by Jessica Wilson
EDge, the postgraduate performance company of London Contemporary Dance School founded in 2000, completed its annual spring tour earlier this year, coming to a close on 12 July 2012. Under the direction of Artistic Director Jeanne Yasko, the company’s 12 exceptional dancers visited 21 venues nationally and internationally, travelling to places such as Denmark, Austria and Portugal, in addition to performing at their home, The Place’s Robin Howard Theatre in London.
The varied programme was populated by highly stimulating and thought-provoking contemporary dance pieces, choreographed by esteemed dance artists such as leading dance makers Matthias Sperling and James Wilton (winner of the Sadler’s Wells Global Dance Contest in 2010), choreographing Dances With Purpose and Through Shards respectively. In addition to these two new pieces, The Place and Dance Umbrella co-commissioned Rachel Lopez de La Nieta and Tony Adigun’s own version of Richard Alston’s iconic Wildlife (1983) reinterpreted with the choreographers’ own individual artistic voices; both pieces were first seen at The Place in Autumn 2011. Completing the programme, dancer and choreographer Delphine Gaborit restaged The Quartet, a powerful piece set to György Ligeti’s String Quartet Nr.1 by world famous German choreographer Sasha Waltz. Delphine, who has danced in Waltz’s company, was given permission to restage the iconic piece for EDge’s Spring tour, marking the first time a piece of repertoire by Waltz has been re-staged for a postgraduate performance company.
EDge, in a new and exciting venture, is and has been actively recruiting in the US as well as in the UK for the last few years, demonstrating the huge impact contemporary dance is having across the international arts scene – an indicator of the great reputation of LCDS and its performance company. The works presented by the company, after the company had been touring extensively for nearly two months, were extremely varied yet completely engaging, depicting a programme that is influenced by a great many artists and factors, and that is hungry for more. EDge has built a reputation for touring engaging works that range across different styles of contemporary dance, performed by young dance artists at a key stage of their professional development, with the purpose of EDge to offer an invaluable insight into creating, rehearsing and touring work as a professional company. The EDge Spring tour represented the culmination of a year-long course of study, giving postgraduate performers the chance to work together as an ensemble and collaborate with guest choreographers.
Two of the four US students in particular, Nicole West and Gracelynn Whyte, have had firsthand experience of the differences between the US and UK style of dance. As they finish the course in 2012, the period spent with EDge will form the main part of their Postgraduate Diploma in Performance at London Contemporary Dance School.
Prior to EDge, Nicole West was particularly looking forward to being challenged as a performer in her work ethic and quality, as well as working with the commissioned choreographers and the touring season. West originally studied at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois where she attained a Bachelor of Science in Dance from the School of Communications. As a result, West’s training included a full breadth of styles from tap and African to ballet and contact improvisation, in addition to having the opportunity to study with the Paul Taylor School, David Parker, Jan Bartoszek, Billy Siegenfeld, Molly Shanahan, Laura Wade, and Joseph Mills. On the home stretch of the EDge period, West described the teaching methods at LCDS as very “different from those…in the States because of the emphasis on freedom and personal artistry”. Most of West’s training “was mostly about uniformity in technique classes”, and in terms of the UK, West maintained that there is a “greater infusion of dynamics in the postgraduate classes and efficiency” rather than a sole focus on technique.
Gracelynn Whyte agreed too that UK training is “focused more on personal style and less on technique” in developing an awareness of the self as a dancer of movement, which is given higher priority. Originally from the northwest US, Whyte received the bulk of her training through Balance Dance Company. Whyte later graduated from Chapman University in Southern California with degrees in Dance and Communication Studies in 2010, having the opportunity to perform in over 25 pieces by choreographers such as Jennifer Backhaus, Dale Merrill, Nancy Dickson-Lewis, and Elizabeth Maxwell. Whilst studying, Whyte was given the opportunity to study abroad at Middlesex University in London, receiving the highest Talent Scholarship and named Up & Coming Choreographer (2009), Outstanding Artistic Achievement (2010), and placed on the Chancellor’s List for the entirety of her studies. Whyte argued, interestingly, that the focus on personal style has “become a shift from perfectionism” to finding out whom you are as a dancer and why, echoing West’s words, however challenging and rewarding this may be. In terms of the industry as a whole, both dancers learnt extensively, both about themselves as dancers and their studies, hoping to sustain long careers in dance.
EDge 2013 will see a member of the company take on the double role of dancer-choreographer, sitting well with the existing strands of the programme, providing elements of ownership and great involvement in the EDge tour in having the opportunity to create and show versatility. Watch this space!
Assistant Editor Jessica Wilson is a final year student at Middlesex university in London, studying Dance Performance. She is also a Marketing and Communications Assistant at the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD).
Jessica reviews London shows for the Society of London Theatre’s initiative for 16-25 year olds, TheatreFix, writes features for A Younger Theatre and blogs for Cloud Dance Festival, with additional press responsibilities. She has completed many marketing internships, the most recent at English National Ballet.
Jessica has also previously interned for SOLT, East London Dance and the ISTD dance examination board. Jessica is a National Youth Dance Ambassador for Youth Dance England, focusing on young people’s access to dance. She is extremely passionate about opportunities for young people enabling them to succeed and hopes to continue advocating this in the future through a variety of means.
The opinions expressed here are Jessica’s alone and do not reflect the opinions of RAD.