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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The Student Dance Organization Gets Jammin’

By Jen Dayton

On Wednesday, November 6, the Student Dance Organization had their first annual improvisation jam for the fall semester. An improvisation jam is a time when artists come together and design, create, play, and explore the world of dance together. This past Wednesday night was a good example of the world that is created when artists/dancers come together, imagine and explore.

On Wednesday night there were about 40 people that attended the improvisation jam, five musicians, and many people entering and exiting the space throughout the night. The jam was held in Hartwell Hall, in Strasser. The atmosphere that was created in Strasser that night was unbelievable. The musicians Khalid Saleem and fellow drummers, Greg Ketchum, and Matthew Frazier-Smith helped to create the inspiring and creative environment and mood in Strasser. The musicians improvised together based off of the movement the dancers were creating in the space, and together the musicians and dancers explored a new world of their own.

Jasmine Perez, a senior BFA student was in attendance at the jam that night and she described the music as “…a perfect additive to the environment” she further stated, “the musicians created the mood. An uplifting one!” Jasmine has attended SDO’s improvisation jams in the past and she said she loves coming to the jams because it gives her time to reflect on herself and also time to view others. She hopes in future semesters that there will be more jams because “…it gives the dance community at Brockport an opportunity to dance and explore by yourself and with one another leaving having a wonderful experience.”

Now you may ask, “What if I have never attended an improvisation jam before?” “How will I know exactly what it will be like?” The answer is each improvisation jam will be different and a different experience will be created each time a jam happens. Chloe Leibrick, a junior, majoring in Dance and Spanish attended the improvisation jam for the first time Wednesday night. Chloe stated, “I left the improvisation jam feeling artistically fulfilled and incredibly blessed to be able to dance with such beautiful, talented, and fun people. Attending this event allowed me to completely de-stress during an incredibly hectic week.” She further stated that she thought the improvisation jam helped bring people together and revived everyone for the upcoming weeks ahead that will be filled with final exams, end of the year projects, and performances.

The experience that everyone had at SDO’s improvisation jam Wednesday night was an experience that each individual at the improvisation jam will not forget. The atmosphere was inspiring, creative minds were flowing, and everyone in the Strasser left feeling refreshed and ready to take on a new day.

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Graduate Students Discuss Choreographing Thesis Projects

Friends of Brockport Dance recently sat down with MFA Graduate Students, Angie Muzzy, Matthew Frazier-Smith and Julia Zdrojewski 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?

Angie Muzzy (AM): I’ve explored, as the process has unfolded, quite a few themes. Initially, I wanted to make a dance about “coolness,” particularly about females. Coolness in society is valued, but what about its representation? Does it represent confidence? A masculine appeal? Does it have a gender, and can it be embodied through movement? That unfolded; movement was created using dancers and then crafted to make a full piece.

Matthew Frazier- Smith: (MFS): I am currently (and forever) interested in process. For this work in particular, we are investigating how creative, unusual tasks can shape a specific movement vocabulary, and how that vocabulary can help shape the overall content of the work. Additionally, I am interested in the process of framing movement. How can/does one provide context? How can I shape a lens through which the audience is compelled to look? I am fascinated by how movement can be interpreted completely differently based on how it is framed or placed in context. We explored many strategies for sculpting context, and, as a result, content.

Julia Zdrojewski (JZ): I was interested in exploring stereotypes and/or standards of femininity. I used popular music from the 1960s, as well as costumes that suggested that world, particularly because I felt like it was a time where women in society were experiencing a lot of changes. There were five women in the piece, and I worked to make each of them be seen as individual women with separate identities, rather than clumping them together as a singular woman with a singular story.

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

JZ: My written research focuses on the relationship between dance studies and feminist theories, so the two are very close in that way. I feel as though I’ve been writing for my thesis for the past two and a half years, so I have a version… soon it will take more of a formal shape though. Soon. I promise.

AM: My creative and written theses are slightly different, but live in the same world because they both come from me. My written thesis is on female identity and the solo aesthetic, specially pertaining to the advent of modern dance and how females used solo work as a platform for insistence and risk. The past two years have really prepared me, but the writing actually starts in December.

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

MFS: These dancers are incredible. It is an honor to be working so intensely with artists who understand the value of rigorous play. We have created enough material—with text and movement—to last a lifetime. We spent loads of time creating material we will likely never use again, and I appreciate their ability and willingness to move forward and continue exploring. I very much admire the commitment, high-spirits, generosity, intelligence, and artistry they consistently share.

AM: My cast of dancers are all very different, and I was thoughtful in casting them because I was interested in their individual styles and demeanors. Working with them has been an amazing experience. We have fun, but we also get things done. Plus, it has been a real collaborative process, where they will get to make material that I go in and craft afterwards.

FOBD: What were the factors in choosing to premiere your thesis work in Strasser or the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester?

