Reflection by Marina Hotchkiss, Director of LINES Ballet BFA at Dominican University of California
In early March, I took the BFA in Dance junior class to the American College Dance Association (ACDA) West regional conference, held this year at Modesto Junior College. The program has been participating in ACDA since 2008, our second year of existence. The conference is an incredible experience for students, with days of master classes in every imaginable dance discipline, and nightly performances, adjudicated by a panel of three experts in the field. Most conferences conclude with a Gala Concert of the adjudicator’s top 10 or 12 pieces, and every other year 1 or 2 of those pieces are selected to participate in the National Festival, held at the Kennedy Center in DC.
In honor and celebration of the dance program’s 10th anniversary, I brought in Alumna Katie Scherman to choreograph the piece for the junior class to present at the conference. Katie was a member of the inaugural BFA in Dance class, a group of 14 incredibly talented and adventurous pioneers who took a chance on us. Since graduating in 2010, Katie has danced with several professional companies across the country, including Hubbard Street Chicago and Body Vox in Portland. She also went back to school, earning her MFA in dance from the University of Oregon. Katie was, and is, an extraordinary dancer. She was our program’s first Princess Grace Award recipient, and is developing a growing reputation for her teaching and choreography in addition to her performing skills.
The work she created for our students, “me and I”, was stunning. She worked with the dancers in a deeply rigorous yet personal way, mining every moment for more detail, more nuance and more physical investment. She created a distinct and powerful world, one of female strength, vulnerability and solidarity, and coached the dancers to inhabit it fully. I was both excited and proud to bring her work to the conference. The adjudicators praised the work and the performers and chose it for the final Gala, giving our dancers a welcome opportunity to perform again in the beautiful Modesto Junior College Theater.
By wonderful coincidence, Casey Thorne, another member of that pioneering inaugural class, was also performing in the Gala. Casey was attending the conference as a Mills College MFA in Dance student, performing in a mesmerizing work by Mills faculty member Shinichi Iova-Koga. Casey has kept in close connection over the years, leading our initial outreach project to offer dance classes in the Canal, after studying in Israel on a Fulbright. There was such a feeling of circles within circles! Katie and Casey were with us for the very first ACDA we ever attended as a program in 2008, when we were chosen for the National Festival, held that year in New York. And junior Tori Mazzacone, featured in Katie’s piece, came to us as a transfer student after being inspired by seeing Katie perform as a grad student in another ACDA conference.
So, there I was, in the audience of the Gala in Modesto, filled with pride and wonder – appreciating the maturing artistry of the dance program’s first students and seeing firsthand the impact their beautiful, deep and thoughtful work is having on the next generations of our dancers as well as other students and communities around the country and abroad. It has been an honor to work with amazing Dominican dancers for 10 years!
Marina Hotchkiss joined Alonzo King LINES Ballet in 1983, after having danced with the Deutsche Oper Berlin for four years. In Berlin, Marina worked directly with such dance luminaries as Rudolf Nureyev, Birgit Cullberg, Loyce Houlton, Anna Markard and Valery Panov. In addition to the works of these artists, she appeared in ballets by George Balanchine and Kenneth McMillan, amongst others. In her eighteen years with LINES Ballet, Marina participated in the making of over forty original ballets by Alonzo King, creating memorable roles in Lila, Alkan Pas de Deux, Without Wax, Gurdjieff Piano Music, String Quartet, The Hearts Natural Inclination, Tarab and Who Dressed You Like a Foreigner?. Since 2002, she has been an integral faculty member of LINES Ballet Summer and Training Programs, shaping curriculum and developing her workshop Metaphor, which explores the embodiment of meaning. She is the Director of the Alonzo King LINES BFA at Dominican and is on faculty for the program. She was on the faculty of School of the Arts for four years. In addition to her work with LINES, Marina was a tenured member of the San Francisco Opera ballet for eighteen years. In 2001, Marina received an Isadora Duncan Award for Outstanding Achievement.