Spring Thesis Choreographers Discuss Their Graduate Work

Friends of Brockport Dance recently sat down with MFA Graduate Students, Adrian Safar, Amy Sullivan and Yang Wang to discuss the process of creating work for their thesis projects this semester. Together they talked about generating movement, themes in their work and their written research. Check out the conversation below:

Friends of Brockport Dance (FOBD): What themes or ideas are you exploring in your thesis work?

Amy Sullivan: For my thesis I crafted a site-specific work, which means I am creating my movement and material according to the site. The dancers and I are taking in the textures, architecture, and qualities of the space and letting them influence the dance making. For example, one of my dancers was assigned to a corner of the room with an old beat up piano in which she explored its architecture, framing the object and space around it with her movement. Along with exploring the architecture, we have really played with the texture of the floor, which brings out a lot of swiping motifs using different parts of the body to complete the action.

Adrian Safar: My thesis work is an exploration of protest without being confrontational. It’s an exploration of the manipulation of speech, the appropriateness of language and the struggle of communication. It’s a journey through the process of my experience as well as the greater social struggle to connect and be heard.

FOBD: How, if at all, is your creative thesis related to your written thesis?

Adrian: My written work is focusing on the protest works of three choreographers (Donald Byrd, Paul Taylor and Daniel Nargin). I started by reviewing these works and studying the foundations of modern dance as communications of protest through the 1930-40’s.

Amy: My written thesis is all about site-specific dance, including the history, choreographers, definitions, and the kinesthetic response of the audience members to the specific performance. A large part of my research will include my own process as well as anonymous surveys from my audience, gathering their kinesthetic experience.

FOBD: Can you talk a little bit about working with your cast of dancers for the past several weeks?

Yang Wang: I really enjoyed working with my cast of beautiful and intelligent dancers. Sometimes I would show them a movement theme I was working on, and then let them play with it in their own bodies. I appreciated the process of working together because they allowed me to see more movement possibility through their bodies.

Adrian: I chose a very diverse range of movers for this work, from level to experience to background and approach to the body. I have enjoyed the challenge of communicating ideas and qualities of movement to them and seeing the process and exploration of attack. I have had the pleasure of working with a present group of artists.

FOBD: What were the factors in choosing to premiere your thesis work in the specific concert it will be showing at?

Yang: I chose Hartwell Theater because I was looking for space that allowed for my dancers to gather energy throughout the performance. Therefore, the space could not be too big. The first theme of my thesis is called “coral breath.” I imagine my dancers hidden and just performing the movement with their arms. Hartwell Theater provides the perfect conditions for my design, since the curtains can help hide certain parts of the performer’s bodies.

Amy: I originally chose Rose L. Strasser Studio, not knowing I would eventually be showing the thesis as site-specific performance. Therefore, I chose to show an excerpt of the piece in Strasser and left the full performance to the site-specific location, located in Rochester, called the Monroe Park Vineyard Community Center. Though the two spaces are incredibly different they share a similar viewing experience, which is a dance viewed from all sides.

FOBD: Any advice to graduate student beginning their creative thesis projects soon?

Yang: I encourage other graduate students to start their thesis early, and always be fully prepared for each rehearsal.

Adrian: When you become content with your work, go back in and mess it up and be riskier, it’s through that challenge that some of the best thoughts surface. Stay in communication with your dancers and yourself. Get excited and then get bored and then make it exciting again.

Amy: I think it is helpful to know that your original image or preconceived notion of what your thesis “should” look like is probably not going happen. The sooner you let go of that image the better; this creates room for the work to become what it wants to be.

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Undergraduate Student Discusses Internship at Jacob’s Pillow

By Jen Dayton

On January 5, 2014 I left for Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts to start an artist services internship. While I was driving to Jacob’s Pillow that day I remember all the thoughts going through my head in anticipation of my experience. Driving back to Brockport three weeks later to start classes, I had no idea I would leave feeling content, accomplished, and as if I found a new sense of independence and purpose as someone who loves the arts.

