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.

 

10 Reasons to Take the Lead…

Take the Lead is a 5-day summer course, perfect for aspiring performers of all abilities  who want to experience the training on offer at Trinity Laban’s esteemed Musical Theatre department. Here are our top 10 reasons to Take the Lead this summer:

1. “All that work and what did it get me…”

…it got our tutors to the West End stage! All Take the Lead tutors are Musical Theatre professionals with countless theatre credits to their names. They will guide you through a week of training, giving you tips and advice along the way.

2. “There’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us”

That place is Trinity Laban! Come and spend the week at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and experience what it’s like to study at one of the UK’s leading Conservatoires. You’ll have access to our award-winning facilities and get a real taste of theatrical training at degree level.

3. “There’s no business like show business”

We couldn’t have a week of Musical Theatre without a trip to the West End, could we?! On one evening of the week, we’ll head to the theatre as a group to see everything you’ve learnt during the week put into practice on the professional stage. Last year, we took a trip to 42nd Street, featuring TL alumnus Zoe Rogers.

4. “With an assist from me to be who you’ll be”

You will have the chance to book 1-1 consultation lessons and get advice from our expert tutors on singing and acting technique, presentation skills and repertoire – a fantastic opportunity to get audition ready!

5. “We go together”

Take the Lead is a fantastic opportunity to meet and train with people who share the same interests as you. People of all ages come from all over the world to participate in the summer school, offering the perfect opportunity to make connections within the industry.

6. “What good is sitting alone in your room?”

This year we are thrilled to offer accommodation to our Take the Lead participants. This will give you the chance to truly eat, sleep and breathe Musical Theatre for a week and fully soak up the buzzing atmosphere of the summer school. Book fast as there is limited availability!

7. “You can wow ’em every time, all you haveto do is shine”

Take the Lead will make a fantastic addition to any CV or further study application. As well as developing your skills, attending the summer school will demonstrate your passion and commitment to your Musical Theatre training.

8. “I wanna be like you”

Meet Trinity Laban’s successful alumni and ask them all of your questions about their journeys from Trinity Laban to the professional world of theatre!

9. “You are the Dancing Queen”

Due to high demand, Take the Lead now offers two levels of dance classes so you are sure to find a class to suit your skill level and experience.

10. “We’re in the money”

Get all of this for less! Book before 1 March 2018 and benefit from our fantastic early bird offer for a discounted rate on the whole course cost.

Find out more and book your place at trinitylaban.ac.uk/takethelead 

Transitions 2018: Q&A with choreographer Jarkko Partanen

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Jarkko Partanen, Church of the Internet (Image credit: Simo Karisalo) Jussi Mankkinen / Yle

Ahead of Transitions’ 2018 international tour, we caught up with acclaimed Finnish choreographer and Trinity Laban alumnus Jarkko Partanen who is working with the company on a brand new piece. Jarkko is a founding member of multidisciplinary arts collective WAUHAUS, which recently won the prestigious annual Finnish State Award for Performing Arts.

The 2018 company is truly international – do you think this has had an impact on the style of the company and/or the way you worked with them?

Transitions is a company with its own identity and I think the group is fantastic. It’s really nice to have such a diverse group of people from different backgrounds, with very different skills, but who work really well together and complement each other.

What have you most enjoyed about working with the Transitions dancers?

At WAUHAUS we have a very collaborative creative process, which I have tried to keep in my working method with Transitions. It’s my responsibility to arrive at a point where the dancers feel they can take the piece and make it their own. As I usually work with people I know well, there is a certain level of trust and dialogue and understanding, which needs to be built here in a short time frame – just five weeks!

And in this scenario, it is a bit of a challenge to have a process-oriented rather than product-oriented working method. But it’s been going great so far. There’s been a lot of laughter and playfulness which is good and they are adapting to the continually changing and refining process and they work very professionally. I am very happy with this collaboration!

What was your inspiration behind the work?

The piece continues two trajectories I have been interested in continuing from previous works: touch and obscuring the body. In Playhouse (2017), we looked at different ways of physically encountering strangers in a performative setting, and in Flashdance (2016) the performers’ bodies were completely hidden throughout the performance.

