Diving into Tiny Dances and more with BFA alumna Liv Schaffer

This semester, LINES BFA dancers venture into a new project called Tiny Dances, inspired by a performance series developed in Portland, OR. The foundation of the work is “dedicated to fostering inventive dance/performance art and providing an accessible performance experience for a diverse audience…all on a 4×4 stage…It interrupts the usual expectations for dance vocabulary, performance, and viewing, and affects the way people move and are perceived in space.” (http://www.tentinydances.org/)

We talked to BFA alumna Liv Schaffer who is one of the artists facilitating the program’s exploration into our own version of “Tiny Dances” which will occur this Spring. Learn more about Liv, her time in the BFA program and their process in developing this new unique work:

photo from alumna Liv Schaffer’s work choreographed on BFA students last year

Liv Schaffer
Hometown Algonquin, IL
Graduation Year/Minor 2013, Religion Minor

Where are you now and what are you doing? 

After dancing with DanceWorks Chicago for two years, I returned to the Bay sans any idea of what my work opportunities would look like, but comforted by the familial landing pad I had laid groundwork for while being a student in the BFA Program. I found myself in a whirlwind year of freelancing that included creating a new work on the BFA Class of 2017, and various Teaching Artist positions through non-dance dominated arts organizations; using dance as a lens to look at public school reform, displacement, and team building.

Currently, I am dancing for AXIS Dance Company in Oakland, and working with Jacob’s Pillow Curriculum in Motion® in a few residencies per year. I am fortunate enough to fulfill the many facets of my dancer, teacher, and creator selves in both positions.

I am invigorated by the continued relationships I have with mentors and peers as a result of my time in school at LINES.

Each has held such sacred spaces for me to grow in and out of my evolving identity. I am hungry for, and curious about, what’s happening in the Bay Area arts scene. There is a level of investment that I’m making here that was surely instilled in me by my experience in Chicago. Searching for a place that can encapsulate your artistic existence is a necessary part of educating yourself on how to really show up in any one particular city. I allow such curiosity to lead me through being an audience member to the many pockets of the Bay Area dance scene, something I’m still figuring out, but really enjoy. Being in this familiar place does ignite a sense of history, though I am always astonished to be in a city that changes so rapidly, and how that pushes me to imagine new ways to fit into, and support, our community each day.


What are Tiny Dances?  What was the process you used with the students to create these pieces? 

For us, Tiny Dances are student generated dances that are performed on 4×4 stages in a variety of arenas. I utilized a wide net of casual guidance tools as students played with their individual creations, such as movement generation, group critique, one-on-one and whole class dialogues; all infused with a demand of fearless creative play. I funneled students through a variety of entry points and then constantly challenged their choices to increase complexity and each student’s comprehension of how they are making, more than what they are making.

What was the most unexpected, surprising, or inspiring moment in your rehearsal process? 

The students’ desire to dive in, keep conversations going, and question patterns in the dance world rooted me to the power in what’s next. I’m becoming more and more removed from the classes of current students and am able to identify lineages of training and graduated results from a more objective place.

There are voices in these students, and I think I was smiling the whole course just thinking about what they will create themselves into in the future.

Additionally, the opportunity to be a mentor and construct the kind of learning environment I’ve envisioned through my own student practices always acts as a huge mirror for me. Having a limited amount of time in class to share information with these students means not every piece of wisdom I can offer will fit in. What do I prioritize as must share information? What information do they already have? How can I package what I offer as something that compliments the other dimensions of their learning?


As a BFA alum, was there anything from your learned experience that you wanted to share with current students? 

If you’re feeling uncomfortable, the solution is usually to invest deeper. There are many more ways to have a career in dance than conventionally pushed. Do your research. Own your mistakes. Say help to people in the hallways. If you cast a wide net, are kind, and speak up for yourself in a respectful manner, you may be able to forge new positions or create your own jobs. Spirit is of the utmost importance. Dance, though hard to separate from self as a bodily practice, may be most useful to perceive as a tool in the education of creativity; a skill that is applicable in every field on Earth. Make connections with the people you move with on a regular basis, it’s a special and radical thing we get to do in a crumbling world. Soak in the offerings from faculty. Ask questions.

Remember, closed mouths are rarely fed.

Anything else you would like to share? 

My never ending thanks to students who trust me while I’m at the front of the room, trying to redefine what the front of a room looks like. And abundant respect for the educators at LINES, who instigate and oil the excellence within their students, and have allowed us to create a cycle of weaving our information through intergenerational corridors. It is the feeling of being a part of a team that is never in full form, which means the possibilities are endless. You’ve really created something special for us all. Thank you.


Audition for LINES BFA Program

Winter is an exciting time as the BFA application season is kicked into gear! Applications are coming in from across the country and internationally. We look forward to welcoming students to our studios, and the beautiful Dominican campus, to share the artistry and exploration cultivated here every day. We are excited to build our new freshmen Class of 2017!

Apply Now!

If you are interested in applying to the BFA Program, please visit the following link to learn about the program, and find information about the application process, which includes an academic application to Dominican University of California, as well as an audition.

Audition deadline March 1st

For details and instructions, visit bfa.linesballet.org/apply

Cover photo and outdoor photo by Quinn B. Wharton, performance photo by Steve Disenhof, studio photos by Austin Forbord