Normally around this time of the semester, Bridgewater State University dance major Kaylee Lambert, now a senior, would be presenting a new work at the American College Dance Association conference, where she would get feedback on her choreography and have the opportunity to meet in person with other young dance makers. Not happening this year.
That’s why Cambridge-based the Dance Complex is stepping into the breach with a new initiative called “Campus Goes Complex!,” which brings college and advanced high school dance-makers together virtually to see films of each other’s work and get feedback from area dance professionals. And the public is invited. Streaming on Facebook Live on the “Campus Goes Complex!” event page starting May 6 at 7 p.m. and continuing on subsequent Thursdays in May, the showcases will highlight emerging talent and provide a glimpse into the process of creating and refining choreography.
In addition to Lambert, the first showcase features choreography by Fasha Banson (Weymouth High School), Olivia Evans (TEC Connections Academy), and Pete Pierantozzi (Boston Conservatory at Berklee). The streamed program of films and feedback will also include live give and take among the students and dance professionals. The audience will be encouraged to weigh in with comments, too.
During a year in which school closures, pandemic isolation, and social distancing have made choreographing more challenging — and more insular — than ever, “Campus Goes Complex!” offers students the chance for an outside eye and new perspectives. “When students have the opportunity to be in a performance event with students in other [schools], it really opens their horizons,” says Jody Weber, Lambert’s professor and department chair at Bridgewater State. “It empowers them, encourages them to take risks when they see what others are doing. And I think the feedback they’ll receive will help not only with their own choreography but choreography they may participate in in the future.”
The initiative also gives Boston area pros a chance to see younger dancers and choreographers who might fit into their own future projects. Dance Complex executive artistic director Peter DiMuro hopes this “little seedling” is just the beginning. “We hope this program will continue beyond this initial limited variation into an expanded version to connect students to each other and to the local dance scene and help to build generational legacies.”
Lambert, who contributes a trio about toxic masculinity, says it was creatively tricky to get past COVID restrictions of wearing masks and six-feet distancing, which nixed partnering. And on top of that was the challenge of considering camera angles and focus. “Campus Goes Complex!” documents many of the young dance makers’ first attempts at choreographing for film. “But it’s a really cool way to think about dance in a different context,” she says. “It’s allowed me to see dance through a whole new lens.”
And that’s a key benefit, says Marcus Schulkind, one of the dance professionals providing feedback for the first showcase. (Others are DiMuro, Meredith Lyons, and Billy McLaughlin.) “The quick pivot to video during the pandemic has created opportunities we might not have had otherwise,” he says. “People are figuring out what is powerful as an image on film and [asking] how can I emphasize that power in real life dance theater action. Ultimately, it may be a way we’re starting to reorganize the visual, whether as film or live concert dance as we used to know it in the ‘old normal.’”
The events are free to the public on Facebook Live.
Karen Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.