Colby students reflect on summer Theater and Dance studies.
I hope everyone is having an amazing summer and taking advantage of all the wonderful opportunities it has to offer!
I am checking in from the Doug Varone Summer intensive in Brockport NY! I have just completed my first week out of three and it has already been an informative, engaging and eye-opening experience. Everyday is filled with class from 8 am until 6 pm- I start the day with Pilates, followed by technique class, a phrase work class, the company’s rehearsal, an Irene Dowd sequence course, and a performance technique class.
Pilates is a fantastic way to start the day- focusing on strengthening the core, manipulating the pelvis, and opening the body- which is so important in Doug’s style of dance which combines technical dancing with moves that require a lot of weight manipulation and momentum in different areas of the body. All parts of the body are interconnected and I have discovered through Doug’s choreography that the body must be experienced as separate parts as well as one entity that opens, stretches, and reacts to outside forces as well as to aspects within itself.
It has been incredible to watch the company perform and practice as both athletes and artists, in the company rehearsals, as well as in nightly repertoire performances. They are constantly manipulating their bodies between weighting sequences, requiring them to isolate areas of the body and explore the reaction that follows, and technical moves. Each company member has a unique style that comes through in their dancing. This allows each dancer to be seen as a real individual, as they take the choreography and make it a part of themselves. It is interesting to see the combination of acting as well as portraying a real individual who is feeling and experiencing the work.
I have embarked on this exploration myself in the technique and phrase work classes. My past dance history as a competitive Irish step dancer separates me from the other dancers- who have been taking ballet and modern dance their entire lives (many of which are conservatory dancers), however each company dancer and well as some of the participants have been very understanding and supportive. This program offers an incredible support system, which is encouraging and motivating. Not only has it been incredible for my body to experience the choreography and movements, but it has been a gift to learn how to keep a positive attitude, a quite confidence, and the motivation to push on and accept that what may seem like failures are actually successes. Just watching the other participants is enlightening and allows me to learn more about the human body.
The Irene Dowd sequencing has also been very interesting in it’s exploration of sequences connected to the neuromuscular systems. The sequences are slow and melodic but very strengthening- focusing on neuromuscular pathways. Many of the movements are reminiscent of how babies move. The sequences also increase awareness of anatomy, anatomic functionality and how body parts are related and connected to each other.
Performance technique has been incredibly interesting and enlightening as well. Natalie- who is one of the most beautiful dancers I have ever seen as well as one of the sweetest people I have ever met- does a wonderful job introducing different ways of experiencing dance. We have done exercises regarding the focus of our eyes while we dance and how that affects our movements (focused on specific things, or if we blur our eyes). We also investigated how to portray different emotions in our dancing as well as in our faces. Each dancer created different phrases based on movements to reflect different people, experiences and places in our lives. This also allowed the class to connect on a deeper level and get to know one another (map exercise).
It has been interesting to learn about different ways to choreograph pieces as well. In Natalie’s class we learned to connect these individual movements that had meaning to us into a phrase, while in a class with Doug, he mimed doing menial tasks and then connected them- and told us to give them meaning. However in company rehearsals, he just flows, telling each dancers to do this or that, either allowing them to fulfill his orders with his own movements, or quickly busting out a sequence and them telling them to follow. He is extremely influenced by music in his choreography.
Overall, this week has been incredibly intense, interesting, and enlightening, but with that said, I’m glad it’s the weekend!
Stay cool Colby!
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