BodyStories: Teresa Fellion Dance

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Week 8 at the Ross School, with Teresa!

August 23, 2017
IMG_5485.MOV.00_00_08_18.Still002My students during Week 8 were truly fantastic in different ways. In the Dance Major, I had a focused group who felt the joy of dance and wanted to spend every moment rehearsing. In the Dance Minor, I had an inquisitive and energetic group that kept moving the whole time, wanted to try a million movement games, and made an interactive dance crime scene. What an inspiring week!

 

IMG_5487.MOV.00_01_42_24.Still001The Week Eight Dance Major wanted to do three dances, even though it was a short week with our showing on Thursday because of Field Day on Friday. What a motivated group!

 

Each dance had a wonderful mix of group movement and small group/solo movement. We enjoyed learning choreography and creating students’ own variations for their small group work. I am truly proud of them! Our first dance incorporated and drew variations from the fun new song, “Rolex.” We learned choreography, made our own variations, and made a MASHUP DANCE VIDEO to this dance we all enjoyed learning together. Of course, we also performed it live, so our audience could see the sitting and lying down dance floor snow angels in person!

Our second dance was to “Alingo,” a song by Nigerian R&B duo P-Square. The students were thrilled by the amazing rhythms in this song and they did so well with a lot of formation and direction changes. Our final performance was to “Titanium” by David Guetta and Sia. We began this piece with barre solos and small group dances on the barre. In creating these with my direction, the dancers were very in tune with their timing, and were so adventurous! We then left the barre and continued with contemporary and lyrical movements. The dancers were truly beautiful.

 

 

The Week Eight Dance Minor was also so much fun!! With such a wonderful and lively group, we were able to do so much creative movement through games and create dances too! We played dance versions of zip zap zop, chair escape, chance, museum, and so many other great movement games. We also created an exciting dance phrase from alliterative qualities of our names, such as Jumping Julian and Dazzling Divia.

For the “shape of you” we made interactive group shapes with our bodies a la Pilobolus, from triangles to trapezoids, even a pentagon and a peace sign. One of our students knew all the words and background to a lot of music from various eras, for someone of her young age.

From her (and my) vote, we danced to “Smooth Criminal,” by Michael Jackson. The dancers worked amazingly and imaginatively together to make a full dance crime scene out of the song. It was a talented group that both learned choreography, worked collaboratively as a group, made their own solos. So proud of them!

I will miss all of these lovely students until next summer. See you then!

Week 7 at the Ross School, with Danielle!

August 16, 2017

Ross 2 8-9For Day 1, we started by watching a video that featured the top 10 movie dances of all time. The dancers really seemed to enjoy Grease’s “Hand Jive,” thus we decided to make our own rendition throughout the week. As a movement exercise, we played “Shrinking Room” where the dancers had to walk, crawl, jump, and change directions throughout the space. The parameters became smaller and smaller forcing the dancers to be creative while being cognizant of others. Lastly, we finished the day by playing Musical (dancing) Chairs – the dancers had to learn choreography as they navigated the space and find a seat before the music stopped.

For Day 2, the students mentioned that they LOVED Disney, Mulan being one of their favorite characters. Thus, we decided to create a warrior dance using pool noodles set to “Make a Man Out of You.” We explored various formation  Ross 1 8-9options designed for five people. After setting some choreography, we played “Crazy Golf” in which the dancers had to make structures connecting body parts as one person crawled through the creations. We finished the day by watching video clips of Baryshnikov, Sylvie Guillem, and Michaela DePrince.

Day 3 was all about partnering. We did a mirroring exercise, played with counterbalance, and even introduced a bit of social dancing. The dancers then traced their initials with various bodies parts – first standing, then playing with levels and various directions. Once we practiced our two dances, we then turned to the Rockettes for some unison inspiration. We attempted a kick-line, but the various height differences were a bit of a challenge.

We kicked off Day 4 by describing an adjective + animal through movements. The students had to draw a piece of paper out of a hat, act it out, and have the other students guess. We had hungry hippos, excited puppies, sad snakes, and angry birds. We then explored musicality and various time signatures. The students learned the difference between 3/4, 4/4, and 5/4 time signatures. Lastly, we learned a bit of dance history and recreated Pina Bausch’s “Cafe Mueller.” In lieu of chairs, the students placed pool noodles and pillows around the space. One dancer had to close his or her eyes and walk briskly around the space as the others cleared a pathway to keep the blind dancer safe.

