Student choreographers ‘Showcase’ new work

Access to well-trained dancers, an intimate theatre, professional lighting design and a costume shop is an opportunity afforded to few dancers outside of professional companies, but students of the U ballet department are privileged with just this.

In this weekend’s “Ballet Showcase II,” student choreographers will unveil their original works, some of which are testing the waters of choreography for the very first time.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said undergraduate ballet student Christopher Peddecord. With past training at the University of Oklahoma and the Houston Ballet Academy, Peddecord has his first outlet for choreographic work in “Showcase.”

Graduate ballet student Shayla Bott said, “Choreographing for ‘Showcase’ is nice because you take the whole thing from conception until performance, and you’re in charge of every little aspect of it. You get to grow artistically.”

Choreographing for “Showcase” is a particularly educational experience for Bott, as she said she wishes to become an artistic director for a university ballet company.

While such a performance is a coveted opportunity for many dancers, being a student choreographer does present complications.

“All the ballet majors here dance all day long and they work jobs all night long, so it’s hard to fit in choreography time. Whereas if you were an artistic director at a university, there’s time set aside for rehearsal,” said Bott, whose entire ballet performance was put together during 20-minute lunch breaks.

Finding rehearsal time that works for the entirety of dancers within a certain piece is not the only limitation placed upon student choreographers.

“There’s so many people that audition pieces, so the studio space is so limited. You have to get in early in the morning or late at night,” Bott said.

Though she acknowledges that time and space restraints are definite challenges, Bott credits her productive rehearsals to “the bonus of working with dancers that are so talented.”

“Overall I think it represents challenges that you would face in the real world when you go out to choreograph on different companies or studios,” Bott said.

For Peddecord, gaining experience in choreography is an important aspect of a dancer’s training.

“Not all dancers end up dancing professionally; many of them end up teaching, and part of teaching is choreographing,” he said.

Though held twice a year, “Showcase” continually evolves as a result of the various ideas each student choreographer brings with them.

“My main goal as a choreographer in ‘Showcase’ is to interpret the music via dance,” said Peddecord, who chose to do his own music editing.

Peddecord’s choreographic process began with finding a piece of music with a high level of dynamics and then turning to his dancers.

“I try to collaborate as much as I can; take some input from the dancers that I’m choreographing on so that things are more comfortable for them, so that I’m not creating a piece for me but creating a piece that looks good on the dancers,” he said.

Bott’s approach to her current work in “Showcase” hinged on a different aspect of performance.

“I think there is a responsibility to the audience to give them something that they can come away with,” she said. “People bring different things with them when they come to the theatre, but if you think about the background of the piece and (include) some kind of depth to it, then it speaks to people a little more.”

Bott, a choreographer for a previous “Showcase,” chose to try a different angle when starting her creative work this semester.

Bott choreographed a dance to a current pop song that inspired her to create contemporary movement. “Then I took the movement from that piece, and I put it to the (original) classical music and made it a little bit more balletic.

“As a student you get that luxury of being able to experiment. Instead of being expected to pop out great stuff, you get to push yourself a little bit,” she said.

Peddecord also realizes the rare opportunity “Showcase” presents.

“(Showcase) lets me know that this is something I like doing, that this is something I am capable of doing,” said Peddecord. “It’s opened up the door.”

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