Six East Central University students have undergone a grueling week of eight- to 10-hour rehearsals this summer learning a new work choreographed by guest artist Chia-Chi Chang, a freelance performer, teacher, and choreographer.
The students, part of Collage, ECU's dance ensemble, include Kelsey Creed, Jennifer Harwell and Jade McKenzie, all of Ada; Phoebe Price, Ardmore; Bailey Stufflebean, Pauls Valley; and Semetria Mangon, Mount Pleasant, Texas.
Watching guest artist and choreographer Chia-Chi Chang demonstrate a turn in her difficult piece "Passage" are members of Collage, East Central University's dance ensemble. Bailey Stufflebean (from left), Shelby Terry, Jade McKenzie, Semetria Mangon and Kelsey Creed worked eight to 10 hours a day for a week this summer to learn the dance. Not shown is Phoebe Price. A final cast will be selected to perform the work at the American College Dance Festival next April at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La.
"She was brutal with them," said Dr. Victoria Dansby, ECU associate professor of communication. "The dance is completely set. They learned all the choreography but it's not polished yet.
"The choreography is extremely difficult and more sophisticated than they are used to," she added. "It was extremely challenging for the students. It was tough."
Dansby said it will take the fall semester to get the dance, "Passage," ready for the 2010 American College Dance Festival regional/nationals season next spring. A final cast will be selected to perform the work at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La., April 7-10.
Chang, a native of Taiwan, has worked with ECU dancers before, and the two works she previously set on Collage won ACDF awards and were performed in the festival's Gala concerts.
"They are excited about the challenge," Dansby said of the students. "But because of the aggressiveness of the piece, the intensity, once we get the choreography, then we need the emotion."
"Passage" runs 11 of the 12 minutes festival competitors have to perform.
Dansby said Chang first choreographed the piece on a professional modern dance company and sent her a video of the performance.
"We questioned whether the girls could step up and do it. She would not have set it on them if it had not been a nationals year. We didn't change it and they didn't give up."
Each has to work on her own this summer to learn and perfect their roles.
During the seven days of Chang's residency, each student had to watch the video of the dance performed by the professional company and learn her part while Chang worked with others individually.
"She expected them to know their part when she called them," Dansby said. "They had the responsibility of learning on their own."
Bailey Stufflebean (right) of Pauls Valley works with guest artist and choreographer Chia-Chi Chang at East Central University to learn Chang's difficult dance, "Passage." Stufflebean is one of the members of Collage, ECU's dance ensemble which will perform Chang's piece at the American College Dance Festival next April in Natchitoches, La.
In addition to taking responsibility for contributing to the group, Dansby said, the women learned choreography vocabulary, how to conduct themselves with a guest artist and how to control their bodies for difficult turns and falls they had never done before.
Such moves are very cutting edge and in vogue in modern dance right now, she explained. Chang also brought three or four videos of international dance companies for them to study.
"They realized how honored they were, but that didn't make it any easier," Dansby said with a laugh. "They learned so much, but it was very difficult."
Chang, who is working on producing her own concerts and developing her own company, has choreographed works for the Ririe Woodbury Dance Company, Montana Transport Company, Headwaters Dance Company, University of Montana and Western Wyoming Community College.
Her work has been presented at Regional and National American College Dance Festivals, the University of Utah Faculty and Performing Dance Company Concert, OhioDance's Choreographers' Showcase, Brolly Arts' H20 Project, the International Contemporary Dance Festival in Bytom, Poland, and the American Dance Festival, where she was the recipient of the "Martha Myers" Young Artist Tuition Scholarship.
Her professional performance credits include the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, Nikolais Dance Theatre, Neo-Classic Dance Company and Join Dance Company.
She earned a bachelor of fine arts degree cum laude in dance from Ohio University and a master of fine arts degree with an emphasis in choreography from the University of Utah where she received a teaching fellowship and the Orchesis Honorary Society's Award for excellence in performance and choreography.
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