Unique Dance Philosophy Showcased in Follow Us Here
Over the years, SDSU has become recognized as a community art center. The School of Music and Dance holds clinics for local students to attend, and also sends ensembles out to perform and collaborate at various community events. This October, San Diego Dance Theater held its 18th annual Trolley Dances, where attendees take a trolley route, and witness dance being performed in various locations around San Diego. In this year’s Trolley Dances, a stellar multi-generational cast of SDSU students, alumni, faculty, emeriti faculty, and local dancers from transcenDANCE performed a piece entitled Follow Us Here by SDSU’s own Jess Humphrey, Professor of Dance.
“Behold, follow, leave, or find any dancer or dance you wish throughout this site-sensitive performance. Like in everyday life, you can’t see it all,” is a primary driving concept behind Follow Us Here. The mechanics behind this collaborative dance involved Professors Jess Humphrey and Leslie Seiters’ mentorship of four student researchers, Nhu Nguyen, Martha Brosnan, Aubrhe Yruretagoyena, and Laray Egca-Saez, who were supported by SDSU’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program. The dance itself was derived from the choreographic practices identified in conversations between the six of them. The final product is described by Humphrey as “trying to transcend genre as both experimental and experiential. Both words are accurate, but not sufficient, in describing the dance.”
One distinguishing characteristic of the dance philosophy taught at SDSU is the merging of choreography and improvisation. Humphrey emphasizes that they teach what would normally be two classes (choreography and improvisation) as one combined class. So what does choreographed improvisation look like? A dancer may have 12 counts to get from one side of the stage to the next, and has to accomplish 2 or 3 turns in that time span, but the rest is up to the performer. This concept can be likened to a jazz performer, who takes an improvisational solo, but must play notes that fit in within the chords that are accompanying the performance.
Jean Isaacs, Artistic Director of San Diego Dance Theatre, shares her perspective on Follow Us Here. “Jess worked tirelessly on this dance and brought on important postmodern concepts such as audience engagement, breaking the fourth wall, and honoring multiple perspectives. She managed to make it scholarly and yet performative at the same time. It was one of the audience’s favorites.”
The performers in Follow Us Here helped expose local dance-goers to the unique perspective that SDSU brings to dance philosophy. Additionally, the cast of 14 women ranged from twenty-somethings to dancers upwards of age 60—an “intergenerational dream cast,” according to Humphrey. The collaboration with dancers from transcenDANCE, a local dance organization, has opened doors to future partnerships with dancers at SDSU. Follow Us Here shone a spotlight on the innovative work happening at the School of Music and Dance, and served as a springboard for profound collaborations and dances to come.
For photos and information on Follow Us Here, view any of the below links: