It’s all about the PROCESS – LINES Ballet Training Program reflects

The 2015-2016 Training Program was a densely packed, wildly successful year. A heartfelt congratulations to the 2nd Year graduates of the Training Program and best of luck to all students in their explorations this summer at Batsheva in Tel Aviv, Springboard Danse Montreal, P.A.R.T.S. in Brussels, Jacob’s Pillow, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Northwest Dance Project: Launch 11.

We’re delighted to welcome a full student body next Fall, with an incoming class of 26! This summer, many returning Training Program students remain in San Francisco to continue with LINES in leadership roles acting as chaperones and assistants to LINES repertory teachers and choreographers.

The LINES Ballet Training Program had a phenomenal Spring Showcase 2016 with a stellar roster of choreographers. Highlighted were our guest artists Sidra Bell of Sidra Bell Dance New York and Shannon Gillen of Vim Vigor. Both visiting from NYC, they each offered extreme yet rich, informative, and impressionable creative processes and contrasting methods for approaching dance-making and performance.

The Education Programs at LINES have developed a relationship with Sidra Bell over the years; she has come to set several works on the Training Program. Each incubator is an entirely new experience, where she asks the dancer to broaden their sphere of comfortability and challenge their understanding of “the how” and “the why” of making work. It’s all about exploring and inviting the audience into their created world.

We were elated to have Shannon Gillen who was accompanied by two of Vim Vigor company members, Laja Fields and Martin Durov, which made a triad of collaborators. Shannon’s direction of physicality, musicality, and intention were highly specified while the timing and spatial relationships were improvised. The spontaneous nature of time and space demanded that all thirteen dancers be completely engaged and attuned to one another in order to navigate the composition. What was so exhilarating about the piece for the performer and the viewer alike was this unexpected whirlwind of energy created on stage, a seamless tumbling and churning.

The Training Program is committed to developing and nurturing relationships with emerging and established, local, national and international artists that result in creative exchanges and professional opportunities. For example, several Training Program students, including 2015 graduate and current company member, Madison Wada, have performed with Sidra Bell Dance New York and a handful of alumni and current students will be attending both the SBDNY and Vim Vigor workshops in New York City this summer.

Julia Rubies and Uma Shannon had the privilege of working with both choreographers this spring. Read their reflections on the respective processes below! 

Sidra Bell 3_Disenhof

Julia Rubies graduated this year and will continue her studies at P.A.R.T.S in Brussels in the Fall. 

“Working with Sidra has been truly transformational. It was a whirlwind of a process. At first it felt like I was dropping into another somatic world, another bodily culture where the vocabulary was slightly familiar yet specifically different. There was a new radical sense of approach to the piece, the exploration of (un)attachment, appropriation, ‘performance’ and ‘work’ as well as becoming aware of filters that already exist or that can be produced.

The next wave came in when all of us found ourselves in a big element of confusion and chaos. Everything was stirred up and a wave of confusion hit us all with a lot of momentum. We did not know whether we were experimenting, drafting, workshopping, creating, deconstructing… As we were delivering (trying, acting, reacting, experimenting) within that chaos, we could not tell where we were or what was happening. With that discordance, we were being forced out of our comfort and habits, therefore shifting us all into different directions. The confusion ended up building very real unpredictable states. These new off-centered versions were then set. Although several elements in the piece, the movement and the energy were very specific and clear, the aftermath of the chaos allowed for there to be many moments that were up to the group to create in the moment.

What the piece really felt like morphed over time almost unexpectedly. In every run, we entered this unique microcosm with the other passengers. It felt like a XXIst century dream, abstract and cosmopolitan. We were all sharing this journey together almost intuitively yet in a sterile way, experiencing it collectively, crossing new dimensions and reaching new points of no return.

Sidra’s piece felt like I was about to open a different book with maybe some similar characters every time I had to perform it.

There was a perfect balance of structure and freedom so that it was a live, breathing piece, a fresh experience every day that grows with each one of us.

Getting to work with Vim Vigor was definitely a spectacular way to close our second year at LBTP.  Shannon, Laja and Marlo brought in a lot of energy and radiated inspiration from the moment they walked into the room and all throughout the week.

Witnessing Shannon in action was very refreshing and stimulating. Though creating the piece in the short amount of time we had was a big challenge, she was very efficient and executed her vision marvelously. Her directing was captivating. The team approached us and the piece with a lot of care, dedication, humanity and mentorship.

Shannon Gillen 3_Disenhof

Marlo and Laja offered a lot of color to the process. They both had complementary contrasting information to offer coming from different eyes and perspectives which made it a very enriching process. It was very inspiring to see the three of them dialogue together and deliver information to us in such different ways – all aiming for the same result. They took time to work with each of us individually from which we all, individually, grew tremendously.

Assembling this piece felt like clockwork. A challenging, intricate ensemble-work as a response to a soundscape. Working with our group in this manner was very new. Everyone had a crucial and distinct role and everyone was moving at the same time, weaving their way through this carefully organized chaos. These precise calculations accompanied with the rawness of the physicality of the piece kept us all on our toes. The thrill connected the entire group since we were all responsible, feeling like very important parts of this one big machine.

Both of these pieces have had an impact in both my own practices as well as the way I want to make work. Sidra and Shannon have been incredible people to get to observe in action and learn from. I take with me to not undervalue observation, chaos, and what is already there. To strip down, to connect, to understand a moment as it is, without expectation. I also learned to take time, to be part of an ensemble with the responsibility that takes, the power of dialogue and encouragement, the importance of precision, commitment, character work and many, much more.”

Shannon Gillen 1_Disenhof

Uma Shannon is now a 2nd year Training Program student. 

“Sidra’s process challenged my person. What had been my existing approaches to process and movement no longer applied. Sidra brought out different things in each rehearsal. Making it impossible to know what was coming next….I think that was probably the most challenging part, the extreme unknown, and embracing it. The beginning of our process felt dystopian, than it shifted, becoming a utopia. The piece became a practice, not dissimilar to meditation. Through the sterile environment we created it became deeply personal to me.

Vim Vigor brought their energy, humanity, and intelligence. Shannon and her team connected to everyone in the room, creating a constant flow of energy. With a clear vision of what they wanted to accomplish, Shannon Gillen, Laja Fields, and Martin Ďurov’s work was an inspirational hunger. Each member brought their own flavors and skills. The whole process was communal, making it clear to us from the beginning that we would be expected to create and share our own phrases. They worked with us individually to explore our work. Getting to work with Shannon, Laja, or Martin one-on-one was a moment of real growth for me. That they took the time to work with each of us individually shows how much they cared for each of us as young artists.”

Photos by Steve Disenhof; Videos by Katie Wong