It is yet again that time of year where the Claremont Colleges’ dancers come together to share their passions and talents with the rest of the community. This spring, the Scripps Dance show is one of three major annual campus dance performances, including Pomona’s spring show and the 5C student-run “Fast Forward.” This particular performance is unique; it is run by our own dance department, combining the works of students, faculty, and guest choreographers with a variety of different backgrounds, including modern, contemporary, and ballet. It also takes place at Garrison Theater, providing choreographers and dancers with the opportunity to utilize the small yet lovely and professional performance space that is very much a part of the Scripps feel.
While the performance is run by the Scripps department, it is open to participants from all five of the Claremont Colleges, including student choreographers like Emily Kleeman (PZ ’14), a dual Psychology and Dance major. Her piece, “Oscillations” (a working title), highlights her ballet training background as well as her development, with the help of opportunities such as this show, as a choreographer.
When asked about the process of creating a new piece, Kleeman replied, “Before I start anything, I usually have these dancers in my head who do stuff, then I try to copy that and give it to my dancers. From there, I usually do some fine-tuning to make sure everything is physically possible—it turns out that when you’re going off of dancers in your head, the laws of physics don’t apply, so I have to adjust for that. I’m usually very inspired by music, and this piece was especially good for that.”
Unlike many of the dances that have been featured on our campuses, Kleeman’s piece features a live pianist, not on the side, but in the middle of the stage. Inspired by the many talents of her friends and peers, Kleeman decided to include Brett Berger (HMC ’15), a talented pianist and Physics major, in the creative process. She asked him to compose an original piece as she choreographed her vision simultaneously. This is unusual; music is normally the fundamental source of inspiration, the first thing established, and the major driving force behind the feel and quality of movement.
“A lot of the piece is really centered on the music, and the piano [Berger] plays it on. The dancers use it as almost a sun or a nucleus that they continue to be drawn in to,” said Kleeman. “Something great about this experience, though, is that Brett and I worked off of each other; he would send me some music, I would choreograph to it, he would come and watch, and compose more music based on what he’d seen.”
Opportunities like the upcoming Scripps Dance show allow students the opportunities to not only showcase their own talents, but to also be inspired by the works of others and build a collaborative community of artists. What students learn and how they grow, however, whether it is together or individually, seems to extend beyond the work of art itself.
“Mostly I’ve learned…how to challenge myself,” said Kleeman. “I’ve also been able to look at all the work I’ve put out there, see themes, and find ways to break away from those themes.” Emily Kleeman’s piece along with the many other products of Scripps dance talent can be seen at Garrison Theater Friday, April 12 at 8:00 p.m. as well as Saturday, April 13 at 2:00 p.m.