Each year, the graduating students in the Alonzo King LINES Ballet | BFA Program at Dominican University collaborate with choreographers to create stand-alone works for their senior solo concert. Program Director Marina Hotchkiss describes this show as “a collection of poems. Each [solo] is its own special language, world, and moment in time.” In celebration of this performance, we introduce each of the seniors’ choreographers. Read on as they share their experiences crafting solos with the creatively curious members of the Class of 2022.
Meet Kirven Douthit-Boyd, Brooke Terry’s Choreographer
Kirven Douthit-Boyd began his professional career as a member of Ailey II from 2002–2004 and performed at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival as a member of Battleworks Dance Company in 2003. In June 2004, Douthit-Boyd joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performing both nationally and internationally for 11 years. He joined COCA-Center of Creative Arts in 2015 as Co-Artistic Director of Dance with his husband Antonio Douthit-Boyd. In 2016, Douthit-Boyd joined Ron K. Brown/Evidence, A Dance Company as a guest artist. Douthit-Boyd has choreographed works for Dallas Black Dance Theater and Ailey II.
How did Brooke and you connect? Did you work together prior to her senior solo?
I’m the Co-Artistic Director of Dance at COCA in St Louis. I worked with Brooke full-time through her junior and senior years of high school. I also worked with her while I was still dancing with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. My husband and I would travel to St Louis to teach workshops and masterclasses at COCA back when Brooke had just joined the program. She was so tiny! I’m so proud of how she has grown!
What is the intention of Brooke’s solo?
“Divinity” is a celebration of Brooke’s strength and growth as an artist and human. I believe that dancers are divine creatures, and the intention of this work is for Brooke to embody that idea and share her power with the audience.
What was the best part about this process? The most challenging?
The best thing about this process was Brooke’s approach to her work in the studio. She came in willing to listen and eager to collaborate. She is a smart dancer with the ability to manifest information quickly. The challenge was our schedules. We had to create the work fairly quickly. I commend Brooke for her attention to detail as she was able to process on her own to ensure she was bringing authenticity to the work.
What was your goal in crafting this work?
My main objective was to highlight Brooke in a piece that made her feel proud to perform. I hope that this work is a clear demonstration of Brooke’s evolution. I hope that her network is proud of her work in this moment. She has grown into a beautiful young artist with a bright future as a performing artist.
Meet Peter Pucci, Madeleine Friedman’s Choreographer
Peter Pucci is a Lucille Lortel Award winner and Drama Desk Nominee for Outstanding choreography for Queens Boulevard (the musical), and he received a Drama Desk Award for his work on The Orphans’ Home Cycle. Peter was a principal dancer and rehearsal director with Pilobolus Dance Theatre for nine years. Upcoming commissions include the New Mexico Ballet Company, Texas Christian University’s School of Classical & Contemporary Dance, and the University of Richmond’s Dance Company. Peter has also directed two dance films, Swag n’ Bach: A Path To Choreography and In the Garden that premiered at the Jacob Burns Film Center.
How did Madeleine and you first meet?
I have known Madeleine since she was in high school. I used to teach her, and she’s my daughter’s best friend.
What was your first rehearsal like?
Over the summer, Madeleine came by the house and I said, “I’m working in pre-production for three new works. Why don’t you come to the studio?” I do a lot of production work whenever I’m choreographing. So she came in, I put some music on that I like, and we started playing with material. After about two hours, I had laid out a sequence of about three and half minutes. I said, “Just hold on to that until we meet up next time.” Then, when she got into the car, she said, “Would you be interested in letting me do this for my senior solo?” I said, “Absolutely, but if you are going to do a solo, we are going to do it properly.” So we went to work right away, 10 days before she flew back to San Francisco. We had free studio time at a place called Barnspace not too far from where we live.
I think the first rehearsal was really special because there was no plan. I was just improvising, which is the basis of everything I do; it has been this way for my entire career. I think it is always good to be in the studio with dancers and to just play. We did a lot of that in Pilobolus. It was always about improvisation, discovery, and the unexpected. It’s the essence of what we do as dancers and choreographers.
What is the title of the piece?
