“It has to fall, and join…step, step, step! Yes!”
The enthusiasm of Jeremy Lindberg was contagious as he showed Knox dancer, sophomore Krista Nordgren, steps of a new ballet. A guest artist at Knox, Lindberg spent the first week of term working with the dance ensemble, a class that allows students to have an experience similar to that of working with a professional company.
Lindberg choreographed a ballet piece and a flamenco piece for the ensemble, with five dancers participating in each. Although he picked out possible songs before coming to Knox, Lindberg waited until he actually arrived on campus to develop the pieces.
“I thought, I could try to force it on their bodies or I could see how they moved,” Lindberg said. He played his song choices for the dancers and then, after seeing how they responded, was able to create his choreography.
The ballet that resulted took the form of a graceful waltz.
“I want it to be perceived as these ladies going to a very elegant affair,” said Lindberg. The storyline revolves around the dancers attending a ball but slipping away to a terrace to dance outside the formal affair.
The second piece, a flamenco, is entitled simply “La Noche (The Night),” and uses a blend of traditional and more edgy, modern flamenco music.
Lindberg characterized flamenco as the “traditional dance of the Spanish gypsy of southern Spain.” The dance relies on intricate footwork and stylized movement of the hands and arms. Women will use delicate finger movements, while men concentrate on stronger arm motions. Women also make intentional use of their long skirts, incorporating them into the dance as part of the choreography.
Flamenco is not limited to just dance, however.
“When you say ‘flamenco art,’ you really must say flamenco song, dance, or music,” said Lindberg. Flamenco also involves a singer and several instruments, including drums and guitar, and both are types of art in their own right.
Learning a new style of dance and creating and perfecting two whole pieces in just a week took a lot of work. Members of the ensemble danced for numerous hours every day, Monday through Sunday. Lindberg also had to make sure they mastered “not just the counts and the lines but the style—what’s behind this piece,” he said.
However, the members of the dance ensemble were enthusiastic about the challenge.
“I like learning a dance and cleaning it right away,” said senior Katie Nellett. “And [Lindberg’s] funny, he’s fun to work with. It’s good to hear the same things from a different person in a different way.”
Senior Karin Rudd appreciated the opportunity to spend a week working on a piece that was strictly ballet.
“We don’t do a lot of ballet here,” she said, “and having a male teach ballet is very different than having a female teach ballet.”
Lindberg shared in the enjoyment of the week, but for different reasons.
“Coming to a liberal arts college, the students in the classes have a lot of interests in mind. I have time and license to share about history and my experiences with things. They’re interested in that and it’s very refreshing.”
Lindberg, who teaches dance at the University of Oklahoma at Norman, usually has a large number of students who intend to dance professionally.
“When I was sitting in the Gizmo, you heard the students talking about all the things they’re reading and learning—interests beyond just their major,” he said. “We have certain majors who fully expect to audition for a dance company when they get out. The goals are different. I get revived that I can share about things more than that.”
Lindberg has been a guest artist at Knox before, due to connections with assistant professor of dance Kathleen Ridlon.
“Professor Ridlon and I went to graduate school together and have kept in close touch,” he said. “We’re colleagues even though we’re miles apart. It’s working out very beautifully.”
Even after he leaves, Lindberg’s pieces will continue to be polished and performed by the dance ensemble, which hopes to premiere their flamenco piece at this year’s International Fair.
“I hope that the students have gotten something out of this week,” Lindberg said. “It’s been a very grueling week. But they’re very focused—‘I’m here, I’m present, I’m in the room.’ It’s very nice. I feel like I’ve contributed.”
Jeremy Lindberg is an associate professor of dance at the University of Oklahoma at Norman. He has trained at the Joffrey Ballet, Boston Ballet, and Connecticut Ballet, and has been dancing flamenco since 1993. He has performed with several dance companies in the New England area and created numerous ballet, flamenco, and modern dance works.