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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Students Attend the National Conference on Undergraduate Research!

By Florianne Jalac

Just last month, I traveled with 24 other students to represent our college at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). Since my sophomore year, I have watched friends and fellow dancers travel to present their work at various places across the country, so I was very excited to be one of eight students representing the Department of Dance at the University of Kentucky: Lexington (despite a nine hour trek each way via coach bus).

The first official day of the conference was exciting and certainly my favorite. Too excited to find out what the small dance research community at NCUR had to offer, I began my day with at the Performing Arts Session I. I was gratefully spoiled with a chance to not only support Brockport dancer Emma Coombs performing her solo, “Rumination”, but also two other dance presentations from George Mason University and University of Texas at El Paso. “A Voice Through Dance”, presented by UTX student Bianca Gomez, questioned socio-geographical significance to personal and collective empathy in relation to Anna Sokolow’s solo “Escape From Rooms”, and left my fellow Brockport dancers and me in deep discussion over how beautiful both her performance and research was. Much to my surprise and delight, I later discovered that her advisor was Andrea Vasquez, Brockport MFA alum who I remember from my first semester of freshman year – what a small world, especially as a dancer!

Rather than going back to the hotel with many of the other students, I chose to stick around and see as many interesting presentations as possible until our second Brockport dancer of the day, Sarah Elardo, presented her solo later that afternoon. I was drawn into a presentation on dance loops by Utah Valley University. The dancer was center stage, flanked by two large video screens on either side of her; as she danced, her movement was recorded in set durations, then played back with some visual manipulations through a projector onto the screens. As someone investigating looping of the audio variety for my senior solo, I found this presentation especially interesting. I also got a chance to see presentations in Media Studies, which is related to my second major – my favorite of these was definitely an analysis of the physical appearance of antagonists and protagonists in classic Disney films, which related stereotypically attractive features to the goodness of a character.

On the second day of the conference, I was in full preparation-mode as I geared up for my own presentation. To my surprise, several people other than my trusty Brockport dancers came to hear my research on how the camera angles and Jack Cole’s choreography in the scene “Ain’t Anyone Here For Love” from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes frame Jane Russell’s seemingly strong female character as supporting stereotypical gender inequality. As a whole, the presentation went well, and I even got to answer a spectator’s question on my research with a reference to the movie Frozen. Success!

As we journeyed back to Brockport at lunchtime the next day, I couldn’t help but be very proud of our Brockport community, and our presence at the conference. Though filled with far too much rest stop fast food and far too little authentic Kentucky fried chicken, the 2014 NCUR trip was a memorable experience that I’m thankful to have had during my final semester at Brockport.

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Summer Study 2014

By Colleen Culley

When I was an undergraduate dance major summers were pivotal times of growth as I got to participate in dance festivals, meet dancers and choreographers from around the world, stage manage main-stage shows, and see and do kinds of dance I had only read about. Between festivals and courses I found work often in dance where I could explore my own pedagogical identity. It has been a delight to hear about what current majors have planned for their upcoming summers, many are following similarly exciting pathways.

Emilie Gerst, Morgan Hasson, Jordan Lloyd, and Chloe London will be going to the American Dance Festival as full time students! Kayla McNabb will also be going the American Dance Festival working as a stagecraft apprentice and taking two dance classes held at the festival in the mornings!

Alexis Hills will be heading to Bates Dance Festival!

Jasmine Perez will be a counselor for camp Danbee in Hinsdale Massachusetts, a girls fitness camp. As a counselor and a fitness instructor she will be teaching classes in yoga, modern, ballet, and zumba. She is so excited to travel and meet people from all over the world and share new experiences with people that share a passion to teach and work with the youth.

Jeneé Skinner will be working at the Drake Memorial Library and attending the Doug Varone Intensive hosted by the College at Brockport.

Chelsea Spraker will be working with the New York State Summer School of the Arts this summer, within their modern dance program. It’s a great program for high school students to gain pre-professional experiences. Even cooler, PBS is doing a documentary / movie on NYSSSA this summer! Chelsea will work with students as a counselor and mentor, as she did the program herself when she was in high school!

Haley Zdebski will be jumping into her first job after graduation! She will be going to work in Connecticut this summer as a senior staff member and instructor at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, for ages 9-14 associated with the Russian American Foundation.

