On May 26, a small group of dancers and spectators gathered at CalArts for an invitation-only showing of new works by acclaimed choreographers Laurence Blake, Rosanna Gamson and Camille A. Brown. The show was the culmination of this year’s Evelyn Sharp/CalArts Summer Choreographic Residency, an annual program presented by The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance in partnership with the Evelyn Sharp Foundation.
The two-week residency commissions three nationally recognized artists and companies to create new choreographic works on the CalArts campus. During this time, the choreographers enjoy ample rehearsal and creative research time, as well as access to CalArts’ theater facilities and support staff. In addition, each of the artists hires a current CalArts dance student to work as an understudy or artistic intern, as well as additional students and alumni as desired or needed.
Blake, an assistant dean at The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance, and faculty member Gamson were both choreographic residents in the summer of 2014, and the program has given them opportunity to flesh out new work. In fact, Gamson’s Still/Restless was presented at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) this past weekend.
Blake took the opportunity to experiment with and process new ideas into a movement form. Of the residency, he says:
Having the freedom to research new movement through collaboration with both professional and student dance artists gave me insight into my own choreographic process. It allowed me to break into new areas of movement development, which has expanded my choreographic voice. This is such a rare and unique experience for dance artists, both performers and choreographers, and it needs to be celebrated and nurtured. To have this be a part of the CalArts experience speaks volumes about our dedication to experimental dance and the need for creative process to discover this landscape.
New York-based Brown, founder of dance company Camille A. Brown & Dancers (CABD), used the residency to begin on a new work titled ink. Drawing on the history of social dance from the South Sudanese capital Juba, and influenced by game playing, hip hop and gestural work, ink complicates the divide between dance, music, body and instrument by exploring hip hop as a musical form and cultural phenomenon.
“This residency was an important step in my process,” Brown wrote in an email. “I often find taking that first step is the hardest when creating a new work. I am happy to say, we took that important step and are excited about the journey!”
Brown hired student Dion Pratt (Dance BFA 17) as her understudy and states, “It was a great experience having Dion [Pratt] with us. His questions, responses and observations were important contributions to our process. We were thrilled to share the space with him and look forward to seeing him rock the dance world.”
As an added component of the residency, Brown will be returning to CalArts this coming academic year to teach a series of master classes.