Teens at LINES Teacher Katie Roy dancing at LINES Dance Center

Choreo-LAB with Katie Roy: Empowering Teens To Create

With the start of the Teens at LINES fall semester just weeks away, we asked Katie Roy about her experience teaching Choreo-LAB, a weekly movement laboratory for Teens 2 and 3 students interested in exploring the choreographic process. A former graduate of LINES Ballet’s Training Program, Katie applies the lessons that she learned in those two years to her teaching. Read on to hear how she transforms a studio into a laboratory, where inspiration is easily drawn and vulnerability is encouraged. Or scroll down to watch our Choreo-LAB students in action, performing and processing over Zoom.   

What do you do on the first day of Choreo-LAB?

We typically use the first day to start to get to know one another – first as humans and then as movers/choreographers! Usually, in a typical session, we start off with a writing or drawing prompt and then transition into movement and choreographic exercises (with plenty of time for discussion).

How do you prompt students to create? 

This is the fun part 🙂 We draw inspiration from a huge variety of sources! We create from words and language, patterns, images, music and sound, somatic feeling, emotions, memories, chance procedures, improvisation, ideas, and even something as seemingly mundane as what we ate for breakfast that morning.

Are there composition methods that you learned in the Training Program that you pass down to your students?

Absolutely! Many of the methods we use in this class are variations on/extensions of exercises that I experienced during my time in the Training Program, notably in composition classes with Christian Burns and creative processes with other esteemed faculty and guest artists.

Do the students compose many short works or do they create one piece?

Both! We will play with certain choreographic prompts for one or two classes before moving on to a different idea. Our more long-term pieces have included dance-for-film video projects and works generated for performance opportunities across the Bay Area.

What is your role as their teacher? 

My role as a teacher is to provide small seeds of feedback, observations, and guidance, and to provide space in between all of that for the dancers to discover what/how/why they like to make. There is also a lot of vulnerability in sharing something you have made, so it’s also my job to make sure that the dancers are in a space where they feel supported and are able to observe their own experiences and others’ creations without judgement.

Are there any insights that you wish you would have learned at their age that you try to impart?

As valuable as technique and foundational principles are, it can be challenging to feel like you have a voice within the earlier years of conventional training. This class is largely an exercise in making choices, finding inspiration in surprising places, and discovering what it is you want to say and how you want to say it. My hope is that the several months we spend together expand students’ sense of self and agency in a creative space; what makes you you is what makes your work irreplaceable, even in, say, the middle of a tendu combination.

Do you notice a change in students’ confidence throughout the semester?

Yes! It usually takes some time and some practice for dancers to break out of their habits and try new things, and it is a joy to watch as their confidence grows in that process and their creative abilities over the course of the semester.

Do you have a favorite memory from Choreo-LAB?

Many, but this one comes to mind now that we are in the process of returning to the studio… In March of 2020, we stopped holding classes in-person because of the pandemic. Teens did not have an official virtual program at that point, but a handful of the dancers in Choreo-LAB reached out to ask if we could continue to meet anyway. I started holding open classes, and we had the wonderful opportunity to stay connected and keep choreographing in our own homes through weekly FaceTime meetings. It was really inspiring to see this group’s sense of community and desire to continue dancing together, and it also kept me accountable for thinking creatively during an extremely challenging time.

What are you looking forward to most about working with students again in-person?

I am so excited to share space with the dancers again! Having the opportunity to work in small groups without separating into Zoom breakout rooms, to talk one-on-one, and to feel the energy in the room has been very much missed.

What lesson do you hope that your students will remember for years to come?

Restrictions, boundaries, and obstacles are an opportunity for creativity. Conversely, (creative) rules are made to be broken. If you let it, failure precedes and is necessary for growth. The process of making something that you end up disliking, or not feeling connected to at all, is equally as valuable as the process of making something that you are proud of. It’s all practice!

Interview by Erin McKay | Photography by Steve Disenhof

While Fall 2021’s Choreo-LAB will be held in-person, last year’s teens didn’t let the shut-in shut down their creativity. Watch as they share their pieces and final reflections.

Teens at LINES Fall 2020 Choreo-LAB Virtual Showing with Katie Roy

Full video transcript:

[00:00:00.000] – Katie Roy
Hello, everyone. Guests, thank you so much for being here to support these awesome young artists. This semester, we focused a lot on how to generate movement. Like, how do we make dance? And we’ve used things like words and language, feelings, improvisation, music, the space around us, and these little boxes that we’re living in as tools for how to create movement that we feel is meaningful.

