The University of Utah Department of Modern Dance Blog

Monday, April 7, 2014

Screendance Pick of the Month

During my recent interview of Ellen Bromberg she agreed to launch a new blog series highlighting one of her passions; Screendance. For her inaugural Screendance Pick of the Month Ellen has selected Dom Svobode by Thierry De Mey.

"This section (an excerpt from a longer film) directed by Belgian filmmaker and composer Thierry de Mey, demonstrates site, sound, camera (gravity at play), editing  and extreme risk possible only on screen."

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Humans of the MCD :: Brian Nelson

In the third installment of Humans of the MCD Allison tracked down busy sophomore Brian Nelson; the MCD's one and only double modern and ballet major. Beautiful, interesting interview. Don't miss! 

"My favorite piece to be a part of was Jay Kim's piece for Utah Ballet... he definitely had an idea as a choreographer and he came in every day with material for us but at the same time it felt like a collaboration... My favorite one to watch was honestly, every time I see a show by the Modern Dept I get so jealous that I haven't done any rep like that because it's just so fun to watch how free people move. When I saw Eric's piece for PDC last year [Disappearing Days] I started to cry because I couldn't imagine moving like that ever, and that made me feel very trapped in my body and sad..." 

Full interview here: 

Photo Credit : Allison Shir

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Humans of the MCD :: Glenda Staples

"I love the students. When I watch them I just feel like 'Wow, look at how successful they are at what they're doing!' I love that feeling." 

In the second installment of Humans of the MCD Allison Shir interviews Glenda Staples, the MCD's Administrative Officer and mom-away-from-home. 

Full interview:
Humans of the MCD :: Glenda Staples

Photo Credit: Florian Alberge

Humans of the MCD :: Allison Shir

The Marriott Center for Dance (MCD) is full of people with interesting stories and unique perspectives on what it means to be a dancer. Inspired by Humans of New York we're beginning our own storytelling project - Humans of the MCD. 

Today's human is Allison Shir, first year graduate student in Modern Dance. Most recently from Tel Aviv, she talks about her touring job with The Aluminum Show, creating your own opportunities, and a few other stories of life as a modern dancer.

"I was really influenced by the mentality in Israel, I was influenced by how I was surviving; how I worked, how I got around on my bicycle, how I managed with learning the language... the food, the sea - I lived very close to the sea."

Full interview:
Humans of the MCD : Allison Shir

Photo: Rob Tennant

Monday, March 17, 2014

Gallim Dance at the U.

Whenever we have a guest artist in the department we have an informal Q&A brown bag lunch in our triangle lounge. I walked in a few minutes late to this brown bag, just in time to hear Emily Terndrup say “There is a niche for you in dance.” Emily was here with Gallim Dance, performing in their evening-length work Blush. Gallim Dance, a New York based contemporary dance company, creates and performs worldwide original work by artistic director and founder Andrea Miller. Gallim’s performance of Blush was presented by the Department in partnership with Kingsbury Hall, at the Marriott Center for Dance’s Hayes Christensen Theatre.

Back to Emily – she is a U alumna - a BFA graduate originally from West Des Moines, Iowa. She’s talking about moving from Salt Lake City to build her career in New York. “Learn to take class for your self, give yourself corrections; ask ‘What am I going to get out of class today?” The topic turns to auditioning, and immediately the room fills with that tense, deer-in-the-headlights look we all get when thinking about the audition process. (Do you ever stop being nervous about auditions?) Emily advises coming to an audition as if you are already employed. “Be the most evolved person you can be,” she says, “You can bring something to them, show that this is who you are – it might work for them or not but that’s who you are.”

I grabbed a few minutes with Emily after the lunch to ask more questions.

What do you like about being in Gallim Dance?
“It’s challenging repertory and dance; physical, dramatic, edgy, exciting stuff.”

How did your education here at the U prepare you for your dance career?
“It gave me a versatile base; beyond technique, I create work, I teach and I know how to improvise – being able to improvise is huge. And all that stuff that feels like a support to dance but actually informs your whole career – website, marketing – I know how to do all that.”

How do you make a full-time tour work with your life? How do you take care of yourself?
“Take responsibility for your own sustainability. Find things that make you happy and keep those near you. I mean sometimes you feel split between being a dancer and being a person – make choices. Ask yourself - what do you want to give?”

The advice from her brown bag lunch came in handy for me right away. After Blush finished Emily and the rest of the company head back to New York. Artistic Director Andrea Miller and Associate Director Francesca Romo stayed in Salt Lake City for two weeks to teach classes in the department and set the piece Pupil Suite on nine dancers. I decided to audition, and man was I nervous. I lost the counts and took off on my own improvisation halfway through a combination; I blew it! 

