My Experience Studying Dance Abroad for the Second Time
by Keri Lushefski
Last spring, I expanded my horizons and studied dance abroad for a second time. During my first time abroad, I journeyed 5,000 miles away to Rome, Italy with the Temple University Dance Department for two months. This time, I chose to depart 10,000 miles away to Auckland, New Zealand to train and study with The University of Auckland’s dance program for four months. Having already studied abroad once, I felt comfortable in the process of pursuing yet another unforgettable and enriching experience.
The classes I enrolled in while in New Zealand were Dance Vocabulary III (a contemporary technique course), Professional Dance Practices (similar to Senior Seminar), Ballet, Hip Hop, and Improvisation, and Pacific and Māori Contemporary Choreography. I also joined an Acrobatics Club where I honed in on my strength and balance in performing unique acrobatic poses with a diverse group of college students. Involving myself in a cultural dance form I have never experienced before, Pacific and Māori, was very eye opening to how expansive dance really is, and the many traditions in which it is practiced around the world. It reminded me of when I witnessed dance through other cultural lenses, such as when I took part in Hungarian folk dance in Budapest.
In consideration of having a two-week spring break, I decided to travel to both Sydney, Australia and Queenstown, New Zealand. In Sydney, I surfed at the infamous Bondi Beach, petted kangaroos and koalas, explored the Sydney Opera House, climbed the mast of a ship, saw the breathtaking botanical gardens, and witnessed a 360-degree view of Sydney in the Tower Eye. Furthermore, Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world; therefore, took part in activities I never believed I would do, such as going indoor skydiving, paragliding, and upside-down zip riding. Throughout the semester, I also spent my weekends exploring Auckland; I hung off of the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere, hiked to the peak of a volcano, went on whale and dolphin safaris, enhanced my knowledge at museums, watched dance performances, etc.
Since my future aspirations are to move to Europe and take part in a graduate dance program to further build my professional dance career to become a performer, choreographer, university dance professor, and dance researcher/educator, these study-abroad opportunities have prepared me to become motivated in doing so. I now feel highly confident in being independent, moving to new places, meeting new people, experiencing new languages and cultures, taking various forms of transportation, and traveling by myself. I no longer feel the need to worry about getting lost, since there are multiple GPS systems and local advice that help me ease my way around. Having been on a 24-hour round trip flight, any travel time less than that seems like a breeze to me. Leaving for long periods of time also always makes me appreciate everything I left back at home even more. I now know what it is like to study dance in a different country as well as experiencing life in a total of fourteen countries. I am excited to see what my future dance career brings as I transition into yet another experience abroad. My adventures will surely last a lifetime.
Complexions Co-Founder Dwight Rhoden arranged seven of his works for the Philadelphia stage.
The show opened with Ballad Unto… a Philadelphia premiere. With each articulation of the spine and brush of the arabesque, seven couples poured emotions of love and heartbreak into brisk and graceful movements en pointe. Seamless partnering and gestural unison sections made the piece successful.
Next in the program was Gone, a trio performed by Kelly Marsh IV, Greg Blackmon and Timothy Stickney that illustrated a fight for survival. The men captured this motif beautifully, transitioning with ease from soars and darts through the air to complex floor work. The choreography and concept of the piece illuminated the athleticism of these three professionals.
Addison Ector stole the stage in Choke, a male duet exploding with themes of dominance and competition. Ector’s facials remained casual and royal while he whipped out triple attitude turns followed by a series of controlled extensions.
The final piece took an enormous risk on dance and artistry and succeeded with flying colors. Strum was a full company piece set to the music of Metallica. Watching this piece was like tasting, smelling and touching a rock concert through dance. The walking pathways were one of the most powerful aspects. Timothy Stickney stole the spotlight, expressing qualities of insanity, passion and pure stardom.
Master Class with Ashley Mayeux
On Friday, I attended the Complexions master class at Philadanco!, taught by dancer Ashley Mayeux.
I was surprised to find the class was mostly filled with younger dancers, around high school age, with little training in ballet or contemporary techniques. After a standard, fairly easy ballet barre, Ashley taught us part of a Complexions finale dance. The choreography was very basic and more fun than technical. I think this was largely due to the skill level of the class. Although I was somewhat disappointed that the master class was not up to the level or rigor that I expected, I appreciated Ashley’s professionalism and willingness to cater the class to the average ability level of the room. She made the class enjoyable for all of the dancers. If nothing else, I obtained valuable information from watching Ashley in class. I observed her artistic choices and studied how I can apply these choices to my dancing.
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.