They will perform an evening’s length of Alwin Nikolais’ choreography in Kunming and Beijing. With several months in the planning and assistance from many different offices, Alberto del Saz, Artistic Director of the Nikolais/Louis Foundation, states:
“I cannot be more grateful to have had this opportunity to collaborate with an institution such as Marymount Manhattan College, especially the Dance Department.
The dancers have shown me a level of professionalism and technical ability that is admirable and exciting to watch. Their commitment and willingness to fully dive into the work and take risks brings a level of excitement to the rehearsal process that is very satisfying on many levels.
This trip to China is an exciting one for all of us. After 35 years of touring all over the world nothing excites me more than bringing the Nikolais/Louis tradition and legacy to brand new audiences. This is not just about dance, it is about creating a bridge between two totally different cultures. This is what makes this project so unique and worth the investment.”
Mr. Del Saz, an adjunct faculty in the Dance Department, approached Katie Langan, Chair of the Dance Department this past summer to inquire about the idea of using the dance majors for this tour. Seen as an opportunity not to be missed, permission to do so was sought from the Dean of Academic Affairs, David Podell. Permission granted, the task of making it all happen began and contracts and negotiations were handled with utmost care and professionalism.
Meanwhile, twenty-two dancers from the MMC Dance Company auditioned at the start of the semester, and the ten dancers were chosen. Two alternates, who will not be traveling to China, worked alongside these ten dancers all semester learning everything they could in case an injury occurred. Until departure time, Mr. Del Saz rehearsed the dancers at least ten hours a week to prepare. Alongside all other rehearsals, classes and other obligations to the College, which alone is a heavy schedule, the dancers never wavered in their commitment to the project.
Zoey Anderson, ’15 writes, “It has been not only a privilege, but a time of incredible growth for me, as I have been able to take part in the kaleidoscope that is Nikolais. I have learned about using time, space, motion, and musicality and to have connections with my fellow dancers, all while working with elaborate props, lighting and costuming. My mind has expanded and my body has been pushed to the limits. I have such respect for Nikolais’ vision and intricacy with all forms of media and the images he creates. Tito has been nothing short of inspiring as he has taught us new ways of approaching movement and giving us a taste of what professional company life can be for us. I cannot wait to continue this amazing and life changing journey with the company as we share the timeless artistry of Nikolais with the people of China.”
Zoey is not alone in her sentiment. Several students have written expressing their thoughts. “This experience has been far more than just a performance on an international stage,” says David Flores, ’16 from Cost Rica. “It has shaped us as artists in both dance and all the hundreds of aspects that surround it and people don’t get a chance to see. Tito has trusted us with responsibilities that go from knowing how to fix a costume to setting a prop onstage and making sure it operates properly with the dimensions of the space. This has enabled us to think outside of the “dancer box” and make ourselves useful in any possible way. I couldn’t be more grateful to have had such an enriching experience, and I can say that I feel far more prepared for what a real job as a dancer takes now that I’ve been part of what’s behind it too. I speak for my fellow dancers and myself when I say that we can feel such a strong support from the entire Dance Department; this not only unified us as a group but has given us immense amounts of drive to go to China and proudly represent Marymount Manhattan College as professionals.”
Austin Sora, ’14 says, “I feel so fortunate to have been a part of this unique experience. I am so grateful to be able to perform the works of such an important American choreographer, and to take it on tour to China is something I never could have dreamed of happening while I am still in college. … My excitement builds with each rehearsal, and I am beyond thrilled that Marymount and the Dance Department has provided us with such an enriching opportunity. Leading up to graduation, I couldn’t imagine a more memorable way to spend my senior year!” Four of the students travelling on Friday will graduate in May and have spent time this semester preparing Senior projects to hand in before they leave. This opportunity can be especially enriching for students soon graduating since it gives them a glimpse into the world of dance. They will get another perspective on this endeavor including what it is like to tour internationally as a dance company. “This experience has meant the world to me. We have been given a once in a lifetime opportunity to perform in venues across the world, embedding ourselves in the culture of China and gaining insight to what we hope to do with the rest of our careers. It has been an honor to represent Marymount Manhattan College. … This has allowed me to grow as an artist and as an individual and it has become a memory that I will forever cherish,” says Sydney Lotuaco, ’14.
Evan Supple, ’16 states, “This experience has been filled with challenges, laughter, hard work, and the development of connections with my peers that is sure to last a lifetime. I feel blessed that I am able to travel to China to not only represent Marymount, but to also represent the entire culture of American modern dance and be the first to expose this field to a number of Chinese patrons.” The students will return to more work ahead of them. They will rejoin twelve other Dance Majors and together, rehearse a new dance to be performed in May 2014. With such an experience, the students have honed their leadership and team work skills and a disciplined work ethic that easily spreads throughout the entire Dance Department.