Study Away Blog
One of my favorite courses at Trinity Laban is Choreography, which invites our independent artistic and creative endeavors. I look forward to it everyday Tuesday evening because it’s a chance to play with movement ideas and occupy the position of teacher and director.
In one of the projects I’m working on now focuses on how two people, when connected with literal or imaginative string, can manipulate and influence one another. I’ve been interested in the negative space between them and how I, as the choreographer, can produce a visual tension between them.
A lot of my research actually involves watching videos of bungee jumpers, observing how their cord moves through space, and taking note of what happens after the rebound of of their body. This sensation of spatial distance and reconnecting is where my creative process seems to be leading me. With enough visual, literary, and auditory research, I then took my ideas into the studio. Our choreography class here is three hours. At first I thought this would be painfully long, but once I get deep into a creative process, the three hours can go by fast.
I was randomly paired up with two dancers who I had no prior experience working with and hardly knew. I told them what I was interested in and what kind of movement concepts I wanted to try. They seemed interested and eager to work, focused and capable. I knew I wanted them to first find a common rhythm between them, maybe it’d be a swing, a walk, or just their breath. This rhythm was going to be our base to build movement on top of so I knew I wanted them to be honest in this investigation and find something that was genuine to their bodies and personalities. From there, I introduced particular imageries, sounds, and sensations to them as part of an improvisational score to interact with.
What was so exciting for me in these rehearsals was that my dancers knew exactly what I wanted. I was using Laban notation terminology (from a course that we study here) to describe the movement. With this shared language, they were able to pick it up instantly and visualize my ideas in real time.
I still have a couple of more rehearsals to polish my work before presenting it to my class and professor for feedback, but regardless of how the end product my look, I know that I have learned tons working with these two dancers. I’ve learned how to professionally conduct rehearsals, teach my choreography using a universal language among leading dancers today, and most importantly how to trust my creative process.
This morning, I said goodbye to the friends I made at Laban, to my housemates and to the memories I’ve collected over the months. I’m not heading back home quite yet though. I’ve decided to take a month to explore Europe and collect Plan research before I’m homeward bound in January.
If I’m being very honest, I can say that I didn’t want to leave London today. I didn’t want to hug my friends farewell or to pack up my things. Tears were shed and long hugs were exchanged. Even though this may appear sad and difficult, it’s actually a good sign, right? It means that I had such an amazing time to the point that I didn’t want to leave it. It means that I was able to make a meaningful little life here, one that is filled with people I love and a sense of belonging.
A couple of days ago, I got my closest friends together for a farewell celebration and I thought it was just going to be a couple of people who were going to show. I was mistaken, practically my whole Laban class came to my little flat and crammed themselves in my little room. We shared stories, laughed a ton, reminisced on the difficult times and the good days in the studio. We cried and talked about when we can all meet up again.
People gave me parting gifts, mostly little cards and chocolates. The best gift I received was a little model house that lights up from inside. My housemate, Barbara, gave it to me to remind me that I always have my home in London no matter where I go. This little house is much more than four thin walls with a little light in the middle, it’s represents the mobilization of my memories and stories from my time in London into whatever may come next.
I think the next step in learning how to study, live, and enjoy being abroad is figuring out how to carry it with me in the next thing I do. I’m heading to Europe to dance and gather Plan research, but it’s also a test to see how I feel moving on. How do I take everything I’ve just gained into my next adventure?
The last thing I’d like to reflect on while in the midst of transition is that I don’t want to disconnect my experiences from one another. Even when I return back to the states, I want to try my best to fully soak in what I’ve done here and continue this level of absorption at home. The practice of being fully present might be one of most difficult and persistent lessons I’m learning with my time abroad.
Now with my exciting term at Trinity Laban sadly coming to a close, I’m able to reflect on the differences between this conservatoire environment and Marlboro College. There are plenty of differences—too many to list. But the one that stands out the most for me is how the final exams are conducted here at Laban.
For most of my finals, I did not write any massive essays or reflective pieces on my work, which was strange coming from Marlboro College. Instead, I danced for outside evaluators who assessed my technical proficiency and calculated how I’ve progressed in my classes. These exams were also recorded for them too look back on for grading. For me, this was unusually stressful and…not exactly my cup of tea. I don’t always enjoy being recorded on a camera and having notes be made on my dancing. I know this is something I’ll need to get over, but for now it makes the whole process of dancing feel very formal.
I had three exams where my classes were recorded and assessed, and for each one I endured spikes of adrenaline and, at the risk of too much information, excessive sweating. With all of this being said, it was great practice for me and I’m glad I have this experience under my belt. The exams went well, and I feel very proud of my personal technical developments over this term. No matter what the evaluators may note, I know that I worked hard and approached the assessments with a relaxed—if a bit sweaty—yet determined attitude.
On top of these evaluated classes, I also had plenty of presentations for my Performance Design class and Choreography. For these exams, I had to defend my research and share with my professors what I’ve learned. I was comfortable doing these kinds of assessments because I have plenty of experience with public speaking and presentations via Town Meeting, Board of Trustee meetings, and simple class discussions.
After surviving finals week and enjoying the absurd stress of it all, I can now reflect on what I know I’d like to work more on. I know that I want to become more comfortable with being recorded dancing and to pick up movement phrases quicker. These are all skills that are demanded of you at auditions, so it’s essential that my nerves and mental anxiety don’t get the best of me.
It’s differences like these final exams that made me want to study abroad at Trinity Laban. I knew I wanted to see how I’d function in a strict and rather formal conservatoire educational model. There were of course some parts of Laban that I won’t take back with me, but those are surely outweighed by the amount that I will keep.
With my time at Laban wrapping up, I feel beyond grateful for having had this opportunity and am thrilled to see how my new wealth of knowledge feeds throughout my studies back home.