I am interested in transforming the body – something that is always cultural and carries representation – into something else that can go beyond gender, and can challenge the norms of how we look at the body on stage. I think there’s something beautiful in limiting our senses and how we perceive things, so that the norms of watching meet the limitlessness of our imagination. We are challenged by whom or what we are looking at.

Combining these two trajectories of touch and obscuring, and finding a balance between them, is what’s interesting. In this piece the dancers have limited vision whilst on stage, which affects how they are on stage, how they interact, how the piece is experienced. The light, sound, stage design and other elements or materials – such as costumes – become intrinsically linked to the choreography. Together, they create a condition for the performers and audience. These create the movement vocabulary of the piece rather than me applying a “signature movement language” or something like that that I have shaped over the years. I consider every piece to have its own specific physicality.

You typically work in less traditional performances spaces. Have you had to adapt your choreographic style for the tour venues?

I don’t usually work in theatres with a proscenium arch, where the stage is very separated from the auditorium. The performance space brings another set of questions regarding how the audience engage with the performance. And of how to bring other senses into play rather than just ‘watching’. I would say it’s a challenge, not a limitation.

Transitions will perform at The Theatre Academy of Uniarts, Helsinki as part of their international tour. What will it be like to see the company dance your work in your home town?

I haven’t really thought about it yet, but of course it’s exciting! Of course I’m looking forward to the whole tour, and particularly to seeing my piece within a triple bill, which will add a whole other context. It will be interesting how the pieces will communicate with each other.

You studied dancing at Trinity Laban as an undergraduate. What was your time like here and how has that influenced you?

One of the reasons I applied and chose to study at Trinity Laban was the ability to experiment and learn choreography from the beginning. That was very influential for me, as it was very clear to me that I wanted to choreograph. I don’t think I’ve ever really imagined myself as a dancer. So to collaborate with so many colleagues and find people who were interested in working with me was very powerful. As was working with and observing the choreographers who created the newly commissioned works for us in my final year, which gave me greater insight into different creative processes. I really liked my time here, I felt very supported by the institution, and the Laban Theatre is one of the most beautiful theatres I’ve worked in.

 

By Robyn Donnelly (Press & PR)

 

Transitions 2018 Tour | 19 February – 24 May

For more information and to find out more about Transitions Dance Company, visit our pages.

To find out more about studying dance at Trinity Laban, visit our pages.

Resolution 2018: Ania Straczynska

As The Place’s annual dance festival commences, we chat to current Trinity Laban MA choreography student Ania Straczynska who’s presenting her work Grains at Resolution 2018 later this month.

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Ania Straczynska’s ‘Grains’ in rehearsal. Dancers:
Rebecca Lee, Edurne Ruiz de Alegria, Victoria Winter. (Image credit: Jeremy Henderson)

In brief, how would you sum up your piece Grains?

I like to think of it as a strong and engaging female trio.

What was your inspiration behind the work?

I started reflecting on my cultural heritage and the idea of passing traditions between generations. Growing up in Poland where people strongly embrace their national culture, I was always surrounded by some sort of folklore and tradition. Then, having moved away, it felt natural to revisit those folk elements and dynamics through the lens of my own movement language. I also wanted to question the meaning and validity of intergenerational relationships.

How has your study at Trinity Laban influenced your choreography?

I have only been studying here for a few months, but it’s already influenced how I approach my practice. One of the most beneficial things so far is being able to examine my creative process through other disciplines and to learn from other artists. I have discovered a lot from sessions with architecture students, visual artists, and even a surgeon who joined us in the studio. I have connected with students from Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA) and we are currently working together on a multidisciplinary performance exhibition which will take place in March at p12 gallery, which I am very excited about.

At the beginning of my time here we were told that no one is going to teach us how to choreograph, and it is true. However, the programme is designed in a way to stimulate you and equip you with the tools to discover new skills and ways of learning.

Resolution is an annual festival celebrating and supporting new dance and performance works by diverse emerging artists, what is it like to be part of the festival and present at The Place?

I am very lucky to be involved in the Festival for the second time. It is a unique opportunity to test your work in front of almost 300 spectators and be supported by the amazing, professional team at The Place. I felt like I learnt a lot from my first year at the festival so this year I am more organised and focused, and finding it easier to divide my time between the production and creation of the piece.

