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Selective Workshop Gives Hartt Dance Students a Taste of Professional Life

Posted 01/25/2017
Posted by Mary Ingarra

Eighteen students in the University’s Hartt School Dance Division already have an up-close and personal understanding of what it’s like to be a professional dancer thanks to the Spring Repertory project held during Winterterm 2017. The project simulates what’s it’s like to be in a professional dance company from auditions and selection to rigorous full days of training with two visiting professional choreographers.

First-time workshop participant Elijah Evans ’20 of Portsmouth, R.I., calls the two-week annual workshop the closest thing you can get to the lifestyle of a professional dancer.

Katherine Judge ’18, a dance pedagogy major from Hanover, Mass., participated for the second year. “Each year has been slightly different in the way the choreographers work,” Judge says. “But both were challenging, demanding, and had their own points of struggle— I’m really enjoying it.”

Calvin Bittner ’17, of Rocky Mount, N.C., who participated for the fourth consecutive year, says training for seven to eight hours a day, six days a week is difficult, but is also really exciting and fun. “It’s never been this tough for me, but it’s excellent,” he says of this year’s workshop. “It makes me very strong physically and mentally. “

Lucy Bowen McCauley, founding artistic director of Bowen McCauley Dance, based in Arlington, Va., and Manuel Vignoulle, a French choreographer based in New York, were the 2017 guest choreographers. They choreographed and trained the dancers for a piece that will be performed in the Hartt Dances Concert Series in April.

“The program helps prepare students to become adaptable and problem solve— and how to stand out enough to get a bigger part,” says Bowen McCauley. “I wanted to create this dance for the Hartt students based on their abilities and talents, and to push them.” She says the dancers caught on quickly so she added a fourth section to the now 22-minute piece.

“Overwhelmingly this experience prepares students for their lives as dancers in New York and other places,” says Stephen Pier, director of Hartt’s Dance Division. “Our dancers will be in New York taking a class or they will go on an audition and run into the same choreographers they’ve worked with here. It becomes familiar territory.”