Over break, six dancers from Knox took part in the Chicago Dance Project, which offered the opportunity to stay in Chicago and experience life as dancers in an urban setting.
During the first week, each student attended open classes of their choosing at various professional companies in Chicago, ranging from ballet to tap, jazz or musical theater.
“We had to research where we were going to go,” junior Kyla Tully said. “Everyone did about five classes.”
The second and final week of the program was an intensive week working with Margi Cole’s Dance COLEctive. During this week the Knox students took a yoga class at the COLEctive every morning at 9 a.m. followed by either a modern or ballet class and contact improv classes in the afternoons. They also had the opportunity to learn variations performed by the actual company. Tully explained that this week simulated what the COLEctive offers in the summer as a prelude to auditions for the company.
The Dance COLEctive was selected as the focus for this year’s Chicago Dance Project because Artistic Director Margi Cole hosted a residency at Knox College during spring term 2011.
“Students here at Knox got to experience the Dance COLEctive here on campus and then continue that relationship,” Assistant Professor of Dance Kathleen Ridlon said.
As part of the program, the Knox students also attended a showing of “Memphis the Musical” and a performance by the Deeply Rooted Dance Theater.
Ridlon coordinated this year’s Chicago Dance Project with Associate Professor of Dance Jennifer Smith. The model for the 2011 program was based on Smith’s design for a similar program from 2009 with Thodos Dance Chicago.
Regarding the Chicago Dance Project, Ridlon said, “It’s something that’s definitely going to happen again.”
The next opportunity will most likely be in 2013. She likes the relationship being built between Knox and the COLEctive although the program’s future offerings depend on the Knox dancers and their interests.
The Chicago Dance Project was intended for dancers considering an urban career in dance after graduation. In order to simulate this lifestyle, the six Knox students stayed in downtown Chicago at the International Hostel and traveled to the various studios via public transportation.
“I’ve always planned on living in Chicago post-college,” sophomore Kelsey Cullum said.
Cullum, who is from the Chicago suburbs, enjoyed the feeling of coming into a new studio and succeeding in the class being taught.
“It proved that we could dance after college,” she said.
Both Tully and Cullum enjoyed speaking with the professional dancers at the COLEctive about their careers. They found that most dancers they spoke to had a different job on top of their work with the company.
Every day during the intensive week, each Knox student got to spend their lunch break with a different dancer from the COLEctive and learn about the life of real professional dancers. They also ate out together as a whole group the day before the program began.
“We all think that you get into a company and you start making a ton of money, but there are stepping stones,” Tully said.