Student Blog: Sophomore Choreography Showing

November 11, 2021

two dancers in a studio, wearing t-shirts and sweatpants

Jonacy Montero (BFA '24) and Ryan Phuong (BFA '24) in rehearsal for Hayden Rivas' (BFA '22) piece in Sophomore Choreography Showing | Photo by Hayden Rivas

The USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance has been my dream school since 2017 for a multitude of reasons. One of the many ways we describe the school is as a conservatory-style program embedded in a private research university. Due to this, USC Kaufman offers us unparalleled opportunities, such as the many choreographic showcases produced each semester.

Composition class

I am a second-year BFA student at USC Kaufman and one of the required courses is Improvisation and Composition. Throughout my time at USC Kaufman, I have had the pleasure of taking this course from both Thomas McManus and Professor Patrick Corbin. This year, I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from the amazing Bret Easterling. One of the main goals Professor Easterling set for us is to present our own choreography at an informal showing.

Logistically, it was a daunting task to have each student choreograph a piece as well as be a dancer in three other pieces. Professor Easterling allowed us to note what our dreams and aspirations were for this piece. From there, he was able to formulate a cast list and ensure that everyone had an equal amount of time both on and off-stage.

Creating a piece

When thinking about what I wanted to choreograph, I initially was at a loss. Given an open prompt, it felt as though the amount of freedom was a hindrance. I tend to find a theme for a piece before making any other decisions. In this scenario, I wanted to play with the idea of trying to leave something but consistently being drawn back in. Once I established this concept, I found some music by Moby Gratis which fit the tone I had in mind.

Now comes the fun part. My class is full of some of the most inspirational dancers, and this project allowed me to work with three of them: Anja Tempel, Louis Williams and Marcel Cavaliere. These three dancers have such unique qualities not only as dancers, but also as humans. Therefore, I wanted to ensure I created something worthwhile and different.

three dancers stand in a studio. there is a blue and yellow square projected on the wall behind them

Rehearsal for Hayden Rivas’ (BFA ’24) piece in Sophomore Choreography Showing | Photo by Hayden Rivas

A multimedia performance

One of the things I wanted to integrate into my performance was the use of projections in conjunction with choreography. During my first year at USC Kaufman, I took a course called Dance and New Media with Professor Dawn Stoppiello. This is where I was first introduced to the idea of multimedia performance. I took this course online, and I wanted to use some of the skills that Professor Stoppiello passed onto me. Therefore, with the support of Professors Easterling and Stoppiello, I received the green light to use a projector in my choreography.

Through different skills that I have picked up during my academic journey at USC, I was able to create each a facet of my piece. From the projections to the live-time manipulation of footage and the layering of music/soundscape and movement, I had a say in everything. Referring back to the original concept of trying to leave something but consistently being drawn back in, I’m happy with how the piece is looking so far!

It’s funny looking back at how my piece evolved throughout time. It’s through these opportunities in which I am extremely grateful to be pursuing a BFA in Dance at USC Kaufman. I’m excited to watch all of the pieces that will be presented on Nov. 17 and 18 at our Large Performance Studio. Hope to see you there!

Members of the Class of 2024 will present student choreography at this year’s Sophomore Choreography Showing. Reserve tickets for the Nov. 17 and 18 showings!

By Hayden Rivas (BFA ‘24)