Now as a graduate student my summers have changed, but still include a great deal of ‘getting out there’. I will be traveling to Edinburgh, Scotland for the Bill Evans Teacher Intensive and then to Salt Lake City, UT, to teach as faculty at Integrated Movement Studies. My graduate student colleagues are also planning some pretty cool summers. Here is a sampling:

Marissa Aucoin, Morgan Bernat, and Samantha Johnson will be staying the Rochester area to work intensely on a collaborative show for Rochester’s 2014 Fringe Festival.

Daniel Reichert will be traveling to Salt Lake City, UT, to the Integrate Movement Studies Certificate Program in Laban Movement Analysis. He is excited about how the graduate level certificate program can support his research and teaching of Capoeira.

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Scholars Day 2014

Scholars Day was recently held at The College at Brockport on April 9th. MFA candidates, Bethany Good and Samantha Johnson, each took time to write about their experiences that day. Bethany Good discussed viewing the presentations of her peers, while Samantha Johnson talked to graduate student, Morgan Bernat about what is was like to present a written paper and choreographic showing. Check it out below:


By Bethany Good

In addition to the opportunity to present your own work, Scholars Day allows students and faculty to see what others around campus are working on.  This year I was able to not only present a paper and perform a self-choreographed solo, but also witness amazing choreography from others and hear intelligent and thoughtful papers from my peers.

My day started out with listening to senior BFA Brett Cox in his presentation Beyond the Skirts:  An In-depth Look at Gender Roles and Sterotypes Associated with Western Concert Dance.  He asked us to question what we think of as masculine or feminine, and instead look at performers as humans who, although living through different experiences, have the same basic emotions.  To enhance his words, Cox presented a duplicate showing of his choreographic work Echoes, the first showing with an all-male cast and the second with an all-female cast.  Cox asked his audience to consider how the different casts affected the movement, bringing to life emotions rather than masculinity or femininity.

In a later session senior Caitlin Mahon presented her senior honors thesis:  The Dance of Politics:  All for One and None for All.”  Mahon shared her research process of politics and the distribution of power.  This was followed by her choreographic thesis, a work comprised of strong dancers and performers, bringing Mahon’s research to life through the divide of two groups.  These two groups clearly demonstrated one as more oppressive, holding more power than the other.

These two snippets represent just a couple snapshots of what the dance department presented this year during Scholars Day.  Other presentations included MFA thesis works, a recap of the NDEO Dance 2050 conference, and papers bringing research sources to life.


By Samantha Johnson

Samantha Johnson (SJ): What did you enjoy most about your experience at Scholars Day?
Morgan Bernat (MB): I enjoyed the experience of sharing my work with an audience that wasn’t all dance people. I especially enjoyed showing my work in progress because I feel like there is always this finished product shine that work has when it is performed. I enjoyed the experience of exposing a large audience of dancers and non-dancers to the roughness that is a work in progress.

SJ: Did you enjoy the experience of being an active participant?
MB: I did enjoy this experience because it pushed me to understand how I can speak to dancers and non-dancers in a cohesive and effective way. I had to be especially careful in the breakdown of what I was talking about and I enjoyed the challenge of finding new ways to describe my choreographic work and my research.

SJ: What part of Scholars Day had the largest impact on you as a graduate student?
MB: I feel like I don’t have the opportunity to talk about my research that often. I talk about dance making much more frequently and it is something I am comfortable with. This was a great opportunity to get more comfortable talking about my research in a professional setting. It taught me a lot about who I am as a presenter of research in addition to my creative presentations.

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Getting to Know Ed Rice!

By Angie Muzzy

Recently, I sat down with visiting Guest teacher, Ed Rice to discuss his journey to Hartwell Hall. Ed currently dances with Alexandra Beller (, Third Rail Projects (, and Punch Drunk’s Sleep No More ( When he is not performing with these projects on the weekend, you can find Ed teaching Modern Technique and Intermediate Composition here at The College at Brockport.

The following are a few of the many questions I asked, however, I encourage everyone to take a moment and have conversation with Ed while he’s here!

Angie Muzzy (AM): How did you meet Karl? (Here’s some context, Ed is currently filling in for Assistant Professor Karl Rogers, while Karl is performing with David Dorfman Dance in Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan).

Ed Rice (ER): Karl and I met in 2007 through the David Dorfman Dance work, The Underground, and we have performed together with Heidi Henderson, and in other various projects. We have mutual friends, and we have formed a friendship overtime since our initial meeting. I find him to be a wonderful colleague who understands the breadth of the field, both in a performance and academic setting.

AM: You were teaching at Dance New Amsterdam and now Gibney Dance in New York City, how do you like teaching in an academic setting?