For our last day, we reviewed the Hand Jive and Mulan, in addition to learning a bit more dance history. The dancers learned codified movement from Bob Fosse, Martha Graham, Nijinsky, and Jerome Robbins. They also learned a Luigi arm sequence, a box step, and basic salsa steps. All off these elements were rehearsed and performed for the parents at the showing.

Week 6 at the Ross School, with Corey!

August 8, 2017

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FullSizeRender (1)It was a fantastic week with this young, enthusiastic group of dancers! In this, our fourth summer, we once again have the opportunity to help out at Ross School of Learning teaching dance to their lovely students! Corey Bliss loved teaching at Ross during Week Six of our program! Read about her experiences below…

Each day started out with a jazz-based isolations warmup that led into across the floor movements including the grapevine, leaps, and jazz runs. We played many different movement games, including the class favorite “Chance Dance,” which involves rolling a fuzzy dice to determine steps, patterns and movement qualities.

 

 

IMG_7861In the first part of the week, the dancers learned iconic choreography from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and had a blast! They learned lots of new movements and styles – a favorite was the “around the world,” a floorwork hip hop move.

Each dancer created a solo inspired by their favorite color or animal, and incorporated movement derived from opposite pairs: fast/slow, big/small, line/curve, in place/traveling, sharp/smooth, etc. They also created “monkey” solos on the ballet barres, and played with ideas of shifting weight, balance and leverage.

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The dancers also created mirroring duets with each other, and learned about the importance of eye contact when partnering and dancing with others.

Here’s a quote from Tilly, age 8:

“Learning our solos and the “Thriller” dance was my favorite part of the week, and I have to say I will remember the mirror duets for a very long time.”

 

Week 5 at the Ross School, with Erin!

August 1, 2017

In this, our fourth summer, we once again have the opportunity to help out at Ross School of Learning teaching dance to their lovely students! ErinIMG_9100Pride returned and loved teaching at Ross again during Week Five of our program! Read about her experiences below….

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We started the week off with students playing the dance chair game and zip zap zoom. We then chose a song together that they wanted to learn choreography to. We learned a dance to our selected song, and then students created their solos. We incorporated the solos into the group choreography, and closed with another exciting movement game.

In the second day of class we began with team-building games, then shot footage for our music video. Lastly, the students and I selected a new song for their second dance, and we began showing.

On Wednesday we opened up with the entire camp dance along – students were so engaged!  We then did a warm up with the theater class, followed by a few games.  Students worked on duets which you can watch here and here, we videoed and began piecing our choreography from Tuesday/Wednesday  together for Dance Two.

IMG_9200Thursday was great! We played our morning movement games, reviewed dances, and then created a movement museum – where each student drew a picture reflecting dance this week, they rotated and each added to the other picture. We hung the pictures around the space and each student created a solo based on their picture. We used these for our Friday showing as well! Stay tuned for more information about Friday’s showing coming soon!

Week 4 at the Ross School, with Teresa!

July 25, 2017
IMG_4530Working with the Ross Dance students during Week Four was a blast! What a productive and inspiring group! As an opening activity on day one, we got to know each other through alliteration and movement, such as “Lovely Leilani,” making a movement that matches our description and all learning them. From these creative vocabulary and movements created by the students, we made a wonderful group phrase and set it to different music styles and tempo.

 

Throughout the week students also enjoyed such bonding experiences as the dance chair switch game (which got so intense!), zip zap zop boing “movement version,” choreographer in residence, and other stimulating movement games. Their improvisational skills were off the charts! So proud of these boys and girls!

The Week Four students delighted in learning choreography and making their own dances. We studied and learned hip hop dance phrases, and we worked with several songs. Then everyone split up into duets for our compositional portion. The students manipulated our main hip-hop phrasework and added their own movements via prompts given. Each duet was awesome, and the students worked so well together! It was so inspiring to see them become best friends in such a short time, want to share their favorite songs, and watch dance videos they make at home with each other and me! 🙂
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Once we had our material created and rehearsed, we went into “dance video mode!” We filmed our dance several times with different backgrounds, and then made a mashup video of all of the takes with different filters, giving it cool effects. When we invited audience on Friday, we were able to share the live performance, as well as our dance video with them! So proud of these ambitious dancers, missing them already! Enjoy their dances!

Week 3 at the Ross School, with Erin!

July 18, 2017

unnamedOn Day One we were able to spend a lot of time focusing on the mechanics of dance with the students.  Starting with an icebreaker to warm them up, into exploring movement, and then going straight into material to be used in Dance 1. Using a mixture of traveling steps, grapevine, and ball change, we incorporated hand ribbons to create this piece.

