This year’s Professional Training Program has attracted a diverse and talented group of dancers from around the world. I sat down to chat with Manuel Meza, a student from California Institute of the Arts who is here at Bates Dance Festival for the first time.
BDF: Can you tell me a little bit about your dance background?
MM: I started dancing at the age of 17. I started with ballet and slowly got more into modern aesthetics when I went to community college. I was at community college for a while in California. I took some time off and then started dancing again when I went back to Cal Arts. So now my training consists more of ballet, contemporary, modern including Limon, Horton and Release technique.
BDF: How did you hear about Bates Dance Festival?
MM: Stephen Koplowitz was the dean at Cal Arts and had the ability to recommend a student for a BDF scholarship, and I was the recipient of that scholarship. It’s my first time here and it’s great. I definitely see the community that is building and nurturing in this environment. Especially being from the West coast, born and raised, it’s nice to come to the East Coast and see this community of dance and see the differences but also the similarities.
BDF: What classes are you taking and what have you learned from them?
MM: I’m taking ballet 3 with Rachel List, modern with Paul Matteson, advanced improvisation with Angie Hauser and Chris Aiken and teacher’s toolkit with Mary Carbonara. In ballet I’ve been finding a different ease in quality. Since it’s a slower pace it’s nice to get back into the basics of ballet and really absorb the information, especially because I want to be a little more technical. Paul’s class is really rooted in this nice human and spiritual experience of the body, which is really grounding for me right now. I’m really interested in improvisation and performance so advanced improvisation is really engaging and allowing me to try new things and not question what I’m doing, just to go with it. And the teacher’s lab is one of my favorite classes because I’m very interested in teaching, especially with younger students. We learn how to structure a class, what should be in a class and what shouldn’t, and why we do things for our students and what the benefit is. It’s really informative. It’s definitely a class any dancer who is interested in teaching should take.
BDF: Have you gained any opportunities from BDF?
MM: I definitely feel my connection is strong with Chris and Angie because performance improvisation is something I’m really looking into. And I have a connection with Mary because she is in San Francisco, and she has mentioned that if I ever want to take a class I should look her up which is nice because that’s somebody on the West Coast. Also Paul, because of the way he teaches class, we dialogue sometimes. Those are people I really want to stay in contact with to further explore my own artistic goals. And especially if I ever move to the East Cost, I would tap into those connections.
BDF: What is next for you now in the dance world?
MM: I have one more year at Cal Arts, and during that time I’m going to focus on creating work. I will especially focus on the split between my solo improvisation work that is more performance art based and my choreographic group work, which is more rooted in a classical sense of modern dance and movement for movement sake. I definitely see myself creating more. And now I’m not sure if I want to move to the East Coast after school, so that is something I need to think about. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and now I’m seeing the beauty of the East Coast and the dance community over here.
BDF: Was there an event or workshop that really impacted you? Why?
MM: I think just the ability to see professional companies coming in and being among them in class. I remember on the first or second day of class some of the Doug Varone dancers were in class but I didn’t know they were Doug Varone dancers. It was really inspiring to see them move and then to see them on stage. It breaks the barrier of professional performing artists and the realm of students. That was very important to me because it allows you to see that they are just human beings honing their craft even if they are on stage. I think that is very important for young dancers. We tend to look at them as more than they are so it’s nice to see them as people and think, “That could be me.”
BDF: What is one of your favorite memories from being here?
MM: I had just had a weird day, and I sat out in Paul’s class because it was all group work and I didn’t feel like being touched that day. But then in improvisation we started with touch and I just allowed myself. It was a very warming experience. It allowed me to let the beginning of the day melt away. I had just established a friendship with my partner and it allowed me to forget about the difficult moments. It was a very nice moment that I like to remember.
This post was written by Sydney Burrows. Sydney is the BDF Social Media Intern for the 2016 summer.