A master class in session. Image courtesy of Lindy Bustabad ‘21. 

Julieta Lessne ‘24 (she/ her) interviews Eliza Patterson ‘22 (she/ her)

Julieta: So how are you today?

Eliza: I’m doing well, how are you? 

Julieta: Good. Thank you. I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about your involvement in dance at Davidson?

Eliza: Yeah, so I am in Gamut Dance Company, which is one of two to three major dance programs that we have at Davidson. This year, I’m the assistant manager, so I get to help organize all of our events and work closely with Dr. Bory and Lindy Bustabad [‘21] on setting up dance to be as doable as possible during COVID. And then I also had been a part of Break Line Urban, which is the hip hop group on campus and I’ve taken a couple of dance classes here and there, but I’m not currently enrolled in any.

Julieta: So I understand that Gamut has been offering masterclasses from various guest instructors. Could you tell me a bit about what those look like and how often you have them?

Eliza: Yeah, so we’ve been doing masterclasses every Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. Dr. Bory has been organizing them, and it’s really cool. Basically, she brings in a bunch of choreographers and movers that she has worked with in the past that she has found to be really informative or transformative in her own dance practice. So they come in, and they usually teach about an hour and a half long masterclass. It’s a different choreographer every week, so how they choose to do the class varies greatly depending on their own form and interests in dance. Some of the classes are a lot more movement based, and we’ll do things like move to improv prompts. We’ll talk about different technical styles of dance. A lot of them have been focusing specifically on how we take care of our bodies, or how we become more in touch with our body, especially throughout COVID because so much of our time is dominated by just sitting at a desk in front of a screen. So obviously, as dancers, it’s really important to take care of your body and make sure that you’re still in touch with how you’re moving. 

Julieta: And so what are some of the styles of dance that the guest instructors have covered?

Eliza: It’s really been a wide range of things. We had one choreographer come in who had been technically trained in musical theater. We’ve had other choreographers come in who are trained in modern. Last semester, we did a jazz class, we did a modern class, and we did a Haitian dance class. There really has been quite a big range. I think that’s part of what makes the experience so exciting is that you don’t know exactly what you’re getting into when you show up to class, and all of them are incredible in their own right. 

Julieta: Have you had a favorite guest instructor, and can you tell me a bit about their class?

Eliza: Well, last week was probably one of my favorite classes. We danced with Amanda Hamp, who has worked with Dr. Bory for, I think, over ten years, so they know each other really well. It was fun because I dance a lot with Dr. Bory, so it was fascinating to see other people that Dr. Bory has danced with and how that has informed her own movement. Amanda did a lot of experience-based improvisational moments, like we were laying on our back on the ground and moving through that and reflecting on what we felt. It was super just relaxing and rejuvenating, which I think is an important way to experience dance these days because in non-COVID times, and in a more traditional studio setting, it can be high energy and workout oriented. I think it has been fun to sort of take on a calmer, more mindful practice of dance, which I think Amanda led us through really beautifully. 

Julieta: And was there any masterclass that you found particularly challenging, and what did you learn from that experience?

Julieta: We did a class with Jessie Young. She had us do an interesting exercise where we wrote down 10 or 15 different objects that we could see in our immediate sight line. And then, we tried to embody those objects. It was super improv based. I think one of my objects was a Wii Remote and I was like, “How do I embody a Wii remote?” I think it was challenging because I had never been asked to do anything like that before, and I was confused about how exactly that would inform my practice more broadly. But I think by the end of it, I was having a lot of fun trying to get out of these sort of more traditional or technique-oriented mind frames. And then, she asked us after that exercise to sit down and write and reflect about how that felt in our bodies. I think being challenged to not only move in new and different ways, but also to then immediately reflect on it and put that into words, was a really cool thing.

Julieta: And do you think that having these masterclasses is especially important during COVID with the way it’s impacted campus life? 

Eliza: Yeah, totally. I mean, dance is really hard, because there’s a large group of us who are engaged in it, and it’s not really possible for all of us to be rehearsing together. So much of dance is about group dynamics and being in space together and feeding off of each other’s energy and learning from each other in that space. I was really nervous going into this year because dance is a big part of my life and keeping me mentally healthy and being in touch with myself and my body. And it’s a great social space. I think having the masterclasses and having a consistent community to go to every Friday that is not only social and familiar, but also is challenging us to experience movement and our bodies in new ways, has been such a beneficial thing for me, even if it’s not in person. And I’ve honestly been surprised by how great of a community you can form over Zoom, particularly in the context of dance. 

Julieta: Will there be more masterclasses in the future?

Eliza: Yeah, they’re running basically, throughout the end of the semester. I think we have a masterclass pretty much every Friday from now until the end of April. Dr. Bory, as well as all of the dancers in Gamut, have so enjoyed getting to work with such a wide variety of different choreographers, that I definitely imagine that there will be some form of masterclasses going on in the future. And it’s interesting because now we know that it’s possible to do them via Zoom, and it’s possible to do them online, so that creates a lot more access to people that we would never normally have. The masterclass program will take on a slightly different form next year, but I definitely see masterclasses continuing and I hope that with our ability to work through Zoom, we will continue to be able to work with so many diverse choreographers.

Eliza Patterson ‘22 (she/her/hers) is a Latin American Studies and Political Science double major from Palo Alto, CA. She can be reached for comment at elpatterson@davidson.edu