The University of Utah Department of Modern Dance Blog

Monday, October 22, 2012

Spotlight on Guest Artist John Beasant III 

John Beasant III is an independent dance artist regularly teaching, performing, and presenting his own work across the country.  Formerly a company member for Doug Varone and Dancers and Shapiro and Smith, John has also worked with a number of up and coming choreographers and been a guest artist for The Limón Dance Company.  His recent choreographic commissions include work for The Modern American Dance Company (St. Louis, MO), and the Juilliard School (NYC, NY).

As the first guest artist of the 2012 school year, John was no stranger to the MCD studios.  Like all our modern dance majors and grads, John Beasant III, spent countless hours here honing his craft before completing his MFA in 2009, though he did most of his graduate studies in the Department in the 1990’s.  This fall in the midst of his thriving career as an independent artist, he returned to the University of Utah to work with our current students.  His 3-week residency included daily technique class, teaching advance improvisation, choreographing for PDC and a brown bag lunch discussion.  Grateful for the mentorship he received while in the department, John also carved out time to meet one on one with students to chat, answer questions and offer advice. I took advantage of one of those meeting to ask John a few questions.  Here is what he had to say.

(A) What’s it like being back?
(J) Oh it’s great!

(A) What are your impressions of the current students?
(J) They have met and exceeded my expectations!  I enjoy their curiosity and questioning.  I prefer thinking bodies and inquisitive minds.   And, they’re real responsive to feedback.

(A) Do you find students here are unique in that respect?
(J) Yeah well, this department has such a focus on contemporary dance and study.  It’s special, the level of inquiry and the intelligent bright dancers.  There’s a real fostering of research development too.  

(A) What can you tell me about your PDC piece?
(J) Well, one constant in my work is the human element, relationships and discoveries about the human condition.  I am always looking for something true and honest.  In this piece each dancer has a unique personal journey traveling through intimate and environmental spaces, to ultimately find a common ground as a community of people. It’s really a celebration of the work and play of artists.

(A) If you could pass on just one piece of advice to the students here what would it be?
(J) Be yourself, find something true, unique, and special inside the process for you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

University of Utah Department of Modern Dance
Newsletter, vol. 2 (Fall 2012)

Much has happened since our last newsletter in 2010-11.  The fledgling initiatives of two years ago have become integral parts of the departmental architecture today, helping to set our current course and lay the groundwork for future growth.  SaltDance Fest completed its second successful installment last summer bringing international artists Marina Mascarell, Paul Selywn Norton and Vicky Cortes together for an immersive creative experience with participants from the dance dept. and guests from around the globe.  The Dance Minor and Screendance Certificate programs are now thoroughly ensconced and Steve Koester has dropped the interim label and officially become Department Chair.  

Formerly fresh faces, Sharee Lane and Rob Wood, have become familiar and join us in welcoming the new new faculty Shaun Boyle and Jessica Pearson.  Jessica comes to us for two years as the recipient of the Raymond C. Morales post graduate Fellowship.  Shaun takes over from I-Fen Lin, our fabulous ballet and contemporary dance teacher who left the department back in May.  I-Fen returned to her native Taiwan and gave birth to a baby girl in August.  We miss her dearly and wish her new family all the best.  

The announcement of the impending retirement of Abby Fiat sent shock waves through the department last spring.  The beloved faculty member, great spirit and a guiding light of the department will return for two more spring semesters before her official farewell.  Needless to say her absence augurs a period of transition for the department.   But, Steve Koester, not one to fear change, has embraced this time of ambiguity.  Seeing her absence not as a hole to be filled but as open space, he has not rushed to find a replacement.  Instead Mr. Koester has taken advantage of the time and space in the schedule to pilot an innovative approach to artistic exchange and staffing.

In the 2012-2013 academic year, a series of guest artists will teach through the curriculum for 3-6 weeks at a time. This approach offers a promising alternative to the traditional model of the guest artist, who teaches a few workshops, sets a work on a handful of students and then moves on.  Instead over these eight months, guests John Bessant III, Elena Demyanenko, Yannis Adoniou, Sidra Bell and Daniel Squire will teach technique classes and/or creative workshops as well as set choreography benefiting the entire student body.  

2012-2013 has gotten off to a rollicking start.  We can’t wait to share with you all the adventures, accomplishments and accolades already accrued by our faculty and students.  Many thanks to all who have contributed to our program.  Your support is invaluable to our students and our future.  We hope you will help keep us up to date, let us know about your current work and research.  

Please join us in two weeks for our next installment: In the Studio with John Beassant!

- Alysia Ramos