Farewell For Now!

If you have been following me from the beginning, then you know that this blog was created as an assignment for my journalism class and I charged myself with the experiment of combining my two majors, dance and journalism into one blog.

As the semester comes to a close, I am conflicted with the option to continue this blog or not. I would sincerely love to further explore the challenges of mixing my two passions and creating posts about something that I enjoy so dearly, however, I definitely know that I will need some time off for awhile to catch a break from the intensity of the work that accompanied this semester.

Throughout this process, I feel like I have grown as a journalist and I now know how to take and edit videos, pictures, and audio in ways that I certainly did not before. I have started to create an online presence for myself which is incredibly crucial for a journalist.

I have found a way to use my writing and reporting skills to talk about something that means a lot to me and I am very grateful for that opportunity.

I got to have some amazing interviews with some amazing people:

Leslie Elkins

Beau Hancock

And I got to create content that was different, important, and exciting for a lover of dance:

Coming Soon To Rowan 

Dancing Beyond The Competition Stage

Individuality Within Choreography

Thank you all for following along this journey with me and creating views that went past just myself and my professor! Farewell for now!

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From Left to Right: Me (Michelle Campbell) and Kelly Connors performing contact improvisation Photo Courtesy of: Emily Marie Lewis

Individuality Within Choreography

Hey everyone! As a performer, I know that trying to remember a lot of choreography for a dance can be challenging, especially when there are multiple dances and multiple performances. However, when the performers are actively involved in the creation process, it makes it easier and more satisfying to execute the movement.

Individuality within choreography is something that I have learned to work with a lot since I began studying dance in college. When I can express my own feelings and styles into the movement vocabulary, then I know I am not just making a carbon copy of someone else’s dance.

“I am often working to get my dancers to know ‘when they are dancing’ rather than executing steps…you have to bring everything you know in the moment. This is different for everyone,”explained Paule Turner, dance professor at Rowan University, movement director of past and current shows, as well as the director and curator of Dance Extensions, the dance company on campus.

Choreographing a piece of work is a complex task that involves creativity, understanding of space and time, understanding of the body, musicality, and cooperation. There are classes built into the Rowan dance curriculum all about teaching students how to choreograph.

Collaboration between performer and choreographer is very important and sometimes the lines become blurred.

“I allow interpretation within my choreographic structures…your job as the performer is to put your ‘stank’ on it,”said Turner.

When I was on a competitive dance team in high school, unison was very important. Moving into a more artistic approach is what Rowan has taught me and uniformity is not always valued. 

Some choreographers enjoy drawing inspiration from the world around them and making their piece about a topic or issue. “I am inspired by ‘all’ that occurs, seen and heard, during the creative process. I firmly believe that everything is interconnected and has relevance,” said Turner.

When you have twelve minds in the room all actively contributing to the choreographic process instead of just one, there is no way that you can make irrelevant work.

Learning how to speak about issues and situations without words is what choreographers and performers aim to do. Using the art form as a podium is a skill and an obligation as an artist.

“We can learn so much from abstract investigation. It allows us to see objectively. Especially if we can train ourselves to trust what we are seeing. The mere act of inviting to see the body in motion is daring and political,” explained Turner when discussing dances’ role in society.

Using improvisational skills and an understanding of space, time, dynamics, and shape, performers are able to breakdown choreography and make it their own, while keeping it relevant to the overall theme of the performance, which is usually much more interesting to watch.

“A choreographer is not looking for their dancers to make an exact copy of the movement onto their body. Instead, it is a dancer’s job to understand the concepts and technique behind the movement, and support that understanding by adding their own personal interpretation, ” said Kelly Connors, sophomore dance major who is a student of Turner’s and will also be Vice President of Dance Extensions next year!

Enjoy this short video I put together! It gives some visual context to dealing with different choreographic structures featuring my friend Dominique Luchetti, sophomore dance major, and myself, dancing to Beau Hancock’s choreography!

