Improvisation in dance can feel very freeing. Improvisation is the spontaneous creation of movement, meaning there is no plan going in. A simple way to do this is to just turn on some music and start dancing by yourself, with a partner, or in a group. Improv was first seen with the rise of modern dance in America with figures such as Loie Fuller, Merce Cunningham, and Yvonne Rainer who were looking to overthrow the current norm and find a more free form in dance. Sometimes, within improv, you can have a score where some stipulations or “rules” are preset, forcing you to move on the spot within a set boundary. As dancers, we often find ourselves in what feels comfortable. We typically have a preferred style of movement and our affinities are revealed every time we try to choreograph. Improv lets you get out of your pattern by truly following the impulse you feel in the moment and playing until you have exhausted your typical choices. This helps with finding new discoveries that you can take into your dancing. Core Dance often utilizes improv in a process, and created CoreoLab, during which Israeli artists Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor spent time with the dance artists in the studio improvising and exploring process. Though there are endless scores in these processes, some are used more often than others.
In one improv exercise, one person enters the space and creates a state, atmosphere, or shape. Next, someone new enters the space, and either responds to, matches, or opposes the existing state. Both dancers work in this state at the same time, and eventually the first person leaves. The second person can then move to find a completely new atmosphere. To vary this, dancers can add multiple people entering the first person’s scene. You can add props and different sound scores.
In another exercise, a dancer beings by moving in one state or energy level. The facilitator in the front of the room can shout “change” at any time, which triggers the dancer to immediately switch their impulse to a different state or energy level. They can take their time in shouting “change,” or rapid fire where the dancer can only exist in their impulse for a moment before having to change. In this exercise, I have noticed that by changing constantly, I revert to my movement comfort zone a lot at the beginning, but less and less as the exercise goes on. As I tire and try new things, I follow a genuine impulse and discover more patterns in the body.
Another score that one can utilize is playing with sound within an improv. The dancer can begin by forcing their body to make sound. If they are in a group, they can respond to others’ sound or just work in their own headspace. Eventually, I found myself releasing sound that naturally that fit the movement, allowing my movement to feel deeper.
It was hard to describe these activities in writing, but I hope it gives you a glimpse into some improv processes. It is inspiring to see people improv fully being themselves, taking risks, and just seeing what happens.
This month, Core Dance hosted CoreoLab, a three week research and choreographic laboratory with Israeli artists Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor. One of our communications interns, Catherine Messina, had the opportunity to participate in the process. Here, she reflects on what she learned and gained from her weeks with Niv, Oren, and the Core Dance Artists.
When Sydney asked me to write a blog post about CoreoLab, I did not know where to begin. It is difficult to find the correct words to accurately explain such an important experience, one that I still am processing. CoreoLab has changed how I enter every other dance studio, class, and rehearsal. I decided to go into my journal and share some of the things that came to light during this process.
Halfway through CoreoLab, I attended an outside dance class on a Wednesday night. The prompt was to keep one leg/arm on the ground and move the other three limbs. I was so alive researching and finding new ways to accomplish this task, just by focusing on the task at hand. I found myself unconsciously even making sound when the movement called for it, which is something we explored in CoreoLab. We often don’t get the time to focus on elements such as sound in movement, but during the three weeks we tackled this topic that is often challenging to dancers.
Because of CoreoLab, I am no longer afraid of using sound in my dancing, and am already bringing the skills that I learned at Core Dance to my rehearsals and classes elsewhere. I am grateful to have had this opportunity at such an important moment in my dance life, and I am excited to continue to grow as an artist using the processes I learned in this experience.
Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to help out with one of Core Dance’s most inspiring programs, Dynamic X-Change. Since 1993, Core Dance Teaching Artists have been using dance, to question, to connect, to heal, and to inspire. We work with many different schools and programs in Atlanta and Houston, with students of all ages. This winter (well, lately, it’s felt more like spring), alongside Stefanie Boettle, Core Dance Community Programs Facilitator, we welcomed students from The Global Village Project, a Decatur school dedicated to the education of refugee girls.
