Young Dancemakers Company. Photo: Bruce Fuller.
Young Dancemakers Company (YDC) is a completely free summer ensemble of students selected from New York City public high schools, grades 9-12, who love to dance and seek to create and perform original choreography founded by Alice Teirstein in 1995. A guest Repertory Project provides students a unique opportunity to learn works of master choreographers, such as recently appointed Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey, Robert Battle, Sean Curran, Ronald K. Brown, and Mark Morris. This year, artists from the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Company are collaborating with YDC’s exuberant students. The final assignment is performing the original choreography and master work at venues throughout the city (see information below about dates and locations.).
NY Culture Examiner had the opportunity to visit the studio on the lovely Fieldston School campus in the Bronx, immediately impressed with the focus of a morning rehearsal with former Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane dancer Catherine Cabeen. During the lunch break I spoke with two students currently participating in the program, fourteen year old Zarie Thusday and sixteen year old Hosbel Hernandez. The students of LaGuardia and Talent Unlimited high schools respectively were gracious enough to share their viewpoints of this summer experience.
How did you first learn about the Young Dancemakers Company?
ZT: Well, I go to LaGuardia, and usually different companies, different alumni who went to school there and started their own companies, they have summer intensives. And it so happens that some of the dancers who went to LaGuardia had participated in the Young Dancemakers Company. So there was a connection there. A lot of dancers [from LaGuardia] go to this program. I wasn’t able to go to the initial audition, but because of the connection she had with the school, Alice had another audition there.
HH: My teacher at high school, she has connections with Alice and I didn’t go to a real audition with others. I auditioned by myself and she picked me. So now I’m learning technique.
Where did you study dance before high school?
ZT: I wasn’t studying dance before. I did dance, but I stopped for a while. I’m from South America, Guyana, and the dance world is so different there. At my middle school (399) in the Bronx, there was a dance program but it wasn’t intense as this. There wasn’t classic ballet; it was more freely dancing.
How much do you think you’ve gained from this experience so far?
HH: So much! My technique, I’m improving my skills, and the level of passion. Passion comes from the heart, and even though I don’t have a lot of technique, I like dancing because of my passion.
ZT: I have learned that dancing doesn’t have to be this step by step thing. It can be an emotion expressed through how you use your hand, your core. Dance is a certain language, but you can learn a new, almost slang for it.
Tell me about the rehearsal process: you have performances coming up soon and this is the deep rehearsal time. How does it feel to have your creations come to life?
HH: It feels great. It’s so great to work with people who are willing to listen to you. They listen, and they have suggestions, and you try to incorporate it into the dance. Everyone works together, and I don’t have any trouble with anybody, and we work together like a team.
ZT: At LaGuardia, choreography is so out of the question until senior year, so this is a really good time to practice, getting an idea, evolving an idea. The dancers in this program are so helpful. You feel so comfortable with your fellow dancers. Certain times when you talk to people who aren’t in the dance world, you try to explain the feeling of a movement and they don’t really get it. But the dancers here they understand and it doesn’t take a long time to get a certain movement. It’s a lot of fun. Everything happens so fast. Usually it takes two weeks to create complex choreography but it’s so simple when people are so willing to get in there. Everyone is so interested in each other’s work.
Continuous Replay by Catherine Cabeen. Photo: Alice Teirstein.
What do you think you’ll take back to school in September?
HH: A very good experience (laughs). I learned so much; I pick up movements faster now. I’m a slow learner, but here everything moves with a flow so now I learn really quickly. So I’ll take that back to school with me.
ZT: This program has helped me emotionally in the dance part. It’s easier now to express an emotion within a movement. Being passionate about moving and letting it out. It’s kind of hard to explain; when you first learn dance it’s all about steps, steps, steps. These weeks have taught me that whatever aspect of dance-backstage, onstage- it’s about thinking and expressing. I will go back to school being more in tune with the dance and to really think about what I’m doing and is the audience receiving what I’m feeling.
What do you see for yourselves in the future as dancers, beyond high school graduation?
HH: I want to be a choreographer and I want to build my own company. I want to give the audience something new- new moves, new ideas, a new experience.
ZT: I don’t really want to think ahead. It’s good to plan, but I want to say yes to everything. Just going wholeheartedly into everything and seeing where dance takes me. One thing I must do is go to college, possibly to study dance also. One thing I’ve always learned that anything can happen in dance. You can injure your knee or something. Always have a Plan B, even it’s not the best Plan B, but as long as I’m comfortable with it, that’s fine. It could be another aspect of dancing, like being a journalist, so I can stay in the dance world. I just want to be in this world.
Young Dancemakers Company will perform Wednesday, July 21st, at Fieldston School at 2 PM; Thursday, July 22nd, at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at 5 PM; Friday, July 23rd, at Abrons Arts Center at 2:30 PM; Tuesday, July 27th, at Stern Auditorium at Mt. Sinai Hospital at 2 PM; Wednesday, July 28th, at Kumble Theater at 11:30 AM; Thursday, July 29th, at Jamaica Performing Arts Center at 1 PM; Friday, July 30th at City Center Studio 5 at 2 PM; Gala Finale and Reception Saturday, July 31st at Ailey CitiGroup Theater at 7:30 PM. All performances are free. Visit the YDC website for additional information.