[00:00:00.000] – Opening Logo
Alonzo King LINES Ballet | Teens at LINES

[00:00:28.250] – Teens at LINES Student 1
So basically, we got our ideas together and we were trying to create from our ideas, but that kind of made us have a creative block. So from there, we decided just to start moving and come up with some movement. And that’s kind of where our dance stems from. Kailin, you can add on to that if you’d like to.

[00:00:52.640] – Teens at LINES Student 2
So basically, we started with an idea, and then we kind of got taken aback, well taken away, not aback, by all of the creativity that each of us had. So we kind of just built on that.

[00:01:04.000] – Piano Music Playing

[00:02:31.860] – Teens at LINES Student 3
Our piece is about the idea that what you see yourself as is what affects others’ portrayal of you. And in this piece, Mandy is what you see, the portrayal of yourself. And then I’m kind of like the inner thoughts and emotions.

[00:02:48.000] – Electronic Music Playing

[00:04:12.840] – Teens at LINES Student 4
This project was kind of an exploration of our two pretty different styles and creating something new out of both of them.

[00:04:23.320] – Song Lyrics
Oh, like an island surrounded by a deep blue sea, you’re the waves that push and pull against me. You wash me away, bit by bit. I will slowly erode till there’s nothing left. If you want me like that, that’s who I’ll be. And if you love me right back, I could be anything. It’s like this and like that, I think I’m starting to crack. Then you’ll leave and come back. The odds are starting to stack, against me. Against me.

[00:05:13.280] – Teens at LINES Student 5
We were kind of exploring pushing and pulling and the complexity of human connection.

[00:05:22.000] – Acoustic Guitar Music Playing

[00:05:47.800] – Teens at LINES Student 6
I really liked how everyone, no matter what, what would you call it? Like, a difference in how you’re doing your choreography… change. Everyone took and owned it and just went with it. And I thought that was really awesome.

[00:06:05.600] – Teens at LINES Student 1
I agree. I really enjoy watching everybody. But also, like, I’m really glad that my group got the music one, because today I was in Kara’s class, and this is the first time it actually dawned on me because I was like, I know that dancers are like artists, but it’s hard to think about it like that when you’re doing somebody else’s choreography. And then she’s like, “The job of the dancer is to make decisions about how the audience hears the music.” And that was, like a big realization to me. And so it was kind of just like when we got, like, a new music, and I was like, how do I want the audience to hear this music? And that was something I really liked.

[00:06:48.480] – Teens at LINES Student 7
I really like the task that you gave Ellery and me. Because I think it really made us travel more and then kind of dance some of the moves that we had bigger when before, it was like, kind of more sheltered. And I think it really encouraged us to expand it, and it made it more interesting to watch probably.

[00:07:07.580] – Katie Roy
Awesome, well really great work you guys. I just wanted to say that it’s been super inspiring to work with you all this semester, just to have a bunch of like-minded people who value the arts and think it’s important to create, just being in a space together and creating a little community. And thank you to our guests for being here and for making it possible for these dancers to connect. So thank you.

[00:07:36.000] – All Teens at LINES Students
Thank you!

[00:07:36.000] – End Card
Alonzo King LINES Ballet | Teens at LINES

Teens at LINES student dancing at LINES Dance Center

Teens at LINES

Based in ballet and contemporary, Teens at LINES challenges young artists ages 11-17 to embrace their individuality while learning in a supportive environment. No experience necessary! In-person and online options are available for the fall semester which starts September 11, 2021. Students enrolled in TEENS 2 or 3 (in-person) are eligible to register for Choreo-LAB with Katie Roy. To learn more, visit: linesballet.org/teens-lines

Photography: Stephen Texeira

Kids at LINES student in arabesque in class at LINES Dance Center

Kids Online Classes

Online ballet and hip hop classes for kids start in September! Little movers ages 5-12 can leap into fall with dance experiences that enhance learning, inspire creativity, and contribute to a sense of wellness. All of our kids’ classes are taught by experienced teaching artists dedicated to culturally-responsive instruction and to creating equitable, inspiring movement learning for all. To learn more, visit: bit.ly/AKLBkids