The Guest Artist Experience - Dance
by Alexa Halim (Dance '21)
Welcome to our new blog series by 2020 Summer Intern, Alexa Halim (Dance ’21). Alexa will be covering recent guest artists in the different Art Areas at Kinder HSPVA, to give supporters a peek at what it’s like inside an HSPVA classroom. Enjoy!
Guest artists bring Kinder HSPVA Dance students new techniques or styles that fall outside the core Dance curriculum, and share insights into the world of professional dance. Guest choreographers work with upperclassmen on the Fall and Spring Dance Concerts, teaching students repertory pieces previously performed by universities and major companies. Sometimes, students get the amazing opportunity to work with these choreographers to create a new piece!
During each dedicated week of rehearsals and classes, students get to know visiting guest artists personally, and establish relationships that will allow them to network in the future. Underclassmen also get to work with guest artists through masterclasses, and rising junior Marjorie French (Dance ’22) was kind enough to share her experiences working with three of the 2019-2020 school year’s visiting artists — award-winning founder of the company Abarukas Yoshito Sakuraba, Broadway choreographer and HSPVA alum Parker Esse (Dance ’95), and accomplished ballet dancer and teacher Attila Joey Csiki.
Last December, guest artist Yoshito Sakuraba came to Kinder HSPVA to set an original piece on a group of nine upperclassmen dancers for the Spring Dance Concert, and teach a masterclass for the underclassmen. His masterclass featured fast-paced choreography and partner work, introducing students to an aspect of dance they would only study as juniors or seniors. Marjorie says it taught her “how to quickly pick up choreography and apply [my] own style” and to “challenge the ways we would normally think about movement.”
When Attila Joey Csiki visited in January, he set an original contemporary-ballet piece on the upperclassmen dancers. In his masterclass for the underclassmen, he focused on preparation for “the real professional dance world” by ensuring the students could “switch between modern and classical techniques” via improvisation, says Marjorie. His major tip was to “be prepared for anything and everything … [as] versatile dancers.”
Alum (and Broadway choreographer!) Parker Esse arrived in January to set a piece featuring both his own and the infamous Bob Fosse’s choreography. In his Broadway jazz class for the underclassmen, he taught choreography from Newsies. Marjorie says, “Parker Esse made us all laugh,” in part by encouraging students to enjoy their dancing and use their personality to “lift up our technique.” Especially when working on Broadway, dancers have to captivate audiences through their dancing as well as charisma, and Esse reminded the dancers not to “lose sight of why you dance.”
Dance education at HSPVA is the perfect combination of the department’s two, full-time faculty members — both products of the department! — as well as the expertise brought in by frequent guest artists, a model based on conservatory curricula. Marjorie says, “It is refreshing to get new teachers with completely different styles to come in and teach,” and that the guest artists are great resources, as they have “been able to achieve incredible things in the professional dance community.” Marjorie says that especially through alumni, such as Parker Esse, “we get to see [how our training at Kinder HSPVA] can help us in the real world.”