Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ballet students explore music through choreography class

From blues to Beethoven, Patel Conservatory ballet students will be exploring their own interpretations of various music styles this summer.
A unique part of our Next Generation Ballet summer intensive is the choreography class. Part music education, part choreography, the class is a chance for students to express themselves and have fun.
Students in the choreography class observe and offer
feedback on one another's choreography pieces.
“We developed this class to help dance students gain a greater understanding of music, such as the terminology, how it’s put together, composers and musical background,” said Gregory Ruffer, music chair of the Patel Conservatory. “Music terms, such as coda or staccato, mean something slightly different for dancers.”
Ruffer, former music director for the Orlando Ballet, created the class in Orlando in 2003 with Peter Stark, Patel Conservatory dance chair and former director of the Orlando Ballet.

The goal of the class is music education, and Ruffer is a music instructor. But since dancers want to naturally move to music, in order to make the class more interesting, he and Stark came up with the idea of letting them choreograph their own pieces to the music they were studying.
“It’s a very unique program,” said Ruffer. “I always start off by saying, I’m not a dancer, so it’s the one time in your whole camp that your dancing won’t be criticized.”
The course covers many music styles and this summer includes pieces from Beethoven, Handel and Mozart, as well as latin, blues and rock n’ roll. The students break into groups, listen to the pieces and discuss them. Then, each group picks one of the six two-minute songs to choreograph.
“The choreography class allows our diverse summer students to bond and be creative in unique ways,” said Stark. “Having it taught by a music teacher emphasizes music analysis and frees the dancers from technical criticism as they explore their movement ideas.”
One of the groups shows off their work in progress. From left: Candy Tong,
Jackson Kettell, Josie O'Reilly, Jesse Manning, Marta Kelly and Calvin Farias.
The class culminates in a choreography showcase performed in TECO Theater July 28 for faculty, staff and fellow students.
While Ruffer may not be scrutinizing their dancing, the students are eager to shine because the best pieces are performed in the NGB's intensive finale, Summer Fantasy , a full-scale production for all audiences in Ferguson Hall on July 29.
Given creative freedom, many students come up with a theme, costumes and props, and choose a cross-section of dance styles including ballet, tap, jazz, modern and social dances.
“The students create things that none of us can imagine,” said Ruffer. “Each year, Peter and I are amazed at just how creative they are.”
Come see some examples of what they've come up with in the intensive’s finale, Summer Fantasy, and follow the progress of the dancers with our student guest blog

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