dancEnsemble facilitates student choreography and teaching opportunities.
The College of Fine Arts and Communications puts on many productions and concerts, but dancEnsemble never has trouble setting itself apart. The contemporary dance company’s concerts – which happen once per semester – give students the chance to participate through dancing in and choreographing the majority of the concert’s works.
“This semester is what we call a ‘dancEnsemble Classic’ semester,” said Kiersten Robertson, one of the student choreographers involved in the company. “At the end of last semester we had the choreographer audition and a number of students presented an excerpt of choreography for a concept that they wanted to work on. From those proposals, eight pieces that showed potential for development and complexity were chosen.”
“It really gives the students an opportunity to do exactly what they want to do and to progress as an artist in the way that they are seeing they want to,” said Assistant Professor Kate Monson, the creative director of dancEnsemble. “It’s always exciting to see where they go with that.”
This freedom to express themselves also helps the dancers experience new range of movement and gives choreographers the opportunity to express the unique manner in which they move. Bayleigh Cragun, another of the show’s choreographers and dancers, said, “I have a really hard time learning choreography even though I like creating it. So, for me, the audition is an opportunity to say, “This is the way that I dance, this is how my body moves and this is what feels good to my body.””
In addition to choreographing, selected students also bear the responsibility of working with their own cast of dancers to make it a reality. This cooperative relationship influences and molds the pieces, as dancers and choreographers work together to integrate their unique artistic capacities into the piece.
“I’ve learned that I need to give myself structure and I need to give myself deadlines to move forward in an efficient way,” said Allison Moon, another student choreographing a piece in the upcoming show. “After I’ve learned and experienced little hiccups, I’ve been able to really find the fun in exploring dance movement with my dancers. Rehearsals have turned into a interesting time to figure things out and experiment with movement.”
Choreographers also dance in one other student-choreographed piece and in the company piece, directed Assistant Professor, Keely Song Glenn. “Professor Monson encourages us to invest our time in all of the pieces that we’re in,” said Cragun. “I think part of that investment creates a community, a community of care and a community of creation.”
DancEnsemble members choreograph and learn their respective dances within the space of only a few months. While the choreographers and the concepts of the individual dances are selected in May, the actual dancing and creative process doesn’t begin until fall. “What dancEnsemble does is completed in two and a half months or less,” Cragun said. “The work starts in September, goes to November 10th, and you have two hours a week to create a dance.”
“The company becomes close as we struggle to pull together pieces in such a short amount of time, and somehow we always manage to pull off incredible concerts because of the dedication of the students involved,” said Robertson. “DancEnsemble has completely changed my BYU experience. Being given the opportunity to develop my own artistic voice and work with incredible dancers in a mentored environment has been amazing.”
Moon also pointed out that “having a new group of dancers will automatically alter the style that we’re doing because it’s so based on the individual artistic style of each dancer. Each dancer has their own voice that they contribute to the pieces they’re in.”
DancEnsemble’s concerts will take place at the Dance Studio Theatre at the Richards Building on November 9th and 10th at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee at 2 p.m. on the 10th. Tickets can be purchased here.
Photo credit: Nate Edwards.