Wouldn’t it be lovely if your university equipped you with all of the necessary education and tools to be successful in the job market of your choosing while also pointing you in the direction of internship and work opportunities? What if I told you that at the U, students are not only encouraged to partake in such experiences, but are simultaneously exposed to local professional work opportunities directly related to their studies?
January served as a particularly full month in the new School of Dance: preparations for Utah Ballet II — a mix of classic and contemporary repertoire — in full swing, auditions for Jay Kim’s “Swan Lake” and the initial construction of the Modern Dance Student Concert, February’s entirely student-produced show.
One of the most pivotal auditions, however, might have been that of Ririe-Woodbury’s Winter Season 2017.For select dancers of the University of Utah’s Modern Dance Department, Feb. 3 and Feb. 4 held not only an extraordinary experience artistically, but a one-of-a-kind resume builder for any young artist. Featured in an original piece by the company’s Artistic Director, Daniel Charon, these eight aspiring professionals danced alongside some of Utah’s most elite artists in the world premiere of Snowmelt. According to Ririe-Woodbury’s website, “Snowmelt considers the impact of the human footprint on our fragile biosphere,” as a “raucous and vibrant world premier.”
In order to gain a better understanding of just how thoroughly this process has affected my fellow classmates, I asked them a series of questions in regards not only to the challenges of time management and technical precision associated with a professional dance company, but also regarding their emotional growth and hurdles throughout the process.
Q: What was the most difficult aspect of the audition process?
A: “The most difficult aspect of the audition process was the environment,” BFA junior Lydia Pohly said. “Although the audition was held in a studio that I am very familiar with, it was the energy of the other people in the room that challenged me. The audition involved both Ballet and Modern Dance majors and, because it was for a professional company rather than a University production, the anxiety level for everyone in the room was higher than usual. The audition was lead by artistic director Daniel Charon, assisted by company member Yebel Gallegos, which added to the anxiety and pressure. Once the first cuts of the audition were made, I was able to relax more and just enjoy the process.”
Q: What is the rehearsal schedule like/how does it differ from a normal day in the department?
A: “We are lucky to have had Daniel Charon work so closely and well with our school schedules” said Angela Lee, BFA junior. “He made sure that the schedule would interfere as little as possible with our academics. We have company class 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and rehearsal 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. After that, we scurry back to school for our 12:25 p.m. classes. Exposing ourselves to a professional working environment is a wonderful learning experience and practice — it helps me understand the importance of self-care, working hard and conditioning the mind and body.”
Q: How has your past education (especially at the U) prepared you for such an opportunity?
A: “The most rewarding aspects of this experience are the inspiring work ethic and humbling professionalism,” graduate student Nick Blaylock said. “It is invaluable to work alongside more experienced artists who care deeply for the craftsmanship of dance and pursue it relentlessly. Not only do they prove this with their actions and life styles, but also with their humility and poise. It is a stormy life to be a dance artist, and the dancers of Ririe-Woodbury are the calm.”
“Before entering my MFA program at the U, I was previously working with professional companies in NYC that often engage in a more collaborative process,” said Chingi Chang, MFA Student. “This [process] involved more theoretical discussion about social issues and employed artists’ input. This local project involves learning exact combinations from Daniel, which reminds me of my performing high school experience in Taiwan. It’s all about precision. It’s interesting to visit a more hierarchal form of the choreographic process again. I admire the company members’ dedication and hard work to their art.”
Q: What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of the experience of working closely with a professional company in your area of study?
A: “I feel grateful that the University has close connections with the professional companies in the area that has enabled opportunities like this to help students like myself be exposed to life in the professional dance world,” said Daniel Do, BFA Senior.
“I think the main thing that has helped me through this process though, is something that Steve Koester told me this year,” said Luciana Johnson, BFA Senior. “He said, ‘you can’t practice being a professional artist, you just have to be one now.’ I have returned to this advice many times throughout the process and it has given me confidence and helped me approach this experience in a deeper way.”
“Coming to the U as a primarily ballet-trained dancer, the U has broadened my horizons incredibly,” said Angela Lee, BFA Junior. “I have an appetite for movement and exploration that I did not have before. I think this has helped in the Ririe-Woodbury process by keeping me alive in the movement; I am able to take the material we learn and dissect and investigate the details.”
Many people, especially those outside of the arts sphere, underestimate the amount of sheer time, resilience and dedication involved in being a dance major. To be involved in the College of Fine Arts, however, is to be exposed to some of the most relevant and fulfilling escapades involved in an institution that promotes education, exploration and professionalism for their students, faculty and alumni alike.