Cheri Opperman's Contemporary Moves

by Dance

The Dance Program welcomed choreographer Cheri Opperman to its teaching staff this fall. Several students share their experiences taking her class. Natalie Cameron '11 is a senior, experienced in jazz and ballet, but not as familiar with modern dance, while Megan Murdock '14 is a freshman with experience in both ballet and modern dance.

Natalie Cameron '11:

Over the years, I have taken many classes through the Dance Program, but they all fell within my comfort zone. As a senior, I decided it was time to step out of my box, so I signed up for Cheri Opperman’s contemporary class on Tuesday nights. Walking into the class, I really did not know what to expect. The world of contemporary dance is so diverse that saying you study contemporary is like saying you study biology at Harvard. I quickly learned, however, that the class would be a good fit. Cheri drew from the styles of Merce Cunningham and Jose Limon, whose work uses familiar balletic movement in new ways. She focused on body alignment, specifically of the hips and shoulder blades, and watched each person individually to make sure everybody's lines were correct.

Cheri created a warm, supportive atmosphere in which we could feel safe to make mistakes and, therefore, grow. She encouraged us to take chances and experiment with the movement. When we did something well, she would come over to us, smile and graciously shake our hands. On the last day we said goodbye with a group hug.

Although not an aerobic workout, Cheri’s class has made me more aware of alignment and provided me with the tools to improve all aspects of my dancing.

Megan Murdock '14:

Cheri Opperman’s Tuesday Intermediate/Advanced Modern class is a great, relaxing way to break up the week. Her class gives you the opportunity to get out of your head and work on dance technique in a very calm environment. She really focuses on each individual person, giving specific corrections and taking the time to explain the corrections and apply them to the whole class, if necessary.

The class is accompanied by a guitarist, which creates a very different and refreshing sound from the usual piano of ballet. Because of the live music, Cheri has the freedom to work with combinations using 5-beat and 6-beat rhythms, instead of the traditional 8-beat phrase, which I really enjoyed. One of my favorite parts of the class was the opportunity to perform long combinations both to the right and to the left. Usually in classes, only the shorter combinations are performed both to the right and to the left, but it was a good exercise to have to reverse the longer combinations as well, and reversing also gives a better understanding of the movement phrase. Also, because of the smaller class size, we had plenty of time to practice and review everything. I never felt rushed to learn, and it was nice to have the chance to fully perform everything multiple times.