As the most recent addition to the schools at USC, the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance has filled the University’s void for performance art, thus bringing the community of artists full circle. Aside from its private sphere of influence, Kaufman has raised the standards for college dance programs nationwide. Claiming its title as the first conservatory style program at a private research university, the school cultivates their students’ artistic and academic growth at an elite level.
On Feb. 26 and 27, the Kaufman School of Dance put on its spring midterm showings, titled “Works in Progress.” The two performances showcased the dancers magnificently through the presentation of student choreography, as well as pieces set by the faculty. Both performances took place in PED 207, the large dance studio in the Physical Education Building in which the dancers practice in daily.
The first student choreography showing took place on Friday at 3:30 pm. This singular performance captured various highly innovative students through the presentation of their choreography. At the beginning of the semester, students who wanted to choreograph a piece began their choreographic processes.
“A lot of choreographers had visions for their pieces and contacted who they thought would fit the vision they had … It was a very casual process. Everyone that wanted to make one could make one. The ones that weren’t ready weren’t showcased,” said Justin Epstein, a freshman majoring in dance.
Independently choosing rehearsal times and spaces, the student choreographers had full control of their pieces. This independence resulted in a wholly encompassing show, covering the dancers’ fluency in movement and the choreographers’ sense of direction, formation and overall aesthetics. Each piece held itself to a high standard, demonstrating “the new movement” through the dancers’ superb performance in the intimate studio setting.
All 14 of the dance works from Friday’s showing were incredible. Three of these pieces — “manly-ish” by Austyn Rich, “On and Up” by Sophia Oddi and “Le Grand Pas” by Justin Epstein — were featured in one of the Saturday night performances. Other distinguished pieces include Jordan Johnson’s “Sons & Daughters,” Alyssa Allen’s “Dying Star,” Ardyn Flynt and Helen Gratch’s “This is a Dance” and Madison Vomastek’s “Someday Girl.”
The Repertory Works in Progress took place on Saturday with three showings. Among the collection of master choreographers presented were Paul Taylor, Jiří Kylián and Kaufman’s artistic advisor, William Forsythe. Each performance had a different cast which constituted a diverse representation of the dancers and the choreography. Out of the four pieces shown, two were set in the fall semester and premiered at their December show, “Groundwork,” whereas the other two were recently set and had their debut performances.
Although the repertory works were beautifully executed by the dancers, Epstein commented on the drawbacks of performing in-studio.
“I feel like it’s harder to give the audience the full sense of the magnificence of the pieces that were created … Especially since Lickety Split and Cloven Kingdom have so much lighting in them. So it’s a full experience in the theater, and we don’t really get to give that to the audience in the studio, and the stage is bigger, so we have more to play with. We kind of get squished in here,” Epstein remarked.
Regardless of these disadvantages, the pieces were truly breathtaking. The dancers’ passionate execution of the pieces authenticated the movement. Every step seamlessly flowed together, revealing the countless hours spent training and rehearsing. Confident yet humble and expressive yet mature, the dancers’ movement was full of conviction. This earnestness allowed the audience to be active viewers while simultaneously enacting on their fantasies.
There is truly something to be said about the students’ ability to perform so effortlessly in an intimate setting. The last piece of the four set by the faculty, Lickety Split, fittingly closed the show. Performed by three pairs of boy-girl couples, this piece expressed the romantic connection between each couple, thus ending the show on a heartfelt note. Nowhere else in the world, throughout the duration of this final piece, could compare to the love present in the room.
Helen Gratch, a freshan majoring in dance, echoes the warmth so eminently portrayed in Lickety Split.
“I think most people perceive the dance world as being so brutal, mean and competitive, but it really doesn’t have to be. All of the guest teachers we’ve had have remarked how they’ve never been in such a positive environment. We’ve become such a tight knit community while still pushing each other in the right ways without knocking each other down,” Gratch said.
For those who missed these shows, additional performances through Kaufman include its end-of-year performances on April 28 and 29 in Bing Theatre.