Student Blog: Works in Progress marks seven weeks of growth

February 29, 2016

By Celine Kiner

Just when I think this can’t get any better, it does. This refers generally to the entire USC Kaufman experience, because there are too many unbelievably valuable moments to specify just one; a vague blanket term is necessary if I am even attempting to explain the wonders of this program.

Of course, the good comes with the bad, but ironically, our main problem as BFA dancers is an overflow of opportunities–we truly have so many that they overwhelm us at times. A new guest artist is always here to introduce new concepts, and seven weeks into the semester we have already learned from Victor Quijada, William Forsythe, and Fiona Lummis, and are now working with Tadej Brdnik on Graham repertory from Acts of Light. Yet one can easily tell that the positive aspects of this abundant opportunity outweigh the negative ones, and even this problem isn’t quite a problem. Our biggest complaint is quite literally that we are privileged enough to dance with outstanding leaders all the time. I’m sure you can see where that becomes amusing. We have quickly learned how to cope with the demands that working in a company will put on us, and have grown closer as a class in order to support each other through stressful times and study sessions.

This bond has created a camaraderie among us that is much stronger than we realized it could be, surpassing just the natural clicked into a unified class that happened the first day we met. We appreciate and understand each others’ unique styles even more now, and are constantly reminding each other to break bad habits and congratulating each other on nuanced improvements. We can even imitate each other with shocking accuracy, which makes for some wonderfully comedic outtakes in our free time. Each one of us has at least one nickname among our USC Kaufman classmates, each one of us has a peer mentor in styles we are unfamiliar with, and each one of us appreciates the others’ strengths and weaknesses. Our class environment is extremely supportive to the point where  guest faculty notice it immediately when they visit our campus, to the point where we’ve actually been told that we clap for each other too often.

This environment, this constant aura of encouragement rather than competition, is what makes us a force to be reckoned with. It is the reason that we grow together and we refuse to leave anyone behind, and it is the reason that our faculty (thank goodness) was so impressed with Friday’s student choreography show the first time they saw the full run through. It is the reason that they chose to add three student choreography pieces to the repertory showcase on Saturday, in what seemed to be an official approval of our work. It is the reason that when one misstep is made, it may throw the entire piece off (Kylian’s Symphony of Psalms suffered from a few mishaps in our second repertory showing), but it is also the reason that we rallied together in the third showing to perform the piece the best we ever have.

Three repertory showcases in one night on Saturday seemed a daunting task, especially to dancers like Madison (she was double cast for an extra quartet in Symphony of Psalms, along with performing a solo and the pas de deux in Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated) and Trevor (he danced the Men’s Quartet from Taylor’s Cloven Kingdom, as well as the same quartet in one cast of Symphony of Psalms and a duet and trio in Cerrudo’s Lickety Split). Somehow, we found the energy in us somewhere to lip sync to Beyoncé backstage before gathering to “pass the energy” in our pre-show ritual circle. High fives and nods of approval ran throughout the night as dancers passed each other in the hallway between pieces, and we made it through all three shows before cleaning up and heading out to dinner together.

Standing in our usual hip hop cipher on Monday morning, I could feel the unity; it wasn’t as bold or as pronounced as it was after our first two performances, in which our connection was truly solidified. It seems to have settled, to have become a steady norm that plays in the background of our movement. We have come to know our places amongst each other now, and what remains is our progression, in which we will participate as a class, rather than a group of individual dancers. We are the USC Kaufman class of 2019, and halfway through the spring semester, we have formed a web of movement influence and personal development that will survive our entire lives.