Finding Meaning and Excitement in Dance

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In December 2014, Artistic Director Samar Haddad King and Associate Director Zoe Rabinowitz traveled to Charlottesville, VA to conduct a week long residency with students at the University of Virginia. During this time they taught an open workshop; created a new piece – Re:Bound, an adapted excerpt of YSDT’s evening length production of Bound – on a select group of dancers; and gave a public presentation on their work across borders using art and technology. It was a fruitful and productive week for the company and students. Read on to learn more about the experience of one of the participating dancers, Mackenzie Regan, and to watch a short video from rehearsal.

Mackenzie Regan headshotWhen I first received an email regarding the workshop and opportunity to partake in a weeklong residency with Yaa! Samar Dance Theatre, I thought that it would be a really unique opportunity; one that I normally don’t push myself to take. I have trained in dance since I was 3, but have never been a standout or one that people rave over their talent. I’ve never been the one that’s throwing crazy “tricks” or able to contort my body in ways that leaves audiences in awe, but I’ve always been one to try and to give it everything I have. While I come across as quite loud and outgoing in person, I have always doubted my dance abilities and struggle with major confidence issues on stage and in auditions. So for me to even decide to attend the workshop in the first place was a surprise to myself, and I could not be more excited that I went. I had so much fun in those two hours at the initial workshop, but never in a million years did I imagine that I would be chosen to work in this piece! So you can imagine my surprise and extreme excitement coupled with intense nerves that came along with reading the email from Samar the next day saying that I had been cast.

I came to the first rehearsal anxious that I wouldn’t pick up the choreography as quickly or well as the others, but immediately at the start of the rehearsals I knew that it would all be okay. Samar and Zoe possess a patience and dedication to their art that is evident in the way they work with their performers. I never felt that I was ever letting them down (despite when I may or may not have messed up the phrase a million times) or embarrassed to ask for clarification. They worked to make this a personal experience for every dancer participating, which in turn created a uniquely united piece. It was such an honor to work with them as artists, but also to get to know them as people. They were remarkably insightful when we had questions about movement, intention, and life. This experience presented a new way for me to look at dance. I was beginning to find a bad habit in myself of “just going through the motions” in dance. While this may be due in part to my training as a child, which focused on mimicking shapes and performing movement without much say in the choreography; this experience taught me to think otherwise. While one may be performing the same movements as others on stage, Samar and Zoe taught me that these movements are unique ones as well. Each person has their own reasons for dancing and that is what drives their performance. I found this a really good way to always find meaning and excitement in choreography that can become mundane after rehearsing it for many months.

This idea of having intention and dancing with a purpose is one of the main things that I took away from this experience. I also gained a lot of confidence from participating. I stepped outside of my comfort zone by auditioning, but Samar and Zoe could not have provided a more comfortable and safe space to explore movement. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with them and feel as though my view of myself as a dancer with purpose has given me a new confidence that carries into my dancing this semester. They are inspiring as artists as well as genuinely kind and giving people. I had so much fun learning the choreography as well as hearing their stories and how this came to be. They are both so hardworking and they, along with the faculty here at UVa, are such great role models for us as we grow up and explore careers. I am so glad that I decided to walk into that workshop on Monday and cannot thank everyone enough for the opportunity. I am really looking forward to continuing to work with the movement as well as finding my intention in the different phrases. Thank you again to everyone involved in this residency and I hope to make all of y’all proud with how I perform the choreography in the spring!

– Mackenzie Regan

This residency was made possible with support from the Vice Provost for the Arts at the University of Virginia.

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