Story and photos by PAUL MOSSINE
Matt and Emily Kent watch as Stephens dancers participate in an improv exercise.
The dancers of Stephens College are already known to be a tightly knit group of students, but a master class taught by two visiting choreographers on Monday tested their improvisatory and collaborative skill.
The master class taught by Matt and Emily Kent, two freelance choreographers associated with the internationally recognized Pilobolus Dance Theater, stressed the importance of cooperation and spontaneity in dance and in the creation of art in general.
“Our work comes out of improvisation,” Matt Kent said. “It’s a very collaborative approach to making art, so everyone’s involved: dancers, lighting designers, choreographers.”
The Kents, who were working on a show last week at the Center of Creative Arts in St. Louis, were invited to teach the workshop at the Macklanburg Theater on the Stephens campus.
Ricardo Rique-Sanchez faces his peers before starting a practice exercise.
Matt said that no one person’s artistic vision drives the productions he works on and he wants to instill the same thought process in the students he works with. He said this is achieved by focusing on attentiveness between dancers in improvisation.
Ricardo Rique-Sanchez, a Stephens student who participated in the master class, said he highly appreciated this distinctive approach. “I liked the improv,” he said. “It was very unique, it wasn’t just ‘flail your arm around’ like with a ballet or jazz dancer. You gotta see it!”
Ricardo Rique-Sanchez takes advice from Matt Kent as Ryan Johnson and Jamie Andes look on.
Rique-Sanchez said relying on another dancer to pick him up during one partnered exercise was new to him, especially when his partner was female.
“I don’t like getting picked up. I look little, but I’m like 170. That’s pretty heavy, even for the guys, so usually I’m the base.”
Jessica Ray, also a dancer at Stephens, said she enjoyed the level of trust the dancers had for one other during the exercise.
“It’s really exhilarating to work that way,” she said.
Emily Frazier, left, and Jessica Ray support Leah Franklin at the Macklanburg Theater on Monday.
Carol Estey, chair of the dance department at Stephens College, said guest artists are often invited to teach at Stephens for performing arts students. She said she enjoyed seeing students benefit from established professionals in field.
“If someone we know is nearby, we get them in,” Estey said.
Dancers form a discussion circle on the stage at Macklanburg Theater at Stephens College.