Coming Soon to Rowan University: nu

Hey guys! This semester I will be performing in two of my good friend’s senior project dance pieces! You should all definitely come and check it out if you can. The show is a three part performance with a dance piece from three different choreographers. The first piece is called, “The Girl Who Cried Love”, the second piece is called, “Stroke”, and the third piece is called, “Fire/Ash…Rise”. The whole show is called nu. I interviewed one of the choreographers and one of the dancers and got some great footage together of the three pieces. Check out what we’ve been working on!

I hope you’re excited to see more! Again, the show is Saturday, April 30th, with one performance at 12 p.m. and one at 2 p.m. This will take place at Rowan University, in Bunce Hall, on Tohill stage. Hope you can all make it! Thanks for watching and reading! See you soon!

An Introspective Look into Dancing Beyond the Competition Stage

Hey everyone! This post is going to be more of a self-expression and self-understanding of how my definitions and feelings about dance have shifted. I want to share with you the intricate, maybe strange, thoughts that I have going through my head. Hopefully you all don’t think that I’ve gone insane!

This morning, Rowan University’s dance company, Dance Extensions, which I will proudly be the secretary of next year (claps!), brought a guest artist to come and teach a class. Her name was Laura Peterson and she has her own contemporary company in New York and personally knows Paule Turner, who is the director of Dance Extensions.

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Laura Peterson Photo Credit: Google Images through creative commons

Peterson has a very interesting way of teaching class. She doesn’t use counts. She doesn’t answer a lot questions. She wants you to learn by watching and trying. She told us to “feel the underlying drive of the music.” The class was a lot of non-stop movement and repetition in order to get the choreography into our bodies. You know what I realized? This style of teaching is not unlike what I’ve grown accustomed to as a dancer in college.

Being on a competition team throughout elementary to high school, specific counts, unison, and uniform movement were always very important. However, I’ve learned to value a different way of moving in college. It’s not always about being perfectly in time with others. In fact, the break from unison is actually more interesting and pleasing to watch. When accidental moments of unison happen, it is that much more thrilling.

After Peterson taught the class her phrase, she broke us up into groups and told us to use the movement from the phrase to dance around the space with our group. We could repeat things, slow things down or speed things up, and we could change the order of the movement. This was a slight improvisation structure. That was the absolute most fun and interesting part of the class. Making quick and bold decisions on the spot to create an aesthetic look that was intriguing and that people would want to watch.

“I enjoyed watching people make their own decisions to see where the dance would go,” said Hailey Hubbs, sophomore dance major who also took Peterson’s class.

I think as only regular viewers of dance, people rely on uniformity and see that as being the goal. I want others to appreciate the difficulty it takes to not be together but also be super aware of their surroundings.

I’ve learned that I’m no longer interested in looking the same as everyone around me and I am no longer interested in choreographing pieces where everyone must look the same. I have much more faith in myself to make smart decisions and not rely on set information and rules that were given to me. As I prepare to become a choreographer, I wish to teach my dancers to trust their instincts and not aim to look exactly like me. Individuality is much more encouraged outside of the competition stage and I am forever grateful for being exposed to a different way of thinking and dancing.

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Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane Dance Company Executing Improvised Shapes Photo Credit: Google images through creative commons

Leslie Elkins: Contact Improvisation and its Relationship to Democracy

Hey y’all! Sorry haven’t heard from me in awhile! Been a very busy couple of weeks! However, I have something to make it up to you that I think you will thoroughly enjoy!

This weekend I had the lovely pleasure of meeting with Leslie Elkins, a dance professor at Rowan University who teaches classes like, dance history, dance improvisation, dynamics of human movement, modern dance technique, and even contact improvisation. Elkins is well-versed in the dance world and still performs and choreographs all over. I have had many classes with her and look up to her a lot. She is one of the smartest people I know and interprets dance and its relationship to society in a way unlike anyone I’ve ever met.

This interview was focused on contact improvisation. To explain what this means I will use Elkins’ own words, “Contact improvisation is a dance form built around touch between people. The dancers come into contact with one another and let the point of contact define the relationship and the movement. It deals with momentum. It deals with trust, strength, vulnerability, and cooperation.”

