Hello long-lost friends. Remember this?
I’ve spent the past two weeks in the studio as a company member with Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company. (Check out some of these amazing pictures from rehearsals with Jessica Lang!) It’s been one of the most humbling, exciting, and fulfilling times that I can readily identify in the dusty catalogue of my collective memory. I also moved into a new apartment and was also mugged at gunpoint so life brings its odd assortment of good and bad.
The last hurrah before my re-emergence into life as a contracted professional dancer was spent participating in the Common Thread Contemporary Dance Workshop from July 30th to August 10th. Classes included ballet, modern, release technique, improvisation, repertoire, and rehearsals. Participants came from a mix of local and regional studios, universities, and companies- Webster University, Ball State, Fordham in New York City, Lexington Ballet, North Carolina School of the Arts, etc. Faculty included Artistic Director Jennifer Medina, CT company members, and various guests.
Let me tell you one great thing about Jen- she knows, and is actually FRIENDS with everybody. I can say this with confidence because I was privileged to take ballet class from former Dance Theatre of Harlem principal dancer Tyrone Brooks who visited our studios because of a long friendship with Jen and as a credit to his own generous spirit. This man is much more than the name and accolades he brings, more than the technician that made him such a fantastic dancer. I cannot say enough about the energy, the enthusiasm, the detail that he demands and instructs. Sometimes we would begin combinations at the barre over if the preparation wasn’t up to standard. The great thing was that he could always explain, correct, instruct why it was necessary to do things the right way, how it would affect the anatomy of the dancing. I particularly remember him correcting tendus and asking if we were closing in FIFTH of FIFFFPHTP to verbally illustrate the clarity required of our feet. A fellow balletophile who uses grammar and humor to correct technique? I may be in love.
I could say a lot more about my experience with the workshop. However, as a company member (how much do I love being able to say that!?), I think it more appropriate to allow the other participants, my new friends, unaffiliated with the company to do the talking. Here are a few thoughts of follow-up from dancers attending the workshop.
Dancer: Kaylin Klein, Ball State University
How has the workshop influenced your dancing: This workshop has really helped me to open up and closely examine where my dancing comes from and why. It has renewed my passion and drive to continue.
How has the workshop shaped you as an artist: One on hand, it has taken me back to the basics of technique but it has also helped me add articulation and artistry.
What have you enjoyed most about the workshop: The atmosphere of learning and inspiration has been amazing. It has been a great place to experiment with my own artistry, gain inspiration from others and not worry about competition or judgement.
Dancer: Tyler Hartman, Ball State University
1. The workshop influenced me by allowing me to perform without inhibition.
2. The workshop shaped my artistically by letting me express my emotions in a safe environment.
3. I enjoyed having ballet with Tyrone because he challenged us and gave us supportive feedback.
Dancer: April Sirokie, Ball State University
1. The workshop improved by dancing, particularly with cleaner transitions.
2.I learned to dance full-out and not be scared.
3. I enjoyed all the sweating and variety of classes.
Dancer: Taylor Kinner, Webster University
1. The workshop has influenced me to explore new areas of movement and to dig deep and put love into what I do.
2. As an artist, I feel that the workshop has further influenced me to continue creating with an open heart and mind.
3. I believe what I loved most was the atmosphere. Everyone was geared towards learning and self-improvement; there was no competitive feel.
There were, in these little surveys, an overwhelming number of comments about the positive learning environment, the lack of judgement. How rare to find in the confines of dance. I personally felt this especially in the improvisation classes and found the result to be pretty spectacular. The things that came out spontaneously of this group was amazing; and that is what I loved most. I loved seeing everyone take risks, surprise me, and I loved having those experiences of risk and surprise within myself. You think you know dance after doing it for over twenty years, and then all of a sudden, something new comes along that opens you up that makes you say, ‘i didn’t know I could do that’.
I’m also sharing a tiny excerpt from the piece I choreographed for the workshop, which was a small excerpt from ‘The Type One Project’. (You can read more about it here) I had a mere three rushed rehearsals with these ladies to throw it together but they were fantastic, and served the spirit of the piece with integrity, love and individuality.
To all my friends from the workshop- you are missed, admired, and often thought of. Love- Jess