Sunday, December 2, 2012

"Ohh So You're a Dancer...What Does That Even Mean?"

Explaining to someone that you're a dancer can be an interesting endeavor. It's usually accompanied with an eye-brow-raise and "ohhhh!" combination--upon which they either proceed to look at you with a unique respect, or mild to extreme confusion; sometimes both. 

Dancers are the vessels through which the artistic input of the choreographer is expressed and materialized--and because of this, the relationship between both parties has to be dynamic, honest, and highly open to communication.

As a choreographer for the concert, I've learned so much from my dancers, and gained a wealth of artistic inspiration. We've formed a special bond in that way. Maybe it's because we spend hours upon hours crammed in a dingy dance studio in the basement of IM Circle, practicing movements over and over again with one another while we could be out socializing like normal people--or maybe it's something more than that. 

I've always found there's a special kind of vulnerability required of dancers. Yes, steps are steps, but embodying them in a performance becomes a very personal experience. The dancer is the instrument of the dance, and before long the line that separates the two becomes increasingly blurred. As a team of choreographer and dancers, you are all participants in the grand circuitry of the same art--threaded together by a mutual devotion, appreciation, and passion.

Featured below is an insider interview of two members in the "Boundless" family. Check out what they're experience as dancers in the concert has been like, and learn a bit about how "Boundless" has impacted them!

Thomas Bond

Junior -- Psychology major, dance minor

How did you get involved with MSU Orchesis Dance//"Boundless"?

"I had a great time dancing in last years repertory concert, 'Dance is the Answer', so when the opportunity  to audition for 'Boundless' presented itself I was definitely on board."

Last year's repertory concert featured professional choreographers--what was it like working with student choreographers?

"I gained a new level of respect for my peers. The atmosphere is relaxed, which makes working together easy and enjoyable. They're very receptive toward us, and as dancers, we inspire them with our movement. It's very personal in that way--we're given a layout of what they (the choreographers) want us to embody, and each person fulfills it differently."

What're the most fun parts about being involved in "Boundless"?

"It's really rewarding to receive feedback during the showings. The information helps me in the effort to redefine my movement, and ultimately the concert as a whole. Rehearsals are also fun to be a part of--there's a distinct family feel that we share as a collective, and it makes for a great community. And, of course, the cast parties."

What is it about dance that creates such a bonding effect between people?

"I think because dance is such a tactile art form--you put so much of yourself out there, physically and emotionally, that a sense of relationship and unity is inevitable."

Why should people come to see "Boundless"?

"The arts are being more recognized on MSU's campus, and experiencing them makes you a more well-rounded person all together. It's enjoyable to become more familiar with what our campus has to offer, and to see something that your peers are apart of. Plus--the show is really good, too."

Heather Theisen

Freshman -- Education major, dance minor

How did you get involved with MSU Orchesis Dance//"Boundless"?

"I got involved with Orchesis through my friend Hayley, who is one of the choreographers in the show. I danced a lot in high school, and was looking to find a way to keep dancing."

What is it like to work with student choreographers?

"As a freshman, I initially saw them as superior to us as dancers--but over time, I saw how relaxed and chill they were. It's a different experience from what dance was like in high school. In rehearsals we (the dancers) have more freedom artistically, and I feel like I have a greater part in the creation of the dance. You're really able to put your own spin on the movement."

What're the most fun parts about being involved in "Boundless"?

"The showings are one of my favorite parts. It's cool to see what everyone else has been working on, and how different each piece is."

What is it about dance that creates such a bonding effect between people?

"Everyone involved in the show shares a love for dance, which makes it easy to bond with people who have a similar passion to you."

Why should people come to see "Boundless"?

"It's refreshing, because "Boundless" is definitely a change of pace from what people are used to seeing. The concert is different from a show like So You Think You Can Dance, and will expose people to a different side of dance."

Be sure to check out Thomas, Heather and the rest of the amazing cast in "Boundless - 2013 Orchesis Student Dance Concert" this January!!

"You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive"
 -- Merce Cunningham

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Boundless - 2013 Orchesis Student Dance Concert" Preview!

Hello all!

Hope you've been enjoying a lovely Thanksgiving break--I'm sure my first dance class this Monday will be a lovely experience playing the, "oh I forgot I had those muscles" game.

