Centerwork: Brief Visit, Lasting Impact
The rewards of working with college artists-in-residence
UIUC students (including Sanda Saveanu, far right) in Trisha Brown’s Astral Convertible (Re-imagined). Photo by Valerie Oliveiro, Courtesy UIUC.
Artist-in-residence programs have become a staple of a first-class university dance education. During four years with the same faculty, the temporary presence of a new teaching voice can bring out capabilities in students that may have otherwise gone unstirred. Visiting artists—whether choreographers themselves, or members of a renowned choreographer’s company—connect students to the dance world beyond campus walls, while inviting them to discover new ways of thinking, creating, and moving. At their best, artist-in-residence programs foster relationships between students and choreographers that can blossom into future dance careers. Dance Magazine spoke with students and alumni of three universities about working with guest artists who helped shape them into the dancers they are today.
From Campus to Company
Rita Donahue, a member of the Mark Morris Dance Group, graduated from George Mason University in 2002. She joined MMDG—whose dancers are frequently in residence at the university—less than a year later. “I had a lot of really wonderful connections with Mark Morris before I ever even danced for him,” she says. She first met him when Rachel Murray (then a dancer with MMDG) came to GMU to set Morris’ Marble Halls. During Murray’s residency, Morris himself visited to run rehearsals. “It was really inspiring to have the man himself come in and take the time to tell us what we were doing right or wrong,” Donahue says. Morris’ love of music stood out to Donahue even as a student. “He was thrilled that we were going to perform with the student orchestra,” she remembers.
As a student at GMU, which is located in Fairfax, Virginia, Donahue also worked with retiring MMDG member Kraig Patterson, who was in residence setting his own work. Donahue saw Patterson again at various summer programs and eventually worked with him when she first arrived in New York after graduation. “Even if you’re not working with the choreographer himself, you’re exposed to people who have been around them, so they share the same ideas,” she says. “It lets you as the student know whether you’re interested in doing that kind of work at another level.”
Sanda Saveanu was feeling particularly nervous as she took to the stage to rehearse Trisha Brown’s Astral Convertible—because Brown was in the audience. “It was one of the few times that I’ve gotten to meet a choreographer whose works I’ve seen onstage,” recalls Saveanu, who was then a sophomore at the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign. While Brown’s choice of dress may have suggested otherwise (leopard-print leggings and a bright sweater), Saveanu found her to be remarkably down-to-earth, with an air of support for the dancers.
Brown’s visit was the grand finale to a five-week residency at UIUC (divided up over a few months) by one of the iconic choreographer’s former dancers, Kathleen Fisher. Once a group of students had been selected through an audition, they worked with Fisher for about four hours a day learning Astral and studying Brown’s fluid yet specific style. The impact of the experience on Saveanu, who is now a senior, has been lasting. “I still feel affected by that movement,” she says. “I feel like I understand it more now than when I was in the piece.”
Coming Full Circle
When Seán Curran walked into the studio at Roger Williams University in his cowboy boots and thick mustache during Christina Robson’s senior year, he brought with him an energy she wanted instantly to be part of. “I’m really drawn to the geometry of his work,” Robson says. “There’s a lot of focus on geometry both with the body and throughout space, but with that clarity, he also wants the rigor of raw physicality.” As a student used to adapting to the stylistic whims of a choreographer, she found that “being herself” was the greatest challenge in Curran’s work. “I can just see him running around in those cowboy boots,” she laughs, “yelling, ‘Come on, put some Christina in it!’ ”
At the end of his weeklong residency on the Bristol, Rhode Island campus, Curran took time to ask the senior students what their plans were for the future. He asked Robson if she was considering moving to New York. When she expressed hesitation, Curran invited her to participate in his rehearsal process for a couple of weeks to see if she might enjoy it. “I hopped on a bus with a backpack and stayed in a hostel for two weeks,” she says. “Those were seriously the best two weeks of my life. It’s cheesy, but I felt like it was my dream actualized.” After the trial period, Curran offered her a position in his company.
Last fall, Robson joined Curran for his most recent residency at RWU, where the two spent a week working intensively with a group of students. “That’s when he’s happiest I think, when he’s teaching,” she says. “He definitely brings a huge joy and energy to student life, and it’s really inspiring for students to express themselves through his work as a vehicle.”
Kathleen McGuire is a dance writer based in Pittsburgh, PA.
Choosing music for your first-ever choreography commission can feel daunting enough. But when you're asked to create a ballet using the vast discography of the Rolling Stones—and you happen to be dating Stones frontman Mick Jagger—the stakes are even higher.
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Today—April 16, 2019—marks what would have been Merce Cunningham's 100th birthday. As dancers from Los Angeles to New York City to London gear up for Night of 100 Solos (the marathon performance event being livestreamed today), and as companies and presenters worldwide continue to celebrate the Cunningham Centennial through their programming, we searched through the Dance Magazine Archives to unearth our favorite images of the groundbreaking dancemaker.
A bright disposition with a dab of astringent charm is how I remember Brock Hayhoe, a National Ballet School of Canada schoolmate. Because we were a couple years apart, we barely brushed shoulders, except at the odd Toronto dance party where we could dance all night with mutual friends letting our inhibitions subside through the music. Dancing always allows a deeper look.
But, as my late great ballet teacher Pyotr Pestov told me when I interviewed him for Dance Magazine in 2009, "You never know what a flower is going to look like until it opens up."
One night. Three cities. Seventy-five dancers. And three unique sets of 100 solos, all choreographed by Merce Cunningham.
This incredible evening of dance will honor Cunningham's 100th birthday on April 16. The Merce Cunningham Trust has teamed up with The Barbican in London, the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City and the Center for the Art of Performance in Los Angeles for a tri-city celebration.
The best part? You don't have to be in those cities to watch—Night of 100 Solos is being live-streamed in its entirety for free.
When George Balanchine's full-length Don Quixote premiered in 1965, critics and audiences alike viewed the ballet as a failure. Elaborate scenery and costumes framed mawkish mime passages, like one in which the ballerina washed the Don's feet and dried them with her hair. Its revival in 2005 by Suzanne Farrell, the ballerina on whom it was made and to whom Balanchine left the work, did little to alter its reputation.
Yet at New York City Center's Balanchine festival last fall, some regretted its absence.
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Cloud & Victory gets dancers. The dancewear brand's social media drools over Roberto Bolle's abs, sets classical variations to Beyoncé and moans over Mondays and long adagios. And it all comes from the mind of founder Tan Li Min, the boss lady who takes on everything from designs to inventory to shipping orders.
Known simply (and affectionately) to the brand's 41K Instagram followers as Min, she's used her wry, winking sense of humor to give the Singapore-based C&V international cachet.
She recently spoke with Dance Magazine about building the brand, overcoming insecurity and using pizza as inspiration.
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This is huge news, so we'll get straight to it:
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It's a bit of an understatement to say that Bob Fosse was challenging to work with. He was irritable, inappropriate and often clashed with his collaborators in front of all his dancers. Fosse/Verdon, which premieres on FX tonight, doesn't sugarcoat any of this.
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