There is a difference when you dance in college. Maybe it’s the maturity of the dancer at that age, or their enhanced ability to be open to new concepts, or the motivation of the instructor to mold a dancer rather than simply create routines. Whatever the case, when you dance in college you are just better than other non-professional dancers.
Being in the College atmosphere dancing, I didn’t really have too much time to reflect on my own personal growth until the experience was almost over. Dancing everyday ties you down to a rigorous daily routine where you are constantly assessing yourself at the tiniest level. Having graduated last semester and taking some time off for the spring, I can watch my fellow classmates from a different perspective.
In just a few short months from the start of the semester to their gala performance to open a new theater, I saw my colleagues grow substantially as dancers. I know many of them complain about the drudgery of doing the same exercises over and over. But these barre exercises that never end have given them the ability to master some of the more demanding choreography that is now expected. The strength in their backs and legs allow them to carry themselves and others through seamless flows of movement from one end of the stage to the next. 3-5 minute works are a thing of the past, many now have the stamina to go for a full 10 minutes of stage time with little to no break. Even their confidence on stage has improved. At one time, an audience member might have been drawn to watch one or two dancers in a group of a dozen but now they would be hard pressed to not be captivated by the whole group.
The Dance Gala at Santa Fe was the opening dance performance for fine arts students to usher in the new fine arts performance building. This new building is equipped with the latest in performance technology, linking the entire building with lights, PA systems, and LCD monitors to the stage. The administrators of the building have a great amount of control over the almost 7,000 person theater. Additionally, the building has about a half dozen different learning classrooms for the fine arts students from make-up rooms to a brand new dance studio. The Gala of dance performances was a great success and opening night to the building on April 13th.
In Professor Brown’s piece, “A Mercy”- a piece about loss, many of the seasoned performers gave a little extra to their movement. Holding and elongating movements, I could sense their control over their bodies as they reached a little further to add more drama. Even some of the less experienced second year students had more confidence on stage in their bodies and were more willing to emote. Others that I have known for quite some time expanded their dance vocabulary with controlled turns, higher legs, and fine-tuned accents to the choreography that only increased confidence in stamina could provide. Brown also raised the bar on some of his choreographic limits as well. Where he has always been limited by the strength of his dancers, this semester he could rely on his seasoned veterans to take on more demands choreographically. There was more complex movement across the stage than in previous pieces, phrases were longer and more intricate, and he trusted more of his dancers to take on phrases in larger groups since due to less of a mix of proficiency levels.
From another side, some of the beginning level students that I had seen when I first arrived at Santa Fe have begun finding themselves in dance. Some of these friends of mine had never taken a formal dance class before college or had been away from dance for so long that they had lost whatever abilities they had gained. Now, many of these same dancers are developing a strong confidence in their movement and attempting more fantastic choreography as their technique is strengthened. With a little more time they’ll be able to fuse their ability to emote with their choreography and then they can begin the journey to some really interesting dance. Fueled by some of the new blood of instructors that have joined the Santa Fe family, first year students were seen doing contemporary ballet, classical jazz, and modern in the show. Melissa Canto, a graduate of UF and now adjunct at Santa Fe, put together a remarkable piece called “Recipes for Baking” that gave many first year students a chance to experience a lighter side of modern that still demanded some intense partnering. This piece had some fantastic gestures that many dancers have now become accustomed to without previous experience.
Being away for the short time that I have from formal dance training has felt like an eternity from the outside looking in. Watching my friends continue to grow when I didn’t even really realize that I had stopped, I can now see how far I have come in this same program. This perspective has given me clarity to take more appreciation in the sometimes monotonous daily routines that are my training in dance. While my colleagues might not always agree with my new found perspective, I can only hope that when they step into my current shoes, they will see how even the smallest day-to-day accomplishments can add up to great improvements in dancing.