4 weeks, 60 classes, 186 hours, and 6,840 minutes later, I am happy to say that I have recently completed the Summer Study NYC: A Contemporary Dance Intensive, at Steps on Broadway. I was given the incredible opportunity to study and perform under the guidance of some amazing artistic directors and choreographers working today. I knew this program was right for me because I still somehow managed to end my classes with a smile after a 5-7 hour day of dance technique and the creative process!
Since I get excited about meeting new people, I was beyond thrilled that our intensive group consisted of myself and seven other dancers, ranging from ages 19-32, lying somewhere between the pre-professional and professional dance world. I just love intimate class sizes! The smallness of the group gave me the chance to learn everybody’s name after just one day. Not bad for a girl who can’t even remember how old some of her family members are. Although I became fast friends with everyone, I ended up having a common bond with another dancer hailing from Munich, Germany. (Now I have an excuse to visit Europe again right?)
Besides sweating together in class, our little group loved to spend breaks in Central Park tanning and eating, chatting about life, and even hanging out on the weekend in Coney Island for a Mermaid Parade (yes those exist)! Not only did we bond socially, but we got to share our creative processes and learn collaborative approaches to movement creation and articulation. Our ultimate task was to create compositions in smaller groups that were to be shown at the end of the program. It was a huge hit! I feel so fortunate for this opportunity I’ve had here at Steps. The intensive was not only an excellent way to learn new skills, but we all agreed it was our key to getting one step closer to that dream we all share: being a professional dancer.
- Marina Di Loreto, BFA class of 2017
This week, I traveled to New York City to interview Rochelle Slovin for my dissertation research. I am writing about dancers in Philadelphia and New York who were funded by the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) from 1974-82. During a period of high unemployment and inflation in the mid to late 1970s, CETA was a federal program designed to provide the unemployed with training and public service jobs. Slovin served as the Director for the New York City CETA Artists’ Project and she reflected on her experience with the 300 artists and performers funded by this program. Dancers and artists were chosen through a competitive selection process and they were paid by the government to perform public service and work on their creative projects. Slovin views CETA as an important program that helped many dancers at crucial points in their careers, and we are both curious to learn how dancers viewed their CETA participation. I will interview Temple’s own Merían Soto, Philadelphia Dance Project’s Terry Fox, Dance Theatre Etcetera Director Martha Bowers, and renowned tap dancer Jane Goldberg, among others. The next step in my process will be to transcribe the interviews word by word, and this will give me a chance to examine the themes and content of the interviews. Here’s to a hot and productive summer!
Colleen Hooper, PhD student and MFA alumna
Ten days ago, I packed up my balled up leotards, endless amount of socks and my foam roller and headed to the city that never sleeps, where I would begin my summer dancing journey at the Summer Professional Semester at Broadway Dance Center in New York City. As I excitedly walked through the red doors of the spacious five-studio heaven, forty-six excited students along with an inviting and encouraging staff who would soon become my new dance family greeted me. Although I was ready to show my passion on the dance floor, the administrators of the program sat us down and presented us with multiple seminars regarding professionalism. There I was guided through these presentations with tips for success in life and in dance.
More often than not, dancers look at other dancers with jealousy and envy. They wish for people’s failure only so that they can get ahead. Another common flaw of dancers is that they do not treat themselves with respect, let alone their peers. Dancers’ bodies are an instrument; therefore we need to keep it in the best shape possible, both mentally and physically. For all of those aspiring dancers out there, I am here to tell you that if you dream it, you can achieve it. The training and technique is the easy part; the most challenging aspect of making it as a successful dancer is staying positive and professional. Here are some key phrases and tips for ultimate success in the dance field:
- “Life is the Audition”: You could be holding the door for an agent coming to observe your dance class tomorrow; you never know who you will cross paths with that could change your life. So you better put that smile on and start spewing out those compliments.
- Be a well educated dancer: Taking a class with a new ballet teacher? Indecisive about whether to take jazz or tap class? Research research research!
- Resilience is more important than talent: If you are ever tired, frustrated, or just plain want to leave class and go home to your bed, say to yourself, “I am happy to be here and ready to work!” Encourage other friends who are feeling the same way, or say it to at least five people before you walk into class. It will make class a much more positive and high-energy experience!
- Clap it up! Otherwise known as “clapter” (get it…laughter?) Clap, hoot and holler for your amazing peers when they get up to dance! Showing your support and love for them will make class much more exciting, fun and successful. Of course, hold on the clapter in ballet, please.
- Being perfect is boring! You are original; there is no one like you in this world. So flaunt it! Accepting this and being eager to improve is one of the greatest qualities of a professional dancer. Perform with confidence and be happy to take corrections from teachers by actively responding with a “thank you” for their gift to you.
- Breakdown in a Breakthrough: Slept through your alarm? Forgot to do your research? Late to class? Don’t blame the bus or your dog, no one in the professional world cares. Own up to your mistakes and take responsibility for your actions! You will be treated with much more respect if you admit that it was your own fault that you were late and it will never happen again.
- Power Stance: Here’s another positivity booster: body language is everything. Studies show that just doing a power stance makes you feel more dominant and in charge of your life. When you are feeling small, weak or doubtful, stand up, raise your hands in the air, open your chest and scream, “I am powerful and limitless!” Yes, you may look crazy, but that grumpy old man sitting next to you on the subway will wish he was you, and feel a lot smaller than you just felt ten seconds before.
So there ya have it, dancers. Yes, training is important, however not nearly as important as showing that you are a trustworthy, reliable and happy professional. I would hire a girl who can do one pirouette and shows that she is happy to be here and ready to work over a dancer who does thirty-two pirouettes without even a smile or a blink of passion any day.
My experience at Broadway Dance Center as been mind-blowing and truly incredible thanks to an amazing support system of loving and genuine (not to mention talented) dancers who are powerful and limitless in my mind. The dancing has only begun, and I cannot wait to share a summer of movement and memories at Broadway Dance Center.
Meghan McFerran, BFA class of 2017
During the summer months our faculty are off doing research and our students are off doing a variety of exciting things. Therefore we will only be putting up new posts every other week. In the meantime, you can follow us on facebook, twitter, and tumblr for updates (see links to the right).
Thanks for reading!
D2D: Dare To Dance Company held its very first summer intensive in the Pearson Hall studios during the last week of May. D2D was founded by Temple University students Danzel Thompson-Stout, Bea Martin, Neha Sharma, and Robert Graves in 2012. Ebony Webster, D2D company member, suggested that the company host a 5 day intensive to focus on technique, body conditioning, and choreography within hip hop and contemporary dance forms. The aim of the intensive was to bring together local teachers and dancers to hone their skills and share their passion for dance with one another through interaction, personal expression, and rigorous physical training. Thompson-Stout expressed a passion for creating a space where dancers can network with one another regardless of their differences in academic or vocational pursuits. He said, “If I want to do something, I want to do it with the community in mind.” He emphasized the importance of learning from one another, cultivating teaching skills, and honoring the commitment of dancers who are hungry to train and perform. Instructors from the Philadelphia and New Jersey area taught locking, house, contemporary, commercial hip hop, and krump. Each day included time set apart for body conditioning and freestyle sessions. The intensive attracted participants from as far as Newark, Delaware, with an average number of 25 participants a day. I admire the success of D2D and I look forward to seeing how the intensive will model future training programs for hip hop and contemporary dancers in the community.
Belle Alvarez, BFA 2014
Photo by Bill Hebert
Photo by Bill Hebert
As we head into Summer, many exciting activities are percolating as my company, KYL/D, prepares to take the stage — locally, nationally and internationally, bringing its MANDALA concept — of sharing, connecting, expanding — to different parts of the City and the world.
Here at home, we look forward to Come Together, a Summer Dance Festival at the majestic Suzanne Roberts Theater with KYL/D performances there on the evenings of July 24th and 26th. It’s a great way to celebrate the vibrant Philadelphia dance scene with over 20 companies performing, including Brian Sanders’ JUNK, Koresh Dance Company and Rennie Harris.
KYL/D next heads to the Big Apple for a performance at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival on August 7th. And just a few weeks later, we bring our artistry to Germany; KYL/D is one of just 3 American companies invited to perform at the Internationale Tanzmesse in Dusseldorf, one of Europe’s largest gatherings for contemporary dance.
It is particularly exciting for me to showcase Temple-made dance artists at each of these exciting engagements. Three of Temple’s Dance Department alumni, and one current student, will be performing as members of my company: Jessica Warchal-King; Eiren Shuman; Rachael Hart; Brian Cordova and Wei Wei Ma.
And throughout the Summer, my superb dance artists and esteemed guests (our “CHI Artists”) offer an array of movement classes at my movement research center, CHI MAC, in South Philly. Everyone is invited to participate with past, present and future Temple movers. It’s going to be a very exciting Summer…
Professor Kun-Yang Lin
Despite visa application mishaps and US east coast snow storms, I arrived to take up my 4 week appointment as Visiting Research Scholar at Philly’s Temple University in the Dance Department at the end of March. To say, that I was excited is an understatement akin to describing Jane Austen’s novels as ‘good’ (in my humble opinion). Although my sociology of dance PhD study is interdisciplinary in nature, I was extremely keen to situate my PhD in the sphere of Dance Studies. Unfortunately, dance scholars are far and few between in Scotland and this was the premise of my application to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) who funded the month-long Overseas Institutional Visit (OIV).
