Beyond College Walls
Why you should pursue dance projects outside of school
Sixty NYU dancers performed Crystal Pite’s Polaris at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival. Photo by Kevin Yatarola, Courtesy Lincoln Center.
College dance programs offer places to train, perform and establish relationships with future colleagues. But the undergrad years are also a great time to take advantage of pre-professional opportunities outside of school. Workshops and festivals beyond your regular program of study are a chance to delve further into a favorite choreographer’s work, dance on a historic stage or forge new connections. We spoke to three dancers who explored unique opportunities during their undergraduate careers.
José Limón International Dance Festival
What it was: A tribute to José Limón that involved dancers from The Juilliard School, The Hartt School/University of Hartford, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, University of Taipei, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University and the University of Arizona School of Dance
Audition: Tryouts depended on the work selected for each school. At the University of Arizona, for example, male dance majors were invited to audition for Limón’s The Unsung, resulting in three casts.
Rehearsal period: Arizona dancers had a 10-day intensive with former Limón dancer Colin Connor, then ongoing rehearsals with university faculty.
Performance opportunity: All students participating danced at The Joyce Theater in New York City, as part of the festival’s “Next Generation” performances, in October 2015.
The perks: Connor taught Limón technique classes at Arizona; Limón artistic director Carla Maxwell coached performers prior to the Joyce performances: “She told us that the work was our prayer and our battle,” says recent Arizona grad Alex McBride. “Finding that balance between the two changed the way it felt. You could sense the energy on the stage.”
Going further: McBride credits his move to New York City immediately after graduation to his experiences performing at the Joyce.
Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival
What it was: Performances of Crystal Pite’s Polaris that called for a cast including 60 dancers from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts
Audition: An in-house audition at NYU
Rehearsal period: Three four-hour rehearsals during weeknights and two eight-hour rehearsals on weekends for two months. The work was overseen by Kidd Pivot dancer Cindy Salgado.
Performance opportunity: Dancers took the stage at New York City Center in November 2015.
The perks: Composer Thomas Adès allowed the dancers to sit in on the orchestra’s rehearsals, and they got to work directly with Pite.
On Pite: “She is such a generous spirit,” says Kaitlyn Yiu, a senior at NYU. “When she teaches you can see how passionate she is about her art. She constantly inspired us and had this positive energy that made everyone eager to work hard for her.”
Merce Cunningham Fellowship Program
What it is: An ongoing, year-round series of workshops in New York City for advanced students and young professionals
Audition: Participants are chosen by audition or invitation. Typically, a general audition is held in
the spring for the summer workshops, each of which features a different piece of Cunningham repertory.
Rehearsal period: One to three weeks of intensive repertory taught by former Merce Cunningham Dance Company members
Performance opportunity: Workshops culminate in showings at City Center Studios.
The perks: The workshop is free and participants are offered Cunningham technique classes one week prior to and for the duration of the workshop, and receive a free 10-class card. “The environment was so focused. There wasn’t any room for judging,” says University of North Carolina School of the Arts grad Vanessa Knouse, who began participating in these workshops while in school and has continued to do so, taking part in seven since graduation.
Post-graduation connections: Knouse got her job with cornfield dance, directed by former Cunningham dancer Ellen Cornfield, through connections made at the workshops.