This summer our students traveled all over the world, but some decided to stay close to home and enjoyed the opportunity to dance with truly amazing artists. Here, 2nd-year MFA candidate Marissa Aucoin shares her experience at the Doug Varone & Dancers Summer Residency (DOVA). Keep an eye out throughout the semester as students continue to share their summer adventures!
By Marissa Aucoin
When confronted with the task of sharing my experiences during the Doug Varone and Dancers Summer Residency, I did not know where to begin. Being fully immersed in movement and related practices for three full weeks left a lot to be discussed, so much so that I began to doubt whether they could be properly presented within a single blog entry. I thought long and hard and decided to invite you all to experience a day in the life of a DOVA summer residency student.
The day starts off with an optional 8:00am Pilates class taught by company member Casey Loomis. Even though it is optional, there are another twenty plus students in the class who are eager to absorb as much information as they can. Each day, Casey takes us through a series of exercises designed to target specific muscle groups that will both strengthen and prepare our bodies for the work that lies ahead.
With invigorated muscles and centered minds we transition into the next class, technique. The workshop is structured so that every two days the technique instructor changes, allowing students to experience a variety of approaches to Varone’s work. Each company member has their own means of investigating the signature weighted swing of the arms and similar movement principles. As a student, you are able to enter the work from multiple perspectives and discover which is best suited for your body.
After technique, students rotate to phrase work. This is the time when overwhelming amounts of material are thrown at you and you have the challenge of physicalizing that material attempting to pick up as many details as possible. Like technique, each company member has their own teaching strategy, though many began by showing chunks of material without uttering a single word. In these moments students are able to absorb information without the influence of language to shape their understanding and interpretation. You leave the class with a stronger understanding of your individual learning style and artistic voice.
Finally, time for lunch! While students disperse to reenergize for the second half of the day there are several who choose to stick around and watch the company’s open rehearsal. This glimpse into the world of Varone’s company and creative process provides a lovely dose of creative stimulation to go along with your hummus and crackers.
Now that we have had time to digest, it’s onto improvisation or ballet. Students have the opportunity to take both classes over the three week intensive, one week of ballet, one of improvisation, and the final week is on a rotating schedule. Both classes support the work being done throughout the workshop as they emphasize body awareness, individual artistry, as well as a holistic movement approach.
The final class of the day is repertory. Upon registering for the intensive, students have the opportunity to choose between Large Rep, New Rep, Exploring Excerpts, and Dance Film. I decided to take Exploring Excerpts. In this class, we learn smaller sections from multiple pieces choreographed at different points in Varone’s career. Between Possession (1994), Bench Quartet (1986), and Let’s Dance (1996), we are challenged to embody the tone and intention specific to each work. Embodying these diverse works gives us a broader understanding of the Varone repertory and allows students to recognize how his work has and will continue to change.
While this overview shares an outline of the structure of the intensive, what is difficult to translate onto paper is the atmosphere created by this collection of dedicated and inspiring artists – both students and company members alike. This supportive environment encouraged everyone involved to investigate and share their personal discoveries in a safe, judgment free space that valued the individual artistry of each participant. It was truly an inspiring three weeks.