Hazel Lever ’13, a resident of Lowell House concentrating in History and Science with a secondary in Global Health/Health Policy, was awarded an Office for the Arts/Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Artists Development Fellowship to attend the Bates Dance Festival in Maine to study dance technique and choreography. Lever has performed with the Harvard Ballet Company (HBC) and Harvard Radcliffe Modern Dance Company (HRMDC). She has also choreographed for HBC and a number of Harvard Radcliffe Dramatic Club productions including Hair, Cabaret, and Wonderful Town on the Loeb Mainstage. She was named a Harvard Dance Program Spring 2013 Emerging Choreographer, creating her original show At Last, performed in the Loeb Ex. She plans to continue to dance and choreograph and eventually attend medical school. Visit her website, hazellever.com, for more information.
After settling into my new post-graduate life, I finally have the opportunity to reflect on the three fantastic weeks I spent at Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine. The festival proved an entirely immersive experience, filled with dancing, choreographing, performance, classes, and making art with inspiring faculty and students. While at the festival, I took four classes daily: ChoreoLab with Doug Varone, Ballet Technique with Rachel List, Modern Technique with Darrell Jones, and the Business of Dance with Kim Konikow.
In his ChoreoLab, Doug managed to create a truly experimental environment, where we could all try on each other’s movement and choreography styles within a framework of exercises that pushed us outside of our comfort zones. But most importantly, Doug created a space of no judgment. He aimed to get each of us to that same internal state of no judgment, where we could create movement without immediately judging ourselves for what came out. This internal space allowed instincts to take over for the brain, which inherently created more interesting and more real reactions to prompts. To get us there, Doug used time—or a lack thereof. By gradually decreasing the amount of time we were given to create, we had to turn more and more to our first instincts. He also integrated other mind games to help us understand how we read, interpret, and respond to space in a first glance. In this use of time and instinct, I became much more trusting of my instinctual understanding of crafting movement and much quicker in my generation of material.
The Business of Dance class was the single most useful class I could have taken at Bates—it has prepared me so much for my post-graduate life in the arts. Because of this class, I actually think I know how to start out as a young choreographer in NYC, a pretty daunting task. In addition to giving us practical information on taxes, music rights, contracts, how to promote ourselves as artists, etc, Kim invited each of the faculty to speak about their career paths. It was incredibly useful to hear all of the (generally) unconventional paths that led these esteemed artists to where they are now and the advice they had for young artists just starting out.
In the middle of the festival, we had a “master class day,” in which we could attend whatever class we wanted. I took a contact improvisation class with Nancy Stark Smith, one of the founders of the genre; jazz technique with Autumn Eckman; and creative processes with Bebe Miller. While it was incredibly valuable to spend all three weeks studying in depth in my normal classes, this day provided an opportunity to move and learn with others in the faculty.
In addition to all of my classes, I saw performances from all of the companies in residence, listened to talks by artists in residence, participated in workshops, and even had the opportunity to choreograph and perform. I choreographed a piece entitled “The Body Against” for the Young Choreographers/New Works Showcase on the last day of the festival. At a works-in-progress showing, I was able to workshop a segment of what I envision to be a longer piece in a low-stress setting and to get insightful feedback from Doug Varone and Bebe Miller.
On the whole, the festival proved such a rewarding experience. In all of my time in college, I rarely had the opportunity to spend such a length of time solely immersed in dance, and this fellowship has provided me that chance. The connections I made with fellow artists will last long beyond the time I spent at Bates, and are already creating a network of support here for me in a new city. All in all, the festival proved to be an exceedingly nourishing environment for me as a young artist.