ER: I enjoy being able to work with people consistently and focus on teaching a technique class for seven weeks.  Teaching in the city, I focused more on the promotion of my class and business side of things, with classes usually meeting once a week or once a week for a month. Here, I can concentrate on the students and use my skills to share ideas. For example, in Intermediate Dance Composition the students are investigating site-work and adaptivity- how space informs history.  Since so much of the work I’m performing now utilizes concepts of space, I am able to provide the students with a different perspective on the subject matter.

AM: Do you have any advice to graduating seniors and grad students here at Brockport?

ER: Undergraduates: Remain curious. Try to find a community to support your interests whether it is performing, teaching, choreographing or taking classes.  NYC is not the only place to be. Some great dance communities are Chicago, Minneapolis, Austin, Seattle, and San Francisco, although NYC is great too!

Graduate Students: Try and balance tenacity and allowance.  Whether your interests are performing, choreography or teaching, continue to seek something.  Keep on doing that thing and try not to get too bogged down because eventually things will shift!

For more information check out Ed Rice’s website:

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From China To New York: The Journeys of A Brockport Graduate Student

By Allison Bohman

Siwen Jiang, a second year MFA candidate at the The College at Brockport: The State University of New York has not only contributed a great deal to the Brockport community, but she has also shared her artistry among international dancers and choreographers during visits to New York City.  Originally from Hefei, China (near Shanghai), Siwen came to Brockport to deepen her studies in contemporary dance and learn about the American education model in the hopes up developing relations in dance between China and America.

During several visits to New York City within the last year, Siwen has studied dance extensively at Peridance on full scholarship. She was highly involved in organizing Chinese student study at this eminent NYC school.  Furthermore, Siwen has had the outstanding opportunity to dance professionally and choreograph in several performances.  From these experiences, Siwen shared that she “realized the importance of a positive and supportive rehearsal environment and how to contribute to it.”

The first performance opportunity Siwen had was at The New York Chinese Cultural Center, where she danced with Daijian, an artist originally from China with roots in contemporary dance, classical dance, and Martial Arts.  He joined New York-based Shen Wei Dance Arts in 2005 and Trisha Brown Dance Company in 2008, and he was Shen Wei’s assistant for the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  Siwen was thrilled to participate in this show featuring contemporary art from three different choreographers.  To view some experts of this show, you can visit:

Next, Siwen collaborated her choreography with a technology exploration at The Pratt Institute in the DDA Gallery.  This piece, titled “Shall We Talk” featured Siwen Jiang and Conrad Andrew Taylor as dancers with interaction artist Jing Bao.  It was an interactive dance experience because audience members were given ipads and could text message the words they wanted to see layered on the media screen where the dancers were moving.  The installation was intended to reveal that people are separated by an invisible barrier.  The things we see are actually imposed by our own desire.  In reflecting on the process, Siwen explained that her “experience as the director in the dance allowed [her] to explore how to initiate and maintain a welcoming, inclusive and creative setting.”  To check out Siwen’s performance, you can visit

Most recently, Siwen has organized and participated in a flash mob video initiative through The Future Student Club (FSC) “to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Sino-US diplomatic relationship.” The FSC is committed to helping international students integrate into American society by offering students career guidance, networking platforms, and opportunities to be involved in community volunteering activities.   She was responsible for organizing this event and was a director of the flash mob video that will be shown on major video and social platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Youku and Renren in both the United States and China. The flash mob video will additionally be sent to the Chinese Consulate in New York and the government of New York City as a gift for the 35th anniversary of Sino-US diplomatic relationship.   The video will be released to the public sometime in the next two weeks.

This summer, Siwen will have the honor of working with Houying Dance Company, who has been granted the right to develop a Chinese American Dance Festival, going into its third year.  She will participate in the American Dance Festival in New York City and then will return to China to run the Chinese American Dance Festival program, sharing her talents as a translator, teacher assistant, and program organizer.

From China to Brockport to New York City, Siwen Jiang is certainly leaving her artistic imprint on each community she comes into contact with.  Not only is she a beautiful dancer and person on the inside and out, but she is also determined to fulfill her dreams, which is an inspiration to us all.  She explained that these activities “broaden her knowledge in the dance field and also improve her abilities in organization, cooperation, and communication.”  Siwen has been able to meet a lot of people who have the same passion and pursuit for dance as she does. These experiences will not only play a crucial role in her life, but also make vital connections for future artists of both China and America.

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