Dance dialogue

By By Cressa Perloff

By Cressa Perloff

Wouldn’t it be nice if all professionals saw working with students as give-and-take?

Jen Nugent and Paul Matteson–the U modern dance department’s current guest artists–share this view. The couple, who together form Nugent+Matteson Dance, are in residence here from New York City for two weeks, having arrived at the start of the term.

They met in 2000, when Matteson began dancing with David Dorfman Dance, of which Nugent has been a member since 1998. In New York, they teach and “try to get rehearsal space to work on our own work,” Matteson said. Last February was their first professional season together.

The two have preexisting connections to the U. All of Matteson’s main teachers are based here, and in 1996 he had his first professional experience at the U as a guest artist. Three years ago, Nugent did a residency here with Dorfman.

Now, they travel with their 21-month-old daughter, Mieke. This could have decreased available time to spend with students, but “they’ve been hugely supportive of us,” Nugent said of the modern dance department.

During their two-week stay, Nugent and Matteson are teaching various classes within the modern dance department as well as working on a group piece of choreography that will be performed by the U’s Performing Dance Company in February.

Having guest artists is an important part of the dance-learning experience for university students. The U boasts a “wide variety of teachers,” and “adding something familiar and something new can only be an addition,” Matteson said.

The “experience between being a professional dancer not in New York and being a professional dancer in New York lends a different point of view,” Nugent said.

The two impart this different point of view with a real sense of sharing.

“I love how they’re transparent in terms of their vulnerability,” said Donna White, modern dance department head.

Their style draws “from all the different projects we’ve done, but also from the range of improvisational experience,” Matteson said. “We’re both unique movers and there’s something articulate and uncontrolled in our style,” he said.

The two do indeed have a unique method of movement invention. They “have a kinetic way of generating material quickly and with a play, a dialogue,” and try to “swing between (improvisation and set work),” Matteson said.

Residencies are a special experience for professionals as well as students. In teaching class, “what led me to be a dancer is there,” Nugent said. To her, guest artists are “people exploring,” and the U is “giving us the opportunity to continue exploring,” she said.

“It’s not about showing what we know, but it’s about trying things out,” Matteson said. “It’s an even give-and-take,” Nugent added.

Christopher Peddecord

Jen Nugent and Paul Matteson collaborate on their choreography while directing dancers of PDC at the Marriot Center for Dance.

Christopher Peddecord

Jen Nugent and Paul Matteson direct PDC dancers at the Marriott Center for Dance as part of their two-week residency at the U.