The Importance of Multi-Genre Dance Study
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The Importance of Multi-Genre Dance Study

Editor's note: Today’s blog is presented by Hartt School Community Division Dance Department Ballet Master Susannah Marchese. Marchese writes about multi-genre dance study, the composition and implementation of music and dance pieces, and the extraordinary interdisciplinary collaboration that is taking place at HarttWorks, a multi-genre dance performance being held March 24 and 25, 2017, at the University of Hartford.

By Susannah Marchese, HCD Ballet Master

HarttWorks 2014In this day and age of remarkable and athletic dancers, students hoping for a career in dance need to be versatile and strong to compete in what is a highly competitive atmosphere. Because so many professional dance companies produce works in all areas (ballet, contemporary, modern, avant-garde, etc.), today’s dancers must be well trained in all these different areas if they wish to be hirable, stand out in a crowd, and receive opportunities. The well-trained dancer will stand out, no matter the genre.

It is also important to consider the importance of cross-training the body and mind on a physiological level. Cross-training is widely recognized as a means of injury prevention, and experts say that it is an important way for dancers to stay healthy. This is accomplished by combining multiple genres of dance into their training.

The Nutcracker 2015

For example, ballet and modern training work differently on the body by using different muscle groups and place emphasis on different areas. Modern training offers a classical ballet student freedom of movement, breath, and expansion, while classical ballet offers a modern dance student foundational strength, posture, and physical strength. In both cases, the multi-genre training enhances the dancer’s experience and versatility.  Jazz training, on the other hand, can add a fun performance quality and openness to a dancer. It also provides a strong working knowledge of the up-tempo discipline commonly used in the musical theatre and entertainment industries. Jazz dance movements and terminology are taught with an emphasis on ballet technique foundation and include additional elements of stretch, strength, endurance, coordination, and performance quality. Early jazz training typically features a classic Broadway jazz concentration, while later training incorporates more complex styles, such as lyrical and contemporary jazz.

I’m very excited this year, once again, to be working on HarttWorks, our annual multi-genre dance performance. This is a great opportunity for our community to experience what the Hartt Community Division Dance Department has to offer  in one cohesive performance. HarttWorks is the training, rehearsal, and performance opportunity where our students experience genres both in and outside of classical ballet. Through HarttWorks, students connect with, and learn from, talented choreographers from around the region, exploring diverse genres and broadening their scope of practice.

For the second year, HarttWorks will feature a unique collaboration between the dance and music areas of our school. Student-composer Xavier Blackwell-Lipkind, a member of our Creative Studies program, will compose a new piece of music that will be the score for ModernWorks choreographer Rebecca DeNies and the student dancers. The collaboration does not end here, as the music will be performed live by a Community Division honors chamber group, featuring piano, viola and clarinet. Only at Hartt can this kind of quality and high impact collaboration exist. It’s also a perfect way for the general public and our own students to experience first-hand the diverse programming that HCD has to offer.

Photos: HarttWorks 2014 (top), The Nutcracker 2015 (bottom)