Teaching at Knox has become somewhat of a homecoming for Jeremy Lindberg.
“When I come back, I feel like I’m coming back to my Illinois dance home because the Knox experience is similar to some of the experiences Kathleen (Ridlon) and I had at Smith College,” Lindberg, an Affiliate Associate Professor of Ballet and Flamenco at the University of Oklahoma, said.
Lindberg met Ridlon — Knox’s Assistant Dance Professor — while they were studying at Smith College together. Since then, they have guest taught at each other’s universities, this being Lindberg’s fifth time teaching at Knox as he taught and choreographed a piece for Jennifer Smith’s Dance Ensemble class.
“I’ve choreographed two ballets and two flamenco ballets. This one was a Spanish dance kind of fusion work with a bit of flamenco and a bit of classical Spanish dance. I think there’s a little modern dance and ballet thrown in there too,” Lindberg said.
The dance choreographed by Lindberg, as well as all other pieces the Dance Ensemble learns in the class, will be showcased at a showing in May.
“Because (Lindberg) was only here for a week it was pretty intense rehearsals and long hours spent, but I really enjoyed it,” said Amber Lane-Bortell, senior, a student in the class.
Having very little time to learn a full dance was difficult; on top of that, the style of the dance was something not many of the six students have done before.
“None of us have really done that much flamenco, so there was a lot of learning technique. There’s a lot of different rhythms and you use special shoes and clapping and different stuff like that. I’ve done ballet and contemporary so it was different for me. Those of us that got cast in the piece, we picked it up fairly quickly, but were not doing super advanced stuff. By the end of the week I feel like we got it down,” Lane-Bortell said.
The dance was inspired by the narrative of the gitanos; Spanish Roma that were often seen as outsiders and were often run out of towns, which is where much of flamenco’s style stems from.
“The first section is very somber and it’s very introspective, dealing with sadness and grief. Then, as it works on by the end it’s very celebratory,” Lindberg said. “I gave them the idea that as they worked through the beginning of the piece (that) is more jazz flamenco, that they could perhaps draw from their own experience something of sorrow or grief in their own lives and then use the dance as a catalyst to go into the last part which is very joyus, very fun, very percussive, dance-y and fast.”
Teaching at a large school like the University of Oklahoma, Lindberg notices a lot of differences when coming to teach at Knox.
“(At the University of Oklahoma) the students are looking to have performing careers. There’s a lot of emphasis on being in the studio and dancing for six hours a day between class and rehearsal,” Lindberg said.
One of Lindberg’s favorite parts about teaching at Knox is the students, with their many interests.
“It’s nice to deal with students who have all kinds of interesting rich things that they are doing (…) A lot of the students have other majors and are taking dance as an enrichment, something they love (…) The students are so intellectually based. They really are thinkers, they are creative and they’re really invested in the work they are doing,” Lindberg said.
Students who take the Dance Ensemble class enjoy having many different visiting professors during the term, all of whom specialize in different styles of dance, allowing students to learn a myriad of dances straight from the experts.
“He’s very positive and really enjoys coming to Knox. He brings a lot of energy and humor to it,” Lane-Bortell said. “I think the piece turned out really well. I’m excited about it. I think we just had a lot of fun trying a new dance style.”
The Dance Ensemble’s showing is from May 21-23.