I experienced many exciting academic ‘firsts’ in the US revolving around attending lectures, giving lectures, prepping for lectures, working on the thesis and attending tutorials. Specific examples include: lecturing to undergraduate students, hosting a session on academic publishing (as Co-Editor of the Scottish Journal of Performance), and learning about the relationship between Dance Studies and the philosophy of German baroque drama. Non-academic ‘firsts’ mostly revolve around food as I tried (among others): frozen yoghurt, a soft pretzel, a Philly (veggie) cheese steak, water ice and tater tots.
During a visit which saw me arrive in snow and take off in weather which in Scotland, would constitute the absolute height of a short-lived summer, I learnt an incredible amount about dance academia, American culture and the City of Philadelphia. I am very grateful to all concerned!
Bethany Whiteside, Visiting Research Scholar
This past September, Sarafina Alexandria Moorgate was born at Temple Performing Arts Center. She strutted across the stage, doing cartwheels and voguing her arms—casting a spell on her audience. She continued performing every few months in clubs in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood.
I began training in dance at age 17, after a long time studying theater. I eventually found my way to Temple’s dance department. My insecurities about my technical ability often overshadowed my performance. Such feeling has made it seem like I’m hiding from the audience, a problem I’ve struggled with for too long.
With Sarafina, I didn’t have to hide. Taking ownership of the feminine body temporarily suspended any doubt, and through this diva I found my voice on stage. She appears in my improvisation, and bleeds into my choreography. She has taught me how to demand the audience’s attention with even the simplest gestures. She has given me permission to love my time on stage rather than fear it. When I make my grand entrance, I’m not scared anymore—I’m home.
Jay Oatis, BFA 2014
Photo courtesy of The Temple News
In February of this year, I danced on stage for the first time in my own choreography, and after a break of dancing on stage of more than eleven years over which time I gave birth to three children, and expanded my understanding of dance as a teacher, scholar and creative artist. The process of making a dance for myself was both scary and fun, and brought me back to emotional places I had not revisited for over a decade. However, I chose five other dancers to join me in this piece, Porcelain Metamorphosis, and having their bodies in the studio space with me during rehearsals and in performance gave me a sense of strength and power from which to draw. I chose dancers with an over forty-year age range, and who came from a variety of training disciplines. After a short solo for myself, I created a group dance for the six of us, drawing upon Easter European folk dance and theatrical character dance, but incorporating gestural phrases emerging from feelings of vulnerability and frustration. Once the dancers and I joined together in our boots and silky lingerie, stomping to the sounds of Andrei Krylov’s, “Bitva Battle Song,” I felt the strength of coming together as an alliance to express the beauty of the femininity and the potential power of female community and empowerment.
Dr. Laura Katz
For eighteen months I have been working on And We Shall Be Rid of Them with a colleague and close friend in Chicago. Very loosely based on the themes of Hansel and Gretel, Jeff and I are exploring loss, being lost, losing, and the disorientation that comes from being stripped of all that is familiar.
It is amazing how the artistic mind can leap ahead of its rational counterpart. I envisioned this piece in the first few days after moving from Chicago to Philadelphia to start the doctoral program at Temple and three weeks after my mom died. It was a time of profound disorientation, but I was so focused on survival I didn’t think of the dance as a direct cognate for everything happening in my life. I thought of it as a way to work with Jeff and to stay connected to what was familiar and a source of joy.
Last week I traveled to Chicago where Jeff and I worked intensively for six days, taught class, did three open rehearsals/showings and a wild performance called PEEP Show. We set ourselves up for disorientation by creating more movement material than we could possibly remember, and I have a really good memory! Our notion of perfect composition was shattered, which was appropriate because our intention is to lose ourselves, be lost, and face the process of losing within the dance. It is a paradoxical and spiral-like intention, especially when witnessed by others. In our disorientation we also discovered a kind of joy, exhilaration, and wonder in the liminal space between private rehearsal and public performance. Our ways of relating to ourselves and each other leaked out and became part of the dance, creating jagged edges, spontaneous utterances, humor, and poignancy in place of smoothed out sequencing and composition. By necessity, the intimacy of our process opened to include the witnesses gathered; in revealing our imperfections to each other we revealed them to our audience. In doing so I discovered a sense of completeness coexisting with infinite possibility that the search for perfect orientation has never yielded.
By Molly Shannahan, Dance PhD student
Photos: Molly Shanahan and Jeff Hancock, William Frederking Photography, 2014