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NC State Dancers Begin New Semester with Artist Residencies

Photo by: Shocphoto
Photo by: Shocphoto

In an old warehouse in downtown Durham, nine dancers, dressed in pantaloons and antique blouses, gathered to film footage for an upcoming screendance, Sweat. Prior to this, the dancers had spent over a dozen hours that very same weekend working with a choreographer to bring the project to fruition from beginning to end.

A week later, another group of dancers spent their weekend in a studio tucked away in Carmichael Gymnasium. Over the course of three long days, these dancers pushed themselves to learn a new piece by choreographer Juel D. Lane for their upcoming performance in March.

Between classes, homework and other responsibilities, NC State dancers manage their time and engage fully in these artistic experiences. This intensive process is very familiar for student dancers, who are held to a professional standard in and out of the studio. Weekend-long dance rehearsals, or artist residencies, are a few consecutive days in which an outside choreographer visits the school, meets the dancers, creates a work and completes it before they leave.

This month, both academic companies, State Dance Company and Panoramic Dance Project, participated in artist residencies.

State Dance Company worked with choreographer and filmmaker Britt Whitmoyer Fishel to create her upcoming screendance Sweat. The process of making a dance film is unique and requires students to not only learn new choreography but master it in order to capture it on film after only two days. Whitmoyer Fishel also brought the dancers to a warehouse-turned-arts-space, The Fruit, in Durham, NC to document the work.

LilyGrace Wolfe, a junior in State Dance Company commented on the experience, saying, “It was so much fun working with Britt and get that first-hand experience with the process of filming a screen dance!”

“The artists have to charge ahead full speed in the creation process, rehearsals and then become performance ready for the camera, all in about 48 hours. It’s an intensive and exhausting process, but incredibly rewarding,” explains Whitmoyer Fishel of the residency process.

According to Whitmoyer Fishel, Sweat was inspired by the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory Fire in 1911 that killed 145 workers, a large majority of them being immigrant women. The effects of the fire raised concern about factory safety standards and led to the establishment of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) which advocated for better working conditions.

“The work itself focuses on the relationships of the women, individually and within the group (many family members worked together in the factory) and their legacy beyond the fire,” says Whitmoyer Fishel. The overarching themes in Sweat are evident in other State Dance Company works, which can be seen in their concert in April.

Panoramic Dance Project was visited by dancer, filmmaker and choreographer, Juel D. Lane. Their weekend was spent not only learning a new piece for their upcoming concert but adapting to a unique style. Lane reflected on the weekend with these dancers, saying:

“Working with the students of Panoramic was a treat in itself. My goal was to learn the students’ personalities in three days. Each dancer was aware, disciplined and excited to work. We started off with a few phrases that eventually turn into mini solos. I was so moved by each dancer, so I decided to highlight their gifts. It was also nice to connect with my sister, the brilliant Francine Ott. The students are so lucky to have her. NC State Dance Department has heart, skills and a passion to further education through the lens of dance. These students represent an array of dancers of the 21st century!”

Lane’s piece will premiere in the Panoramic Dance Project Concert this March.

Guest Artist residencies give dancers insight into the professional field of dance. Moreover, they allow dancers to make connections and expand their breadth of experiences. For students who wish to enter the field professionally after graduation, artist residencies are especially important for establishing relationships and gaining real-world experience. The NC State Dance Program strives to provide these opportunities for its students and they rise to the occasion each time.

Get tickets to both spring concerts through this link, or contact Ticket Central at 919.515.1100.