Designing Space With Dance Bodies

Ms. Vickery regularly brings guest dance instructors and choreographers to work with the Thacher Dance Ensemble. Janice Rosario was the most recent.
Janice Rosario, a New York City-based contemporary dance choreographer and instructor discovered Thacher via social media and liked what she saw. After spending some time exploring our posts and website and becoming impressed by what seemed to be a “unique and well rounded program,” she reached out to Dance Program Director Gallia Vickery to offer her services.

The well-roundedness that impressed Ms. Rosario is designed into Thacher’s dance program. Gallia regularly schedules intensives with guest dancers to expose the Dance Ensemble to a variety of styles. “Most dancers train in two or three genres, with two or three teachers,” she said. “This gives them the opportunity to explore something different.” Senior, Samantha, a four-year member of the Dance Ensemble, is pleased that exposure to other dance genres here at Thacher has expanded her dance repertoire.

Ms. Rosario spent 12 hours, over three days, with the dancers, choreographing and rehearsing a six-minute piece, that the ensemble performed at a Head’s Invite. Her process was different from the process Thacher dancers had experienced in other intensives. “Often they come with choreographed pieces and put them on our bodies; one time it was just our own improv,” shared Samantha. Rosario arrived with a concept and worked from there to create a dance in conjunction with the students.

“In the beginning, she gave us her vision of the dance—saying goodbye—and the first move. We got to move with music and feel how each position changed into the next. She definitely paid attention to the individual ways we were moving. That’s why, in the beginning of the final piece, we all had such separate movements when the four of us came on stage. I think she got that from watching us dance,” Samantha explained.

In describing her choreographic style, Ms. Rosario talked about dance as architecture: “My husband is an architect and made me see how dance is architecture—creating and using space. I’m designing space with dance bodies.” Samantha thought that “was a cool concept. She had us do things like being really tall or being low to the ground. That was something that I worked on a lot, because I had to do that at the beginning of the dance.”

Samantha came to Thacher after studying ballet intensely (five days per week) for several years. Learning modern dance has been particularly challenging for her. “Coming from ballet, position was the thing—being in this position or this position. It was always kind of the same because you could only do specific things,” she explained. “Ms. Rosario and all the other dance teachers have helped us to explore more types of movement.”

How did Thacher live up to Ms. Rosario’s expectations? Sitting on the steps of the Library Amphitheater on a lovely spring day, she shared her impressions of the School. The New Yorker was surprised to find that the reality was even better than her expectations: “I was taken aback by the culture here and how you walk by a stranger and feel at home. For teens to be polite, courteous, and to connect on a human level is unusual.“

The Dance Ensemble will have their final performance of the 2018-19 school year during Big Gymkhana Family Weekend. Samantha is looking forward to it, and to expanding her dance horizons beyond Thacher, first in USC’s Freshman Year in Paris program, then at the USC Los Angeles campus.

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