News: Choreography Connection

Regional Dance America's National Choreography Intensive partners dancemakers with strong teachers.

Morning modern class at the 2010 NCI

This year’s National Choreography Intensive (NCI), from Regional Dance America (RDA), is a chance for 15 choreographers to create work on 80 students and learn from some of the best teachers in the field. It’s led by director of choreography Janis Brenner (Juilliard faculty) and director of music Rob Wood (University of Utah faculty). Each will serve as mentor for the choreographers.

“It’s a unique pairing,” says RDA executive director Gretchen Vogelzang. “Just because you can choreograph doesn’t mean you can teach. We need leaders who understand how to break down the process.”

Brenner says she plans to spend her days “running down the halls, back and forth through six different rooms,” offering a second set of eyes to the emerging choreographers working on short assignments. “My process is made to go in many directions, so that I can take the first few days to assess what the students need,” she says.

The faculty is rounded out by Susan and Rick McCullough (University of North Carolina School of the Arts); Warren Conover (national guest teacher/former ABT soloist); Catherine Miller (Dance New Amsterdam); and Kassandra Taylor (Winston-Salem Festival Ballet).

Ten participants, selected by impartial panels at RDA festivals in five regions, arrive at the program already divided into two tracks. Typically, the festival panels see between 12 and 20 works, and the top choreographers from each region (one emerging, one project tier) are selected for the NCI. Five other spots are reserved for choreographers not necessarily from RDA. They apply with a letter of introduction and a DVD of their recent work. Brenner selects the five to fill these spots.

Ten less-experienced choreographers work in the emerging-choreographer tier, spending their studio time in a composition-like class geared toward small assignments in problem solving. Those five who are more established and have produced work professionally are placed in the project tier, where they have two weeks to work on one piece each. All students, regardless of career stage, receive guidance from the faculty mentors, and they work with intermediate- and advanced-level dance students, age 13 and older (who apply with a letter of recommendation and a first arabesque photo). Days begin with two technique classes followed by the choreographers’ composition work. Each evening ends in a showing to preview their work among other students and faculty.

NCI’s Choreography Connection project will later link the intensive’s most promising artists with RDA companies. Companies submit commission requests to the choreographers, who get to choose which company to work with. RDA and the chosen company split the commission fee, paid to the choreographer. Last year’s participants worked with the Pennsylvania Regional, Mid-Columbia and Canton Ballets. The choreographers for the Choreography Connection are selected by Brenner, Wood and Gary Taylor, the director of operations at the conference. Many of the works are studies that can become jumping-off points for full-length works. Each choreographer in the project tier usually completes or nearly completes a work at the conference.

Brenner, who’s served as NCI director of choreography in the past, says: “I’m impressed on a daily level with what these choreographers create so spontaneously. They make me hopeful for the future of dancemakers.”

This year, NCI’s 50th, the program runs July 18–28 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The intensive will culminate in a showing at the Hanes Brand Theater on July 28. See DT


Photo: Morning modern class at the 2010 NCI (courtesy of RDA)

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