Student Blog: Working with Toyin Sogunro

October 6, 2021

Dancer wearing yellow shirt in front of studio

Toyin Sogunro | Photo by Hannah Doerr

As part of our Repertory and Performance course this semester, third and fourth-year students get to work with many different guest artists on creating solo material. Later in October, we will have the opportunity to professionally film these solos in USC Kaufman’s Large Performance Studio. The second guest artist we had the opportunity to work with was Toyin Sogunro, a Los Angeles-based dance artist from Ladies of Hip-Hop.

Individuality with Toyin

Working with Toyin was a unique process, unlike any other, we have had this semester. She prioritized letting us explore our individuality and unique ways of moving. We spent a lot of time experimenting with how we can take simple movements and make them more complex, through variations of timing, phrasing, and directions. By choosing to use simple movements, we were able to shift our attention and intentions. Instead of focusing only on the steps, we were able to dive more into how we did the steps and how we could express ourselves and our individuality through the movement. In our hip-hop classes this semester, Professor Danté Rose has been challenging us to be acutely aware of what we are trying to say and express while we are dancing. Because we have already been exploring this, it allowed us to be more comfortable during the creation process with Toyin.

Cypher and club culture

Toyin was also interested in making the rehearsal process like the environment of being in a club. She shared many stories and life-changing experiences she had while at clubs and how this type of dance training was crucial in her development as an artist and mover. To create a club environment, she had us rehearse and experiment with our material while in a cypher format, giving us the opportunity to watch the real-time decision-making of our peers and learn from the choices of others.

Dancers looking down with both arms up in the shape of a T

BFA students in rehearsal with Toyin Sogunro | Photo by Hannah Doerr

Learning from my peers

After a year and a half away, being back in the building has been incredibly exciting. While we were still able to cypher online, there is nothing like cyphering in person. I am constantly amazed by the talent, energy and beauty of my peers. Especially after not having the opportunity to share a dance space with them for so long, it has been a gift getting to witness my classmates dance and use dance as a vehicle for understanding themselves in a deeper way.

Since it is my senior year, my class and I have spent a lot of time discussing and reflecting on our past four years here at USC Kaufman. We all agree that everyone has become incredible risk-takers, never shying away from the opportunity to try new things and fully express who they are, while dancing. It is amazing to have cultivated such a welcoming, safe environment where we are all encouraged and challenged to become our most authentic selves.

By Elise Monson (BFA ’22)