Student Choreographers Explore Movement Through Works of Famous Choreographers

From ballet to flamenco, SCS featured a wide range of dance styles. Photo by Nate Krauss/The Choate News

Colony Hall was alive with energy and celebration on December 7 and 8 as Choate students, families, and faculty trickled in to see the Student Choreographers Showcase (SCS). Students taking part in the Dance Composition class, along with a group of dancers working independently throughout the fall term, choreographed and performed a collection of 12 dances. Students were assigned a contemporary choreographer to study and observe, then prompted to create a dance that used a set of the choreographer’s techniques and ideas. The pieces experimented with the restrictions and freedoms of movement, the duality of expression, and the idea of the mundane interacting with the surreal. SCS highlighted many areas of the dance spectrum, leading viewers to question the complexities of even the simplest movements.

Mia Millares ’22’s Sunlight in Early Spring opened the showcase. The piece was modeled after the work of American choreographer Mark Morris, who was renowned for how he intertwined his music with his movements and danced to the rhythm. Millares explored the idea of weightlessness, youth, and bliss. Jenny Guo ’21 and Laura Jiang ’21— the dancers in the piece—emphasized connection through soft movements. 

Emily Goodwin ’21 and Madison Lee ’22, for their piece Again, researched Belgian choreographer Anne Teresea de Keersmaeker. Keersmaeker has a reputation for keeping the audience on their toes; she works with timing and simplistic movements, exploring the elegance in something minimal. Goodwin and Lee performed en pointe, creating shapes and angles with their movements. Mid-piece, the two untied their pointe shoes as a way of questioning femininity in society. Ballet has a very feminine and graceful connotation, immediately pushing ballerinas to uphold that sense of perfection. Goodwin states, “There’s so much more to a ballerina’s look. But this idea is so ingrained in society, so we can’t completely remove ourselves from the stereotype. That’s why we untie the shoes, instead of completely taking them off.” 

Di’Anna Bonomolo ’20’s piece Just Keep Going took inspiration from American choreographer Bill T. Jones, a sociopolitical choreographer whose work told stories of his identity as a black, gay, and HIV-positive man. Bonomolo wrote a spoken-word poem and choreographed a dance surrounding it that focused on her experiences with mental health. She stated, “I was doing something so vulnerable in a form that I love.” Bonomolo likes using poetry and words to plan our her dances and brainstorm her ideas. The showcase gave her the opportunity to combine the two. She liked being able to contrast her movements with her words, balancing two mediums of communication.

Ethan Luk ’20’s piece Octopus captures the dance in everyday life, pinpointing the delicacy and grace in a mundane action. Luk modeled his piece after French choreographer Jerome Bel, who revolutionized conceptual and unorthodox dance. Luk’s goal was to combine Bel’s ideas with elements of traditional dance. Research was critical throughout his brainstorming process. Luk said, “If the work I create is not rich in its research, then it doesn’t do its job of moving people and creating an effect.” Luk put together his research on Pinterest boards, collecting images of cities and pictures of Jerome’s work in order to start visualizing the way the piece would manifest. He took inspiration from a Yoko Ono’s bookGrapefruit. Each page in the book was a prompt. One of the prompts Luk looked at, “mirror piece,” asked people to look at their face in the mirror and then look around the room at other people. Luk gave an assortment of these prompts to his dancers for them to react to. From there, he began to solidify his ideas for the piece, putting together phrases, scenes, and ideas. He ended up focusing the piece on his hometown, Hong Kong, investigating movement in metropolitan areas and the art within them. 

SDS has pushed students out of their comfort zones, challenging them with the task of embodying a professional choregrapher’s visions and adding their own personal and creative interpretation. Bonomolo said, “It’s nice to see where people come from. They put their culture and identity into their pieces.”

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