances. We are constantly gaining a deeper understanding of our individual artistry and enhancing our knowledge of our bodies in a more professional way.

 

Currently we are developing our company’s debut performance piece for the DANSCORE concert November 13-15. Click here for tickets.

This faculty concert brings us to the Hartwell Theater stage and Hochstein School of Music in Rochester. We work and rehearse four to six hours a week and are excited to see it all come together and share it with others. We set high expectations for ourselves and are dedicated to developing our personal artistry and an understanding of the whole production process, from rehearsals, pre-performance, technical aspects, to performance. I believe that this piece will bring a new insight into the world of contemporary ballet for the rest of the dance department as well as community members.

Next semester CBB will be learning the repertory of guest artist Phaedra Jarrett formerly of Sacramento Ballet and Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, Brad Parquette, former professional ballet dancer and Ballet Master for the Greensboro Ballet, and MFA graduate student Allison Bohman. We have performances and workshops lined up at Monroe Community Hospital, Hochstein School of Music, and a culminating concert April 24-25th in the Strasser performance space at the College at Brockport. Look for the complete performance/touring schedule to be posted soon!

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Collegiate Hybrid

By Caitlin Mahon

As a collegiate hybrid, with a dual major in dance and environmental policy, finalizing undergraduate work while simultaneously beginning graduate work was not originally in my college prescribed game plan. However, this experience has enriched my undergraduate experience and has opened up doors for me as a potential candidate for The College at Brockport’s MFA program in dance. Last spring as a senior in the Honors College program, I completed my honors thesis project entitled “The Dance of Politics – All for One and None for All”. It demonstrated how dance is a legitimate political act even in the realm of political science academia. This project consisted of a 30 page research paper and a 10 minute choreographic work. Walking in graduation, May 2014, after completing the requirements for my Bachelor of Science major in Dance and my Honors College program was followed by my return for the Fall 2014 semester to finish up six credits toward finalizing my Environmental Policy major. While still being enrolled in Brockport, my original plan was to take some undergraduate courses in dance so that I could perform and further my study of dance techniques.

On Scholars Day April 9, 2014, I was fortunate to have Dr. Maura Keefe, my current Dance Research professor, proctor my Honors College thesis presentation. After my presentation, she planted the seed of taking nine non-matriculated graduate dance courses during the 2014 Fall semester so that the dance coursework could potentially work towards a graduate degree. Even if I did not continue on with a master’s degree at The College at Brockport, having those credits on my transcript would look positive to prospective schools.

Completing my undergraduate coursework while also engaging in graduate coursework has been rigorous, but extremely enriching and rewarding. I truly believe that my Honors College thesis project served as a launch pad which allowed the next phase of my academic career to take flight. The process has resulted in my ability to think more deeply about dance on a more mature level. I am at a beautiful apex of transition in my academic life as well as my life as a whole. I feel I am narrowing my interests while focusing in the realm of dance and I can see I am growing slowly but surely into the artist whom I wish to become.

One weekend I sent my mother, Patricia A. Mahon, who is a skilled accounting manager at A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital, an article from my graduate Dance Research class. After reading it, in essence she stated, “Wow. This article was most definitely written at the graduate level. I had to read it several times to understand it. Dance is such an intelligent field” and one of my biggest hopes through continuing on with my studies in Brockport’s Masters of Fine Arts in Dance is to shorten the bridge between left and right “brainers.” Through my collegiate studies of dance, my family has come to the realization that dance is smart. Having my hands submerged in both the undergraduate and graduate realms has helped me to find clarity in what I want to do with my life while combining my two fields of study even further. The College at Brockport has provided me with an abundance of opportunities and the college’s Dance Department has been at the helm. I am so lucky to have studied here and so lucky to continue to study here as a uniquely hybrid student.