Our class had about 14 girls, ranging from 10 to 13 years old. To start off, we worked with the girls on building relationships with a circle of trust - an exercise created by Be The Peace Be The Hope, during which we gathered in a circle and spoke about what we would like to give and receive to the group (such as respect, happiness, and respect). We also taught a movement sequence was loosely based on the yoga exercise sun salutations, but we invited the girls to get creative and figure out ways that it could move through the space. After the first class, (we had them once a week for three weeks), we expanded our goals to working in partners, generating original movement, and learning the flexible definition of the word “dance”. After working with Stefanie and I, the girls described dance as “energy,” “movement,” and “partnerships.” During our final class, we introduced trust exercises, and had the girls partner up. They played with weight and balance by getting in and out of the floor by pressing their backs against one another, and with basic trust falls. One student didn’t want to participate when she first came to class, but became enthusiastic once we started the trust falls. There’s definitely something special about making a connection with a peer and working within a partnership!
In each class, the students were extremely excited to be with us in the studio, and everyone was really engaged. I don’t have a lot of teaching experience, so I was a bit anxious about the classes, but the girls were generally very focused, and Stefanie them through exercises easily. After observing and participating, mainly being an extra adult and helping when needed, during the first two classes, I eventually led exercises on my own in the final class. It was exhilarating to lead a group of students and to know that I was (hopefully!) inspiring them in some way.
Saying goodbye at the end of the final class was hard, and many of the girls felt sad that it was our last class, yelling “I’ll miss you!” as they walked out the doors. I’m also a little bit bummed that this session is over, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to train and expand my knowledge of teaching.
This spring, Core Dance is welcoming Katie Messina to the team as our communications intern. Katie recently graduated from Emory University, and is currently dancing with Kit Modus and ImmerseATL. She is a beautiful mover and person, and we are excited to have her in our office - and studio! Katie took a class with one of our guest artists, Niv Sheinfeld, and reflects here on that experience. Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor are here for American Playground and The Third Dance, as well as CoreoLab - during which they will work with our Dance Artists and other invited members of our community for three weeks. Read on to find out what Katie has to say about her hour and a half with Niv!
Last week, I had the opportunity to watch a studio run of Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor’s American Playground, featuring the Core Dance Artists. Afterwards, I was excited to meet Niv and Oren, and to take Niv’s contemporary class. Though I had seen a rehearsal, I didn’t know what to expect of his class. Ultimately, I was reminded that there is a certain beauty in doing the same phrase several times in one class. It allows a mover to discover something new each time.
We began by slowly working through a phrase, taking our time moving from pose to pose in order to warm and wake up the body. Rather than immediately discarding it as the ‘warm-up’ and moving on, we dove deeper into the phrase, adding more and more in length - moving in and out of the ground - and then adding textures and new ideas. We did the same with our next phrase. We began slowly and later added speed, directional changes, and more phrase work. In both, we began in silence and then layered on music as we became more comfortable with the material.
I found this incredibly enjoyable and it was a centering way to begin a new week of dancing. Repetition gives me the ability to dive deeper into researching my own body and the concepts that a teacher might present. I focused on my weight displacement, and body patterning as Niv talked about where each movement should originate. It’st is important to pick up new material quickly, but sometimes, it’s satisfying to not have to think about the combination, and be able to focus and invest entirely in the process. It’s a nice change of pace.
I began consistently taking class with Core Dance over the summer. I had just graduated from Emory University, and was hoping to immerse myself in the Atlanta dance community as a new artist, not just as a student. I am especially excited to participate in Niv and Oren’s CoreoLab, which will take place February 4th through 22nd.
Core Dance’s commitment to preserving and passing on choreographers’ approach to their work was a factor in creating CoreoLab, as well as aiding in the professional development of young artists. It allows for international sharing between new bodies, and gives a space to investigate among movers. Just like in Niv’s morning class, we will be focusing on the process, not just an end result. It will be a chance to dive deeper into exploration, which is rare in today’s dance world where we often are commissioned to create with a set deadline and end product required.
2019 officially marks 25 years of Fieldwork at Core Dance! To celebrate, we asked Jacque Pritz, a Fall Fieldwork 2018 participant to tell us a little bit about her experience. Spring fieldwork sessions begin at the end of this month! If you would like to create new work, receive fruitful feedback, and have the chance to perform, register today. To learn more about the process, read on to hear Jacque's thoughts.
When I first moved to Atlanta in September, I was eager to explore the artistic community. I was excited to discover Fieldwork, which offered the perfect opportunity to jump right into a creative process.
Before this fall, I had never participated in Fieldwork, but had been in similar processes where I presented works-in-progress and received both structured and unstructured feedback. When signing up, I was especially excited to work with artists of other mediums! My cohort was of all ages and various art forms. I was the youngest as a 20 something year old, with the group ranging all the way to retirement. We represented dance, music, singing, performance art, theatre, and storytelling. Some of us pursued our art full time, some part-time, and some were casual hobbyists. We were an eclectic group, to say the least. Despite our differences, Fieldwork brought us together as artists and audience members.
Each week we’d come together and give every single person feedback. During the very first session, our facilitator, Sheronda, explained the nature of Fieldwork, its purpose, and (most importantly) how to give useful feedback. We attempted to stay away from “I like…” and “I dislike…” Don’t get me wrong, that can be helpful to a degree. But we challenged one another to get deeper, especially trying to articulate why we responded a certain way. We were given useful tools: “This reminded me of…” “I was distracted by…” “I connected most to…” Most of us in our cohort were new to Fieldwork, with only two veterans, so of course we’d occasionally slip. Whoops! Luckily, Sheronda would help us rephrase what we were attempting to relay.
There are several parts of Fieldwork that I especially enjoyed as a participant:
The 10-week journey went by very quickly. I expected to have a perfect finished work by the end of Fieldwork. Ha! I definitely put that pressure on myself. This process made me realize that I need a long period of time to choreograph a finished work. I learned something new about myself as an artist: who can be upset about that?
Personally, showing work is daunting and makes me feel vulnerable, especially when I tell myself that it’s unfinished. But the work has come a long way since it’s first showing on Week One. What was neat was at the end of the show, the audience was given an opportunity to take a swing at giving feedback on the presented works. Especially since I considered my work one that was still in-progress, I was grateful to receive feedback that I can use for my next rehearsal.
I was surprised by how much I received from this process: a newly presented dance, invaluable feedback, a high quality video recording, beautiful pictures, personal reflections on my craft and my own creative process, and a new network of artists that I can contact if I ever wanted to collaborate. Would I do Fieldwork again? Absolutely. I loved the structure of the program and I encourage anybody who is even remotely interested to sign up or inquire for more details.
Last week, Core Dance held an evening salon event and premiered excerpts of if... a memoir. Our dancers presented the work in process while the audience snacked on delicious food from White Bull. After the performance, the audience had a chance to ask questions and reflect on the piece. Ben, our Communications Intern, took a moment to write about their experience at the salon. Read on to learn about what they thought!
Despite the cozy environment of the evening, the call to action was clear - we need to make a major change in our relationship with the Earth.
If… a memoir opened with falling bodies and subtle movement. The choreography later escalated in an improvisational fashion. Flashing overhead, images and video footage by cinematographer Simon Gentry, displayed magnificent scenes from both natural and urban areas in Europe. The dancers moved to a soundtrack by Christian Mever, resulting in a powerful audio and visual experience.
During the Q&A session after the performance, an audience member compared if... a memoir to the acclaimed Philip Glass/Godfrey Reggio film Koyaanisqatsi. Koyaanisqatsi similarly depicts the harm we have caused our planet. Alarmingly, 35 years later artists are still creating work about this destruction. Both Koyaanisqatski and if... a memoir are important works that insight meaningful dialogue.
Although some audience members craved an ending section performed in unison, I found honesty in the chaos of the individual phrases. While a unison sequence may provide a sense of resolution, I do not feel that it would fit the theme, because:
Join us at our next salon event on Thursday, December 6th to see excerpts of another work in process, Architecture of Space. Register here!
This season, Core Dance welcomes our newest Dance Artist, Nikki Morath! Nikki joins us from DC, and we are oh so glad she made the trek to Atlanta. Read on to learn all about her journey to Core Dance!
Hometown: South Carolina!
Education/Training: BFA Point Park University
Position: Dance Artist
Delights: long walks exploring new and familiar places (got to get my fitbit steps), eating a delicious meal, reading any type of mystery book or biography, Love a cheesy inspirational quote, cycling class gets me hype, and being with my friends and family.