Check out a preview for "Boundless - 2013 Orchesis Student Dance Concert" --Featuring choreographers Hayley Shannon and myself (Scott, in case you've forgotten)!

"The dancer believes that his art has something to say which cannot be expressed in words or in any other way than by dancing... there are times when the simple dignity of movement can fulfill the function of a volume of words. There are movements which impinge upon the nerves with a strength that is incomparable, for movement has power to stir the senses and emotions, unique in itself. This is the dancer's justification for being, and his reason for searching further for deeper aspects of his art."

--Doris Humphrey

Thursday, November 8, 2012

First Showing!

Hello again dancers and dance enthusiasts!

With the passing of the seasons and the annual Hallowee(k) festivities, dancers and choreographers have been hard at work in rehearsals for "Boundless - 2013 Orchesis Student Dance Concert"!

This past October 19 marked the first concert showing--featuring an informal performance of the dances as works-in-progress. Showings allow for choreographers to receive helpful feedback from their colleagues, and allow a first savory taste of what the dancers have been up to!

Check out some performance shots, with quotes from choreographers on the creative process of making a dance:

Choreographer (above): Amanda Morris

"I start by first improvising movement on an idea I have--and bring that to my dancers. I focus heavily on their sense of rhythm and improvisational skill--so that each individual dancer brings something special to the piece"

Choreographer (above): Scott E. Stafford

"Dance making is a collaborate effort--to be so selfish as to turn a cold shoulder to the influence of my dancers would be a grave mistake. My ideas are just the kindling to the flame--it's the spirit of each individual dancer, and the energy they/we produce as a collective, that navigates the progression of the piece."

Choreographer (above): Maggie Martin

"I chose my dancers based on their willingness to experiment in the audition as well as their willingness to commit to the material that they were learning for the first time. Their fearlessness really drew me in. I want the movement to speak for itself-- not a story necessarily, but a concept inspired by the story depicted in the context"

Choreographer: Ricky Price

"I looked for well-rounded dancers who weren't afraid to let their voice be heard--and for that to be expressed in their movement. Always willing to try new things and venture outside their comfort zone."

Choreographer (above): Kaity Sinke

"I've learned so much from my dancers through this process. The choreographic process is a collaborative learning experience--the movement isn't spoon-fed to my dancers, and through this, I truly believe all of our personalities shine through. It's such a blessing to be able to create something substantial out of our ideas. My dancers are all intelligent, open minded, and hard working."

Choreographer (above): Meredith Milarch

"I was looking for a quality of lightness as well as full-bodied movement during auditions. The dancers I chose have the ability to embody the style I’m looking for, an airy-yet-grounded type of movement. I start by forming a concept for the piece, and create movement by improving on this concept--writing down specific prompts for myself and letting them evolve."

Choreographer (above): Hayley Shannon

"I began this piece by creating movement phrases that played with full-body movement interfaced with gestural, singular movement. After seeing how my dancers embodied these phrases, I began to get a sense for the overall emerging theme. I apply these themes to emotional ties in my own life, which helps inspire further content for the dance. By allowing my dancers to improvise on phrases with the emergent themes, I use their feedback and ideas to further inspire the dance and add yet another layer of meaning. I hope my choreographic choices allow my vision to come to life--and ultimately read as meaningful to the audience in some way that applies to their own lives."

Keep checking back for further updates!

And remember to "like" MSU Orchesis Dance on Facebook!

"The physical language of the body is so much more powerful than words"--Bill Irwin

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Every Journey Begins with a Single Step"

Hello all!

My name is Scott E. Stafford, and I welcome all to join me in a"Boundless" Journey

I created this blog to document the endeavors of a group of students involved with an organization called MSU Orchesis Dance, a student organization that strives to enhance and enrich the presence of dance as an art from on campus.

Every other year, MSU Orchesis Dance produces a concert—featuring dances choreographed and performed by students. This year’s concert is titled, “Boundless – 2013 Orchesis Student Dance Concert”

A Department of Theatre initiative, “Boundless – 2013 Orchesis Student Dance Concert” provides an opportunity for students to share their honed artistic talents with the community, and celebrate the discipline and beauty of dance crafting and performance.

Myself, along with a crew of six equally crazed/driven/inspired/passionate/beautiful students, are the featured choreographers in this years' concert! All of us are dance minors here at Michigan State; which entails a regiment of classes that includes choreography, technique, movement theory, dance history, and dance studies. Together we have worked hard to develop our artistry--and I speak on behalf of my colleagues when I say how truly excited we are to share our journey with you!!

