Pro Dancers Are Making an Impression on LMU Students

Beginning this semester, dance students at Loyola Marymount University will have an important milestone during the sixth week. That is when the new artist-in-residence program, appropriately called the 6th-Week Workshop, happens on campus.

The inaugural guest for this semester’s workshop was acclaimed choreographer Debbie Allen and her Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Leimert Park, near the LMU campus. Allen taught a class on Monday, her faculty members taught 20 classes over the next four days. Allen returned to campus Friday to speak to students and visitors.

The 6th-Week Workshop is another initiative to bring LMU’s dance students in contact with professional dancers. “The more that professionals come to campus to work with students, the more students will get to see a whole new voice, a new way of moving,” said Patrick Damon Rago, professor of theatre arts and dance and chair of the Dance Program. “Also, the networking is good for students’ career building and finding their way into professional work.”

A donor who chooses to remain anonymous has funded the 6th-Week Workshop for three years, allowing an artist in residence for six semesters.

Even before the workshop, LMU’s Dance Program was building close ties to the profession. In 2015, the dance program and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company launched a four-year partnership that will bring the works and philosophy of the renowned dancer and choreographer to a West Coast university for the first time. As part of that partnership, company member Antonio Brown held classes and lectured on campus earlier this semester.

As part of the partnership, LMU dance students are currently learning “D-Man in the Waters.” Jones choreographed “D-Man in the Waters” in 1989 at the height of the AIDS crisis and while members of his own company were battling the disease. The piece became one of the most celebrated dances of the 20th century. LMU dance students are learning the first section of this seminal work and will be performing it Nov. 16-19, 2016, in the Strub Theatre on campus. Their process of reconstructing and performing “D-Man in the Waters: Part 1” is being documented in a film that Rosalynde LaBlanc Loo, assistant professor of dance, is producing and co-directing about the dance titled “D-Man.” Jones was on campus in March 2016 to rehearse with the students.

Rago, who earned his M.F.A. in modern dance at the University of Utah, said that the primary mission of the program is to bring students together with working professionals. “It enhances their education and builds their professional network,” he said. He said he is committed to bringing outside talent to work with students, and that the effort is aided by CFA Dean Bryant Keith Alexander’s commitment to the program. “The proximity of L.A. and all the arts is an edge for the program, too,” he said.

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