It’s called “…safe?” because she is definitely going through something emotional. We are all going through that. And we have been for a really long time. I wonder, are we safe? When are we going to be safe? But it’s not a reference to anything in particular; I think it’s universal. Every twenty-four hours, we go through questioning what our day will be like. And even before Covid, I wonder, did we ask that question, whether or not we were safe? Did we even think about it?
In what way did you try to challenge Madeleine?
I tried to get her to dance the emotion, tried to get her to figure out what that is for her. Because everybody has technique. I have auditioned five hundred people in one day for one role in a musical, and everyone comes to the table at a certain level. So it’s about asking, what makes you special? What else do you have that will get you into a company or a show? That is what I tried to pull out of Madeleine, and she’s done a really excellent job with that, interpreting, being theatrical, and performing the solo.
Meet Victor Talledos, Drake Simon’s Choreographer
Victor Talledos is a dancer, dance educator, and choreographer from Mexico City based in San Francisco, CA. He has performed for various companies in NYC, Mexico, and the Bay Area. He is currently a faculty member for Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s Educational Programs, Berkeley Ballet Theater’s Youth and Adult Divisions, and San Jose State University, teaching Modern, Contemporary and Ballet. He is a creative and curious individual who is always looking to explore possibilities and ideas in movement.
What was your first reaction when Drake asked you to choreograph his senior solo?
I was surprised as well as excited. Drake’s class was my first experience as a faculty member for the BFA at Dominican and can’t believe they are now the graduating class.
What type of work did Drake and you want to create together?
When Drake approached me and we first talked, he wanted to create something light hearted, not too serious but challenging. I decided to take a comedic route. Comedy is extremely hard to achieve. I hope we get there. Drake has been very open, and I love the challenge of creating a work of comedic nature.
I’m personally hoping to help Drake discover his power to open up to more possibilities and gain more confidence in the way that he moves. As for the work, we are hoping to present something that’s a bit more relaxed in regards to a subject, maybe get some smiles from audiences.
What is the meaning behind the solo?
Self-reflection, self-acceptance, self-confidence. A caricature.
What was the most surprising thing about this process?
Finding commonalities between Drake and myself. The choreographic process is about building a relationship of respect and trust, and at times, the ideas that we worked on in the studio could become very personal. There is some sort of intimacy created in the room that has opened up Drake to push himself more each rehearsal.
What did you learn from this experience?
That in coming out from the pandemic after months when we stayed home, these young artists are in more need of support and guidance. They are hungry and hopeful. Some of them might feel a bit unprepared after spending a year and a half online. It’s on us, their teachers, to hold space for them, to listen, understand, and encourage, to continue pushing… and to be patient.
Meet Brandon Graham, Rowan Williams’ Choreographer
Brandon Graham was born in Rochester NY and raised in GA. He had a major spinal fusion on April 23rd of 2012 due to scoliosis. Graham had an 80 degree curve that made him short of breath, and his organs were not in the right place, putting him at risk of dying at an earlier age. After the surgery, he started dancing about a year later, and he has never stopped since. Dance has saved Graham and morphed him into what he is today.
As a recent alum of the BFA at Dominican, how did you feel when Rowan asked you to choreograph her senior solo?
My first reaction was happiness and shock! I was just glad that I was given this opportunity. I’ve worked with Rowan in the past, and I knew with her work ethic, sharp mind, and talent that she would be a joy to work with again.
What is the meaning of the work?
The meaning behind the solo was based around the anxiety and pressure dancers feel. We think that in order to feel that we’ve become “successful” that there are specific avenues we have to take. We find ourselves loving so many things that are not necessarily dance or dance related but we get these thoughts that we feel we are failing ourselves. I believe that we can bring dance and our dance-selves to anything that we do in life. We have to let dance make us better people, not just better dancers.
What was your main goal throughout this choreographic process?
The main objective was to have her senior solo represent her time as a dancer so far while also referencing her future and where she wants to be in life. I wanted this to resonate without having clichés to make it super obvious what the story line is. I want the movement and music to set a tone-of its own that some may understand and some may not. The piece is what it is to the viewer no matter what we intended it to be. I can only hope that message shines through or the viewer builds their own intricate narrative.
What will you take away from this experience?
