session #6 with Roderick R. George
Every session I get to do is special but this one hits close to home. Meet Roderick R. George, one of my favorite people in the world. Roderick and I have been all up in each others business for a minute now. But I think it's safe to say we really started to cultivate our relationship in college at SUNY Purchase and have been close ever since. Roderick is one of those performers you can't NOT watch. He is fearless and pushes anyone he dances with to go beyond their limits. Anytime he is in town we end up in a studio bouncing ideas off each other. During this particular session we worked with some material from a class I previously taught, but as always our love for floor work and partnering kicked in and before I knew it my feet are no where near the ground. I know for a fact I dance differently when I get the chance to dance with him. It's not a conscious choice, it's not even something I can control, it's just the way it has always been and it's difficult to dance any other way after feeling that freedom of movement. Roderick is special and one of a kind. If you ever get the chance to see him perform DO IT, you won't be disappointed.
Roderick R. George began his career at Ben Stevenson’s Houston Ballet Academy and HSPVA. He was an original company member of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and Sidra Bell Dance New York. Afterward he moved to Switzerland to join Ballett Basel where he worked with the likes of Jiri Kylian, Ohad Naharin, Richard Wherlock, Angelin Prejlocaj, and Jorma Elo for six seasons of my career until he joined Gothenburg Operan DansKompani dancing there for a year and a half until he was discovered by William Forsythe subsequently joining and finishing the last two seasons with his company until it closed in August 2015.
session #5 with Shelby Nunn
This weekend I'm heading to Dallas to teach for a really great cause. Dancers Give Back Dallas is an organization founded six years ago with 100% of the proceeds of the event going directly to Micaela's Army Foundation for cancer research in pediatric, adolescent and young adult cancers and to help support cancer patients and their families. I will be teaching both modern dance and musical theatre dance classes. That's how this session came about. I decided I wanted to come up with something new to teach for such a great cause. I love CATS, I mean who doesn't right?! So I decided to go in the studio by myself and map out some ideas for a short phrase but I wasn't really sure if what I created was working. I figured I needed to see the movement on another body. A much younger, sprightlier body lol. Shelby Nunn is a former student of mine and a talentedly diverse young dancer with a promising future. I asked Shelby if she would meet me at the studio so I could work out some kinks in the phrase. Lucky for me she agreed, even more she is a quick study and an amazing performer. Shelby, even at a young age, understands the importance of musicality and storytelling at its truest form in musical theatre dance and she really commits to every step which is why I enjoyed working with her. I was super happy with the phrase and I'm really looking forward to teaching and sharing it this weekend. I'll be sure to keep you posted on how it goes.
#sessionswithcdj #whowantstoduet #cdjdance
Shelby Nunn is currently enjoying her freshman year at Pace University in New York. She is an alumni of The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
session #4 with Shakia Johnson
Sometimes you meet a person you immediately connect with, and then you meet Shakia Johnson. Kia is an infectious energizer bunny and together I'm pretty sure we entertain and exhaust people at the same time. The first time I saw Kia we passed one another by at Bates College. I was there teaching jazz dance classes at the Bates Dance Festival (BDF) Young Dancers Workshop and she was arriving to teach a master class in hip hop. I knew she was a dancer, us dancers know one when we see one. But we didn't speak. Later I went and observed her class and confirmed she was not only a dancer but a dope one at that. Months later we connected via Facebook after realizing we both would be on faculty at BDF this summer. I knew our schedules would not allow me to take her class while there but I hoped she would be down to session with me considering we had never "actually" met. At BDF we immediately hit it off, often having hour long conversations that consisted mostly of spontaneous gut busting, stop or I'm gonna pee on myself laughter, making up random songs or breaking into old Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation choreography. So when I asked if she'd be down to session I'm pretty sure she responded with something like"ayyyyyyyeeee!!!"
We met up in my favorite rehearsal space at Bates, Skeleton. We were both super tired, as it was the final week of the young dancers workshop. She was also battling a headache so I wasn't sure she'd even want to dance. Silly me. This particular session was all Kia. I think the last time I took a hip hop class was over ten years ago, but I wanted the challenge and was fully prepared to be humbled by how ridiculous I would look next to her. I also wanted to know what it feels like to move from the perspective of a hip hop dancer. I have always admired their attention to detail and musicality, their freedom of expression and how they preserve their history but break rules at the same time. Not to mention their overall swagger. Kia embodies all that. I do not, lol. My biggest challenge was the footwork when we started playing with some "house" moves and even though I'm fairly comfortable with dance improvisation, I found myself to be super self critical of my choices when encouraged to freestyle. But that's the beauty of these sessions. I get the opportunity to be a student. I get to struggle at something and try new things. Some I may succeed in and others I may not but in the end I come away with a great experience and a deeper knowledge of myself as a dancer. Check out session #4 with Kia and go out and try something new! #sessionswithcdj #whowantstoduet #cdjdance
Shakia Johnson is a graduate of Pioneer Valley’s Performing Arts Charter High School and Dean College. She has performed for numerous hip hop events and has opened for concerts by Fat Joe, Jadakiss, 112, Charlie Baltimore, Kima from “Total” and Omarion. In 2005 she choreographed a hip-hop number for the Celtics/NBA half-time show. She has toured the U.S. and abroad dancing with Face Da Phlave Entertainment and Illstyle and Peace Productions.