How did you come to Core Dance?
I was visiting a friend in Atlanta and researching dance classes to attend and found Core Dance! I attended the audition and enjoyed every aspect of the experience and the people!
What is one thing you are looking forward to at Core Dance?
I am looking forward to extending and strengthening my artistic voice, learning and contributing to Core Dance’s diverse works, and I look forward to supporting and training with the entire Core Dance team!
Are you working on any other projects outside of Core Dance?
I currently teach the competition team at The Studio Atlanta Dance, and am in the process of setting works at Performing Arts Centers in South Carolina and Charleston.
Ben started interning at Core Dance this fall, and I couldn't be more thankful! They are a quick learner, and fit right into the vibe of the office. I'm excited to introduce Ben to our audiences! Read on to learn all about their background, interests, hopes and dreams!
Hometown: Ozark, Alabama
Education/Training: I received a B.A in Political Science and Arabic as well as my Ballet technique, Modern technique, and contemporary dance training at Emory University.
Delights: The feeling of sweat surfacing on my skin during an improvisation class, reading on a Sunday, and really strong coffee
How did you come to Core Dance? I had known about CORE for a while, but it wasn’t until I started taking classes with some of the dancers this summer in 2018 that I really got to know the company a little more personally. I started researching the company’s work and mission, and was fascinated with what I learned. At the time I was reevaluating what I wanted to do with my life after deciding against law school, and I knew I wanted to explore dance on an administrative level as well as continue performing. So, here I am!
What is one thing you are looking forward to at Core Dance? I’m looking forward to doing PR work for a company that I find truly moving. I think being fascinated about the work CORE producing makes writing and creating content for the organization a lot more fun.
Are you working on any other projects outside of Core Dance? I just finished rehearsing and performing The Excursion: realized by Noelle Kayser for Kit Modus. I’m also currently rehearsing excerpts of a reworked piece called Name Day with Staibdance this Fall, as well as creating and performing a piece tackling gender, race, sexuality entitled i call him. [her] with Okwae Miller
To read more about Ben, check out their bio here!
This season, our Core Dance Artists will be spending their first week of October in Conway, Arkansas.
Hearding Cats Collective has created the music to support choreography that encourages a discussion around water, and human life’s connection to the earth. The audience will have the opportunity to get in the water to experience the vibrations of the music.
For the first time in Core Dance history, the performance will take place in a pool! To prepare for the performance, our dancers have been rehearsing at local pools in Atlanta as well as working in the studio. They’ve been exploring the different states of water with their movements, using their bodies to imitate the way an iceberg melts, or how water freezes or evaporates.
The dancers are focusing on keeping their movement 3 dimensional, like a glacier. This focus is especially important when they are “dripping” or “cracking” like ice. In the piece, they work together to build a shape, which slowly breaks apart as each individual pulls away. They also consider tone, angles, and high and low points to give their movement more depth.
Wondering what exactly this looks like? Stop by the University of Central Arkansas, or follow our social media pages for videos and updates! You can view the Aqurld playbill here.
Thursday, October 4th and Saturday, October 6th
7:00, 7:45, and 8:30pm
UCA HPER Center, Corner of Farris St. and Students' Lane, Little Rock, Arkansas
Free and open to the public
Reserve your spot HERE
More info here
This Fall, we're welcoming Jacque to our Communications team as an intern! Jacque joins us from Florida via our super Rehearsal Director, Kristin O'Neal. Read on to learn a bit about her!
Hometown: Windermere, FL
Education/Training: University of Florida, BFA Dance and BSBA Marketing
Position: Communications Intern
Delights: Dancing, choreographing, reading, cooking, and playing with my bearded dragon, Remi
How did you come to Core Dance? I met Kristin O'Neal (who is also a fellow Gator) at Bates Dance Festival this summer and she introduced me to Core Dance and the Atlanta dance scene
What is one thing you are looking forward to at Core Dance? To be immersed in a beautiful dance community and learning the ins and outs of a successful dance company. It’s exciting to get to pursue both of my passions through this internship!
Are you working on any other projects outside of Core Dance?
I’m working on building my name as an emerging choreographer, you can follow my dance journey on Instagram @jaxdance
Sydney Burrows, Publications Manager, and the People of Core Dance