MPSA dancers partner with renowned guest artists - Mid-Pacific Institute

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MPSA dancers partner with renowned guest artists

Mid-Pacific students performed a sneak preview for a small group of school administrators on Thursday, August 24.

Posted on August 29, 2017 by Scot Allen

Mid-Pacific School of the Arts (MPSA) dance teachers regularly partner with renowned guest artists to provide students with the opportunity to learn from talented choreographers and master teachers from across the country. This summer, the school hosted a Summer Dance Workshop with renowned master teacher Toni Piece-Sands. Twenty-three students participated in daily classes with master teacher Piece-Sands in the Horton Technique of modern dance. The Horton Technique emphasizes a whole-body, anatomical approach to dance that includes flexibility, strength, coordination, as well as body and spatial awareness to enable unrestricted, dramatic freedom of expression.

Following the Summer Dance Workshop, nine MPSA dancers spent two additional weeks working with award-winning guest choreographer and founder of TU Dance in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Uri Sands, as he staged his work Earth for the annual Mid-Pacific School of the Arts Fall Dance Concert. Sands has received national recognition for choreography that is notable for its fusion of classical elegance with edgy contemporary action. His impressive list of accomplishments include receiving the Princess Grace Award in choreography, the Joyce Foundation Award and the McKnight Artist Fellowship in Choreography. Sands was recently named a 2015 USA Fellow, receiving the Knight Fellowship in Dance together with TU Dance co-founder Toni Pierce-Sands.

Katelyn Skelley, a former member of TU Dance, assisted in the staging of the work at Mid-Pacific. Skelley is a graduate of New York University Tisch School of the Arts and a freelance dance artist based in Germany.

Under the direction of Sands, Mid-Pacific students performed a sneak preview for a small group of school administrators on Thursday, August 24, at the completion of Sands' residency at Mid-Pacific.

"Watching a work rehearsed in the intimate setting of the studio changes one's whole perspective about what it is we do as artists," said Mid-Pacific Dance Program Head Paul Maley. "It is enlightening to watch this process up close, to see these dancers share their own stories."

"I think one of the things in particular that keeps me going is having opportunities like I am having with the Mid-Pacific students," shared Sands. "It is so gratifying to really see the impact that this type of work can have upon young people; to see them get excited about it and inspired by it, and to actually go out and implement change in their own cultures and their own endeavors."

Sands spoke highly of the Mid-Pacific dance program and the school in general. "We are interacting here with students who are clearly very well prepared for the work and the information we are delivering to them," he said. "They learned this in four days and that speaks to the combination of all the work that's being done here in this space, the dance leadership and also a reflection on how they are supported outside of the studio."

"The work that they are doing in the studio is clearly valued, Sands continued. "They have a real balance of academics and art. Ultimately, all of these pieces have to be integrated. And this really does speak to the amazing, supportive and integrative community that they are all a part of here (Mid-Pacific)."

The work the dancers performed was dynamic, elemental and challenging for the students.

"Dance teaches us to interact, not just in our dance and timing but in this piece we needed to be connected through our eyes, our breath, and our bodies. It is really physical and tiring, so we combined our energies," said a Mid-Pacific student following the performance.

When asked about how the dancers worked together as a team, a Mid-Pacific student commented, "Any of us could do this as a solo, but we pull energy from each other. We are all leaders in the way we take on roles in the movement so we can do better as a whole."

"Being able to share this experience with the other dancers just lifted us up so much more!"

  • "Being able to share this experience with the other dancers just lifted us up so much more!"

  • Uri Sands and the Mid-Pacific students before the dancing begins.

  • Uri Sands speaks with Mid-Pacific administrators.