With that said, meet the choreographers!

Meet: Me! (Scott E. Stafford--or Scott, for short)
Degree: Communications, specialization in public relations, minor in dance
Year: Senior (whoop whoop)

What made you want to become involved as a choreographer/What are your favorite things about being involved with "Boundless"?

Choreography is a form of artistic release for me--a medium through which I can take ideas and make them into something real, tangible, and represented in the human form. After studying choreography and movement theory, I've learned the tools necessary to facilitate this process--"Boundless" provides a golden opportunity to work with dancers and expand on everything I've learned on a grander scale. My favorite thing about the whole process is the people! As a collective we form a community, sharing a common love and passion for dance. It's great to feel part of something larger than yourself.

Meet: Hayley Shannon
Degree: Communications, specialization in public relations, minor in dance
Year: Senior

What made you want to become involved as a choreographer/What are your favorite things about being involved with "Boundless"?

I have always had a passion for dance and performing, but have had little experience with choreographing. This opportunity allows me to get out of my comfort zone and push myself as an artist. My favorite thing about being involved with the Orchesis Student Dance Concert is the community that we have created within the cast and especially among the choreographers. The seven of us took the choreography course at MSU together, and became very close and supportive of each other's work and growth as artists. It’s also exciting to share what we have learned with younger dancers, and to work with them to create something meaningful and authentic.

Meet: Meredith Milarch

Degree: Special Education, dance minor
Year: Junior

What made you want to become involved as a choreographer/What are your favorite things about being involved with "Boundless"?

I wanted to take my choreography to the next level. I have enjoyed choreography for small shows and in the classes that I teach, but this is a much larger scale production. This program has offered me the chance to create a dance based on my own concept, and it’s the perfect opportunity to explore my own ideas and see them come to life. I really appreciate how much freedom I have as a choreographer—I feel free to express my ideas any way I choose. Another thing that makes Orchesis such a special organization is the people. I love getting to know everyone who is involved in the concert and gaining so many friends!

Meet: Kaity Sinke
Degree: Psychology, dance minor
Year: Senior

What made you want to become involved as a choreographer/What are your favorite things about being involved with "Boundless"?

I've always had a strong passion for dance and choreographing holds a special place in my heart. The opportunity to have my ideas visualized into a concrete dance is one of life's greatest gifts! Having choreographed for the dance minor program in the past, I thoroughly enjoy creating art with such wonderfully open people. It has been so amazing to witness all of those involved collaboratively produce this show.

Meet: Ricky Price
Degree: Kinesiology, dance minor
Year: Junior

What made you want to become involved as a choreographer/What are your favorite things about being involved with "Boundless"?

I wanted to create my own dance where I took a vision and pasted it upon other people, to see how they interpreted it. I have gotten stuck in the creative process of making the dance multiple times, but working with my dancers they help me to sort out my ideas.

Meet: Amanda Morris
Degree: Sociology/family & community Studies, dance minor
Year: Senior

What made you want to become involved as a choreographer/What are your favorite things about being involved with "Boundless"?

My choreography class that I took last year showed me how exciting it is to create movement. It was so thrilling to see what me and my classmates came up with, and after the class I wanted to expand even further on what I had learned. I love meeting dancers I might not have got the chance to meet, and the other choreographers I work with are a great group of people. Most of all, it's so wonderful to see your dancers grow as the journey unfolds.

Meet: Maggie Martin
Degree: Arts and Humanities, dance minor
Year: Senior

What made you want to become involved as a choreographer/What are your favorite things about being involved with "Boundless"?

I've wanted to be involved as a choreographer since I found out that that was an option, which was my freshman year. I love choreography, I love the process of creating and being collaborative with other artists. My dancers are phenomenal-- they are creative, intelligent, and willing to experiment with dance and performance techniques. That open-mindedness is really feeding my creativity, so I love that the six of us can really work together to create this piece.

You've now met all of the choreographers! Through my lens, I'll be documenting the process along the way--revealing what it takes to bring a concert to life. So, once again, I invite all to join me on this "Boundless" journey.

"Dance, Dance, otherwise we are lost"--Pina Bausch

Be sure to "like" MSU Orchesis Dance on Facebook for further updates!