In spite of my flub, I made the piece. But now to learn 17 minutes of work in two weeks - no small feat. Pupil Suite premiered in 2010 and continues in the company's rep. It's a full throttle dance set to Balkan Beat Box and Bellini. We rehearsed for a month and performed the 17 minute work during the Performing Dance Company show. After the first run of the piece we were gasping for air. The endurance took a few weeks to build, but by the end of the show we hit our stride. 

Gallim Dance's "fearless physicality grounded by deep humanity and expressed through the madness and joy of the imagination" is ingrained in Andrea and Fran's process. They are exuberant and deeply engaged with us as individual dancers. The rehearsals are more than learning a dance, they are an exploration of the characters that live inside each of usAt the beginning of the residency Emily said "There is a niche for you in dance." An ode to the imagination, Pupil Suite is a playful romp that lends itself to finding this niche.

Emily’s photo taken from

Rehearsal photos by Rob Tennant.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Frames of Impact

“Scale, spatial and temporal design – it’s about balance,” Ellen crosses one purple jeaned leg over the other, “I mean, you have to be very careful that the media doesn’t drown out the choreography.” She makes a little tent with her fingers, “Media has its own language, with its own internal references. I want to be sure each section is different but still referencing the same world.” I am sitting in Ellen’s office opposite a small red couch, next to a tall bookshelf filled with awards, books, and VHS tapes. She is describing Frames of Impact; a collaborative work with Doug Varone for Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company and Doug Varone and Dancers. Doug is creating the choreography, Ellen the media. Charlotte Boyd-Christensen, former Artistic Director of Ririe-Woodbury, co-commissioned the two art makers together to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary season.
Doug has been choreographing on his company, sending rehearsal footage and music selections to Ellen. Ellen takes inspiration from music and choreography to shoot footage and create video, which she sends back to Doug. In February Doug and Ellen met in Salt Lake City for a week of work in person. “Ririe-Woodbury has been fabulous, we had a whole week on the Rose Theatre main stage, a crew, projectors, and dancers to test the media and timing with the choreography.” They focused on bringing the two elements together, Ellen editing the video and Doug making changes to the choreography, changes which will be brought back to his company in New York.

Her eyes light up as she talks about the process of making the work. “As a choreographer as well as a media designer it's been interesting for me to gain insights into how Doug both creates and articulates his work...” She pauses, “Image, choreography, it's a balance; these things something greater than the individual elements has the potential to emerges. The experience is augmented. Something else is unlocked.” See Frames of Impact performed by Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company on April 24, 25, 26, 2014.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Struggle, Seniors, and Carl Flink

Each year the seniors at the U have to make a tough decision. They select a guest artist to create an original work for the class to perform at the spring Senior Concert. This is, according to senior Samantha Matsukawa, “an arduous decision making process.” After much deliberation the class of 2014 invited Carl Flink of Black Label Movement (BLM) to the U. Carl was a good choice for the U because of his diverse background as athlete, professional dancer, lawyer, and dance department chair. This diverse background challenged the class and gave each person a way to connect with his work. 

Black Label Movement says that they 'do their own stunts.' This Twin Cities-based dance theater is known for physical movement and a diverse repertory of collaborations. One such collaboration is called “bodystorming,” a creative research process where human movers act as molecules that diffuse, undergo reactions, and generate/absorb forces. Using bodystorming BLM has collaborated with scientists around the world, integrating science and dance to find answers to questions for both fields. You may have seen BLM before, they were featured in the Ted talk entitled “A Modest Proposal,” which suggested the use of dancers instead of powerpoint in presentations. The Ted talk choreography has just a hint of irony, highlighting Flink's interest in subtle social critique. 

Carl’s residency at the U began with a long weekend of six hour rehearsals. Carl expects intense physicality, no compromises. Part of his process involves setting up impossible situations, pushing the dancers to question what it means to dance. Samantha explained that these situations made struggle essential to the creation of the piece.  “No one was doing things perfectly, because you couldn’t, because that was the point – continuing to push and struggle, to get closer.” This ‘getting closer’ meant getting closer to the edge of possible movement as well as building community as a class. Carl deftly facilitated this challenging creative process, struggling with the dancers as they worked towards the culmination of their four years together. “We talked about tribe a lot,” Samantha said, “it’s been a long time since we danced all in the same room, and been a long time since we were all in a piece together, so it was really nice to have everyone there and all be doing this together - as a tribe.”

(Images taken from