While I was interning at Jacob’s Pillow I learned a lot about what it would be like to work in the off season festival environment and how much planning and preparation takes place before a world renowned festival such as Jacob’s Pillow begins. The levels of details that go into planning a prestigious festival can be overwhelming at times. The primary planning goal is to make sure everything runs smoothly during the festival and that all of the artists, companies, and seasonal faculty will be happy and get what they need. In large part, this goal can only be accomplished by communicating with the attending artists from all around the world and making sure all of their requests are covered. The work involved in the planning phase of the festival includes a review of artist contracts to ensure the right information and details are included, negotiations that have to occur, packets that need to be put together, finding places for the companies to stay, company meals and transportation. These are just a few things the department I interned with needed to take care of before the festival can begin.

One of the most memorable experiences I had at Jacobs’s Pillow occurred when I first arrived. I was staying in a house that many companies over the years had stayed in, and I remember trying to picture all of the professional dancers that had stayed in that farmhouse and wondering where they are today (most of them probably being some of my dance idols). Also, upon arriving that first day, I will never forget meeting all of the full time faculty and being given a tour of the grounds. Walking around the campus at Jacob’s Pillow and seeing the theaters was inspiring to me. The history behind a prestigious festival and how the campus was created and built still amazes me. Being able to intern at a place filled with so much history and dance was what made this experience that much more fulfilling. The companies that have performed in these theaters, Ted Shawn and his dancers building parts of the campus at Jacob’s Pillow and the Carter Family’s background on how Jacob’s Pillow was named; without the passion of these ground-breakers, the world at Jacob’s Pillow might not exist.

To sum it up, being able to intern at Jacob’s Pillow and feel as if I was a tiny part of what makes Jacob’s Pillow stay alive with the work I put in, made me feel a sense of accomplishment in doing my part as an advocate for the arts and the dance world. Furthermore, I will be returning to Jacob’s Pillow this summer to learn even more and experience all of the magic as the festival begins in May and I could not be more thrilled.

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Brockport Prepares for the American College Dance Festival

By Julia Zdrojewski

The College at Brockport’s Department of Dance is excited to be hosting the 2014 American College Dance Festival Association’s Northeast Region Conference, March 12-16, in Brockport, NY. Karl Rogers is coordinating the festival along with faculty and professional staff members, Benoit Beauchamp, Maura Keefe, Kevin Warner (chair), and graduate assistants Angie Muzzy and Julia Zdrojewski. Together they have planned an exciting agenda, including four days of master classes, summer program auditions, opportunities for student and faculty exchanges and multiple concerts featuring adjudicated works from colleges and universities all over the Northeast.

At the upcoming conference, students and faculty will be able to present academic papers with one another. The theme for these paper presentations is Re: thinking dance, and it aims to engage a conversation around dance and choreography by asking the questions: How does dancing contribute knowledge? How does choreography contribute meaning? How does a particular choreographer’s vision contribute to a culture? In what ways can dance theorize? How might dance reflect and/or create meaning?

In addition to these paper presentations, there will also be two performances of faculty choreographed and performed work that has been selected by an adjudication committee, as well as two performances of the Gala Concert that will conclude the conference on Sunday, March 16th. We are also thrilled to announce our adjudicators for this spring: Jan Erkert, Joe Goode and Gerald Casel.

Brockport faculty and students alike are excited to be hosting the event this upcoming spring, as it is a big honor bestowed upon our department. As a result, our students will be participating in hosting duties throughout the conference in addition to participating in classes and viewing performances.

The American College Dance Festival Conference is an opportunity for students and faculty members from a variety of colleges and universities to gather together and share in their love of dance. The conference provides the time and space for participants to step outside of their traditional school settings and experience the diversity present in the collegiate dance scene; activities include master classes, lectures, research presentations and faculty and staff concerts. The exchange of information that occurs at this conference is a great learning opportunity for all involved, and The College at Brockport’s Department of Dance could not be more thrilled to be hosting the Northeast’s ACDFA this spring!

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A List of What’s to Come: Our Spring Performance Schedule!

