Choreographic voices emerge at Student Works Performance

December 8, 2017


Alyssa Allen in Justin Pham's "A Message From Above"| Photo by Mary Mallaney

Over the past year and a half, the class of 2020 worked in improvisation and composition courses to discover the possibilities of the choreographic process. For six of the students, this work culminated in the Student Works Performance, which took place Nov. 28 and 29 at the Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center.

The performance marked a chance for the class of 2020 to explore a different facet of dance — creating, instead of being created upon– which, for some, was an entirely new experience.

“Choreography was never something that I thought I would have the courage to take on, but working with professors like Thomas McManus and William Forsythe in those classes has completely changed my mindset,” said sophomore choreographer Kaylin Sturtevant.

Breaking down specific elements of choreography helped her to understand how to construct a bigger picture within her piece, which she titled “Behind Time.”

“In improvisation and composition, we explore the different dynamics in movement, the relationship between people in space, musicality, working with phrases and much more. Working with these ideas is extremely eye-opening, especially when choreographing a piece, and they have changed the ways I think about movement,” said Sturtevant.

Jakevis Thomason similarly first approached his piece “Aware” by focusing on these aspects of choreography covered in the classroom.

“At first, I was going a different route with the piece, with only seven male dancers, 5 minutes of choreography and movement that focused on the musicality of my music, rather than the lyrics,” said Thomason.

Having his piece selected to be shown at this performance inspired him to dig deeper into the meaning of the work.

“My piece transformed into one addressing modern day slavery and racial injustices that I’ve either seen, heard or experienced myself. After researching the history behind the context and music, adding 10 more dancers to my original cast and extending the piece to 10 minutes, I couldn’t have been happier with the ending product,” he said.

Collaborating with peers

Apart from real-life and academic influences, the students agreed that working with their peers proved to be an impactful part of their learning experience as well.

Thomason said, “Everyone was so talented and willing to learn something new, that it didn’t matter how complex or simple I made the choreography. They would get it done. It’s always nice to draw inspiration from my peers and find new ways to execute the movement I’m setting on them.”

And for Thomason, he doesn’t see his choreographic career ending with this performance.

“Choreography has always been a path that I wanted to take as a dancer, hoping that one day I will become a choreographer that multiple dance companies, artists, musicians, and even celebrities would want to work with,” he said. “I look forward to exploring the potential of my choreography even more and seeing where it takes me in my dance career.”

The students will be able to continue honing the skills they learned through the process of putting this show together as they continue to work with McManus and Forsythe next semester. Should they decide choreography is ultimately the path they want to follow, they can choose to concentrate on Choreography for Stage and Cinematic Arts during their junior and senior years.

By Sara Silberman