In this interview, Elkins explains how contact improvisation relates to democracy. Now you may not think that those two concepts go hand-in-hand; however, after listening to Elkins’ words, you may have a different perspective of the role dance can play in society.

Hope you enjoyed her words! Also side-note, in the thumbnail picture, taken by myself, Elkins is performing contact improvisation with her skeleton, Soma, that she keeps in her office! See you guys next week!

Behind The Scenes: The Secrets of Backstage

I want to take this time to thank everyone for the amazing support that I received about my last blog post. I had so many likes and shares on Facebook and received some amazing feedback and it was all really great to hear so thank you all very much! I hope that you continue to enjoy my posts and keep tuning in! 99834455_ac9a8a66ab_o

This blog post is going to sway a little bit from the dance aspect and I encourage you all to read on because behind the scenes footage can sometimes be the most interesting.

As part of the Rowan Theater and Dance Department, I am required to take practicum hours. These are hours spent working on shows off of the stage, like lighting, set building, costumes, etc. We are also required to take some sort of craft class like costuming, which I am enrolled in this semester. Being a part of the class, I decided to do wardrobe crew for my practicum hours this semester.

I was involved with the Rowan theater show, The Women, last weekend and was in charge of the immense amount of costumes that the performers had. Working off the stage is a lot different than working on the stage and it really makes you appreciate all the hard work that goes into the backstage world.

Being on the other side of things really gave me a fresh look at how everyone’s cooperation and involvement is necessary to make a show run smoothly. As wardrobe crew, I sometimes had to be at the theater two hours before the actors to make sure that all the costumes were cleaned, steamed, repaired, in order, etc. I also had to stay after all the performers had left to make sure all the costumes were accounted for and that things that needed to be cleaned, repaired, etc. were set aside. It was definitely a grueling job with long hours.

During the run of the show, I stayed in the dressing room and helped the performers with all their costuming emergencies. I zipped, buttoned, pinned, and tied a plethora of clothing and even had to bobby-pin these gigantic wigs on four girls each and every night.

I had to handle many different questions, no matter how rudely expressed, with poise and professionalism, which can certainly be taxing. People’s sense of entitlement can be a little over-the-top sometimes and the theater world is always filled with drama.

This experience really helped me to keep in mind how I should treat my backstage crew the next time I am the one performing on stage. ALWAYS say please and thank you and try not to take out frustration on people who have no control over those areas of tension.

Although I have focused on some negatives, there were also positives to this experience. The show was half Rowan students and half professional actors which was pretty amazing because I got to meet some incredible people. I even met the woman who was Jennifer Lawrence’s mother in Silver Linings PlaybookCheryl Williams.

Although this wasn’t totally dance related, I thought it was a learning experience and interesting to get a peak into the other side of the stage. So next time you go yell at the wardrobe people for a slight malfunction, remember how much time and energy they put into your costumes looking clean and tidy each and every performance.

If you haven’t seen The Women yet it is being performed in Philadelphia at the EgoPo Theater for another two weeks! Go check it out! It’s a great show about feminism and social norms. Thanks for reading and tune in next week for some amazing dance photos taken by yours truly!

 

 

Beau Hancock Q&A: An Interesting Perspective

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Beau Hancock in his natural habitat Photo Credit Of: Michelle Campbell

Hello everyone! This week, I had the wonderful pleasure of doing a one-on-one interview with the fabulous Beau Hancock! He is one of the dance professors at Rowan University and has personally taught me and has become a huge inspiration in my life. He is highly respected within the theater and dance department at Rowan, as well as all over the world. He offers a very eloquently spoken perspective on the dance world and it’s involvement with gender, society, and the media.

Q.) How long have you been dancing and how did you get involved in the dance field?

A.) I always say all my life, which I think is pretty true. I have a sense that I was probably dancing in the womb and even before I was taking formal dance classes, I was definitely moving in a dance-like way. I mean, I asked to be put into dance classes. It wasn’t something that my parents ever decided for me. I had a cousin who took classes and I went to one of her recitals in the spring and fell in love. I think I got to go backstage after the show and was totally enamored with the whole process, from the dressing rooms with the special lights, to the foot lights on the stage, to the magic of that stage moment….I think I started taking official classes when I was three or four, and those were tap classes.  I started jazz a few years later….I was in a studio that would perform at competitions so I started doing the studio jazz-tap thing. Yeah, I would say that was about eleven or twelve.