session #3 with Tré Smith
I met Tré almost a year ago at Bates Dance Festival. He was there performing with the amazing Camile A. Brown & Dancers and I was teaching jazz dance at the Young Dancers Festival. Before we met we each got the opportunity to see the other perform. The first and last time we spoke was the day before he was scheduled to leave the festival. I remember our conversation being quick but super easy. We had mutual friends, like for real, not just "oh yea I danced with him/her" but actual mutual friends. And even though we hadn't met before, it felt familiar. After the festival we kept in contact loosely through social media, sharing "likes" and the occasional comment to show support. But when I found out he would be in Houston teaching at the Houston Academy of Dance Summer Intensive the same week I would be there, I began plotting on how I would convince him to do a session. The problem was I wasn't sure if he had remembered what I thought was this great conversation standing on the sidewalk in Maine, or if he'd think I was slightly cra for asking someone I'd never really gotten to know, to meet in a studio and play.
Fortunately, he one: remembered and two: is just as cra as I am. So when I proposed a session via text his response was "I'm down." We planned for Friday June 19th, and met back up at the Houston Academy of Dance after he'd been there all day teaching and rehearsing. I wasn't sure he'd still want to go through with the session after being in the studio all day. Turns out, he needed the session just as much as I did. What you see in the video is the first time we ever danced together. Those of us who understand how particular contact improvisation can be, understand that finding an immediate connection with someone is rare. I chose, Roméo et Juliette Op. 17: Premier transports (Strophes) by Jessye Norman to begin. We started improvising, and although I suspected there would be a moment of awkwardness, there was none. Some amazing moments happened during that first round but we'll never see it. I had forgotten to press play on my camera. We tried again, you know, to make sure the first wasn't a fluke. This time we found even more colors AND I remembered to hit record, but I accidentally deleted the video. I didn't tell him this, but I was beginning to feel like the universe didn't want these moments to be shared which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Now that we were becoming more acquainted with each others breath and choices we decided we'd continue improvising without structure. I put my playlist on shuffle, pressed record on my camera and over 45 minutes later we were completely lost in the best way possible. Above, you'll see some of my favorite moments-though it was difficult to choose. This is a conversation between two artists with different training backgrounds, who took different journeys, yet arrived at the same place at the right time. This "could" have been a train wreck. You never know if you're going to get along with another dancer. Even though we both agreed going into this that we would "see what happens" I would have never predicted such a seamless connection but I am so glad this happened and I look forward to dancing with Tré again and again and again. Who got next?
#sessionswithcdj #whowantstoduet #cdjdance
Tré Smith is a graduate of The University of the Arts and was a member of Eleone Dance Theatre and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. He is currently a member of Camille A. Brown & Dancers.
session #2 with Sherah Shipman
One of the perks of teaching is getting to watch great young talent grow and find their artistic voices. I had the wonderful opportunity to have Sherah in my classes as a high school student. Fresh off her first year of college studying dance at SUNY Purchase, she graciously agreed to meet me in the studio and let me throw material I'm developing for a solo titled "and though she be but little", based off the Shakespeare quote, on her. What you see are moments during the solo where there's a shift in the tone of the musicality and character arch. My dancing is often described as "fierce" or "explosive", so I'm enjoying relishing in the vulnerability and sensuality of the sound of the guitar. Sherah has these stunning long limbs and a lovely balance of delicate yet expansive movement qualities that I hoped would rub off on me. In the end I was happy with where things are headed and grateful to Sherah for her willingness to try anything.
I will perform "and though she be but litte", at the Bates Dance Festival Young Dancers Workshop Faculty Performance this Summer. Session 2 down, looking forward to what's next. #sessionswithcdj #whowantstoduet #cdjdance
Sherah Shipman is a graduate of the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and is currently pursuing her BFA in Dance at SUNY Purchase.
session #1 with Laura Gutierrez
La and I met up at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts on June 2nd. Before our session we had not discussed what , if anything, we would work on but once we got in the space, and in between extended periods of random laughter, we started playing with material. Interestingly enough, both of us were tired of moving like ourselves. She wanted to feel more physical and large, while I craved specificity so we went back and forth giving one another things to try maybe every 16-24 counts or so. It felt effortless, two artists sharing with no agenda or deadline, open to try anything. We were probably in the studio for 2 hours or so, most of the time talking about our thoughts on where we both are with dance at the moment, OVER IT. But of course once we were moving, most of the negative thoughts quickly faded. I still have no idea what, if anything will come of these sessions. As a child I could never sit still, even my still moments had a purpose, mainly I had to give my parents a second to catch up. The moment I discovered there were other people out there, who understood the need (and sometimes suffering) to always be creating, I realized I was not as weird as I thought. So sessions with cdj allows me to be in spaces with other weirdos whose natural instinct is to just. do. something. We'll see what comes of this.
Check it out. Watch the videos, enjoy, comment and go create! #sessionswithcd #whowantstoduet #cdjdance
Oh and I almost forgot. While wrapping up I asked La 3 random questions: