Summer Exploration: While School is Out, LINES BFA Students Dance About

Members of all facets of the LINES family are branching out this summer, embarking on new adventures. Current BFA students Alex Harper and Jacob Williams just completed their freshman year, and are not straying too far from the LINES home base. This summer they will be guesting with former LINES company member and current teaching faculty member Gregory Dawson’s company dawsondancesf. Dawson is presenting Rite2017 this season, his choreographic take on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Read more about Harper (H) and Williams (W) experiences below in conversation with our new summer Marketing Intern (and current BFA student) Lilly Payne!

File_000 (3)

What was your first experience working with Greg like?

H: My first experience working with Greg was really difficult, but rewarding. I’ve never had to work as quickly and precisely as I did that first semester of freshman year. He definitely helped to whip me into shape and wake up. Greg demands a lot, and it was so striking to me, because I had never worked with someone quite like him in the past.

Having to memorize and fully realize so much choreography in such a short amount of time is something that I’d never needed to do, but it made me rise to the challenge and begin digging into a deeper place both mentally and physically.

W: When I first worked with Greg back in September, I remember being a little alarmed in the beginning. He demands a lot out of his dancers, won’t take anything less than your full presence, and also works quickly in rehearsal. I definitely struggled a bit at first to keep up with him, but eventually I became more synchronized with how he worked. I definitely was forced to grow a lot during that first process, but now I understand how to cooperate with him well.


What has this rehearsal process been like? How is it different from freshman year processes?

H: This rehearsal process has been both easier and more difficult in a lot of ways as compared to freshman year. The company had already been rehearsing for a week before I came in so there was a lot of catching up to do. There’s a lot of time spent dancing around my living room and the studio at Dominican in order to both learn and review material. In the actual rehearsals, there’s much more freedom in the way we work. Since it’s a professional environment, we’re much more independent and Greg isn’t spoon-feeding us information as he sometimes would in the more academic environment of the BFA.

W: The rehearsal process has been really enjoyable. Greg is definitely a lot different when working with his company. He has a lot more trust in his dancers to know how to interpret his work and how to best cooperate with them.

What has been the hardest part of working on Rite? The best part? The most surprising?

H: The most difficult part of working on Rite is keeping up. I’m one of the youngest, most inexperienced dancers in this group and it means that I have to work harder to achieve higher caliber results. On the flip side, because I’m at the bottom it allows me to gaze up to where I could be. It’s incredibly inspiring watching, working with, and dancing alongside such talented artists. I’m able to see exactly what sets them apart and how I can accomplish a higher level of specificity and physicality in my dancing.

The most difficult part of RITE:17 is definitely working with Stravinsky’s score.

W: The music is constantly changing meters and time signatures throughout the piece. Maintaining the balance between the intricacies of the music and Greg’s choreography has been challenging. I think the best part has been having the opportunity to work closely with the company. I’ve really enjoyed dancing with all of them and with Greg outside of the program.


Is there anything about working with Greg and/or in a professional setting that has changed your outlook or approach to dance? If so what?

H: In working with Greg overall I’ve learned that physicality and detail-orientation are two huge parts of what allows an artist to explore and convey ideas effectively. Being in a professional setting changed how I work in that I’m beginning to allow myself more freedom, because I’m being given an opportunity to work more independently. I’m finding that I’m not as rigid in discipline with myself as I was before. I’ve come to find that it’s not so much about following the rules perfectly as much as it’s about following what you need to do.

Dancing isn’t about regurgitating choreography it’s about becoming the physical embodiment of ideas.

W: Greg has influenced how I dance greatly. He’s forced me into becoming much more technical in the way I think about dance, and challenges me each day to keep improving.


What are you looking forward to in performing the full version of this piece?

H: I’m most looking forward to debuting a new side of my dancing, again, one that comes from a more sincere place. I’m also excited to see all the ideas that Greg has talked to us about come together to create what will be a very powerful piece.

Rite deals with themes that affect me personally and it will be important for people in the Bay Area to witness especially as we enter Pride Month.

W: I’m looking forward to the struggle that performing this full piece will be. All the dancers are on stage for almost the entire show and there are basically no breaks. It’s a great feeling being out of breath and searching for the strength to keep going. I’m sure the feeling after finishing the performances will be really satisfying.

What are your other summer plans? 

H: After the performances, I’ll be briefly visiting my family and friends down in Atlanta and New Orleans. After that I head to Portland for four weeks to do the NW Dance Project Summer Intensive. I hope to become more grounded in my technique as well as in who I am as a person. I also hope to be able to continue stripping away the layers that cover and muffle my artistic voice so that I may dance from a more thoughtful, yet fearless place.

W: After I finish performing in RITE:17, I plan to go back home to Vancouver, Washington, to study on scholarship with Oregon Ballet Theatre over the summer.

Rite2017 performed by dawsondancesf
Gray Area Foundation for the Arts
2665 Mission St, June 30-July 2 at 8:30 pm
Buy tickets here!

A re-imagining of Igor Stravinsky’s 1913 Rite of Spring score, RITE2017 will connect this ancient tale of ritual, sacrifice, and awakening to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. A timely statement on the shifting attitudes towards the gay community, this work also intends to be an educational experience for a generation that may be unaware of the history of the epidemic.

Photos by Lilly Payne