JZ: Strasser was a space that I was really comfortable with. I liked the idea that the space we would be rehearsing in would also be where the piece would be performed. Plus, it feels very democratic- the dancers aren’t put on a high proscenium stage, they are seen in a realistic way from three sides, and I think those ideas aligned well with the work itself.

MFS: I was interested in gaining more experience producing my own work, and I was pleased with what VSW offers as a performance venue. About two years ago, I danced with Mariah Maloney Dance at VSW, and I found the management to be professional, accommodating, and generally great to work with.

AM: I wanted to produce a concert off campus to have the opportunity to create something that was solely my own. I wanted to make a longer dance, and utilize a different space where I am the artistic director, am in charge of my own promotion and set myself up for when I leave Brockport and will continue making work.

FOBD: Any advice to graduate students beginning their creative thesis projects in January?

AM: Go into the process knowing what you want, but be open to possibilities. Use your dances strengths and potentials. Don’t fret- it’s just a dance. It doesn’t have to be the greatest thing you’ve ever made, but you do certainly have to give it your all.

JZ: Nothing is too precious. You have more time than you think. Don’t be afraid to make choices.

MFS: I strongly believe patience is your best friend when developing rich material. If you’re not interested in it, investigate it more—or scrap it and explore something else. Once you lose interest, it will inevitably become contrived, bland, diluted, and other gross words. Oh yeah—and start reading/writing early because time flies when you’re having fun in thesis-land….the rides are short, the lines are long, and nobody is handing out free sunscreen. What does that mean? I have no idea. Just make sure you start writing early.

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Brockport heads to the Northeast Popular Culture Conference!

By Julia Zdrojewski

The Dance Department at The College at Brockport was well represented October 25th-26th at the Northeast Popular Culture Association in Conference held at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont.

I had the privilege of attending the Popular Culture Conference with fellow graduate student, Allison Bohman, as well as dance faculty members Nicole Kaplan, Karl Rogers and Dr. Maura Keefe. NEPCA was first founded in 1974 and its intentions include advancing research and promoting dialogues around popular and/or American culture.

Nicole, Allison and I left for Vermont in the early afternoon on Friday and were able to soak in a little bit of Vermont later in the evening while driving around the busy streets of Colchester and Burlington; full of restaurants and pedestrians walking around. The weather may have been cold that weekend, but Vermont itself was beautiful, making the scenic drive enjoyable.

The next morning was devoted to the conference- finding Saint Michaels College, registering and reading our papers over one last time before reading them aloud to graduate students, independent scholars and faculty members from a variety of schools around the country. I read my paper during the first dance panel of the day, along with a scholar from Boston College. Afterwards, Dr. Maura Keefe, who also acted as the moderator for the dance panels, led a discussion about our research independently, as well as how they were connected (my research was on feminism in dance and my fellow panelist discussed the punk values of mosh pits). Listening to other papers was an interesting and insightful experience, and I enjoyed meeting, connecting and networking with individuals from around the country who are invested in their research about dance just as much as I am.

In addition to sharing my own writing, I was also able to listen to the work of my peers. Allison Bohman spoke of the geopolitics and gestures present in Nazi Germany, while Nicole Kaplan read a paper about her experience choreographing for Brockport’s chapter of One Billion Rising. In addition, Nicole was able to share media from the event, so that those who were present for her panel could physically see the event that she was describing in detail. This panel also featured Dr. Barbara LeSavoy, from the Women and Gender Studies Department at Brockport. Dr. LeSavoy read a paper about her experience with One Billion Rising as well, which took place on February 14th of this past year to raise awareness about domestic violence.

Attending the conference this year was a really wonderful experience. My peers and I were able to share the research that we have worked hard on, hear papers from other dance researchers from around the country, and talk with scholars about one another’s work. While the weekend went quickly, it felt full of experiences that I am grateful for as a graduate student representing the Dance Department at The College at Brockport.

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Returning to the Familiar

Current MFA graduate student, Morgan Bernat, recently took the time to write about her experience coming back to the Department of Dance at The College at Brockport after graduating as an undergrad in 2012. Read all about her experience here:

Preparing myself to return to Brockport as a graduate student wasn’t something I took a lot of time to mull over. My fear was that if I reflected too much on what I knew, I wouldn’t be giving myself a fair chance to experience Brockport in a fresh light. Most people have asked me why I chose to return to a program I had already fully experienced as an undergrad. My decision was based off of a combination of things, stemming from a memory. I remember this feeling I had on graduation day as I was supposed to be saying good-bye to the faculty. I felt like my process wasn’t finished at Brockport yet, and saying good-bye didn’t make any sense. I knew that I wasn’t finished with all that Brockport had to offer. When looking at various grad programs, I chose to go about the process similarly to the way I currently make work; go with my gut and where my logic leads me. My logic continually led me back to Brockport.

