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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Redefining The Duet: The Diversity of “The Duets Project”

By Allison Bohman

On September 4th at 7:30pm and September 5th at 4:00pm and 7:30pm, The Duets Project took stage in Hartwell Dance Theater at The College at Brockport: The State University of New York. This unique show featured nationally recognized faculty from colleges and universities across Western New York State who were invited to apply for funding to perform with a duet partner of their choice, to be created by a recognized choreographer from out of this region.

Funded by NYS Dance Force, this project was directed by Brockport Professor Emerita, Jacqueline Davis. In addition, three distinguished New York City curators selected the seven diverse duets that came to life on the Brockport stage. Furthermore, to accompany the fierce dancing and choreography that hit the stage this past weekend, The Duets Project also featured master classes and panel discussions at The College at Brockport throughout the week.

The show started out with an immediate redefining of the notion of a danced duet. “Barzakh” featured the stunning dancing of Brockport faculty member Vanessa VanWormer who eloquently danced with the music Hilary Glen was playing on stage with her cello. Despite there only being one traditional dancer on stage, it was clear how both VanWormer and Glen were dancing with one another through their shared embodiments of the movement and music. There were even moments where Glen, although sitting on a stool playing a cello, would lean to one side with her bow, making clear the shared relationship between the performers of this duet. VanWormer started off puppet like, hanging from strings on the stage, while Glen played a lively allegro to start the piece off. It was no coincidence that both performers used “strings” in one way or another—VanWormer in her dancing, and Glen in her playing. The visual set of the stage, designed by Brad Parquette, was also quite striking and contributed to the atmosphere of the entire piece.

“Mixed Marriage” was a rhymically captivating duet, danced by Cheryl Johnson (Brockport), and a tap dancing video image recording of herself on the backdrop of the stage! “2.5.1994” was passionately performed by Cynthia J. Williams (Hobart and William Smith Colleges) and her daughter Kat McCorkle. This piece explored the mother-daughter relationship from multiple images and perspectives. As an audience member, the intimacy of their real-life mother-daughter bond shined through in their dancing, and made it an especially touching piece to watch.

Next up, two Brockport faculty members, Mariah Maloney and Stevie Oakes took the stage in “Rearrangement (Excerpt).” With lit water fountains onstage to accompany the environment of their dancing, this piece featured a constant rearrangement of the performers in space. Most notable, was the focus each dancer demonstrated. Even though they were not always dancing together, a constant relationship between the two performers was always felt.

“politics of BE nice (Working Title),” choreographed by Kendra Portier with dancers Anne Burnidge (University at Buffalo) and Elisha Clark Halpin, featured upbeat music and captivating movement material that was unlike any of the other pieces of the evening. This dance was an experiment in long distance dance making. In other words, the choreographer and dancers were not in the same physical space until a few days before the performance. The high quality of the dancing and commitment of the performers in the show however, definitely exemplified that long-distance dance making, can certainly be successful!

“Together” was danced beautifully by Heather Roffe (Faculty, Nazareth College) and Courtney World. The dancers, who were literally attached to each other the entire piece, explored virtuosic and dynamic movements while keeping at least one hand in the other’s pocket. This is no easy feat, but both dancers were strong, focused and articulate in their bodies and it made for an absolutely breath-taking performance of complexity.

Closing the show with a bang was “Firebird/Mating Season,” choreographed by New York City’s Arrie Davidson (aka Faux Pas le Fae). This energetic and passionate piece featured the outstanding dancing of Brockport faculty member, Stevie Oakes, with Meghann Bronson. Described by the choreographer, this piece was a sensuous, gender-bending pas de deux that investigated the desire of desire itself.

The Duets Project undoubtedly was a demonstration of creativity and diversity in the field of dance. While redefining perhaps traditional notions of what a “duet” should be, this show offered a variety of interpretations of the complex nature of a dance for two.

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Bill Evans Teachers Intensive, Brockport 2014

By Alexis Cordella
The Bill Evans Teachers Intensive (BETI) experience has left such a lasting impression on me. Mostly, it has reshaped the way I perceive the relationship between instructors and students. As a dance student, I had always been quite intimidated by my instructors and professors. After interacting with these incredibly warm, gifted, and knowledgable individuals who were also attending BETI, I’ve realized that teachers are not just authorities who regurgitate what they already know. The participants of BETI are innovators,  life long learners, and just simply beautiful souls who want to guide their students in the best way possible. Keeping that fact in mind has already helped me relate to my professors and trust them more easily.
 The day I returned home from this conference, I began teaching again at my local dance studio. I employed many of the BETI fundamentals and ideas that I took away from the brilliant presentations concerning  pre-k and elementary aged children. The responses and results I observed were so satisfying. Students I taught on a regular basis were suddenly more open, embodied, engaged, and overall more excited to be dancing. This has certainly motivated me to invest more energy in my teaching practices at home, and has inspired my desire to someday pursue a graduate degree to teach this transformative work in higher education.
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A Day in the Life of a DOVA Summer Residency Student