This semester Brockport’s Department of Dance is offering multiple opportunities for you to come see some great performances! Make sure to save the dates, and attend some of the events that are listed below:

David Neumann
SDO Guest Artist
Thursday & Friday Feb. 6 & 7
7:30pm, Rose L. Strasser Studio
(tickets sold through BSG box office)

Heidi Latsky Dance
Friday, Feb. 14
7:30pm University of Rochester

DanceWorks (SDO)
Sunday, Feb. 16, 2:00pm Place TBD

Dance Awareness Days (SDO)
Thursday-Saturday, Feb 20 -22 Hartwell Hall

DANCE/Strasser
Thursday –Saturday, Feb. 27- March 1
7:30pm, Rose L. Strasser Studio
Matinee: Saturday, March 1 at 2pm

Gypsies &Jazz Dancers Lecture
Thursday, March 27
5:00pm Hartwell Dance Theater

DANCE/Hartwell
Thursday – Saturday, April 3-5
7:30pm Hartwell Dance Theater

Scholars Day
Wednesday, April 9 on Campus

Sankofa
Thursday – Saturday, May 1-3
7:30 pm, Hartwell Dance Theater
Matinees: Saturday-Sunday, May 3 & 4 at 2 pm

Dime-a-Dance (SDO)
Wednesday -Thursday, May 8 & 9
7:30 pm Rose L. Strasser Dance Studio

Graduation Dances
Friday, May 16 at 6:30 pm & 8:00pm
Hartwell Dance Theater

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Sankofa African Dance & Drum Ensemble to Perform at Governor’s MLK Memorial Program

By Bethany Fagan

Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble will perform as part of the Governor’s annual New York State Martin Luther King, Jr. Live Satellite Broadcast Memorial Program on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany.

The event will be broadcast live in Rochester on Time Warner Cable channel 98.

Sankofa was invited by the Governor’s office and the State University of New York to participate in this prestigious event. Under the direction of Clyde Alafiju Morgan and musical director Khalid Abdul N’Faly Saleem, the group of 14 student, community and faculty dancers and drummers will represent The College at Brockport, the College’s Department of Dance, and the entire Rochester community.

Morgan explains that the word Sankofa means “there is no going forward without looking back. Without our history – African, Caribbean, even American – we would have no idea how we got to where we are today, or how we can move on to a better tomorrow. This concept of looking to the past while anticipating the future will aid in guiding our state toward a bright future.”

Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble will present its annual spring concert for Western New York audiences in the College’s Hartwell Dance Theater from May 1-May 4, 2014.

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New Brockport Faculty: Meet Stevie Oakes!

By Allison Bohman

This year the department of dance has had the honor of working with a new faculty member, Stevie Oakes. Growing up in a military family, she had the opportunity to travel and dance in a variety of places, beginning her dance lessons in the Netherlands as part of the children’s division of Netherlands Dance Theater. She even had dual citizenship in Japan until age 18! Eventually, her family settled in Virginia where she began to study dance more seriously and realized her love for dancing was something quite serious. A hobby that she started as a young child because of her Mother’s interest in the art form was turning into a life-long career possibility.

In addition to her talent and ambition for dance, Ms. Oakes chose to go to college to get her degree in chemistry and kinesiology. This academically bound dancer, had ambitions of attending medical school and nothing could get in her way! She continued dancing all the way through her college career, and upon graduation decided that she should take a shot at being a professional dancer. Stevie moved to New York City to pursue her MFA in dance at New York University.

As a professional dancer, Ms. Oakes’ favorite credits included combing the ideals of ballet and modern with a contemporary ballet company, Eidolon in NYC. Dancing with Kinetic Architecture was one of her professional highlights. Ms. Oakes even had the honor of touring Germany with Gina Gibney’s dance company. This all -female troupe presented at an International Dance Festival.

Here at Brockport, Stevie is adored by students. Her smiling face and positive energy brings life to dance studios and classrooms in Hartwell Hall. When asked about how teaching came into the picture for her, Stevie replied, “I’ve always been a teacher. I began teaching at a local dance studio when I was fifteen years old. I always knew it was for me, it was just a matter of time before I got there.” While dancing with Gina’s company, she had the opportunity to teach master classes at New York University’s Tisch School of the arts. Stevie describes the “high” she gets off of teaching as being greater than performing.