Reflecting back on my first half of a semester it’s been a whirlwind consumed with hectic schedules, rehearsals, auditions and figuring out what kind of student I am at this point in my life. Although it’s been a year since I left, I felt like my year spent being a “real human” versus a student allowed me the time to appreciate the process of learning. There was at first a sense of familiarity that I experienced upon my return, but I refused to let myself ride that. I’m beginning a master’s degree, a process that is going to be far more soaked in the art form I’m choosing to make a career of. I think it was a concern for some people that I would be returning to a faculty I had grown to know and become familiar with. That was a concern of mine as well, but my audition silenced that concern. I took class with Karl Rogers, who I had taken class with most recently before graduating, and I found the context of the class to be fresh and new, just as it would be when taking class from someone I didn’t know previously. It was in that moment my gut feeling was victorious; this was the place I needed to be. During my undergrad graduation, I knew that my journey at Brockport wasn’t finished. Now I can experience the satisfaction of discovering what it means to pursue dance at the graduate level in a place I can confidently call home.

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Undergraduates Write about the Fringe!

For each of their dance history courses, professors Maura Keefe and Karl Rogers asked their students to attend an event at The Rochester Fringe Festival and write a blog post about what they saw. All of the students handed in work that contained a unique style or voice, and was full of detailed dance writing explaining what they experienced.

Four undergraduate students had their work chosen to share on our blog. Check out their excerpts below:

On September 21st I saw Juxtapose presents: Bag of Tricks. It was an incredible show that was entertaining for all audiences. Each piece not only had cool props, but also incredible, gorgeous dancers. The first piece was a trio with funky costumes, balloons that covered the floor, and captivating movement qualities. I found it surprising and entertaining when the balloons would pop while the dancers were moving through the space. Next, were two fierce solos. The first soloist had impeccable technique and extensions that could go on for days. The antique lamp was pretty cool too- not gonna lie I think it’d look great in my dorm room! The second soloist took the stage with an intense focus and drew the audience in with her fascinating choreography incorporating a deck of cards and a fan. The closing piece was a quintet that involved a bunch of origami cootie catchers spread on the floor. The choreography was specific and eye catching. One dancer would be turning and BAM a leg would be in the air out of nowhere. I thought the entire show was very entertaining and I’d love to see it again.

-Baylee Simpson, on Bag of Tricks
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Sometimes you forget how talented your friends are.

On the first Saturday of the second annual Rochester Fringe Festival, I had the privilege of scoring a free ticket for Articulated Vulnerability as the photographer/videographer. I couldn’t be more excited to be able to have a small role in the night that premiered the works of two of the best dance dudes in my life, Brett Cox and Zach Frazee.

The word of the night was proud. I was proud each time I saw a faculty member enter the RAPA theatre to support their students. I was proud the second the two smartly dressed choreographers took the stage to introduce the evening, my heart swelling all too sentimentally. I was proud with each step the dancers took, with each embodied complex rhythm, with each execution of a smart choreographic choice. I was proud every time I had to fix the levels on my video camera, just to compensate for the sheer volume of the audience’s supportive roars. I felt proud to know the people who were on the stage as well as backstage, so ridiculously proud to be part of a community of dancers who not only loved what they did, but cared about other people who shared that love, too.

-Florianne Jalac, on Articulate Vulnerability
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The entire performance was extraordinary and I don’t just mean the performers movements. As everyone stared up at this building a mood was created that felt like we were all watching the gods interact. We looked up at these mortals and admired them, speechless like we were something less than human. I’m not sure if it was because I was constantly looking up at them, or what they were doing was incredible that made me see them as something godly, but whatever it was, I enjoyed being lost in the moment watching these people challenge physics with dance and dance alone.

-Grant Pastori, on BANDALOOP
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The first performance entitled We Too Cling was the first ever modern dance I had ever seen and I’m glad it was. Keopke and Rogers took the roles of two twentieth century artists in a way I never would’ve expected. The conversation between the two was shown through movement and evolution. When they spun to fast, classical music at the start I was impressed by the accuracy of their unity and their ability to complete partner lifts in an effortless manner. I know I couldn’t have done so in such a way. They played with the shadows and even props that were a surprise to the audience. Their strength and congeniality shined when posing on the chairs, (sometimes even upside down might I add)! Also, who would’ve thought cardboard shapes strapped to the dancers’ arms could make for such a great ending. The mood instantly lightened as they pounded their feet to the music and smiled as they danced. They shifted their weight back and forth with extreme balance and skill. Keopke and Rogers ritually repeated movements in unison while enjoying dancing to a classic rock song. I was smiling wide and I never expected to be so entertained after the first dance.

-Madison Hornug, on The Goldilocks Score & Other Dances

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