Choreographic workshop gives dancers freedom to create

Jeff Ewing assists Andrea Chickness and Ian Law with their dance pose at Carnahan-Jackson Studios. Photo by Demetrius Freeman.

Taylor Rogers | Staff Writer

Chautauqua School of Dance’s annual choreographic workshop gives Festival and Apprentice students the opportunity to experience choreography from the other side.

Mark Diamond, associate artistic director of Chautauqua Dance, said the idea is to get the students to think outside the box and become better dancers by learning the efforts of a teacher.

“We talk to them a lot about choreography, and we talk to them about different influences on choreography and on dancers,” he said.

Those students interested in creating a piece for the workshop went through a selection process with dance faculty. Eight works were chosen to be shown to the public at 5 p.m. today in the Carnahan-Jackson Studios.

Dance faculty members begin the process by talking with the students about their options, from the proper use of space and dancers to selecting the right music. Diamond said he encourages the dancers to create pieces that are nontraditional — less classical and more contemporary, as classical is part of their everyday experience.

“We really encourage them to work outside of classical ballet so they can experiment with making up some new kinds of movement,” he said. “We really want them to be as creative as possible.”

Roughly 13 students signed up this year, Diamond said. They had one week to come up with a concept and about one minute of movement. Faculty members then narrowed that group to the eight who will present a work at today’s studio performance.

Those Festival and Apprentice students who are not choreographing are divided up among the choreographers so that everyone is participating in some form, Diamond said.

In an effort to make it as hands-on as possible, the choreographers must then schedule their own rehearsal time and find a musician to perform live with the dancers. Diamond said the students were encouraged to network with the Music School Festival Orchestra, giving them the option to use music from the upcoming recitals.

As the choreographers finish their dances, they go through two more rounds of judging, with faculty members making any final suggestions before the preview.

Diamond said the choreographic workshop is not a competition, but the faculty does choose one choreographer to receive an award at the end of the workshop.

It’s a difficult decision, he said, because normally all the pieces are quite good.

There’s also the possibility that a student’s work will be performed at Sunday’s student gala.

Kaila Feldpausch, a Festival student from Miami City Ballet School, choreographed one of the eight ballets to be performed today.

Her piece features five women. She said the movement is both “lyrical” and “spritely.”

After meeting a violinist on the grounds, she said she chose a Suzuki-method violin solo that is simple and classical to accompany her ballet.

Feldpausch described the overall experience as challenging, though the freedom allotted to her gave her a real taste of a choreographer’s responsibilities.

“It’s much different, but I really think it changes how you view learning pieces and learning repertoire,” she said. “You learn how to teach someone something, whether it be complicated or adagio, so I’m learning a lot from it, though it is a lot of work.”