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Brockport Dancers at Rochester Fringe Festival

Performing on stage is what I look for most as a dancer; the feeling of being on stage is indescribable. This year I was honored when asked to dance in two shows for the Rochester Fringe Festival. A local artist, Cordell Cordaro, first asked me to dance and perform in his show, Cordaro World. He collaborated with choreographer Amber Brescia to put together a show that would tell Cordell’s life as an artist. The show is fast-paced and very theatrical. The full hair and makeup allowed each of the dancers to resemble Cordell’s paintings. The next show I was asked to perform in was BIODANCE. Missy Pfohl Smith, the artistic director of BIODANCE, approached me and asked if I would perform a solo in her show, and of course I accepted. The solo was based on peace and slowing down to focus on what is most important in life. The solo was to be performed in complete silence with simplistic movement. As luck would have it, Cordaro World and BIODANCE would end up on the same nights. Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday of Fringe were madness. I raced from one show to the other and transition into my “character” of the next show. It was a true test for a dancer and I am proud to say that I accomplished my “character” changes and had very successful shows. I have never before felt like such a “true” dancer in my life.

-Allie Alletto

 

After attending Rochester Fringe Festival as an audience member the last two years, it was an exciting change to be a performer in the third annual Rochester Fringe Festival 2014. For the past year and a half I have had the pleasure of being a member of Catalyst Dance Works under the artistic direction of Brockport alum Amber Brescia. This was the first time the company participated in the festival and we presented the evening length work, Cordaro World: A Call to Adventure.  The show was a collaboration between Rochester based artist Cordell Cordaro and choreographer Brescia. The piece was inspired by Cordaro’s paintings and personal story. In the end we developed a piece that portrayed the journey of an artist who faced trials and tribulations in the pursuit of her artistic dream. In the show I had the privilege to dance the lead role of the Hero, aka the artist. I have absolutely loved performing this role and bringing the character to life. One of my favorite things about this piece was I not only had the opportunity to dance beautiful choreography, but also to develop a character and be an actor. It takes pure commitment and a sense of vulnerability to portray the emotions that the Hero experiences throughout the piece. I had to tap into my own struggles as an artist to bring out real emotion through movement. Ultimately, performing this piece has been a life changing experience. I was challenged as a dancer and supported by my fellow dancers who through the process have become my best friends. I have changed as a dancer and a person, and I am so thankful I was able to share this experience two times in Fringe to lively sold out audiences!!

-Melissa Sanfilippo

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MFA Theses Premier this Weekend in DANCE/Hartwell

By Bethany Fagan Good

Friends of Brockport Dance Blog sat down and had a chat with third-year MFA candidates Allison Bohman and Colleen Culley as they prepare to present their work in Fall 2014 DANCE/Hartwell.  The concert is presented three times over the course of October 16-October 18 at 7:30pm.

 What themes/ideas are you exploring?

Colleen – When first beginning my piece, now titled “At the Jubilee,” my initial interest was investigating the celebration of the pain and pleasure of the body.  In this, I was interested by the disciplining of the body and the pain it can inflict while concurrently looking at the pleasure demonstrated in media, such as fitness magazines, and in pop culture.  I have become interested in how there is something soothing because there are many references to the pop culture familiar, but the piece is also ‘off’, in the way that pop culture is also ‘off’.

 Allison – I have been interested in how each of the dancers’ personal contexts influences how they move.  What happens when their contexts overlap – how does their movement change and how they move?  I have been exploring the idea of “colliding contexts,” meaning that we each exist as individuals, but begin to conform & change when we come in contact with other bodies.

 How many dancers do you have, and can you discuss a bit about the process of working with them?

 Colleen – I have been working with 7 dancers, plus myself, so there are 8 performers.  I began with a lot of play-based games to generate movement.  Each play-based game had different themes of displaying, celebrating or disciplining the body in different ways, and aimed to explore different movement dynamics.  It has certainly been a co-creative process.  There are elements of improvisational scores throughout the work, giving the dancers agency within the scores.  It’s been lots of fun, as the dancers encouraged risk-taking during the process.  We became a community who has taken on feeling of summer camp.  The two weeks before the semester started was packed with rehearsals as well as activities including wake-boarding and hiking.  This cultivated a playful and jovial environment even through the hard work.