 

On Day Two we had a chance to work with the Early Childhood education students.  With these younger students, I focused more on rhythm-based games and dance games based around animals before running them through an adapted version of the ribbon dance from Day One.

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For the remainder of the week, I had the chance to work with the gymnasts. It was a great opportunity to merge the physical demands of dance and gymnastics.

I worked with the students on a short dance to be performed on Friday.  I had them focus on inside turns and jumping routines. It was great seeing the students in several environments at Ross have so much fun during the week, learning more about dance.

It was awesome being able to work with the many different departments at the school and applying my experience of dance to the different aspects of each.

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Week 2 at the Ross School, with Danielle!

July 10, 2017

In this, our fourth year, we once again have the opportunity to help out at the Ross School of Learning teaching dance to their lovely students! We continued the lessons with Danielle Schulz in Week Two! Enjoy reading about Danielle’s experiences below….

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On day 1 we used movement with alliteration and name as an icebreaker to warm the students up.  We focused on  ballet warm-up, and choreography with theater and swing styles emphasizing performance. We made a game out of using creative shapes and props with the music.

Tuesday we started off using names with movement and reversing the setup as a warmup and icebreaker before getting into modern warmup exercises like x-rolls, drop swings, triplets, jumps.  The main set was choreography based on ideas from the students of happiness, both solos and group choreography. We ended with a game based on untangling a human knot using pool noodles.

 

On Day 3 each student picked an animal and a quality out of a hat and then described the combination through movement.  Our technique focus for the day was on Ballet and Modern mixed with the Forsythe technique.  We also focused on mainly reinforcing the dance work we had gone over from the first 2 days and ran through a medley of games to wind down including melting popsicles and rewind dancing.

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Day 4!  We did a consolidated warm-up with Flocking as a game to teach moving within a space as a unit and using pool noodles to create patterns within a space as well.  Like yesterday we focused on the previous choreography, repeating the set several times.  

At the end of the day we met with the other departments to watch a fashion show, attend an art showing and saw “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” performed by the drama department.

The students gained a great amount of experience working together as a unit and moving as one.

Overall, the students learned how to combine technique, muscle memory, and performance quality to perform well as a unit.

Dancing at The Ross School, with Maria!

July 5, 2017

In this, our fourth year, we once again have the opportunity to help out at the Ross School of Learning teaching dance to their lovely students! We started the summer with one of our amazing company members, Maria Gardner, leading Week One! Enjoy reading about Maria’s experiences below….

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On day one we had a small, but mighty group of dancers. We introduced ourselves by creating a handshake. Clara and Lauren instantly bonded through their handshake and this sense of teamwork carried us through the rest of the day. We warmed up the body using jazz tools and technique, touched on ballet positions, jumps and turns. When it came time to learn choreography to pop song, “Pompeii”, these young ladies had more ideas than me! I was blown away by their imagination and creativity. They mastered the set choreography I threw at them, while also incorporating their own individual spin on each move. We concluded the day by playing with negative space, using bodies as structures for improv. I’m excited to dive deeper tomorrow and exchange more ideas with these young creatives.

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Tuesday we were a class of happy campers. Literally! We went around the room and created a movement based off of how we felt this morning and most of the dancers said they felt happy, which was paired with a creative movement. For modern, we learned about C curves and head to tail connections, as well as some basic Yoga and Alexander technique. Within our contemporary phrase, danced to James Vincent McMorrows, “We Don’t Eat”, we applied these tools to led choreography, as well as gestures made based off our names and favorite foods. Our mighty troupe choreographed their own phrases and mastered a creative challenge where we traveled as various animal types. Each day we grow a little more!

Day 3 we took it to funky town with our street jazz piece to “Get Up Offa That Thing”. The dancers did a call and response exercise, creating movement from words drawn from a hat. We then learned the line dance, “Wobble” which we made our own and inserted into the piece. The girls had some difficulty with the rhythms and footing within the steps, but they kept at it and remained dedicated to mastering it. We finished off the day working with levels, tempo, and directional changes. Each dancer is becoming more and more comfortable with their individual expression. Big steps were taken today and I’m so proud of them!

