I was lucky enough to escape the oppressive NYC humidity and come up to Bates early to catch the end of the Young Dancers Workshop. My roommate is a counselor this year for the young dancers, so I heard quick snippets about the program over the past few weeks, but mostly our conversations were cut short due to her routine meeting schedule. What, I wondered, could be so urgent that they need to meet with every dancer every single evening?? Clearly, I had little understanding of how the Young Dancers Workshop really works.
My first look into the program was watching the Works in Progress showing the dancers performed on their second to last night. Even by only seeing quick, one and two minute beginnings, the span of ideas, interests, and styles was evident. Also happily surprising, was the level of stage confidence of these young performers. I cannot remember a time when I was that age (and even now some days) where I feel confident enough to stand up in front of 100 people and perform a solo I’ve only just begun. These dancers certainly felt comfortable in the supportive environment of their new peers, faculty, and counselors. At the conclusion of the showing, the counselors entertained everyone with a short spoof skit culminating in the “satisfying communal dance party”. My friend explained that afterwards she had to go back to the dorm for the hall meeting, so she would see me tomorrow at breakfast. After that showing, it was clear that there must be a connection between repetitive, constant time for reflection and discussion and the collaborative and daring work that the young dancers were inspired to create.
The final day for the young dancers included a showing from their technique and rep classes, followed by an evening performance from Abraham.In.Motion. Karl Rogers, the YDW Co-Director, explained that the showing highlighted what they learned in class, rather than performing a choreographed new work. I thought this was especially clear in the ballet class showings, where simple movement was enjoyable for a fellow dancer to watch simply due to consistent proper placement and alignment on all bodies on stage. How unusual!
The dancers returned the theater one last time for the Abraham.In.Motion performance. With most of the dancers clad in company t-shirts, it was clear even in the lobby what an impact Kyle’s company had on the entire youth festival. Also notable was some of the phrase work in the performance that they students had danced in their own rep showings. What a thrill and deeper appreciation the students must have been left with after seeing this work.
Last year was my first summer with the Bates Dance Festival, and I came to appreciate the depth of study one can delve into here in such a short time span. It’s possible to learn a phrase, discuss it with the choreographer, write about it for the festival blog, and watch company dancers perform it all in just a few days. It’s wonderful to be back at the festival and see such care and commitment being offered to the younger dancers. Congratulations to all of the young performers and best of luck in your future studies!
Looking forward to being with you all the next three weeks……