Music for Class: Zoe Scofield

Music for modern and contemporary choreography

Zoe Scofield

After training at Walnut Hill School for the Arts and working with several modern dance choreographers, Zoe Scofield called it quits. “I had so much Balanchine training in my body, but I didn’t feel like a ballet dancer anymore. And on the other hand, I couldn’t find a modern dance style that felt right,” she says. Soon after, at an arts festival in Seattle, she met Juniper Shuey, who convinced her to venture back into the field as a choreographer. “It sounds cheesy, but we saw each other across the room and it was like, click,” says Scofield.

Today, the husband-and-wife team creates modern dance works choreographed by Scofield, with visual installations by both. Their seven-year collaboration zoe/juniper has been fruitful—they’ve toured nationally, and Seattle’s On the Boards will produce their work next spring. But Scofield admits that there were initial difficulties when working with her spouse. “Separating the personal from the artistic is very intense,” says Scofield. “I had to learn that when he doesn’t agree with an idea, it’s not a criticism of who I am personally. And because the work is very emotionally and mentally involved, that’s very difficult to do.” The positives? “We know each other so well and constantly inspire one another. We have solidified a commitment to each other’s artistic lives.” DT

 

Artist: The Blood Brothers

Album: Crimes

“Morgan Henderson, who was in The Blood Brothers, writes a lot of our music. I like his layering of different textures and ideas. And he changes them up a lot. You have a good idea of what’s going to happen, and then he flips it, which is an interesting way to think about choreographing, too.”

 

Artist: PJ Harvey

Album: White Chalk

“I love music with complex rhythms and arrangements, because my choreography always has its own internal musicality. She makes it fun to play with timing. There’s also a primal quality to her work that I’m really drawn to.”

 

Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

Album: Glenn Gould Plays Bach: The Goldberg Variations

“The sparseness in this is so rare—there’s so much room inside of the piece. It kind of creates its own world that the listener can live in, and I think that’s why it has survived for so long.”

 

 

Artist: Greg Haines

Piece: “Marc’s Descent”

“This sounds so epic, and there’s such a swelling and welling in it that moves me. He pushes the idea of how long you can allow music or dance to build, which is something I’m working on in my choreography.”

 

 

Artist: Die Antwoord

Album: $O$

“This is a South African band. They’re very raw and a little odd, which I like. A lot of their songs have a strong underlying tempo that I can play on top of to make my own intricate timing."

 

 

Photo by Juniper Shuey, courtesy of Zoe Scofield

Technique
Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

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"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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