Springboard: Making the leap from science to dance

by Artist Development Fellow

Two weeks from today, I will don a leotard (maybe a sports top), tights (maybe yoga pants), several layers of warm-ups, and I will walk into the dance studio like so many days before. This day is different though. It is Day 1 of my first professional contract with Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, a dance company based in Toronto.

How did this biomedical engineering concentrator find the opportunity to join the professional concert dance scene in under six months? The answer: Springboard Danse Montréal, the first half of this summer's artist development fellowship plans.

The professional project was started by a Juilliard teacher Alexandra Wells and her Montréal colleague Susan Alexander. Dismayed by the lack of opportunities that Juilliard's dancers found for meaningful summer dance experiences, Ms. Wells created Springboard. Over the course of three weeks, 60 dancers come together in a company-like setting, taking class in groups of three in the morning, and dancing with five to seven professional companies learning repertoire or creating a new work in the afternoon and evening.

This past June, I spent one week dancing with a new company each day:

  • Compagnie Flak with José Navas (who was there, choreographing on us the first day)
  • Margie Gillis a veteran solo artist with as much beauty and inspiration as eccentricity and history (that's a lot)
  • Gallim Dance, a young company sweeping across the New York dance scene
  • Le Carré des Lombes with Danièle Dèsnoyers
  • Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal

The following two weeks I learned "Jack in the Box" by star choreographer Aszure Barton, with soon-to-be star dancers largely from top-notch conservatories such as Juilliard, University of the Arts, Boston Conservatory ("BoCo") and LINES.

The second weekend, bruised and sore (epsom salts and ibuprofen can only do so much for a body taught for four years to endure long, sedentary hours in front of a computer), I dragged myself out of bed for more dancing: auditions. Springboard tries to maximize opportunity by inviting companies to offer auditions; the companies gain access to the program's talent pool while the dancers get a shot at landing a professional contract.

I auditioned for Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie. We learned an excerpt of James Kudelka's "In Paradisum." Kudelka is one of my favorite choreographers whom I appreciate most for his musicality and intricate weight exchanges. Although no one knew audition results until after the full three-week project, I felt a strong connection to the austere and dynamic choreography (about a family where the mother gets diagnosed with cancer), the Phillip Glass-esque score (credited to the talented Michael J. Baker), and the woman leading the audition (Laurence Lemieux herself). After the final showing at the end of the project, Ms. Lemieux asked me to join the company.

Three months later, I am leaving Boston for Toronto!

Lauren Chin '08-’09 was awarded a fellowship for her participation in two summer dance class intensives: Springboard Danse Montréal, which immerses participants in technical training as well as challenging professional company repertory, and DanzFest (Cattolica, Italy) which emphasizes diverse techniques including Japanese Butoh, Martha Graham Modern, and classical ballet from the Paris National Opéra. Chin was a biomedical engineering concentrator, and graduated with a secondary concentration in dramatic arts. She plans to work as a professional dancer and ultimately pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering.

[Caption: Lauren Chin '08- '09 went from biomedical engineering to dance. Springboard led the way. Photos: Courtney Bryant. ]