Choreographers Residency Program at Vista Del Mar: Supporting and empowering alumni

December 12, 2023

The USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance is proud to announce a new choreographic residency for its alumni. Created in partnership with the Glorya Kaufman Performing Arts Center (GKPAC) at Vista Del Mar, this inaugural choreographic residency program is designed to foster creativity amongst three incredible alumni, who have been handpicked for their distinct artistic visions. It aims to empower these choreographers by providing them with the essential resources necessary to create a new work. This includes access to state-of-the-art studio spaces and a stipend to support individual artistic processes.

Engaged in interdisciplinary collaboration, these choreographers have the opportunity to work with the incredibly talented Daniel Mangiaracino, a graduate from the USC Thornton School of Music, who developed original composition for all three of their works. The choreographers recently debuted their works on the GKPAC main stage.

USC Kaufman is thrilled to highlight the incredible artists of the inaugural choreographers residency program: Maddy Falconer, Stephanie Dai, and JA Collective. 

The choreographers behind the magic

In 2023, Madison “Maddy” Falconer graduated from USC Kaufman and is currently a producer, choreographer, and dancer based in Los Angeles. At USC, she focused her occupational science and compositional research on methods for making dance more accessible to diverse audiences. In 2021, Maddy founded her company, FALCO, and the Woodworks Residency, with the mission to empower a space for collaboration, creative opportunity and accessible immersive performance events. 

Maddy Falconer (BFA ’23) | Photo by Michael Poehlman

Stephanie Dai graduated from USC Kaufman in 2019 and is currently dancing and choreographing in the Los Angeles area. She has worked extensively in both the concert and commercial industry with an array of illustrious choreographers and companies. Dai draws from past experiences within her choreographic process, experimenting with movement through an interdisciplinary lens. Her artistic voice is amplified through the presentation of unique, story-driven pieces.   

Stephanie Dai (BFA ’19) | Photo by Owen Scarlett

Aidan Carberry and Jordan Johnson (BFA ’19) form the iconic choreographic duo known as the JA Collective. Since meeting, they have established an incredibly unique, signature style of movement through collaboration. Carberry and Johnson are constantly reinventing and experimenting with their own choreographic concepts. Their work emulates inventiveness through intricate intertwining of the body that overflows with their musicality.

JA Collective | Photo by Work of Jar

What does the choreographic process mean to you?

Maddy: I see the world through a choreographic lens, filled with relationships of movement, music, lighting and emotionality. The world inherently moves, so, I don’t think of choreography as “making movement” but rather “solving stuck-ness”. This perspective allows me to stay proactive in the process. It is my exciting privilege as a choreographer to organize the space and pace of a work to empathetically imitate the relationships in the world that draw me in. 

Stephanie: In a way, my choreographic process is a form of experimentation rather than a search for groundbreaking choreography. The way I see it, we are only ever on stage for a span of minutes. However, processes take several weeks. So, the most important thing to me within a process is that it is fun, imaginative and artistically fulfilling.

Aidan: I approach choreography as a relationship between complex, layered challenges and artistic solutions. When creating, I tend to explore very minimalistic movement, as opposed to anything too athletic, flashy or traditionally impressive. Instead, I explore the ways in which imaginative attention to detail can make seemingly simple choreography incredibly complex and interesting.

Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind your new work.

Aidan: The working title for this piece is Dad, Please Turn Off the Lights. Drawing inspiration from the experience of parenting, my goal is to convey life through our parents’ eyes. As close as they may be to us, they don’t have the ability to exist within our thoughts or engage in our lived experiences. They only know an external version of their child. My piece is heavily inspired by the strange and eerie idea that no one truly has the ability to feel what you feel.

Stephanie: A lot of the inspiration for this piece draws from the little things that excite me, whether it be a movie I saw, things I noticed on TV, or a book that I read. Through these facets, I have developed an umbrella theme for my piece that centers around the failure of communication, a seemingly simple yet nuanced task. Throughout this process I ask myself: what are the repercussions of the failure to communicate?

Maddy: I have been drawing inspiration for this piece from the very digestible and over-choreographed nature of animation films. I began this particular process by pinpointing different stories, life scenarios and characters inspired by various films, and then tried to gently imagine them placed in the context of dance. In doing so, I am challenging myself to lean into a playful, colorful and animated way of portraying very mundane human experiences.

The culminating performance

The performance took place on December 3, 2023 from 3:30-5:00 PM at the Glorya Kaufman Performing Arts Center. We thank you for joining us in supporting these extraordinary choreographers and getting a glimpse into their awe-inspiring work. We are thrilled to welcome three new works to the stage by Maddy Falconer, Stephanie Dai and JA Collective, celebrating their artistic talents, ingenuity and dedication to the choreographic process.

By Rhaine Marquardt (BFA ’25)