For the trained dancer, choreography is hardly just a set of steps.
Last Monday, 29 September, Karl Rogers, Knox alum and choreographer, gave students the opportunity to take part in a master dance class in the auxiliary gymnasium that involved not only modern techniques but also an emphasis on bringing meaning to the footwork. Rogers graduated Knox in 1998 and is currently a dancer with New York City choreographer David Dorfman. Dorfman, along with his dance company, came to Knox to teach a series of workshops and to perform in 2007.
The first half of his two-part workshop centered around beginning modern technique. To warm up, the dancers were asked to perform an array of movements intended to make them comfortable with dancing and less conscious of the way they looked. Afterwards, several vastly different pieces were taught, including Rogers’ own version of the Electric Slide. Another dance featured steps that were far less structured and allowed the dancers to move at their own pace, interpreting the steps as they wished.
In the evening, Rogers led an improvisational workshop that included not a prescribed set of steps, but a unique chance to learn more about dance, and in turn, about oneself. Dancers were split into partners and each pair introduced themselves through a short interpretive dance, done without any music. After the introductions, the dancers were asked to give a response to their partners. The aim was for each dancer to truly witness what her partner was trying to say. Following these exercises, the dancers spoke to each other to explain their steps. Rogers then led the class in simple but powerful solo work, in which the dancers were told to portray certain phrases in movement.
Freshman Ashley Bieze, who participated in the class, said, “You feel this connectedness with who you really are. You have to peel back the layers of who you think you are to get at who you actually are.”
Later on, the dances were combined and edited to include the bare minimum of steps; only the most intense ones were left.
Freshman Emma Poland also participated in the workshop and said, “Looking at the solos people were doing, it was interesting to see that the movement was either really confident or drawn in.”
In this manner, Rogers was able to construct a workshop that involved much more than prescribed steps. The dancers learned about themselves and each other without a word; the dances did all the talking.