Finding the corps with Harvard dance

by Artist Development Fellow

History of Art and Architecture concentrator Liz Walker '11, who was awarded a 2010 Artist Development Fellowship, reports on her semester away from Harvard and her summer participation with various dance networks, including classmates from Harvard. This is another in a series of blog posts by this year's ADF recipients.

Since January I’ve been on a leave of absence from Harvard to pursue dancing professionally for the first time since starting college. I began in Los Angeles, performing with the Los Angeles Ballet through March, but most of my time has been spent freelancing in New York City. I was invited to perform with Avi Scher & Dancers, a young company that aims to bring contemporary ballet choreography to smaller venues. For performances at New York’s Ailey Citigroup Theater in April, I was lucky to be dancing alongside principal dancers from American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, as well as new friends from smaller companies across the country.

Avi is a friend from my earlier days at Los Angeles Ballet, where we both danced in 2006. I always love working with him, and when I was co-director of Harvard Ballet Company in 2009, I asked him to create a piece for our spring show. That work ended up being one of the pieces his company presented this season at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, DC, and at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, MA. Having a chance to work with Avi at Harvard was key to my being invited to perform with his company this year. Repeatedly during the past few months, I have been shown how opportunities I’ve had at Harvard can connect to my dance career away from school.

For example, during dress rehearsal for Avi’s show on a Friday night in April, choreographer Claudia Schreier ’08 called me when one of her dancers for her new work "Excursions" sprained her ankle. A week later I was on stage at Columbia University’s Miller Theater performing the piece. That performance was especially rewarding because I was performing with Columbia’s equivalent to HBC, the Columbia Ballet Collaborative. Since then, I’ve discussed with CBC board members the possibility of fostering an HBC-CBC exchange or performance collaboration sometime during the upcoming year. It would be great if we could bring together these two successful examples of student-run ballet organizations within the Ivy League.

This August I performed in another new piece by Claudia as part of the Ailey Extension Performing in New York Showcase. The performances at the Ailey Theater were a lot of fun, and it’s always a great experience to get to know a new group of dancers and create fresh work. My other August performances also came about through Harvard relationships. Director Calla Videt ’09 at Pegleg has devised a new piece of theater, "One Arm and a Leg," which I became a part of when choreographer Ricky Kuperman ‘11 asked if I would be willing to take on a character in the show. My part is primarily dance-based, which is helpful as I’ve never acted before, and I feel very lucky to have this opportunity to explore the intricacies of narrative-based movement. In the past I’ve leaned more toward plotless dancing, and I think that it’s important that I learn to excel at various types of expression within dance. I truly admire Calla’s multidisciplinary approach and have learned so much from observing my fellow cast members. I’m excited to be a part of the finished product.

[Caption: Liz Walker '11 danced at Jacob's Pillow in July. PHOTO: Matthew Murphy]