Students Extend Training through Summer Intensives with Leading Dance Companies

Posted: August 7, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

In a recently published book by a 2002 Mason graduate titled “Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers,” Mason’s Dance Department is recommended among a select group of art, drama, dance, music and creative writing programs from across the country.

In the early 1900s, dancers grew disenchanted with the constraints of classical ballet and developed a movement known today as modern dance. Mason’s Dance Department has embraced the art form and established connections with prominent modern dance companies.

As a result, 10 Mason dance students had the opportunity to participate in two different “intensives” this summer, one at the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the other with Parsons Dance Company at Marymount Manhattan College.

Mason students with Mark Morris
Mason students with Mark Morris.

“The intensives reinforce so much of the training students get at Mason, and they also get the chance to compare themselves with other dancers from other parts of the country,” says Dan Joyce, assistant professor of dance who worked with the Mark Morris Dance Group for 10 years.

“The works of both choreographers teach students to be sensitive in many different directions, and the group choreography gives a wonderful sense of community.”

Dance majors Ashley Russo, Angela Bell, Setarra Kennedy, Durell Comedy and Prentice Whitlow attended the Mark Morris intensive, while dance majors Maria Ambrose, Jessica Berube, Jamie Baptist, Amanda Blauer, Brianna Kimball and Russo attended the Parsons Dance intensive.

Students at the Mark Morris intensive, which lasted one week, worked directly with Morris and members of the company to learn sections from some of Morris’ works. One group focused on “Dido and Aeneas,” while the other group rehearsed sections from “Falling up Stairs.” On the last day of the intensive students performed to show what they had learned during the week.

Comedy, who will be performing one of Morris’ operas, “Orfeo ed Euridice,” in January at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, says the most beneficial part of the intensive was how Morris encouraged every dancer to be themselves, just enjoy dancing and work and move in such a way that would display that passion.

“I wanted to attend the intensive to make contacts with some of the faculty and company members as well as reconnect with Morris with hopes of working with him in the future,” says Comedy. “The intensive was an amazing opportunity to grow as an artist and learn how to be content with just being a person who dances.”

Parsons Dance has been offering its two-week intensive for eight years. The company invites pre-professional and professional dancers from countries all over the world, including Italy, Brazil, Paraguay and Bermuda.

Approximately 80 participants trained directly with Parsons and members of the company while taking classes in modern and ballet technique. They also learned the Parsons repertory and attended yoga classes and a Parsons Dance history class. In addition, the participants attended a career development session especially for dancers.

“It was such a great experience to work with both Mark Morris and David Parsons,” says Russo, who attended both intensives. “The programs helped build up my confidence and make me a stronger dancer. I can’t wait to go back again next year.”

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