The DANY Studios Master Class Series continued on October 22nd with a class taught by les ballets C de la B company member and New Zealand native Ross McCormack. McCormack gave class participants (myself included) insight into the ways in which movement was generated for les ballets C de la B’s work, Out of Context—For Pina. He explained that company director Alain Platel pulls and organizes movement invention for pieces based upon the abilities and talents of each of the company’s members. McCormack then guided us through movement exercises and repertoire specific to his contributions to the piece.
We began on the floor with horizontal arms swinging and legs circling against our torsos, causing us to propel ourselves across the studio like dizzy fans. On uneven ground, we ran back to the other side of the studio to try again, as we watched McCormack masterfully execute the exercise, which had elemental hints of the breakdancer’s “windmill” mixed with the familiar jazz dance “fan kick.” To “Highschool Lover” by AIR, we rolled over arms that tangled across our chests, accentuated by développé, extending and recoiling in an exhilarating phrase that sprung to standing with unexpected shifts to the ground. This phrase, McCormack explained, transposed the structure of a traditional ballet barre into a contemporary, grounded floorwork combination.
Next, McCormack taught us the memorable, impact-driven hand dance from the beginning of Out of Context—For Pina. He explained that it was one of his contributions to the work, and that he composed it while on break in a park. We were given the task of composing additional movements to tag onto the end of the staccato phrase. In our studio performance, we ambled around the space in indirect pathways, and with a drop of a scarf, t-shirt, jacket found our hands grabbing hips, pulling our taffy-like cheeks, rolling circles on our foreheads in a simple phrase rich in pedestrian nuance and evocative, yet subtle, meanings.
The following Friday, Artistic Director Benoit-Swan Pouffer and Ballet Master Alexandra Damiani of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet led us through company repertoire, and ballet technique tempered with contemporary sensibilities. Damiani started the class away from the barre, encouraging us to widen our eyes, sense the space, and truly dance from the beginning of class all the way to the end. At the barre, she led us through intricate movement patterns that focused on flow and spinal flexibility, while explaining that imagination should be integrated into our dancing. She told us that, as dancers, our energy detectably spills through our pores, and that we should strive for a global, or universal, awareness of ourselves within the dance.
Also, promoting the use of imagination, Pouffer taught us a phrase that drew from traditional balletic vocabulary, while evoking rich images, such as “travelling through a tunnel,” “gazing over the edge of a cliff,” and, pushing the space while “underwater.” For me, the phrase took place in a tropical rainforest, laden with hanging vines, mysterious caverns, and breathtaking cliffs overlooking the crashing sea.
On November 12th, the DANY Studios Master Class Series will host Garth Fagan Dance, under the direction of Tony Award winning (The Lion King, 1998) choreographer Garth Fagan. Fagan’s approach develops fearless dancers who are able to execute time-defying balances, change directions in mid-air with whip like speed, and arrest all motion with precision. With a focus on Fagan technique, this class fuses the eclectic styles of Afro-Caribbean dance and ballet with post-modern experimentalism. Bessie Award winner and Assistant Rehearsal Director Natalie Rogers-Cropper leads the class.
If you have questions about the DANY Studios Master Class Series or would like to RSVP for the Garth Fagan Dance master class or another upcoming class, please contact Tiffany LaPearl at email@example.com.