Music in Motion
Student choreographers and musicians get collaborative.
You might think only professional dancers and choreographers get to perform with a full orchestra, or commission scores for their compositions. But some college programs offer opportunities to work directly with music students, giving dance majors a chance to learn from artists outside their department. “We are moving into an era where the lines between disciplines are blurred,” says Cathy Young, director of the dance division at The Boston Conservatory. “Learning how to collaborate is an invaluable experience in preparing for success as a 21st-century artist.”
A doctoral student from the Jacobs School of Music accompanies IU dancers. Photo Jeremy Hogan, Courtesy IU.
Degrees offered: BFA and minor in dance through the department of theater, drama and contemporary dance
No. of majors: 50–60 total
Collaborative coursework: In a required course called Choreographic Projects, dancers work with artists in various departments, including composers from the Jacobs School of Music. Student musicians also accompany many dance concerts and musicals on campus, and are often involved in the annual concert produced by senior dance majors.
Music for dancers: All majors take music theory, and some study voice.
Additional opportunities: Each year, a group of student composers and dancers spend eight months collaborating on short original works, which they present at a local theater. A student-run dance group and choreography lab also offers chances to work with musicians on independent projects.
Degree offered: Three-year BFA in dance
No. of majors: 15–20 total
Collaborative coursework: Each year, Stephens choreographers collaborate with composers from University of Missouri’s Mizzou New Music Initiative to create original works. The process culminates in a student-produced performance accompanied by the New Music Initiative orchestra. This is the capstone project for the dance major.
Music for dancers: Dancers are required to earn three credits in music through music theory, piano or voice lessons, or music history.
Additional opportunities: Stephens recently expanded its interdisciplinary offerings by introducing a dance-for-camera course during the summer.
TBC dancers in Francesca Harper’s Maladjusted Pride. Photo by Jim Coleman, Courtesy TBC.
The Boston Conservatory
Degree offered: BFA in contemporary dance performance
No. of majors: 130 total
Collaborative coursework: In the school’s Junior Composition course (required for majors who choose the composition-and-improvisation emphasis), student choreographers create an original work with a composer from the music division or Berklee College of Music, which is merging with TBC. Many of the school’s dance performances are accompanied live by music division students—sometimes a full orchestra.
Music for dancers: Dance majors are required to take courses in Western music, time and rhythm, and voice. They can take additional music courses at Berklee.
Additional opportunities: Dance students have choreographed for music videos, participated in improv jams with music students and been part of the informal student-run performances that take place regularly at Berklee.
It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.
Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.
It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.