In the hallowed halls of the Carnahan-Jackson Dance Studios — which have seen the works of dance’s master choreographers, from George Balanchine to Alvin Ailey — a new generation of visionaries is emerging: Chautauqua School of Dance students.
At 5 p.m. Thursday, August 8 in the McBride Studio, 11 Apprentice and Festival dancers will showcase their new works in the annual Choreographic Workshop.
Three select pieces will be performed at the second — and final — Student Dance Gala at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater.
“The process has been really exciting because we’re working alongside our friends, which makes for really lighthearted rehearsals, but it’s also really interesting to get to see people that you dance with every day coming up with choreography,” said Apprentice dancer Elizabeth Corsig. “You really see that they know their dancers well.”
Corsig and fellow Apprentice ballerino Andrew Rossi are coordinating the workshop, tasked with scheduling rehearsals for each of the 11 choreographers and over 20 dancers. Additionally, Corsig herself is dancing in four of the pieces, while Rossi is choreographing one of his own.
“I’ve learned a lot just by the way each choreographer has a very unique process of how they start putting together a piece, how they come up with choreography,” Corsig said. “It’s been very interesting to see how each of their unique traits shine through in the way they choreograph.”
Adding to the challenge of choreographing four- to six-minute ballets in less than two weeks, the School of Dance required that the students use live music; most of the choreographers, Corsig and Rossi said, outsourced to School of Music students, with whom they cohabitate Bellinger Hall.
“It forces us to meet new people and interact with other people, other than just the people in the ballet department, but it’s nice because when you’re working with live music you can adjust the tempo or cut out something very easily if it’s too long,” Rossi said. “It’s definitely an added challenge.”
Rossi’s piece is set in a grid pattern, which the dancers ebb and flow from throughout the work, ultimately coming together at the end to dance in unison.
He said he initially conceived of a different concept, but after hearing the score composed for his piece, he went back to the drawing board.
“I knew going in that I wanted to have this grid formation, but as I’ve gone along I’ll watch a rehearsal, and I’ll see what I do and I’ll think of what I want to do next,” Rossi said. “I didn’t go into the first rehearsal with everything prepared.”
Despite the heavy emphasis on ballet in the school, the workshop is not a repertoire of classical, white ballets for the seasoned bunhead, according to Corsig.
“They encouraged us to try and really think outside the box and challenge ourselves to go beyond the vocabulary we use every day,” Corsig said. “So a lot of pieces are more contemporary, more neoclassical. Some are in pointe shoes, some are in flat shoes, some are in socks. There’s definitely a good mix of variety that’s really different from what we do in our other shows.”