Having taught in various residencies across the nation, Brockport is lucky to have such an outstanding educator sharing her love for dance and knowledge of kinesiology with students. When asked about what stands out the most about working with students in Brockport, Stevie explained the feeling as being a “beautiful suspension of disbelief.” She feels that she could ask students to do anything, and there is an inquisitive openness to do it. She states that “there is a thoughtful approach to learning and a sense of willingness to entertain the ideals that exist at Brockport.” She describes Brockport as a supportive learning community, and she hopes that students hold onto this sense as they move into the larger dance world.

In addition to Stevie’s teaching and dancing experiences, she also is highly involved with The Harkness Center for Dance Injury in New York City, where she started off with an internship when she first moved to NYC and eventually gave summer workshops about injury prevention.

As a dance artist, educator and injury specialist, Stevie Oakes has a plethora of experiences to share with students at Brockport. When asked if she had any advice for students aspiring career paths in areas of her expertise, she replied, “Make sure you check in in with yourself often. Be open to any path that becomes possible. Take opportunities but then check in with yourself and make sure that it is what you want. Don’t stay with something that doesn’t feel right.”

Welcome to Brockport, Stevie!

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Welcome to the Family!

By Bethany Fagan

This year I had the privilege of working with Artistic Director William Evans in coordinating the 10th Annual New Dancers Showcase. The concert brought together 28 talented dancers, new to the Department of Dance, in pieces choreographed by MFA candidates and adjunct faculty. As the concert coordinator, I had the pleasure of watching each piece develop throughout the semester – and it was truly a joy watching the dancers grow within each of the pieces.

The concert was certainly full of diversity, beginning with a Contemporary piece by first year MFA candidate Samantha Johnson and ending with Hip Hop by adjunct faculty member Nicole Kaplan. Mixed in the middle were playful pieces “Share the Sandbox” by Colleen Culley and “There Is A Place” – an acapella tap piece utilizing the words of Shel Silverstein – by Allison Bohman. First year Marissa Aucoin brought us some comedy in her piece “Temperament Swing,” where each dancer was highlighted not only through dancing, but also through their character’s personality.

Both the Friday and Saturday night shows were punctuated with outstanding performances by the dancers – audience members continually stated how great the show was, and how fantastic the group performed. Each dancer emanated with warmth and honesty from the moment they stepped on stage with their group improvisation, to the final group bow. It was truly a fantastic show, and I am sure the entire department is excited to see what this group of new dancers will bring next!

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Students Show Newly Choreographed Works

By Bethany Fagan

The tenth annual New Dancers Showcase will be held in The College at Brockport’s Rose L. Strasser Studio, Hartwell Hall, Kenyon Street, on Friday, November 22, at 7:30 pm and Saturday, November 23, at 7:30 pm.  There is no admission charge, but donations to the Friends of Brockport Dance scholarship fund will be gratefully accepted at the door.

Visiting professor and guest artist William (Bill) Evans has directed an improvisational demonstration of modern technique to introduce the dancers.  The showings following will include 28 first-year dance majors and minors in the internationally-renowned Department of Dance. They will perform short choreographic works created for them by eight graduate students pursuing MFA or MA degrees, as well as a member of the adjunct faculty.  This year’s concert displays a remarkable diversity of styles and moods, and includes modern, post-modern, contemporary ballet, Capoeira, jazz, hip-hop and tap dance.

Evans has served as faculty advisor for the New Dancers Showcase since the annual production was founded in 2004.  This year’s concert coordinator is MFA candidate Bethany Fagan, who is also one of the choreographers.  Each of the young artists participating in the Showcase was selected through a demanding audition process based on the strength of their previous training and their intellectual and physical promise for success in the field of dance.  We are delighted to showcase these dancers as they are off to a bright start.

For additional information, please contact the Department of Dance at (585) 395-2153.

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Chicago Style Dancing

By Matthew Frazier-Smith

I recently returned from Chicago, IL where undergraduate student, Maya Gonzalez, and I presented a new duet entitled Different Cut, Same Cloth. This work was presented as part of Bonesbare 7— an annual dance festival hosted by Core Project Chicago. During the three performances, we made so many mistakes and, as a result, made so many discoveries. Our piece changed along with the energy shift, which occurs when witnesses arrive for the first time. I find this (seemingly) inevitable shift can offer a host of possibilities and support to a developing new work. Overall, our Chicago venture turned out to be exactly what the work needed: an audience.

