Dance from the ground up

By on May 6, 2014
Quinn and Riley Liljestrom Photo Zac Rosser
Quinn and Riley Liljestrom Photo Zac Rosser

Quinn and Riley Liljestrom Photo Zac Rosser

JACKSON, WYO – Annual show produced entirely by students

Ruby Jones was interviewing at her dream school, the London Contemporary Dance School, when the dean asked her what made her special as a dancer.

She told of the pieces she had choreographed during the last three years at Dancers’ Workshop for the annual New Dances/New Choreographers show and his eyes lit up.

Dancers rarely choreograph pieces prior to college and often do not have the opportunity until after graduation. In Jackson, students at Dancers’ Workshop learn to choreograph pieces when they are sophomores in high school and do a piece each year until they graduate.

These pieces are showcased at the annual New Dances/New Choreographers performance. This year they present “Nowhere to go but here,” on Friday night.

“In this day and age, if you really want to pursue dance as a career or even just as a serious hobby, you can’t only be a performer,” said Lindsay Weatherly, co-director of the junior repertory company. “You have to know the other side. It makes you a well-rounded dancer.”

“Nowhere to go but here,” features 27 dancers performing a variety of styles from jazz to ballet to modern. All but one of the dances are created by the students, with guest choreographer Jo Blake contributing the other.

The dancers are in charge of the entire production from holding auditions for their pieces to lighting design to marketing the show. The students picked a quote from Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” for inspiration. “There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars” was a jumping off point for the 13 choreographers to develop ideas, Weatherly said.

Choreography is a daunting task, Weatherly said. Artists often have so many ideas and the first challenge is narrowing it down to a clear message. The pieces often explore the feelings or experiences of the dancers.

Sophomore Sara VanHatten created a piece called “Habits,” a contemporary number exploring the reactions she feels when overwhelmed with stress, the panic one minute and the numbness the next.

The process of creating and working with dancers was a lesson for VanHatten into how to tap into different emotions and hone in on the intent of a piece, something that will serve her well when she returns to her role as dancer.

VanHatten also learned what goes into putting on a full production. There are numerous details to remember and she has a better understanding of the technical side of things, like lighting and costumes. She is more nervous for the upcoming performance than when she is just dancing.

“This is something you really created,” VanHatten said. “Your name is on it.”

Being on the choreographer side is harder and more nerve-wracking, said senior Ruby Jones. There is the responsibility of not just the work itself, but also for the dancers and making them look good performing, she said.

Her contemporary piece called “Artificial Youth Syndrome,” is a duet inspired by the pressure she has felt as a senior in high school.

Choreographing has expanded her movement vocabulary and also helped her identify her own strengths as a dancer.

Learning the production side also has been important, as Jones has learned to appeal to sponsors for money, market the show and bring a vision to life.

“It’s not just about creating and dancing, there’s also a business side,” Jones said. “It teaches us how to market our own work and ourselves.”

It worked for Jones. The London Contemporary Dance School called. She got in.

“Nowhere to go but here,” annual New Dances/New Choreographers by the Junior Repertory Company of Dancers’ Workshop, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Center Theater at the Center for the Arts. $15 adults, $10 students.

Quinn and Riley LiljestroZac Rosser

About Kelsey Dayton

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