INTERVIEW: JESSE KOVARSKY

In the second of our two interviews with dance alumni who are living and working in New York City, we catch up with Jesse Kovarsky (Study Abroad 2009 and Transitions 2011). Jesse has had a huge variety of performance work both in the UK and America since he graduated, including feature films, opera, immersive theatre and Broadway!

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Jesse you’ve had a fantastic performing career since you left Trinity Laban. Can you talk us through what you’ve done?

After I graduated from Transitions (MA Dance Performance) I wanted to get some experience dancing in Europe before I returned to the US, so I stayed in the UK on a post study visa and was then later sponsored by Punchdrunk Theatre Company. I’d always wanted to work with Punchdrunk as I really admire their work and was lucky enough to get cast in The Drowned Man. It was a really great show to be part of – creative, challenging and fulfilling.

My first job after graduating was in the film Anna Karenina which was a great experience just having left Trinity Laban. I then performed with the English National Opera in The Death of Klinghoffer and Carmen, and then returned to the Laban Theatre with Junk Ensemble which was such a privilege to come back.

When I returned to the US I worked again with Punchdrunk, and I reprised my role in The Death of Klinghoffer at The Metropolitan Opera House. Then in 2016 I was cast as the Fiddler in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway which was choreographed by Hofesh Shechter. This was a great experience and I loved working with Hofesh.

And what have you been doing more recently?

After Fiddler I performed in Seeing You, which was an immersive theatre show that ran off Broadway. The show was choreographed by Ryan Heffington who has choreographed music videos, for TV and worked with artists like Sia and FKA Twigs.

I’m also currently Associate Choreographer for musical The Band’s Visit which has just transferred to Broadway.

You were an undergraduate student at Skidmore College in New York, how did you then come to study at Trinity Laban?

I started dance at Skidmore College and we studied Laban theory and technique. I really wanted to study abroad for a semester and so went to Trinity Laban on a Study Abroad programme. During that time I saw a dramatic improvement in my technique and was interested in doing more, so I auditioned for Transitions Dance Company and was accepted. I feel very privileged to have received a Leverhulme Arts Scholarship to support my studies.

What was it like coming to Trinity Laban as an international student?

I felt supported. It was great to be around different people from different parts of the world with different perspectives, and we trained and grew together. I loved living in London too, that’s where I formed my identity as a young adult.

How did your time at Trinity Laban prepare you for your career?

Trinity Laban prepared me as a practitioner of dance and as a performer, and it reinforced my sense of critical thinking. Importantly I was allowed to create my identity as a dancer, to find my own voice and form my own style. This has enabled me to know what to say yes and no to, to be able to say what I want and to find my own niche in my career.

 And finally what advice do you have for current students?

Take as many classes as possible and absorb the system you are part of – take advantage of it and suck it dry. You need to be relevant and understand what is going on in dance, what inspires you, who you want to work with, so educate yourself and see everything you can.

And importantly don’t be afraid to make mistakes and fail and find yourself through that.

INTERVIEW: DYLAN CROSSMAN

Whilst in America for the Trinity Laban in New York reception, we caught up with two dance alumni who are living and working in New York City and found out about how they have built their careers there. This week we talk to Dylan Crossman who graduated with BA (Hons) Dance Theatre in 2006. After graduating he joined the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and now has a full and diverse freelance career. 

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Why did you chose to study at Trinity Laban?

I grew up in France and started dancing when I was ten. For two years, I took contemporary and ballet classes at the Conservatoire in Montpelier in addition to attending regular school. In my teens, after a few years’ break from dancing, I was doing improvisation, ballet, jazz, hip hop and contemporary.

I had a Limon teacher who knew about Trinity Laban and so I auditioned there and for the Winnipeg Ballet. I chose Trinity Laban as I decided I wanted to pursue a contemporary dance training rather than ballet and also because I wanted to be based in London.

What was it like coming to Trinity Laban as an International student?

I didn’t feel lonely, I felt welcomed. There were a lot of international students in my year and there was a sense of community in the year group. I had a job in a bar as well and that helped to make friends outside of Trinity Laban. 

Shortly after you graduated, you joined the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Tell us about your journey to America and joining the Company.

In the summer between my second and third year, Julia Gleich, one of my teachers at Trinity Laban recommended that I take part in Burklyn Ballet Theatre, an intensive summer programme In Vermont, USA. Through one of the teachers I met there, I was offered a part in the Nutcracker in Key West and after I graduated I moved to New York. I enrolled on a programme at the Cunningham studio, got a scholarship, and as soon as I began I knew that’s why I started dancing, it made complete sense to my body.

After six months a space opened up for a new understudy so I went to Merce [Cunningham]’s Assistant, Robert Swinston, and said that I was interested. I was told to take company class and that ‘Merce will decide’. I did one class and Merce said yes!

By that stage Merce didn’t go on tour with the company anymore, so when they were away he constructed new work on the understudies and I got to work with him a lot. He was so curious; to him you were like a problem to solve. I was an understudy for two years before being hired into the company and I was in the company for the two year farewell tour. It was an intense and amazing experience.

You now have a very busy career as a performer and choreographer. What are you working on at the moment?

Right now I am performing at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in Brooklyn in a piece called Buffer by visual artist Xavier Cha. As well as dancers there are also actors and an opera singer in the cast. I’m also working on new pieces with Pam Tanowitz and Kimberly Bartosik, both of whom I have worked with before, and am continuing to develop my own work including showing a new piece at the Cunningham centenary celebration. I also teach at Sarah Lawrence College and Purchase College and am choreographing a piece for the students at Purchase which will be performed next spring.

How did your training prepare you for your career?

I was given responsibility for my own training whilst at Trinity Laban. We were exposed to so many things, every kind of dance, analysing dance, music for dance, dance on film, choreography, Labanotation, so I had to choose what to focus on. This planted the seed for life as a freelancer, you have to take responsibility and manage your own work; administration, tax, funding, paying for classes and paying dancers.

And finally what are your top tips for current students?

Be patient and trust people in charge of your training, but break rules because you need to learn to listen to yourself and your instincts also. Challenge yourself as freelancer. And do more cross training and aerobic exercise! You’ll need it as a performer.