Through my President's Summer Fellowship, Reconstructive Improvisation, I intend to transform my relationship with dance through participation in the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance’s (SFCD) 2013 Summer Workshop. This workshop explores the work of choreographer William Forsythe, a preeminent contemporary choreographer who has radically re-configured classical ballet.
I think it’s safe to say that this project is turning out to be one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. Going from nine hours of studying a day to nine hours of dancing has been a pretty drastic shift. My whole body aches, and when I get home at night my brain is a slushy mess of musings on energetic pathways, bodily syntax, and corporeal architecture. I’m currently about halfway through my project, and have been in San Francisco studying at the SF Conservatory of Dance for several weeks. Along with my 26 compatriots I spend from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM Monday through Friday and 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM on Saturdays in the studio.
This first half of the program has been sort of like boot camp — we don’t actually start the Forsythe training until the second half, but we’ve been taking classes in a wide variety of disciplines and styles to get our minds and bodies prepared for the work ahead. So far that’s entailed instruction in classical ballet, somatic technique, floorwork, contact improvisation, and a wide variety of contemporary repertoire and exploration. All of the teachers here are incredible. They don’t make our lives easy, but they are completely committed to helping us grow and develop as dancers, artists, and people. I feel incredibly lucky to be here working with them, and to be in the presence of so many amazing young dancers.
The other students come from colleges, conservatories, and professional companies all over the country. In our (albeit limited) spare time, we’ve spent hours mulling over the purpose of art, the possibilities and limitations of language, and the definition of success. We’ve also had the opportunity to see several live dance performances, including one where the stage was shaped like a donut, and we got to sit right in the middle on cushions and watch the dancers from below. I’ve been fighting numerous demons and doubts leftover from my time working as a ballet dancer, and it’s in moments of inspiration like sitting in that donut that keep me pushing forward. I know the next few weeks will continue to be challenging both physically and emotionally, and while sometimes change feels impossible, I’m confident that it’s already happening.