Q.) How was it like to be a male in a female dominated field?

A.) I think growing up there was only one other class, literally only one class, so one year from the age of three to eighteen that there was another boy in my studio class. So I didn’t have a peer. I mean, if I would go to competitions, there would always be a handful of boys from other studios, but they weren’t my friends, you know, I didn’t really know them. In my small town studio that I grew up in there may have actually been a point where I was the only boy….that was the only dance environment I had been in and it was a strange shock when I got to college and entered into my freshman year at the University of Kansas and had this group of men dancing with me…..

All of my friends knew, like it wasn’t hidden, but I also never talked about it….I would have to leave basketball practice early to go to dance and I remember feeling very strange about that moment and people would ask me, “what are you doing?” and I don’t remember lying about it, but I wasn’t super transparent….

They felt very separate, I had my dance life and my sports-high school life.

Q.) If you had to, what would you give modern dance’s definition?

A.) So modern dance is a form of experimental dance that came from ideas in the late 19th, early  20th century in both America and Germany, and it was, the idea of modern dance came from this desire to explore the expressive potential of the human body. And the early pioneers of the modern dance movement were really using their bodies as a laboratory for different ways to communicate with an audience; new techniques, new methods for presenting choreography. And it wasn’t just about movement invention, yes they were exploring actions in the body that were new to concert dance, but  they were also working with choreographic forms. Something that really is kind of a hallmark of modern dance history is that sense of form and compositional structure being investigated. And it’s really filtered into the ballet world now. Basically contemporary ballet, which is this new term and it’s all hot, is ballet steps with modern dance compositional ideas.

Q.) How do you think this definition has changed?

A.) There’s this sweeping across genre. For the early modern dance pioneers, if you were a Graham dancer, you only went to Graham classes. You would get kicked out of the cool kid group if you went and took ballet classes from Balanchine if you took classes at even another modern dance studio. You really had to sort of hitch your cart to one horse in those days and now the line between these forms, between these particular genres of dance are really going away. It’s far more porous, the separation of one form from the other….Those boundaries of what define those movements of dance are really quite fluid now.

Q.) Can you comment on your opinion of dance in today’s media?

A.) …There’s a sensuality in the movement vocabulary. Sometimes very blatant sensuality in the movement vocabulary and I will say that that is the most prevalent mode of dance out there. Like every music video has this super sensual, erotic dancing in it. Even award shows, like if you watch the Grammy’s, the movement that you see tends to be this almost erotic, sensual movement….It’s easier than ballet, it’s easier than jazz, it’s easier even than some forms of breakdancing and hip-hop. This sensual vocabulary, because we’re so inundated by it, it’s become, in many ways, our American dancing culture….It comes out in all of the media channels. It’s on YouTube, it’s on, you know, the car ad, it’s in all of the music videos for sure. It’s in the Super Bowl Halftime Every  moment that there’s opportunity for dance outside the concert dance sphere, it’s kind of that movement modality.

Q.)  Do you have any strong opinions for or against So You Think You Can Dance?

A.) I don’t watch it. I think I may have seen three episodes in the first season. I wouldn’t say that I don’t like it, I would say that it reminds me of when I was in the studio and there is a particular brand of physicality that that show promotes. And it goes to that sensual place. If you threw together in a pod this erotic sensual dance of music videos with ballet technique, and you like, stewed that up for a couple of hours, that would be So You Think You Can DanceThat is the stew of that show and both of those forms are probably the most privileged forms that we have in America. And so my main issue with that show  has been that they try to promote diversity by brining in Bollywood or hip-hop dancers adding in these other forms, but they all end up being filtered through that erotic ballet….Anyone that has been successful on that show, from my eye, and I say that from having watched very little of it, the dancers that end up being successful are the ones that can do that qualitative range.

