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CBC Works In Progress: Gettin’ A Sneaky Peeky

Bwog staff writers Lauren Kahme, Elle Ferguson, and Alan Wang attend CBC’s “works in progress” event.

Last Sunday, the Columbia Ballet Collaborative gave students an opportunity to view their progress in advance of their upcoming November 24th fall performance.

Twenty to thirty people gathered in Studio 1 on Barnard’s campus, ready to have a sneak peek.

Bridget Scanlon (BC ‘20), the artistic director of CBC, gave a short introduction to the event, hoping to show that “choreographers and dancers alike―we have a voice.”

CBC showed excerpts from three of their pieces. The first presentation was a dance that fused elements of ballet and African dance, perhaps from Afro-Cuban as well. The choreographer, Earl Mosley, ran the group as a choreographer would in rehearsal, going over short sequences, giving corrections, and running it again. Throughout the entire demonstration he was solely focused on his dancers, giving the audience a real taste of what the rehearsal process can be like. He meticulously deconstructs the dancers’ movements, catching mistakes the audience would more likely miss. At one point he teaches a group the proper technique of “shoulder-popping,” truly demonstrating to the viewers how every part of choreography is intentional and masterful.

The next piece differed from the other excerpts at the event, in that it was choreographed by a student under the tutelage of a professional choreographer. Sarah Marazzi-Sassoon (BC 2022) worked with several female dancers en pointe and one male. The piece, she said, was inspired by the imagery of a Hans Christian Anderson folktale. Most of the demonstration is her “cleaning” up the dance: she goes over a part of the choreography, corrects small movements and stage placements, and goes over it again. The music she chose for the piece conjures up images of a cinematic climax―it is intense, foreboding, and ultimately haunting. I like how it pairs with the ballet choreography, but I wish that I could see the one male dancer do more than lift the other girls. 

Lastly, Eve Jacobs, who is a recent graduate from Juilliard, introduced her work. She rehearses the dance less than the other choreographers and instead gave the audience a preview into her choreographic process. She spoke about her music selection process, and how the movements of the dancers are intended to mimic the score: one soloist demonstrated the wildly jazzy vocal line with sharp turns and twists, then two other dancers showed how their steady and deliberate movements reflect the bass line. Jacobs compared the likeness of her dancers to a band: just as different members of a band contribute a unique sound to an overall composition, each dancer offers a different contribution to her choreography. On the unique perspective that CBC’s “Works in Progress” event provides, Jacobs noted that “it’s nice to explain the intended meaning since you don’t really get that at a show.” 

Seeing a “Works in Progress” for a dance group is always interesting. On stage, dancers, especially ballet dancers, make their performance seems effortlessly flawless. The reality of their commitment to rehearsal and constant striving for perfection contrasts this image, but outsiders rarely get to see this. Seeing dancers rehearse with their choreographers is like watching actors on stage breaking the fourth wall―you’re invited to their world, you step in otherwise sacred territory, and you ultimately glimpse a small fraction of the work that goes into a performance. 

CBC’s fall performance can be seen at 2PM and 7PM on Sunday, November 24th at the Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater.


Header via Bwog Staff

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