Dancing in the USA

With thanks to student reporter, Lucy Floyd

On the 1st of April, 56 Performing Arts and Media students, including 11 dance students, embarked on the trip of a life time to the United States of America.

IMG_1601.JPGWe first flew to San Francisco in California. Upon arrival, the dance students, along with teachers Mr Wilcox and Mr Harada, went straight to a dance studio called ODC. It was here that we were fortunate enough to see their Youth Dance company Dance Jam perform a piece of their work to us. This was our first look at American dance training as well as the style of Contemporary dance in America, it was exciting for us to see this as well as see works of students the same age as us in another country. At the conclusion of their performance we each gifted them various NZ goodies such as pineapple lumps, jaffas, jet plane lollies and L&P, their faces were priceless and they loved all the chocolate!

The following day we went to the San Francisco Ballet to see dancers on the verge of becoming professionals have their morning class. It became clear to us that the ballet dancers in America are trained very differently to the dancers in NZ but again it was very interesting to see the contrasting techniques and the different ways of teaching.  Immediately after the ballet class we went back to ODC dance centre for 2 classes. The first was a contemporary class which saw us focusing on different ways to move our weight placement throughout our body and looked at how to use various body parts as a body base within a movement or movement sequence. The second class was a new experience for all of us, including Mr Wilcox and Mr Harada, it was an Afro-Brazilian class. We learnt some traditional African dance movements fused with the Brazilian culture, our teacher focused on movements based around the elements fire, water and wind. In the end we had learnt a 45 second sequence. Both classes were a lot of fun for all of us and we really loved the classes, people and studios at ODC.

On Friday morning we were fortunate enough to have a contemporary class at Alonzo Kings Lines Ballet. This class focused on the way the pelvis moves and rotates when we move our bodies. The idea was presented to us at the beginning of class and we were able to think about it throughout the class; all of us found it very helpful to think about and saw us all moving differently by the end of the class.  That evening we were able to go and see the Alonzo Kings company perform, it was an incredible show and all of us were in awe of how much strength and control each of the dancers had.

After a day of sightseeing in ‘San Fran,’ we headed over to New York City. Having visited Times Square, Hard Rock Cafe, Statue of Liberty, Empire State building and the Hudson River, we were very lucky to visit the Lincoln Centre of the Arts on Tuesday. This centre is home to Julliard School, New York City Ballet, American Ballet School and the Philharmonic Orchestra. We were taken on a guided tour where we learnt about the history of each of the spaces as well as the acoustics in each of the performance spaces. It was fun to see rehearsals of the Opera as well as the orchestra.

That afternoon we travelled to Harlem and were given the opportunity of a lifetime. We went on a guided tour of the Apollo Theatre. This theatre is the place where the Jackson 5 rehearsed and it is the space where so many greats have performed. Mr Apollo spoke to our group, firstly offering us life advice before inviting some of us on stage to do and impromptu talent show. The dance girls performed a Fosse piece and even Mr Wilcox joined in. After seeing the dressing rooms, backstage area and wall of signatures we left feeling start struck to have stood on the same stage as Beyonce!

IMG_1673.JPGWhilst in New York, the dance students went to two dance centres, Broadway Dance Centre and Steps on Broadway. At both studios, each of us got to select two classes to participate in. We were able to choose from jazz, ballet, hip hop, modern as well as a range of conditioning classes. All of us took this opportunity to try new genres of dance and, as it turns out, we had some very talented hip hop dancers amongst us! I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to try new dance styles and get a better understanding of the sort of dancer that I am.

Along with the drama students we attended a Broadway workshop one day. In our first class we all learnt the song and choreography to a song from the Broadway musical, ‘Wicked.’ Our teacher was a performer from the show itself and she was fabulous. All of us really enjoyed this workshop and it left us with big smiles on our faces. Immediately after, the dance girls had a dance class with a Broadway dancer. We learnt two fun and high energy pieces from the musicals ‘Memphis’ and ‘Mama Mia,’ again we had a ton of fun.

In New York we were able to go and see two dance performances by The Dance Centre of Harem and Stephen Potronio. Both companies were absolutely stunning and were thoroughly enjoyed by all. We also got to see two Broadway musicals: ‘Something Rotten’ which left all of us in stitches of laughter and ‘Chicago’ which was highly anticipated throughout the trip by the dance girls.  To top it all off, we also watched the New York Spring Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. The set was amazing and the Rockette dancers were stunning! This was definitely a highlight for me.

After flying to Los Angeles, California and doing some sightseeing and star stalking, the dancers went over to the Edge Performing Arts. As in New York, each of us chose two classes each. The hip hop classes provided entertainment for all our students whether participating or watching. A highlight for injured Delilah was watching a class taught by a dancer from the Alvin Ailey company. This studio had world class teachers and each of us took something valuable from our time there. The following night we went to see Alvin Ailey perform. The performance was truly inspiring and all of us left the theatre with an even greater love for dance.

The trip as a whole provided the dancers with the opportunity of a lifetime. To go to so many classes and see so many world class companies perform was invaluable to each of us. All of us fell in love with dance all over again and that is due to the incredible experiences that each of us had.  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity and would highly recommend it to any students thinking about going in the future. I would like to say a huge thank you to Miss Bishop, Mr Wilcox and Mr Harada for organizing the dancers, we had an amazing time and know that it was down to your hard work and organization, Thank You!