Q.) Do you think that there’s anything the media can do to change society’s views on what is dance or what is classified as “good” dance?

A.) It was really interesting to see the Sia videos. [Me: The one with Shia LeBeouf?] Yes. To see his body doing the same physicality as this crazy, from Dance Moms, reality T.V. show, like bendable, young, sexy ballet. She’s doing the sexy ballet. But to see Shia LaBeouf, and his hairy man body doing the same vocabulary, I was like, oh yeah this is great. Because this is offering another pallet for this wider market of dance. And the more opportunities for situations like that, to see other body types.

Another show that I really love is Prancing Elites They’re southern, black, gay, jay-setting team. So they do, it’s kind of vogueing. I love that it’s on…and that it is a body type that you wouldn’t see on So You Think You Can Dance, that it isn’t So You Think You Can Dance vocabulary. That it is movement that is challenging gender norms and it’s challenging who can perform, where they can perform, and how. So there are things that are happening, there are these movements and splintering out of other options. But of course, you know, we don’t ever see Indian classical dancers in mass media, or rarely. The pool of what dance is shown to a wide audience is pretty slim and it tends to be either erotically charged or classical ballet driven.

And so finding other expressive modes, which going back to the definition of modern dance, is what modern dance was all about….These maverick, pioneer women said, fuck that! I’m taking off my corset, I’m taking off these toe shoes, and I’m finding a way that I can dance that is aggressive, that isn’t pretty. That’s ugly and angular and stark and that says something deep and powerful rather than just light and airy….As modern dance becomes accepted in particular artistic circles, and in that blending that we were talking about earlier with other forms, so as these big name artists become popular, I have to say, I look at their work and sometimes wonder if the guts of modern dance has been bled out, out of a desire to appeal to a wider audience….

We’re constantly being critiqued and the beauty of open artistic platform is that it’s not about critique, it’s not about good and bad. It’s about how something can move us. It’s not about just pretty. It’s about deep beauty. And deep beauty, I think goes beyond surface, it goes beyond pretty, it goes beyond just something being likable. It’s a hunting for something that can resonate and generally the best work, the dance work that I think about that is the most powerful resonates past it’s age….The work can be seen at any moment and is still resonant. And I hope that within this blending, it doesn’t get watered down. I don’t think thats happening, I think it just gives more possibilities for that potency. I think that potency, theres more places for that to go. More potential.

Q.) Do you have any advice for up and coming dancers/performers/artists?

A.) Stick to your guns. And what I mean by that is explore enough to find out what your voice is and what you’re really into and refine that voice. Refine that voice through practice. Refine that voice through study. And by voice I mean your movement vocabulary, your range as a choreographer, your artist’s voice, your pallet of tools….Keep those tools polished and don’t set them down out of fear and don’t forget about them out of the need to make a living. Don’t get sidetracked by these larger ideas of success that American culture hoists upon us. Sticking to your guns also means creating your own value system and living by it. And not allowing those larger cultural ideas about what being successful in this world is to stop you from chasing those values, those dreams, those dancing cells that we’re trying to cultivate.

I wish I could add everything that he said into this because he has a great perspective and outlook on this topic, however, sifting is unfortunately necessary. I hope that Hancock’s words give you a new lens to look through when you think about the dance world and it’s relationship to society. I wish everyone could get the chance to have a conversation with Beau Hancock because he has really informed opinions and beliefs. Thank you for reading and I am sorry for the length. It was super difficult to take things out because I felt that it was all really important for people to hear.

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Beau Hancock Doing His Thing Photo Credit of: Michelle Campbell

 

5 Tips To A Healthy Dancer Lifestyle

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Photo Credit: Sameer Walzade flickr.com

The life of a dancer can be very hectic and grueling. It is important to take care of yourself and your body so that you will be able to perform the way that you want to. Here are five easy tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a hard-working dancer:

1.) Get A Lot of Sleep

Rehearsals usually end late at night for most dancers. It is super helpful to get as much sleep as possible leading up to these late nighters. Dancing takes a toll on the body and it important to refresh and replenish and let the body recharge. 7-9 hours is ideal.

