Contemporary Dance juniors explore the process of choreography

By Ellise Chase

Assistant Professor Selene Carter

Years in the making, Selene Carter brings student choreography to the Studio Theatre stage.

The choreography comes out of a class designed for juniors, Choreographic Performance Project, where they learn the art of creating and producing original choreography.  They learn to apply repeatable movement to other dancers.  Honing in on what tools they have in their vocabulary, both physical and expressive.

“There is push to always define your own unique vocabulary,” Carter states, “for an undergraduate student it’s a lot about figuring out what they know, learning new skills and learning the context of what they know. Really having a distinctive, individual voice is what is valued in contemporary dance.”

The choreographers are given a cast of student dancers, two days a week for rehearsal, and faculty support.  Carter works with the choreographers weekly, looking at such elements as theme, motif, the visual experience, and what is of value to the individual as a creative artist using dance as the medium.   She is also present to review and reinforce of all of the information the now junior level dancers have gained in their training thus far.

The student choreographers – all 16 of them – are well-versed in what is expected of them, as they were the dancers in their freshman and sophomore years.  Working with their peers as dancers is arguably one of the greatest challenges of the course.  But this is a key part of the process, learning how to communicate this unique style on to other dancers. Human beings have this funny way of not all moving the exact same way, and for the student choreographers, this can be quite the obstacle to overcome.

“The goal there is that they learn a lot about what a choreographer faces; it is an ever changing, a morphing thing,” Carter states, “and that’s where as theatre it is gold, because you find there such a strong curve of learning that happens for them when they are put in our shoes, when they are empowered to be the choreographer.  That’s a real challenge because most of them are more comfortable being dancers.”

“It is not about being friends with your dancers, it is not about making the dancers comfortable and making them like the dance, it is about pulling out of them what you really want to find.”

This journey isn’t so much about making the perfect pieces, Carter clarified, but instead focusing on the process. This is the first time these students are having their work shown publicly, and to a sold out audience nonetheless.

Cameron Barnett, one of the choreographers, stated, “It’s so valuable to have the opportunity to see your work on stage in front of the audience. Sometimes it feels like dance is undervalued, so having the chance to see your own work on stage validates dance as an art form.”

These pieces will be performed December 1 and 2 to a sold out audience in the Studio Theatre at IU.

Ellise Chase is a first-year M.F.A. acting student at IU. Ellise graduated from Gannon University with a Bachelor’s degree in theatre and another in advertising. Past roles include: A Streetcar Named Desire (Stella) and Sweeney Todd (Johanna) at the Erie Playhouse. Collegiate roles include: The Crucible (Abigail Williams), Pygmalion (Clara), and Peter Pan (Wendy Darling). Ellise is from Erie, Pennsylvania.

About IU Theatre Department

Welcome to the 7th & Jordan blog. This blog is a peek behind the curtain at the productions and people at Indiana University's Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance.
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