Student Blog: Process in midterm showings

March 11, 2018


BFA students Alyssa Allen and Megan Yamashita performing Forsythe choreography | Photo by Carolyn DiLoreto

By Jackie Schiffner

It is so rare to see process happening onstage. We are so used to seeing the finished product, often with the audience so far removed from the performers that it is difficult to see their faces. At USC Kaufman, we have the unique opportunity to present our process to an audience in a much more intimate setting through our midterm showings.

From Studio to Stage

I have been fortunate enough this semester to be part of the cast of William Forsythe’s “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude.” After this rep was announced, we were all so excited to find that Desmond Richardson, a member of the piece’s original cast and one of our artists in residence at Kaufman, would be staging the excerpt. From the first day that we dove into the material, I knew that this experience would be something special. Each and every minute that Desmond expertly detailed the choreography and intention of the ballet was a gift, and the way that he coached us on our movement allowed us to explore our artistry in this incredibly difficult piece. Along with Desmond, the cast has worked with Vice Dean Gates, Professor Kopcsak, Professor McManus, and most recently Dana Caspersen (who danced with the Frankfurt Ballet for many years) on refining the complex movement system in Forsythe’s iconic ballet.

Having the opportunity to present this work in the midterm showings was incredible. We worked as a team to nail down the precision of the choreography, we fed off of each other’s energy to make it through each showing, and we enjoyed each and every second of the work that we did that day and the several weeks before. Now as we get closer to our April performances in the Bing Theatre, we are continuing to find ways to push ourselves in the choreography and to represent all that we have learned at USC Kaufman about our approach to ballet.

Presenting Process

Along with the variety of works we presented by choreographers including William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, YNOT, Sonya Tayeh, and our very own class of 2019 students, this showing featured two pieces that demonstrated the choreographic process of William Forsythe. For the first month of this semester, we worked with Professor Forsythe on two different phrases, one solo and one duet, and we were able to collaborate with him on creating these two selections for several hours a day during our Repertory and Performance classes. It was amazing to see the evolution of the solo and duet, which were based on an extremely classical phrase and an iconic duet from Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated,” respectively. The creativity and ingenuity that flowed throughout the room every day led to two very thoughtful and intriguing works. By presenting both pieces during our midterm showings, we could show audiences the diverse products of our work with Professor Forsythe; however, the processes of these pieces are not complete, as we look forward to working on them with Forsythe again when he returns in the fall.


Students performing Forsythe repertory in the Spring Midterm Showings | Photo by Carolyn DiLoreto

Gearing up for our spring performances in just over a month, the USC Kaufman BFA students and faculty will be working to refine our repertory and put on six incredible shows. While our end goal is to be as well-rehearsed and prepared as possible, we will continue to cherish every moment that we spend in the studio and really appreciate the work that we put into our art. Because really, while our midterm performances are always fulfilling, the process is the most rewarding part of our journey.