 Allison – It has been a truly enjoyable process working with these 10 dancers, and I am sad this chapter is coming to an end. We have developed a sense of community – we are a company – and I look forward to continue working on the piece after its premier in DANCE/Hartwell.  All 10 dancers are different movers and each brought interesting histories, movement dynamics, ideas and personalities to the table.  For the first time, I explored improvisation as a foundation for setting the piece, allowing 10 solos to emerge based on each dancer’s idea of what is at the heart of “who they are.”  Words in common created groupings of values.  The commonalities manifested in creating duets, trios, quartets, etc. and these created opportunities for contexts colliding. This would have been an entirely different piece if only one dancer had been casted differently.

 How has your creative process served as a form of research?

 Colleen – I continue to be interested in the idea of training the body to be a creative body, full of different images, metaphors and ways of working.  We think of the body being adaptable (often in response to something negative), whereas I have begun to think of the body as Exaptable in that the body that sees other options that it feels are exciting and can change in response to. The play-based process of creating this work has unfolded in a way that allows me to reflect if I have been disciplining the idea of creating based on fear or on the coherence of the group because of potentials in the group and their bodies.  I am thinking of a community and how the community container is held.  There have been lots of fun moments, but I have really focused on dynamics as a primary inroad.  Throughout the process I continued releasing the need for things to be clean or in unison.  What happens if I allow the messiness that occurs within the creative process? This allowed me to hang out in playful stages rather than prematurely jumping to the end of the process and cleaning details.

 Allison – I feel like my choreographic thesis is the “big idea” of my written thesis.  In my written thesis I’m zoning in on Nazi Germany and Soviet Union as contexts and how difference contexts influence dance aesthetic.  This process has been a practical application in order to see how it unfolded based on this specific group of dancers.  The group is full of ballerinas and modern dancers juxtaposed and influencing one another, though they are all dynamic movers who are capable of doing anything. They’ve pushed their boundaries and grown as dancers and people based on their experiences with one another.

 Is there anything else about your creative process, or your thesis in general, you would like to share?

 Colleen – The reality of time was prevalent through this process.  Before the semester began we were rehearsing 24 hours a week.  This dropped to 2 ½ once classes began.  It was a change that required different approaches at different points of the process.

 Allison – Over the summer I reread Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit and she writes about rituals.  This inspired my need to have a rehearsal ritual.  The first day of rehearsing I began with a “go circle,” an acting improvisation game I learned as a child.  It is an exercise to work on focus and moving quickly.  All of the dancers stand in a circle, timed for 1 minute, make eye contact while pointing & saying “go” and immediately exchange places.  How many times can you switch in a minute? Initially the group got 78 times and now their record is 111.  What started as an arbitrary rehearsal ritual and is now necessary for building the necessary “on your toes” energy for the urgency required in the piece. It then influenced the title for two reasons.  I wanted a verb in the title because there’s so much movement, then the number is relevant because it’s a piece about OUR context, and it is specific to us.  It will continue to change and grow with us as we perform it elsewhere.

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A Cheesecake Sampler of a Summer

By Zachary Frazee

This summer was definitely one of the busiest summers that I have endured… but busy with amazing experiences! Non-stop dancing, adult-decisions, real-life auditions, opportunities and an overwhelming amount of excitement. Coming back for my last semester, I have developed and adapted as a dancer and artist. This has not only affected my movement aesthetic, but also the process of dealing with the physical and mental difficulties (and accomplishments) of stepping outside of the walls of collegiate dance into the realm of dancing professionally.

The summer began by jumping right into rehearsals, as a guest artist, for the New York State Ballet’s rendition of Swan Lake. I felt this was the perfect set up for my summer because it put me in a professional performing mindset as well as a more ballet-oriented focus (in preparation for my adventures in Portland, Oregon). After 3 intense weeks of rehearsals, ending with a weekend of performances, I had a week to rest/panic/pack, and then I was off to Portland, Oregon to begin dancing with Northwest Dance Project!