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Day 4! Today we were inspired by the fish swimming about in the Ross indoor pond. We imagined these fish swimming through our bodies, and how this would make us move. In the studio, we imagined 5 fish swimming through us and even imagined other animals crawling through us. This sent us spiraling and shaking all over the dance floor. We really worked up a sweat! We then got with a partner and took turns closing our eyes, trusting our partner to lead us safely through the space. The dancers expressed that this was scary, but that their partners gave them clear cues to direct them out of harm’s way. Our group is stronger and closer than ever on day 4. We spent the rest of the time reviewing and finalizing our dances for tomorrow’s showing. Our bodies were really feeling it today, so of course we had to conclude today’s session with a massage train. It was no surprise that this was their favorite part of the day 😉

Friday was performance day, and wow I could not be more proud of these girls! Our little stars took the spotlight with ease and made everyone in the audience smile. Before the showing they expressed how nervous they were and how they were afraid of embarrassment, but as soon as the music came on, all fears went out the window and they had a blast!

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Each of the dancers agreed that their favorite part of the week was creating the jazz piece, and their favorite creative exercise was our animal evolution exercise where we created movement using inspiration from various animal types. The most challenging aspect of the week was remembering all the choreography of each dance and keeping track of all the formation switches.

 

 

We of course had to finish off the week with a dance party, where we danced to their all time favorite song, “Despacito” as well as “Watch me (Whip / Nae Nae)”.

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We have grown so much as a group this week. Each dancer discovered movement that is individually unique to them and I am so happy that we were able to show and celebrate this growth.

I had too much fun working with these girls; they will certainly be missed!

Q&A WITH COMPANY DANCER KELSEY RONDEAU

May 5, 2017

Q. Where are you from?

A. Both of my parents are in the Air Force, and as such, we moved around quite a bit. At various points in my life, I’ve lived in Boston, MA, Logan, UT, Auburn, WA, Redding, CA, Austin, TX, and Berlin, Germany, before settling in Brooklyn a year ago.

Q. What are some unique characteristics of your hometown?

A. All of my hometowns are unique in some way! For simplicity’s sake, I’ll go with Redding. Redding is situated in the far north of California- it’s closer to Oregon than to Sacramento, the state capital, and where I spent most of my childhood. It’s the largest city in the area, and there’s a great performance culture. All of the High Schools compete to put on the biggest, most spectacular shows, and it was in this environment that I started performing.

Q. When did you begin dancing? What’s your dance journey?

A. I started dancing at age 13 when I joined a summer performing arts camp, Kids Unlimited. I didn’t know a box step from a bourrée! I loved performing and I kept going back every year for five years, finally getting to dance with the highest group and choreographing some of the routines. During the school year, I took Dance instead of PE and I was dancing or acting in every show that my school put on. My dance teacher also had his own company, The Dance Project, which put on two shows per year: a giant, Rockette-inspired revue called The Cascade Christmas, and a spring revue. After years of auditioning, I finally became a company member my senior year of High School. This was in addition to performing in the school musical, so I remember running off from one rehearsal to another on top of school work and college applications. I so love dancing and performing that I decided to major in Dance at the University of Texas at Austin. While there, I joined the student company, Dance Repertory Theater, and performed in works by Ohad Naharin, Robert Battle, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Mark Morris, and premiered in works by faculty and students. After getting my BFA in 2014, I moved to Berlin, Germany, to study in the ten-month dance intensive at Tanzfabrik. There, I studied with teachers from across Europe and learned to move and create dance in new ways. I moved back to the States in 2015, where after being a center intern with Gibney Dance Center, I joined BodyStories as a company apprentice in the fall of 2016.

Q. How have you enjoyed your experience as an apprentice with Bodystories? How do you think that experience will change when you transition into working with Bodystories in a project based role?

A. I have enjoyed my time as an apprentice with BodyStories; the experience has opened my eyes to new ways of making and performing dance, and that it is possible to have fun while working. Simultaneously, it’s a challenge to learn everyone’s part, especially since our movement is often self-devised and everyone has a very idiosyncratic way of moving. However, I enjoy the challenge to push myself outside of my usual patterns while trying to interpret movement in my own way.

Q. How do you, as a dancer, approach translating the complex emotional and intellectual themes behind Teresa Fellion’s work into movement? (Take us through that process).

A. What Teresa is really interested in- and what interests me most about her work- is the way that the dancers relate with each other and the way that those relationships are explored. Agawam is the story of family, and all of the complexities thereof. Sometimes the dancers support each other, sometimes they fight, sometimes they move in a pack, sometimes individually. The way the dancers move and contribute to the overall structure of the work is always compelling.