I learned that I will never want to create a piece of any sort without the input of the dancer(s). I love to collaborate and build movement together. Working with the dancer(s) to create movement makes it more natural, makes everything flow better, and it makes sure that the dancers are comfortable doing the movement. There are definitely times to be clear about what the goal is but taking that time to ask the dancer(s) simply “do you like this?” will let them know that they have a voice.
What do you hope that Rowan learns from this process?
I hope that Rowan takes away that she can do what she wants to in this life. She has the power to forge her own future and accept and deny opportunities how she sees fit. She does not have to be or do things a certain way to be successful in life. The things that are meant for her will come, and I hope she brings her best self to anything she does.
Meet Christian Burns, Maya Mohsin’s Choreographer
Christian Burns was a guest artist with The Forsythe Company and was a company member of Alonzo King LINES Ballet and James Sewell Ballet. He has been researching and practicing improvisational methods since 1994 and has performed internationally with improvisers Kirstie Simson, Katie Duck, Michael Schumacher, Ave Karczag, and Chris Aiken among many others. In 1998, Burns co-founded The Foundry, an interdisciplinary dance company based in San Francisco, and in 2008 he co-founded the interdisciplinary art center Parsons Hall Project Space Holyoke, MA.
What was your reaction when Maya asked you to work with her?
I felt excited to have some more focused time to work with each other. Her artistic commitment within our junior creation from 2020 added greatly to the piece’s depth and substance. So naturally I was very happy to work with her on her senior solo.
What was the best thing about this process?
The best thing was being able to have extended conversations about meaningful topics of interest. We spent our initial rehearsals connecting about themes and topics of personal interest. These topics all added to the direction and feeling of the piece.
What were you and Maya hoping to create together?
I think we shared a desire to create something that would challenge Maya both technically through the application of multiple movement techniques and artistically by incorporating her personal life story of her family and cultural heritage.
What do you hope Maya walks away with from this experience?
I hope she finds an increased sense of self-confidence in her tremendous abilities and a sense of new directions she wants to explore going into the future.
Meet Richard d’Alton, Devin Jones’s Choreographer
Born in Cork, Ireland, Richard d’Alton is a graduated dancer and certified teacher of the National Ballet School of Cuba. He was a dancer with the National Ballet of Cuba and a Principal Dancer with Orlando Ballet. He is a three time Outstanding Choreographer of Youth America Grand Prix and has taught at leading organizations around the world including the Royal Ballet School, Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet School, Czech National Ballet, and the Lithuania National Opera & Ballet Theatre among many others. Currently, he is based in Porto, Portugal.
What is the meaning behind the solo you created with Devin?
“Outer Shell” is based on Devin’s personal journey. She has dealt with numerous hardships throughout her dance journey and into adulthood. I know that many times she has had to have a tough outer shell to keep her strength and make her way in the world. But inside, she has a heart of gold, compassion, and love. This is what I wanted to create and showcase with our choreographic experience.
What was the most surprising thing about this process?
I was expecting that it would take a lot longer to create, given our challenges of working online. But I was blown away by Devin’s aptitude for learning quickly, and that is a huge credit to the amazing teachers and choreographers she is currently working with.
What did you learn from this experience?
I learned that I am appreciated and that my work as a choreographer is still relevant. These past few years with the Covid-19 situation have taken a toll on every artist in so many different ways. This opportunity allowed me access to work with a truly talented artist, and to have every moment be fulfilling is an experience I will not take for granted.
What do you hope that Devin takes away from this experience?
I can only hope that Devin takes away inspiration from this experience — for her to know that she is filled with immense ability. She is a young artist on the rise. I hope that she can build on her confidence and know that she is present – we see her! This for me is everything.
Edited by Erin McKay
Photograph of the Class of 2022 by Kara Davis
SENIOR SOLO CONCERT
September 17, 2021 | 7pm PDT
Tickets: $10 cash only.
Free with Dominican ID.
ALONZO KING LINES BALLET | BFA AT DOMINICAN UNIVERSITY
Our unique four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program combines the acclaimed training and philosophy of LINES Ballet with Dominican’s comprehensive liberal arts education and social values. Applications for Fall 2022 are now open.