**Earlier this year, I auditioned for Northwest Dance Project in NYC for a professional program they host every summer called LAUNCH: 9. For the company, this serves as a way to see the current talent in the contemporary dance world in the hopes of hiring new company members and bringing in fresh talent and perspective. They auditioned across the U.S. in 5 different cities and chose 30 of us out of the 800-900 dancers that auditioned.**

I was insanely excited to dance professionally with one of the top up-and-coming contemporary dance companies in the U.S., but I was also dead nervous. Not only would we be dancing for 10 hours a day for 2 weeks straight, but also we would be subjected to constant observation from multiple artistic directors of various dance companies. Some of these people included Sarah Slipper, artistic director of Northwest Dance Project (sidenote: the BEST name for an artistic director for a dance company), James Canfield from the Nevada Ballet Theatre, Lucas Crandall from Hubbard Street Chicago and Helene Blackburn from Cas Public (a touring-focused contemporary dance company in Canada). So essentially it was a 2 week audition with 10 hours of auditioning every day… this was going to be as much of a mental challenge as well as a physical one.

Finally, I arrived in Portland and instantly I fell in love with the city. Vegan/vegetarian restaurants everywhere, local coffee shops and micro-breweries on every corner, waves upon waves of multi-colored hair and herds of hipster looking people who would glare at you if you even so much as looked at something that was too mainstream. This already felt like home.

Once the dancing began, I can honestly say that I have never been more tired or sore in my life. Our schedule consisted of a ballet class in the morning (we had teachers from San Francisco Ballet, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Hubbard Street Chicago, Nevada Ballet Theatre…) directly followed by a 3 hour rehearsal. After this rehearsal we would have a half hour lunch break, and then to end the day, a 4 hour rehearsal. Every day, 9am-6pm with only 1 half-hour break. By the time I got back to my dorm room (they housed us in Portland State University) I would pass out from pure exhaustion around 7pm and not wake up until 7am the next morning, just to start the whole process over again.

During the first week we worked with some of the artistic directors; they would either teach us repertoire from their companies or begin to develop new work on us. James Canfield taught the men in the program a beautiful male solo he choreographed for one of his company’s principal dancers. We performed this by ourselves for him, as well as the other directors present, as an audition into his company. Lucas Crandall taught us original works from Batsheva Dance Company that Ohad Naharin had reset on Hubbard Street Chicago. Helene Blackburn guided us through a series of choreographic projects and tasks as a way to develop new and fresh ideas for the work she is setting on her company. And Sarah Slipper taught us a group work that was set on Northwest Dance Project by Patrick Delcroix (former dancer and choreographer for Nederlands Dans Theatre) as well as an original contemporary pas de deux. I thoroughly enjoyed this process of learning a variety of repertoire. It was like getting one of those cheesecake samplers in which you can try various slices and flavors in the hopes of discovering your favorite.

Throughout the second week, we began rehearsing with 2 emerging choreographers that Northwest Dance Project had selected to work with the LAUNCH: 9 group. It was as much of an audition for them as it was for us because they were being observed as possible contenders as guest choreographers. Eric Handman and Lesley Telford were the 2 choreographers we worked with. Handman, currently a faculty member in the dance department at the University of Utah, was amazing to work with. He had previously worked with Doug Varone, David Dorfman and several other familiar modern dance names that provided some comfort in his process, both in his movement aesthetic and the way he approached rehearsals. His process focused on warping shapes and sculptures in space, both in solo form as well as in partnering large groups. Working with Lesley Telford was a much different process, but still just as eye-opening. A former ballerina and company member of Nederlands Dans Theatre 2, her movement was not as fluid and “liquidy” as Handman’s was, but rather very sharp, articulated and much more specific. The work required a great deal of awareness of each other as well as focused on the specificity of partnered manipulation. At the end of the second week, we performed these works at an informal showing in which Sarah Slipper also facilitated a choreographic discussion.

