Dance: “…an art form that leaves nothing but memories.” – Mark Morris

Katherine StewartBy Katherine, a Patriot Blogger

But oh, the memories dance continues to generate for me! If memories are all dance leaves behind, I have recently amassed some exceptional ones. This weekend I encountered the global modern dance scene without leaving the D.C.-Metro area. I was able to see performances by two vastly different international dance companies, experience distinct styles of dance education, and mingle with local patrons of the arts at an elegant on-campus soiree.  All of this in forty-eight hours, most occurring within an eight-minute stroll from my living room!

Saturday was a day of Mark Morris. (For those unfamiliar with this quintessential modern dance personality, Morris is an established choreographer that looks to music for inspiration for his wide range of dances. This makes for incredibly rhythmic, intricate dances that are speckled with humor, frankness, and daring. He also loves scarves.) In the morning, I took a class from one of his notable dancers who has been a fixture in the company for years. Her class explored shape and dynamics, focusing on precision in movement and counts. I was grateful for the strict teaching; it reminded me how satisfying clarity and specificity in dancing can be.

Check out the Mark Morris Dance Group. Most of the pieces they danced on the CFA stage are highlighted in this video clip.

On Saturday evening I helped with a School of Dance benefit reception held in one of our expansive, airy studios. It was set up like a ritzy lounge—with mood lighting, smooth jazz, and charming guests in attendance. The event was a precursor to Mark Morris Dance Group’s performance at the Center for the Arts. Dan Joyce, a professor in the School of Dance, interviewed two of GMU’s alumni that now perform with Mark Morris. The exceptional success of our alums with a world-renowned company of that caliber speaks to the effective preparation and well-rounded education that GMU and the School of Dance offers.

Listening to our alumni speak about their experience dancing professionally. President Cabrera was in attendance and found time to snap a picture!

Listening to our alumni speak about their experience dancing professionally. President Cabrera was in attendance and found time to snap a picture!

The following day I was able to take class in a dance style called “Gaga” that was founded by an Israeli dancer. (Before you start thinking I was dancing in a plastic egg wearing a meat dress, please understand that it is entirely unrelated to the pop star Lady Gaga!!) Sunday was my first experience with Gaga/people, an approachable class everyone—not just dancers—that is more meditative improvisation than strict “right-and-wrong” technique class. The teacher was co-director of Leesaar, a dance company originally based out of Tel Aviv. She pushed her participants to be present in their own bodies, embracing their natural movement without personal judgment. I loved being one in a range of individuals finding ease and comfort through dance.

I was so intrigued by my experience in class that I decided to attend the company’s performance later in the afternoon. Although there were overwhelming and shocking moments in the show like with most boundary-pushing dances, it was completely intriguing and interesting. It did not instruct what to feel, what to think, or how to view the dance. I got wrapped up in the zealous movement and the numerous changes in music and mood, not always sure of what was going to happen, but eager to see what came next.

My aim is to never feel regret when I think back to the performing arts opportunities I get during my time at Mason. I want to take every class I can, watch every performance that I can fit in my schedule. If I can experience something new and different by spending my Sunday afternoon in a theater, why would I pass that up? Studying dance does not guarantee a profitable outcome or steady job after graduation, but there is nothing I would rather spend these four critical years of my life investigating.  The skills I gain from being a dance major—be it dependability, organization, responsibility, collaboration, communication—will be invaluable in whatever I find myself pursuing in the future. I know that by taking advantage of these opportunities at my fingertips on campus and in D.C,. I’m creating memories that will last long after convocation.