A still taken from “A Place Apart”.
By Chris Nafekh, Staff Writer
Published in print Oct. 29, 2014
“I’m terrified,” said Dom-Sebastian Alexis, a dancer for Gaspard & Dancers. “These are my friends and coworkers, people I look up to for guidance in class…”
Alexis, currently perusing a BFA from UNCG, was ridged with anticipation for his upcoming performance. Dancing in front of his fellow students, Alexis will be performing an arrangement by Gaspard Luis, an internationally recognized modern dancer and choreographer.
On November 1, the North Carolina Dance Festival will be held in the Aycock Auditorium at 7:30 p.m.. The event will feature choreography from Luis and several other renowned dance artists. Each performance will delve into questions of society and relationships, celebrating movement, mind and body.
The festival is an annual affair produced by the Dance Project, a non-profit arts organization. The Dance Project seeks to promote artists while providing opportunities for training, performance, collaboration and employment.
Every year, the Dance Project selects five choreographers selected through a blind adjudication process who travel across N.C. universities to perform. This year features the works of Gaspard Luis, Sarah Ruth Tourek, Leah Wilks, Amy Love Beasley, Kristen Jeppsen Groves and Diego Carrasco Schoch.
“Performing as a part of NCDF is always enjoyable,” wrote Schoch in an e-mail. “It offers an extra chance to catch up with other dancers, choreographers and dance educators in the state I might not otherwise catch up with.”
Schoch, a long time professional, was a student and faculty member at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. He has danced leading roles under Alvin Ailey, Jose Limon and George Balachine.
Schoch’s choreography, entitled “A Place Apart”, is a tender duet for two men, depicting intimacy, entanglement, support and space in relationships.
“The piece is about two men who enter a space away from the cacophony of information that assaults us minute by minute,” Schoch reflected on his work. “We live in a world where we are bombarded by information… it’s difficult to find a place where tenderness, reflection, and quiet are the dominant values. It remains important that positive images of male tenderness, companionship and physicality continue to be shown if things are to continue changing for the better.”
Schoch’s choreography will feature dance set to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. “I’ve always enjoyed the Sonata,” Schoch said. “Seeing two male bodies interact together while the adagio plays offers up a view of tenderness we don’t get to witness that often.”
Cooperation is key in group dance, and one could argue it’s a team sport, of sorts. Working with Gaspard for years, Alexis has learned a lot about weight-sharing and partnering skills. “Gaspard stresses us to make it organic,” he said. “We can’t get away with anything.”
The festival will feature common themes of relationships and social subjects, while displaying a physically demanding art form. The UNCG dance and kinesiology departments are both renowned and intertwined. Kristen Groves has arranged a performance called “As We Are”, which showcases the beauty of cooperative movement. Her studio emphasizes the importance of physical fitness required for dance.
“Training for dance requires what I call functional fitness,” wrote Groves. “Dance requires both strength and flexibility, power and grace.” Her studio emphasizes the idea of athlete artists. “If the body is the tool of communication then training it to be as articulate as possible is extremely important: core strengthening, major muscle groups, adhering to proper diet and nutrition, improving the cardiovascular system, and joint strength and flexibility are just a few elements important for dancers.”
“Last night,” reflected Alexis, “before we entered stage, we did a lot of calisthenics. Gaspard made me do 100 sit ups and 60 squats just to loosen up a bit.” Constant practice and exercise has been necessary for performing the Dance Festival.
“I just don’t stop moving,” Alexis added. “I dance all the time, walking to class, to my car.”
The N.C. Dance Festival will be held this Saturday, November 1st in Aycock Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $12 for students and $8 for UNCG students.