Q. What was the process of creating Agawam like? What was it like understudying various roles?

As I stated before, learning and understudying various roles can be a challenge, as everyone moves in a very idiosyncratic way. Learning to move like someone who comes from a breakdancing background, for instance, has been a challenge. There’s more to it than simply learning the steps- interpreting the role, and making it my own, especially when I am not the same size- or gender- of the other dancers, has made the process fraught with difficulties, but I think that they paid off and I’m glad for the experience.

Q. How was your experience in the rehearsal and movement-making process?

A. My experience with the rehearsal process was different from others that I have previously had. So much of the first months were improvisation and material making, and then by the end we had enough material to shape and edit. I spent a great deal of time studying how the other dancers moved, and when called on, I was able to step in and act as a proxy if someone were out for the day. I had to become a bit of a chameleon.

Q. In our current political climate with so much uncertainty, what do you think the role of dance and art will be?

A. I recently heard someone likening the arts in an authoritarian world to a canary in a coal-mine. The arts, and dance in particular, fulfill a very important role in society. Like the canary’s song, dance is beautiful, but the second that it’s snuffed out, we should be very, very scared. Dance has the potential to subvert norms, and make allow for different voices to be heard, and connect us with the primal urge to move. In a world where more and more of our time is spent in front of a screen, I think that’s one of the most important things we can do for ourselves.

Q&A with Company Dancer Elizabeth Shew

April 13, 2017

Q. Where are you from?

A. Portland, Oregon

Q. What are some of the unique characteristics of your hometown?

A. If you drive about two hours in any direction, you’ll hit a different landscape. The coastline (West), the Columbia River Gorge (North), the Cascade Mountains (East) or a high desert (South).

Q. When did you begin dancing? What’s your dance journey?

A. I started dancing when I was three, after I begged my mom to put me in ballet class. I think she knew I was serious when she took me to see The Nutcracker for the first time, and afterwards she gave me a cassette of the Tchaikovsky suite to listen to. Apparently I knew which songs were missing, even though I’d only seen the ballet once.

Q. How have you enjoyed your experience as an Apprentice with BodyStories? How do you think that experience will change when you transition into working with BodyStories in a project-based role?

A. This is the first professional dance company I’ve been a part of, so it’s been a great learning experience. I didn’t have an active role in the creation of Agawam, which gave me the chance to observe my peers and learn from their work. It’s been really inspiring! I enjoy collaboration, so I’m excited to take on a more active role in the creation of our newest piece.

Q. How do you, as a dancer, approach translating the emotional and intellectual themes behind Teresa Fellion’s work into movement? Take us through that process.

A. For me, the approach differs slightly from piece to piece. But generally I start from one of two places: physical movement or story. The two are always intertwined, but I like to build them up separately in my mind and body, then weave them together when I know each of them intimately.

Q. What was the process of creating Agawam like? What was it like understudying various roles?

A. With Agawam, we began by discussing some very basic themes of family. We also played with movement prompts and invisible “rules” that our bodies could navigate through space. Later, we brought those two concepts together. I think each dancer in the cast truly seized her role and brought her own story to the table. These stories evolved gradually, which made it more fun—but more challenging—to understudy everyone. Physically there were new movements to learn in each rehearsal, but the mental and artistic changes were subtler, and therefore trickier to absorb.

Q. What was it like to jump into performing Agawam at the last minute?

A. Really exciting! And also probably the most difficult dancing I’ve done so far, mentally. I owe a huge thank you to Maria Gardner, who was extremely gracious with her time and information. Alongside Teresa, she played an integral part in the creation of the role, and she talked me through her personal thought process and story. That’s what allowed me to understand and inhabit her character in such a short amount of time. I absolutely couldn’t have done it without Maria or the support of the whole cast. It’s an amazing thing to be surrounded by people who are so generous and talented. Also, I guess it’s true that you never know what you’re capable of until you “jump off a cliff.” I was pretty terrified at the beginning, but in the end it was an enlightening, fun and fulfilling experience!

Q. In our current political climate with so much uncertainty, what do you think the role of dance and art will be?

A. Oh good, an easy question. This is actually something I’ve been pondering a lot lately. I’ve always believed that the core of all art is storytelling. I also think that the enemy of democracy is a closed mind. In the political climate we live in now, it’s more important than ever to listen to each other’s stories. Not just listening to respond, but listening to understand. Art invites vulnerability from its audience—after all, it wouldn’t exist unless its creator allowed him or herself to be vulnerable in the first place. That kind of trust, in whatever form, helps people find new ways to understand other people. We need that in our lives. So I guess the role of dance now is the same as it’s always been—to tell stories that are personal, ask new questions, challenge the way we think, and engage with those who might be afraid to dance at all.