This summer our students traveled all over the world, but some decided to stay close to home and enjoyed the opportunity to dance with truly amazing artists.  Here, 2nd-year MFA candidate Marissa Aucoin shares her experience at the Doug Varone & Dancers Summer Residency (DOVA).  Keep an eye out throughout the semester as students continue to share their summer adventures!

By Marissa Aucoin

When confronted with the task of sharing my experiences during the Doug Varone and Dancers Summer Residency, I did not know where to begin. Being fully immersed in movement and related practices for three full weeks left a lot to be discussed, so much so that I began to doubt whether they could be properly presented within a single blog entry. I thought long and hard and decided to invite you all to experience a day in the life of a DOVA summer residency student.

The day starts off with an optional 8:00am Pilates class taught by company member Casey Loomis. Even though it is optional, there are another twenty plus students in the class who are eager to absorb as much information as they can. Each day, Casey takes us through a series of exercises designed to target specific muscle groups that will both strengthen and prepare our bodies for the work that lies ahead.

With invigorated muscles and centered minds we transition into the next class, technique. The workshop is structured so that every two days the technique instructor changes, allowing students to experience a variety of approaches to Varone’s work. Each company member has their own means of investigating the signature weighted swing of the arms and similar movement principles. As a student, you are able to enter the work from multiple perspectives and discover which is best suited for your body.

After technique, students rotate to phrase work. This is the time when overwhelming amounts of material are thrown at you and you have the challenge of physicalizing that material attempting to pick up as many details as possible. Like technique, each company member has their own teaching strategy, though many began by showing chunks of material without uttering a single word. In these moments students are able to absorb information without the influence of language to shape their understanding and interpretation. You leave the class with a stronger understanding of your individual learning style and artistic voice.

Finally, time for lunch! While students disperse to reenergize for the second half of the day there are several who choose to stick around and watch the company’s open rehearsal. This glimpse into the world of Varone’s company and creative process provides a lovely dose of creative stimulation to go along with your hummus and crackers.

Now that we have had time to digest, it’s onto improvisation or ballet. Students have the opportunity to take both classes over the three week intensive, one week of ballet, one of improvisation, and the final week is on a rotating schedule. Both classes support the work being done throughout the workshop as they emphasize body awareness, individual artistry, as well as a holistic movement approach.

The final class of the day is repertory. Upon registering for the intensive, students have the opportunity to choose between Large Rep, New Rep, Exploring Excerpts, and Dance Film. I decided to take Exploring Excerpts. In this class, we learn smaller sections from multiple pieces choreographed at different points in Varone’s career. Between Possession (1994), Bench Quartet (1986), and Let’s Dance (1996), we are challenged to embody the tone and intention specific to each work. Embodying these diverse works gives us a broader understanding of the Varone repertory and allows students to recognize how his work has and will continue to change.

While this overview shares an outline of the structure of the intensive, what is difficult to translate onto paper is the atmosphere created by this collection of dedicated and inspiring artists – both students and company members alike. This supportive environment encouraged everyone involved to investigate and share their personal discoveries in a safe, judgment free space that valued the individual artistry of each participant. It was truly an inspiring three weeks.


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Upcoming Performances for Fall 2014

This semester Brockport’s Department of Dance continues to present several opportunities for you to see some wonderful dancing.  Here’s the performances to come – keep an eye out for more information regarding upcoming events throughout the semester!

Duets Project
Thursday, Sept. 4 & Friday, Sept. 5, 2014 at 7:30pm
Hartwell Dance Theater

Thursday – Saturday, Sept. 11-13, 2014 at 7:30pm
Rose L. Strasser Studio

Thursday – Saturday, Oct. 16-18, 2014 at 7:30pm
Hartwell Dance Theater

Thursday & Friday, Nov. 13-14, 2014 at 7:30pm
Hartwell Dance Theater
Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014 at 7:30pm
Hochstein Performance Hall
50 North Plymouth Avenue, Rochester

New Dancers Showcase
Friday & Saturday, Nov. 21 & 22, 2014 at 7:30pm
Rose L. Strasser Studio

Wednesday & Thursday, Dec. 3 & 4, 2014 at 7:30pm
Rose L. Strasser Studio

For more information check out the Department of Dance website here.

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