As the 2014-15 performing arts season begins, the dance community is starting to showcase what this year is all about. Ririe-Woodbury's Fall Season
, debuted last week, and now Repertory Dance Theatre will take over the Rose Wagner Center for Portal
, which will run from Oct. 2 to 4. The show will feature the world premiere of “By The Snake,” created by Noa Zuk and Ohad Fishof, as well as Stephen Koester's "Fever Sleep," "Duets To Brazilian-Indian Music" from Zvi Gotheiner and RDT favorite “Passengers.” Today we're chatting with two of RDT's newest performers, Lauren Curley and Dan Higgins, talking about their careers and working on Portal
this season. (All pictures courtesy of RDT.
Dan Higgins & Lauren Curley
Gavin: Hey guys, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
I'm Lauren, I'm 23 and originally from Massachusetts. Besides dancing with RDT, I teach and enjoy yoga or going for walks with my dog.
I'm Dan, I grew up playing football for 12 years, which unintentionally lead into me finding dance as a career path. I enjoy the outdoors and I hope to open my own restaurant in good time.
Gavin: How did you each take an interest in dance and what were some early influences on you?
My mom was a really serious gymnast when she was younger so she actually started me in gymnastics when I was four. Ironically enough, I got scared doing backwards rolls so she switched me to a ballet class and I've been dancing ever since.
My brother was in a Ballet partnering class at University of Wyoming for his theater major where there were only three men and about 20 women. He came to me and asked if I was interested in taking the class so I said, "Sure, why not!" My first major influence was Bill T. Jones.
Gavin: Prior to college, what was it like learning the art and being involved with productions?
I came from a competition background, so I had been onstage performing 10 different pieces and solos multiple times a year. I also was pretty heavily involved in Nutcracker
productions and various other ballets as well, but for me developing the artistry didn't come until a little later. The nuanced subtleties you find in the classical modern techniques are breathtaking to me.
I had no prior training.
Gavin: Lauren, starting with you, what made you choose the University of Hartford to seek out your BFA and what was their program like for you?
One of my ballet teachers in high school, Jeremy Howes, had attended Hart, and she highly recommended the program to me. It was the first audition I did and I remember seeing one of their performances the night before and feeling like there was a real sense of support and community amongst the dancers and faculty. The director, Stephen Pier, is a huge asset the the program and in my time there, I got to work with such a diverse number of choreographers. There aren't many programs out there where you have to opportunity to perform a Balanchine solo in the same concert that you're doing one of Jose Limon's works, and that element of versatility that they encouraged was a huge part of why I got so much out of the program.
Gavin: You had some great opportunities to take on prominent solo performances from shows like Dances For Isadora and Psalm. How was it for you taking on those challenges and performing at that level?
In both of those solos I was coached by Nina Watt, who actually set Misa Brevis
on RDT last year. She really pushed me to delve into both the physical intention and the emotional intention behind each role, and at times that was really difficult to undertake. You really feel like you've gone on a journey when you take the time to invest so much of yourself in the choreography and it's incredibly rewarding.
Gavin: According to your bio, you were offered a spot with RDT the day after you received your degree. What was your take on getting such an offer right away?
It was the most amazing feeling in the world, honestly. I auditioned the day before graduation, left early so I could fly back in time, and landed an hour before my graduation ceremony started. The next day when I got the contract from Linda there was no question that I'd take the job; RDT had the same versatility in it's repertory and classical influences that I wanted in a company. Plus everyone I met was so welcoming, accommodating and supportive. That kind of passion and positivity is crucial to constantly growing as an artist.
Gavin: Dan, you transitioned into dance from football. What led you from playing a contact sport to a performing art?
The physicality and athletic training I received while playing football made the transition pretty easy because I had already obtained many of the necessary values that one learns in the dance studio. The part that took the most time was certainly ballet technique.
Gavin: What made you choose the University of Wyoming for your training and what was your time like there?
Basically, I attended UW because the three of my siblings went there. I had no intention of dancing at the University initially going into it, however the dance faculty at UW is first class. The program under Marsha Knight is a like a rare gem amongst the many other collegiate dance programs.
Gavin: What was your initial reaction to being invited to perform with RDT?
I was very excited, having worked with RDT in previous years it nice knowing what I was getting myself into. More importantly though, I was ready for some change and a new challenge in my life.
Gavin: What was it like for both of you joining RDT this year and becoming part of the troupe?
So far it's been an amazing process, starting off the season working with Noa Zuk and Ohad Fishoff really set the tone for a rich experience with the company.
Gavin: What were both of your first impressions of Portal and the works within the show?
We both really enjoy the repertory we're performing, there's a lot of diversity within the show. The two duets I perform in Zvi Gotheiner's "Brazilian Duets" are not only very different from one another but also a huge departure from Steve Kester's frenetic world in "Fever Sleep" and the very frank, postmodern tone of Viola Farber's "Passengers" is a nice lighthearted contrast to that. "By The Snake" is very different from anything RDT has performed before and we are very excited to be a part of that process and show our audience something they probably aren't anticipating.
Gavin: What kind of a challenge has it been for both of you learning the performances?
I think one of the biggest challenges is learning the amount of material we are required and getting it to performance quality; there are only so many hours in a day.
I think Dan is completely right, at any given time you're rehearsing twelve or so different works and trying to develop the artistry while struggling to remember the steps. It's hard but a lot of fun to work like that.
Gavin: How has it been for both of you working with each other as well as the rest of your fellow performers?
We actually ended up partnering together for "By the Snake" so, in a way, we learned to work with each other before anyone else in the company. It's always a challenge to do intricate choreography and partnering with someone new, especially after dancing with the same people for four years, but we got the hang of it really quickly.
Gavin: What are your thoughts going into opening night and about the entire performance itself?
Don't mess anything up! But in all seriousness, I think we're both just excited to get out there and perform. It's what we love to do and we're surrounded by some really talented, hardworking artists. There's a lot of inspiration around.
Gavin: What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into professional dancing for a career?
Don't be afraid of rejection, of putting yourself out there and being willing to do as much as you possibly can. A career as a professional dancer is not easy and not for the faint of heart, but if you really want it then it is the most rewarding experience in the world.
Keep at it, grind away those hours in the studio because at the end of the day, you don't want to look back in the mirror and say I could have worked harder.
Gavin: What can we expect from both of you over the rest of the year?
We just want to keep doing what we love, working hard and giving our all to each and every piece we are lucky enough to dance.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
I teach through the RDT Dance Center on Broadway, come take a class! I teach Contemporary on Monday nights from 8:15-9:30 p.m. and Jazz on Tuesdays from 5:45-7:00 p.m. All abilities are welcome for these fun drop in classes priced at $5 for students and $12 for adults. We also just saw Ririe Woodbury's Fall Season
last night; they're incredible artists and the show is truly amazing so go check them out if you haven't already!