As part of Company Danzante’s Arts Education Initiative and our community outreach & engagement activities this April, Co/Da continues with it’s 5th year of our Trainee Program.
This Trainee Program was established in 2014 as dance education initiative for eligible high school dance students training at Adagio Ballet School of Dance. Since last year we have extended the invitation to eligible middle school students.
They experience a look inside how a professional company works and an opportunity to learn and perform new repertory by a guest choreographer.
We had a short conversation with
Erin Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Burr our guest choreographers for this year’s trainee program. This is the interview that we had with them.
CO/DA: What can you tell us about your work with the trainee program this year?
Erin: Growing up a classically trained ballet dancer, I wanted to incorporate a blending of ballet technique with the contemporary style. Contemporary ballet was my first experience with the contemporary genre of dance. I felt this style would be a great way for the trainees to not only pull from familiar territory, but also explore creating different lines and using more grounded movement not typically found in the classical form.
Liz: I had such a fun time working with the Adagio students this year. I like to collaborate with my dancers, so I gave them many tasks where they had the chance to come up with their own movement. I think this was challenging for them because they have never really worked this way before, but it’s something that we do in Company Danzante all the time. I hope they had fun with these tasks! I loved seeing what each dancer created because it was so unique and authentic to them. The piece would not have shaped the way it did without these stunning dancers.
CO/DA: Is this a new choreography? How did you come up with the idea for this piece?
Erin: Yes, this is a new work! It is also a work in progress. I love the compositions of Zoë Keating and feel that there is always a story behind them. The two pieces of music I chose reminded me of a trip my husband and I took last year to Bryson City, NC and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where we came across “The Road to Nowhere.” The history of the creation of the Park and the hundreds of people that were displaced from their homes because of it was so interesting to me. The road that was to be built for families to go back and visit their old family cemeteries was never completed, and ends with a 365-foot tunnel leading nowhere.
Liz: Yes, it is a new piece. I spent a long time looking through music because I wanted to find something fun and upbeat for this group of dancers. The music tends to really inspire me when I choreograph. For this particular work I liked the syncopated rhythms in the song I chose: “Four Ton Mantis” by Amon Tobin. I envisioned the dancers getting pulled around the space as if they were puppets being controlled by the music. I wanted to convey a feeling of the dancers being out of control and thrown around by the sounds of the snares, high hats, and brass.
CO/DA: What else can you tell us about your experience in participating as a choreographer with Company Danzante’s Trainee Program? How does this translate into your own experience as a creative artist?
Erin: I recognized that it would be challenging to develop an idea, translate it to movement, get to know new dancers, and have a clean, finished product in 6 short rehearsals. I find that I learn a lot about myself, not only as a choreographer, but also as a teacher each time I set a work. It’s interesting to discover which words of imagery or energy resonates with a particular dancer – I feel as though I only scratched the surface in getting to know them and how they learn as individuals! I appreciated that the trainees were diligent in reviewing their choreography from week to week and coming to rehearsals ready to learn new movement. I hope to one day develop the idea and the piece further.
Liz: I think I learned so much from this experience. I learned how to work under a pretty short time limit and juggle working with two separate casts. I have definitely developed a huge appreciation for choreographers to be able to work quickly and efficiently while creating a piece of art with their dancers. My favorite part about choreographing is being in the studio working with my dancers. They inspire me every step of the way. I hope to continue collaborating with artists and students as my dance career continues.
CO/DA: What are your thoughts about the opportunity that is being given to these young students? How relevant do you think this experience is for them?
Erin: This is such a unique opportunity for these dancers! At a young age they are learning how discipline in the classroom translates to the professional world. Learning 3 pieces of unfamiliar choreography with proper timing and energy in a short time is a big feat. For students who are still coming into their own and building the foundation of their technique, it can be scary to push past the normal limits, or even be confusing to be asked to “forget” some of the training aspects they have been working so hard to fine-tune. For example, instead of stacking the body with proper alignment, square hips and shoulders, and engaging turnout, dancers were asked to approach some traditional steps with different initiation points, “off-balance,” and turned in. This experience forces the dancers to tap into their body and spatial awareness on a completely different level. They are getting a little glimpse of where their hard work could take them in the future!
Liz: I think this is a great opportunity for young dancers to be able to work with a professional company and see the inside of how it works. I would have been ecstatic if I had this opportunity when I was their age. I think we held the bar pretty high for these students and each and every one of them took on that challenge and shined in the end. A lot of what I was doing with the students was brand new concepts to them: the movement style, the tricky rhythms, the collaborative process. I hope it helped them see that there is so much variety to contemporary dance out there and to be inspired by that.