Magazine article Dance Magazine

Push Your Boundaries: Students Dissect Todays Top Contemporary Choreography at Arts Umbrella

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Push Your Boundaries: Students Dissect Todays Top Contemporary Choreography at Arts Umbrella

Article excerpt

In a sunlit studio that looks out on Vancouver's skyline, Kidd Pivot rehearsal director Eric Beauchesne shows how to project shades of despair without sound or words. "Your hands mean so much," he tells the Arts Umbrella International Summer Dance Intensive students, stopping to clamp his own to his face tightly, then opening his fingers around his jaw for a different effect.

Beauchesne, who also stages choreographer Crystal Pite's works at companies around the globe, is teaching a duet from Betroffenheit, Pite and Jonathon Young's Olivier Award-winning dance-theater piece about grief and loss. Marked by Pite's signature quick, detailed moves, the section has one dancer laying her hands on her partner's arched spine, as if she's absorbing an unfathomable pain. "You really care about stopping what's happening to her," Beauchesne says.

Like so many offerings at the highly diversified intensive, Beauchesne's advanced repertoire class is a rare chance for students to immerse themselves in boundary-pushing work with a teacher who seldom instructs outside company settings. "I want to nurture the joy of what I'm doing, and yet show how challenging and picky it can be," says Beauchesne. His class is just one of many the three-week program packs into the downtown studios of Simon Fraser University Woodward's Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. (A junior version of the program, with participants as young as 12, is hosted at Arts Umbrella's smaller facility on the city's west side.)

Days are intense. Typically a traditional ballet class kicks off the day at 9 am, followed by technique classes like pointework, then repertoire and partnering in the afternoon. The six studios are busy until 6 pm. Often a student will see six different teachers in a single day. "We're dancing eight out of the nine hours we're here, and when you go home, you're tired," says Renee Lee, a contemporary dancer and San Francisco native. "I'm definitely doing more dancing than I ever have." But she finds the intense schedule worthwhile. "The rep they're teaching is pieces they learned from the choreographers themselves.

We're not just talking about movement and timing, but the impetus behind the piece, the inspiration for it, and the creation process."

Lee points to a partnering class led by Juilliard instructor Francisco Martinez earlier in the day, where former Nederlands Dans Theater dancers Lesley Telford and Yvan Dubreuil offered insights on a duet from Jin Kylian's Symphony of Psalms. Kylian taught the rapturous, Stravinsky-set piece to them at the Dutch company, and they were able to demonstrate ways of finding balance and tension amid its intertwining spirals.

"What this intensive brings together is a lot of different choreographic styles and techniques," says Martinez. …

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