This notion also indirectly provided an answer I had been seeking for a few months. The question: What’s the point of presenting at festivals? So much effort and resources are put into traveling, finding housing, etc. that it almost begins to feel like running in circles. Recently, I attended festivals where I performed, bowed, and left the building without speaking to anyone outside of our group of performers. Why? Where’s the value?

Bonesbare had a different flavor to it. Backstage, I talked with other choreographers, dancers and musicians. After the show, we mingled with audience members, asked about their lives, and watched hilarious Youtube videos of crazy cats. I found my answer in these moments. The festivals are all about building community and connecting with others. Simply showing a new piece of choreography is to miss the point. Watching a variety of art from a diverse group of voices and allowing art help bring people together to discuss ideas, possibilities, and cat videos on Youtube: there’s the value I was looking for

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Faculty-choreographed Concert, DANSCORE, Opens this Weekend!

By Kevin Warner, Department Chair, and Stuart Soloway, Fine Arts Coordinator for The College at Brockport

DANSCORE Brings Brockport to Rochester Venue for November 16 Performance
Brockport Performances on November 14 and 15

The Department of Dance at The College at Brockport is proud to announce a special performance of DANSCORE, its annual faculty-choreographed concert, at the Hochstein School of Music and Dance, 50 North Plymouth Avenue, Rochester, on Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 7:30 pm. This special performance follows two preview performances on Thursday and Friday, November 14 and 15 at 7:30 pm at the College’s Hartwell Dance Theatre, Kenyon Street, Brockport. Ticket prices for all performances are $16/General, $11/Seniors, College at Brockport Alumni, Faculty and Staff and $8.50/Students and are available by phone at (585) 395-ARTS or at the Tower Fine Arts Center Box Office or online at fineartstix.brockport.edu.
Visit www.brockport.edu/finearts for more information. The performance at Hochstein will be followed by a reception, to which the audience is invited. (Please note: Only cash and checks will be accepted at the door for the November 16 performance at Hochstein.)

The concert’s artistic director, Kevin Warner, is enthusiastic about the performances: “This year’s DANSCORE offers a diverse range of contemporary dance, choreographed by faculty recognized both nationally and internationally for their work, and performed by the most accomplished of the Department’s pre-professional dance majors. The Hochstein performance is an opportunity for Rochester audiences to begin to learn why the department has been recognized as a “Program of Distinction,” and why the department continues to recruit from among the best and brightest dance students in the country.” The sometimes entertaining, sometimes thought-provoking and always engaging 75-minute concert features striking new costumes created by Emma Scholl and lighting by Benoit Beauchamp.

Among works to be presented are six premieres, created especially for this concert.
Mariah Maloney work emerged from a dialogue with Syracuse-based artist Leo Crandall at the Rochester Fringe Festival, when she and three of her dancers attended his concert. Maloney says, “I was very inspired and have since reached out to him… We are now discussing future collaborations and I am thrilled to be in dialogue with his music in le jardin d’une vingtaine de sculptures!” She also was inspired by her ongoing collaboration with costume designer Artist Emma Scholl, and says that their collaboration “deeply informs this new work and brings the idea of flying, gardens and garden sculptures forward.”

Stevie Oakes, Visiting Assistant Professor, collaborated with her dancers to create PERFORMANCE IN PROCESS, a dance on pointe with a modern twist. Oakes presented movement phrases which were crafted and explored by the dancers and coached by student ballet master Zachary Frazee. Oakes then refined and shaped the material into the finished dance that will be presented.

Other premieres will be presented by faculty James Hansen, Juanita Suarez, Kevin Warner and Vanessa VanWormer. Khalid Abdul N’Faly Saleem, musical director of Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble, will also perform an original composition inspired by the African diaspora.

William (Bill) Evans, Visiting Professor revives a more recent work, COLONY (2001), for fifteen dancers. This work was inspired by time that Evans spent sharing his dance technique with young Maori artists of the Kahurangi Dance Theatre in Hastings, New Zealand.

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