To a talented and uninitiated soul,
Emory is home to powerful communities for every interest and every niche. The dance community is the definition of this strength. As you journey through your years in the ATL, it is important to explore every corner of this community. There exists a great divide between dancers that lean towards the commercial world and those that favor modern dancing and its place in academia. Whichever camp you reside in, you will regret it if you don't test the waters with Emory Dance Company.
The spring semester in Emory Dance Company is an experience like no other. It is not often that you get the opportunity to participate in an unfiltered version of the process of creating a piece. Every piece is molded differently, and watching your peers find their voice through dance, music, and costuming is an amazing way to begin exploring your own voice. You will explore the challenges of creating/participating in a piece, find yourself as a performer, experience varied choreographic processes, and be beautifully challenged at every juncture while making lasting relationships with Emory dancers and with professors.
What separates this experience from others is how involved you will become in the choreographic process. For example, my choreographer was one of my best friends. She came to me often for advice on how the piece feels and looks and what I thought could be done to improve the coherence or aesthetic quality. This gave me an insight into the unique challenges of a choreographer, especially when creating such layered pieces like the ones in every Emory Dance Company show. The layering of these pieces is especially fascinating to participate in because you will often find that the piece begins to have a mind of its own and the end result will often look almost nothing like the movement that the choreographer begins with. You will not only see this in the pieces that you perform in, but also in the other pieces in the show.
Each week you will have showings in which you can view the progress of the other pieces, watching them transform. Your choreographer will not bring you into your first rehearsal and give you a bunch of choreography to learn, stage you into your places, leave, and repeat the next week. They will often ask you to create your own movement, offer an interpretation of their movement, provide insight regarding the direction of the work, or say a million of other things that were really scary as a new member. Definitely watch the more experienced members for inspiration, but never stifle your own voice.
Also know that your piece may not be done until the week of the show. It may even change during the week of the show. You also won’t be able to rehearse your pieces a million times because a) they are 15 minutes long and b) they are ever-changing and growing beings, not static collections of dance steps. This was a huge change for me, but it gives much richer meaning to your movement.
This means that you will be able to truly find yourself as a performer. Because my choreographer gave us movement and shaped the dance to the dancers themselves, I had to truly bring my own voice in order to contribute. Even after the piece was finished, I was able to play with the performance because we were able to have four shows, which is an incredible opportunity. My biggest advice is to take risks during your performance. Because you have to perform four times, the work can become stale very quickly. If there is one thing that I have learned from all of my experiences with Emory Dance Company is that movement should be alive. Taking risks and exploring the ways different intentions and emphasis feels on your body is not only the perfect way to keep the movement fresh, but you will discover new ways to move and you will put on a dazzling performance.
Another priceless lesson that you will learn in Emory Dance Company is that every process is unique. In the work that I was in, our choreographer often used guided improv to help us create our own phrases which she would then modify and string together in creative ways that fit her vision. We also once completely scrambled the order of our dance, which led to extreme chaos but gave our choreographer insight into how to better layer her piece in unpredictable ways. In other pieces, the choreographer came into the rehearsals with set choreography and taught it to the dancers but really worked with them on deriving mean through journaling and discussion.
However, every rehearsal is something that you need to approach with your own goals. Your choreographer is not going to hold your hand. This should go without saying, but it’s hard to remember when you are given newfound freedom in a rehearsal environment. ALWAYS be rehearsing or warming up your body or at least doing something productive when the choreographer comes into the room. There is nothing worse than the look of disappointment that comes across their face when they see their dancers sitting down or on their phones 2 minutes before rehearsals start, especially when there is so much to learn in so little time.
The most important gift you will receive from Emory Dance Company is a community that you can always count on. Starting Emory Dance Company in the fall of my freshman year allowed me to make my first friends at Emory with people that shared my passions and my struggles and would understand my weird inside jokes about bobby pins or hamstring cramps or leotard wedgies. I also gained an amazing upperclassmen support network that I think many freshmen are missing in their first years. When I grab dinner (even at the DUC… or Cox if we’re feeling fancy) with my EDC friends, I know I’m with caring artists and crazy humans that I can laugh out loud with or have spontaneous dance parties with the DUC workers with. I also can’t stress enough how important the relationships with the faculty are. There are very few ways to really and deeply connect with professors in a way that will create a lasting relationship. Emory Dance Company allows you to have a loving and artistic community forever on this campus. Not to be too dramatic, but savor every moment.
Whether you choose to embark on this journey or not, investigate every opportunity our community has to offer, and you will find the keys to maximizing your success at Emory.