I feel like I haven't said much about what its like being a dance student recently, so here it is. We are now in to the fourth week of the rehearsal period, with two more to go, and our choreographer this year, Simon Birch (the other half of the year are working with Matthias Spalding) is working us hard! Its exhausting. But I am really really enjoying it.
The rehearsal period happens each year of the degree, with all years being split in to two groups to spend five weeks working with a choreographer, culminating in the annual student performance in the the Riley Theater. Its a hard five weeks, with ballet and contemporary class in the morning and five hours of rehearsal in the afternoon, meaning we are clocking up about seven hours of dancing a day. But its invaluable experience of what it is to be a professional dancer - long days, hard work, lots of stretching and looking after your body (hot baths, massage, good food).
It challenges all aspects of us as dancers - creatively, as we have to devise movement from tasks given by the choreographer, physically due to the repetitive nature of rehearsing, and mentally, as we must also concentrate for the full five hours and be aware of any changes made on our 'double' if we are not dancing (as we are split in to two casts it means you have a double who does your role in the other cast).
Emotionally it can also be a challenge. I myself find working with choreographers in the studio makes me quite nervous, and I think at some point in this process everyone faces a personal challenge.
Luckily, Simon creates a great atmosphere to work in. He is clear and firm but understanding and open. He talks a lot of sense, but doesn't talk too much. Most importantly he gives us advice and things to think about when as we dance. He expects a lot, but he does it in a way that makes you want to give a lot. Through working with him I have learnt a lot not just as a dancer but also as a choreographer.
A very simplified description of the piece is that it is an exploration of time. We used scores to generate a lot of the movement which ranges from lifts (yes Nigel Lythgoe, thats girls lifting boys, and girls, who would have thought eh) and contact work, to some very fast and complicated unison.
Its often hard to tell when you are in a piece what it looks like, which is why its quite nice to have two casts as it gives you idea (although things look very different on different bodies) of what is going on, but I think the piece will go down well.
If you want to come and see it for your self the performance will be at 7.30pm, March 23-26th at the Riley Theatre, the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Leeds.