Then, just like that, it was over. LAUNCH: 9 had ended. I flew home the next day and returned back to “normal” life. I was a little upset because I came home with no company contract, which was the intended goal. Actually, none of the participants of LAUNCH: 9 received a contract. After the final performance and choreographic discussion, I conversed with Sarah Slipper and found out that they do not hire company members after only participating in this program once. It made sense, in that it is a small company so they want to get to know dancers better before hiring. She personally invited me to come back and work with them again the following summer, but I still couldn’t help feeling somewhat defeated.

Luckily, 3 days after arriving home from vegan land, I was hired as a full time company member with the New York State Ballet! I had just been half-way rejected by a contemporary dance company, only to be hired as a full time company member with a classical ballet company. Totally unexpected yet totally welcome. I now rehearse with the company almost every day, as well as teach some classes in the company’s training academy (Ballet Prestige), set contemporary work on the company and competitors in the YAGP, and write/develop grants for the company productions. It is more than I could have asked for.

I have kept in contact with several of the people I became close to in Portland. One of them also joined a ballet company upon her arrival home in Florida; another started up her own company/collective in Portland that will be premiering their first evening length work in March (which I plan on trying to attend). And one of the others dancers joined Nederlands Dans Theatre after participating in their summer intensive and will be performing in Mats Eks Sleeping Beauty over the next couple of months. It is amazing how we can all connect and branch out at the same time. These dancers are not only close friends, but also connections for possible opportunities. You never know where you’re going to end up. I certainly never thought I would be a member of a classical ballet company, but now that is a reality. If I could take one thing away from this summer, it would be that despite whatever is happening currently or has happened in the past, I am nothing but excited and eager to see what lies ahead in my future within the professional dance realm.

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Production Study with Production Club, Inc.

By Morgan Bernat

If I wrote about my entire journey to California, it would take a book. I’ve chosen to focus on one specific moment that was rich and incredible. Sam Johnson and I were lucky enough to receive funding from the Monsserat Summer Study Award to head to Los Angeles California and study with Production Club Inc.

morgan and sam la

MFA Candidates Samantha Johnson and Morgan Bernat

Sam Johnson’s brother, Corey Johnson, is CEO of Production Club Inc. which is a company that designs and creates the production elements for shows and parties. That is the most basic way to state what they do but in reality they are dedicating their lives to make moments in time feel like an experience beyond your expectations. Production Club’s clientele include Skrillex, Notch, Zedd, Duck Sauce, Wargaming, and Dog Blood.

Day 3 of our trip Sam and I had a breakfast meeting with Corey, Mike (Production Club’s graphic engineer), and Lauren (local dance student from USC). It felt like a meeting of the minds; everyone merging from seemingly different backgrounds with the common interest in the ability to merge dance with production elements to increase and experiment with audience experience. One of the main topics of conversation was what has been done in dance with production elements beyond lighting and where can we go from there? Sam and I discussed our thoughts on an experimental playground using movement as the impetus for lighting “rewards”. If you move your body a certain way on a certain level, you would be rewarded with a light or laser.

Mike discussed what technical elements could be of use to us to create this movement lighting playground. Their company often uses motion sensors that are either suspended in space or attached to the body to produce certain light or laser elements. The only necessary information would be what we wanted to happen once someone did something specific. What was most exciting was that there wouldn’t be a need for new technology to be created.

Corey is probably one of the most creatively inspiring people I’ve ever had the chance to meet. He had this idea that he could throw parties for people and create experiences that everyone could share in. His idea began when he was a student at University of Southern California when he was studying music industry and it has since propelled itself into a culture based around a completely visceral experience. My biggest take away from this one (of many) conversations with Corey was the “happy idea”. The “happy idea”is your ultimate goal making all people involved, essentially, happy. Take that “happy idea”and do whatever it takes to make the idea a reality.

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