2.) Eat Fruits and Vegetables

As mentioned before, dancing takes a serious toll on the body and if you want it to continue to sustain you through intense rehearsals, it is necessary to give it the proper nutrients it needs. The body needs about 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Bring bananas to class, drink supplements, eat salad, etc. Healthy eating will help you make it through an entire career of dancing.

3.) Stretch Out Your Muscles

Dancing takes a serious toll on the muscles of the body and it is important to make sure that they do not fail on you. Stretching before and after dancing, or any form of exercise for that matter, will go a long way and your muscles will definitely thank you for it. Roll out knots and tension areas with foam rollers and rolling pins.

4.) Don’t Overwork Yourself

Understand and acknowledge when your body is telling you that it needs to take it easy. Don’t push yourself to full exhaustion and take things slow and steady if you need to. You are allowed to moderate your exercise to meet your body’s needs.

5.) Reach Out to Friends and Family

Your friends and family love you and support what you choose to do with your life. Do not shut them out. The life of a dancer can get lonely and create a restricting social life, but interactions with people who love you is really important. They will help you keep a steady head and remind you why you love to do what you do. Maintaining a healthy mind is just as important as maintaining a healthy body.

Thank you for reading and I hope this was helpful for you! See you next time!

Compilation of Important Information

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Photo Credit: City Dance by Lois Greenfield

In an attempt to be a responsible blogger, I have taken some time to compile a list of other blogs and websites that I think would be helpful to you guys! I hope you all find this enriching!

Blogs About Dance:

Dance Commentary

The Healthy Dancer 

The Dance Training Project

All these blogs were winners of the 2013 Dance Blog Contest

After long rehearsal days, sometimes a good massage is a necessity. Here are some places in the South Jersey area to find yourself a nice relaxing spa day:

Massage Envy

Peace of Mind Therapy 

Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa 

This website is a great place to find a lot of different knowledge about dance, like videos, magazines, contests, advertisements and other great resources:

Dance Media

This website deals with dance injuries and ways to treat and prevent them:

Stop Sports Injuries

I hope all these websites and links are helpful to you and I will be on the look-out for more information that I think will be useful to you all! Thanks for tuning in and I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

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Photo Credit: Abstract Sentimental Theatre through Google images

Yoga: Exercise For The Dancing Body

 

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Photo Credit: Emily Lewis Picture of: Dance Extensions Company Yoga Class

Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone! Single and have no dinner plans for tonight? Want a good way to spend the day? Maybe think about taking a yoga class! It’s a great way to stay in shape while creating a meditative and relaxing mind, body and soul!

As you may remember, I am a dance major at Rowan University. I am also part of Dance Extensions which is a contemporary dance company on campus under director Paule Turner. On Saturday morning, we had one of our members teach us a yoga class.

Emily Lewis is in the process of becoming a certified yoga instructor and taught her first class Saturday morning amongst all her peers. The class started and ended with three oms to center the body and help everyone connect to their breathing.

Yoga is a full body experience that involves the mind, core, limbs and breath. Repetition was involved with phrases and poses. Some poses, I found more difficult than others like the crow pose however, Lewis kept talking about letting the breath and muscles relax into the positions which would make it feel easier on the body.

“I really enjoyed that I not only got a workout from the yoga class, but also, became connected to my breath, which was relaxing and refreshing, ” said Kelly Connors, sophomore dance major who also took the class.

Yoga has a reputation of being a very great exercise for dancers because it makes them become incredibly in-tune with their body.

At the end of the class, Lewis began singing and came around to each and every participant to apply pressure to their forehead. This helped to create a relaxed atmosphere at the end of an intense workout and to allow the body to feel the work that it had just done.

“I felt like it opened up all the spots where I was holding tension in my body! It was nice and relaxing, which was something I really needed after being stressed with everything going on, ” said Sabrina Mazzotta, another participant of the class.

If you have never taken a yoga class before, I highly recommend it. Here are some places around the South Jersey area that you can take class:

Yoga Inspired Studio

Fitness Yoga Studios 

Blissful Yoga