USC Kaufman’s first dance class performs works in progress

Family, friends and members of the LA dance community appreciate the work of 33 freshmen

November 17, 2015 Allison Engel

In their eight weeks on campus, the first class of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance have studied with elite faculty members who are master teachers, scholars and choreographers.

The 33 freshman dancers presented “Emergence: Works in Progress,” a first studio showing of 12 works — six choreographed by students and six repertory works by master choreographers on Oct. 22 and 23. The program, directed by USC Kaufman instructors Patrick Corbin and E. Moncell Durden, featured a variety of dance styles, including hip-hop, modern and ballet. Four student-created dance videos were shown before the performances.

The school is unique in that there are many direct links between famed choreographers and the instructors working with students, Vice Dean and USC Kaufman Director Jodie Gates told the two audiences made up of parents, siblings, other USC students and members of the Los Angeles dance community.

For example, artist in residence Zippora Karz, who danced in the New York City Ballet under the direction of George Balanchine, staged excerpts of two Balanchine works, “Serenade” and “The Four Temperaments.”

Assistant Professor Corbin, who danced for Paul Taylor for 16 years, staged an excerpt from a Taylor piece, “Cloven Kingdom.” Internationally celebrated dancer and choreographer Desmond Richardson, another USC Kaufman artist in residence, staged an excerpt of a Dwight Rhoden piece, “Red/The Force.” Richardson co-directs Complexions Contemporary Ballet with Rhoden.

Long days

Close links exist between Gates, a former principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet, Ballet Frankfurt and Pennsylvania Ballet companies, and choreographer and USC Kaufman faculty member William Forsythe, who was represented in the program with an excerpt from his work “The Questioning of Robert Scott.” Both Gates and USC Kaufman faculty member Thomas McManus danced in Ballet Frankfurt under the direction of Forsythe.

McManus, who staged the Forsythe work for the studio showing, noted that the new students’ days start at 8 a.m. and often continue straight through until 8 p.m., which made it even more impressive that several found the time to create and stage their own works to begin the program.

For parents, the Trojan Family Weekend studio presentation marked the first time they were able to see their students dance since classes began. Several flew in from out of town, including Amy Wu, mother of Stephanie Dai, who came from Fremont, Calif.

As a dance parent, Wu said she had enjoyed attending dance competitions with her daughter over many years.

“I’ve missed seeing her dance,” she said. She got the opportunity to see Dai dance in “Serenade,” “Cloven Kingdom” and “Red/The Force.”

Gregory and Kristin Hetzer of Palos Verdes, parents of Joseph Hetzer, also were enthusiastic about seeing their son perform again.

Stephanie has already become a stronger dancer during the short two months of studying and training.

Amy Wu

“We’ve heard he’s improved a lot, so I’m very excited to see him,” said Kristin Hetzer. They were able to see him in a duet and as a soloist in “Le Corsaire Pas de Deux,” in “The Questioning of Robert Scott,” in “The Four Temperaments” and “Red/The Force.” In addition, he and fellow dancer Rebecca Troyak choreographed and performed an original work, “De Spero.”

The parents’ verdicts?

Kristin Hetzer said her son, who began studying ballet seriously only in his sophomore year of high school and is still a young dancer, having just turned 18, “has definitely gotten stronger and gained better control” in his time at USC Kaufman. She and her husband liked that dancers rotated parts at different performances so audiences could see the same pieces performed by different members of the class.

“I think all the parents were really thrilled with the programs,” she said.

“It was a very impressive show,” Wu said afterward. “Seeing Stephanie dance different parts in each show was just amazing. She has already become a stronger dancer during the short two months of studying and training. I particularly realized she is a different dancer in her ballet technique, and I’m really happy to see the difference.

“I was very impressed and proud.”