You invited composer Nick Murray to collaborate with you in creating Grains. How has that collaboration worked and how does having a live score influence the dance?

When DanceWest commissioned me to create a short work for the Ignition Dance Festival I asked Nick to compose a piece for me inspired by folk music. This became the first version of Grains. We worked simultaneously but separately, before putting music and choreography together half way through the process. This time, in extending the piece for Resolution 2018, we are working more collaboratively. I invite Nick to the studio so he can observe and share in the process. Sometimes we experiment with sounds as we go. This keeps the piece and the process alive and allows us to spontaneously play with ideas.

For me, as a choreographer, a live score gives an amazing flexibility as it’s specifically designed for my piece, and I believe for dancers it’s also a bespoke experience.

Have you any advice for aspiring choreographers?

Don’t underestimate research. Whether it means gathering imagery, getting inspired by videos, or looking for more context, try not to separate that from your time in the studio. Carry on the research and creation processes in parallel.

Also, be ready for ups and downs! The challenges will often surprise you but just treat them as an opportunity to boost your creativity.

 

SPACE

Ania Straczynska presents Grains at Resolution 2018 as part of a mixed triple bill Wednesday 31 January at The Place. Dancers: Rebecca Lee, Edurne Ruiz de Alegria, Victoria Winter.

Resolution 2018 runs 12 January – 23 February. To find out more and to book tickets visit The Place’s website

To find out more about studying dance at Trinity Laban, visit our pages.

 

Different Pathways: Emilia Kallioinen

A series highlighting different ways in which people can join our BA (Hons) Contemporary Dance programme.

Here we speak to first-year Emilia Kallioinen about her recovery from injury and integrating her physiotherapy studies in Finland with studying dance here at Trinity Laban.

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Can you tell about your journey to studying at Trinity Laban/studying contemporary dance?
I wanted to study dance but I suffered an injury and couldn’t audition for any programmes. It wasn’t a serious injury but it kept me away from dancing for a few months completely, in a period when I was supposed to apply, so I had to be patient.

I have always been interested in physiotherapy and so decided to pursue that as a degree. When I recovered from my injury I did continue to dance alongside my studies in Finland. I think it’s similar to the CAT (Centre for Advanced Training) programme in here in the UK.

In Finland, the higher education system is a little bit different from the U.K. I have studied physiotherapy for two years and have been able to fast-track my studies. So, whilst I am still enrolled there and need to complete my thesis and a practical training period in the summer before I can graduate, I am also able to study at Trinity Laban. And I can use the courses here at TL as credit for my optional courses as part of my physiotherapy degree.

Before my injury I had planned to study dance, and explore physiotherapy alongside, but now I am really happy it happened the way it has.

Why did you choose Trinity Laban?

I wanted to get the focus and length of a BA course and the foundation in technique. I’d heard a lot about Trinity Laban as I have friends who went here so I had insight into the course, and also I really wanted to live in London.

What has your experience been of Trinity Laban so far?

It’s been really good. It’s so nice that people come from all over the world. We all learn from each other. I really find all the technique classes useful and well structured. Even though some things aren’t my main discipline I find it useful and get a lot of tools from all the classes.

How do you feel your previous experience influences your current study?
I think dance and physiotherapy go together really well. My studies complement rather than detract from each other. I can use the knowledge from my physiotherapy studies in my dance studies. It has deepened my understanding of my body and ways of moving so it is really useful.

I feel like I actually get a lot more from dance education now that I have understanding of things I didn’t have three years ago. I’m also more mature and have learnt to organise my time and work better which is helpful.

Do you have any advice for others who might be thinking of a change in study and what advice would you give to yourself looking back at your changing path?

Patience. You can take so much of what you did before into your dancing, whatever it is. It feeds into the dancing you do and makes you even more individual.

Different Pathways: Lewis Sharp

A series highlighting different ways in which people can join our BA (Hons) Contemporary Dance programme.

Here we speak to second-year Lewis Sharp about his journey from a B. Tech in musical theatre and role as teaching assistant to studying dance at Trinity Laban.

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Can you tell about your journey to studying at Trinity Laban/studying contemporary dance?

I went to The BRIT School for sixth-form and did a musical theatre B. Tech. for 2 years. Then I applied to musical theatre courses but didn’t get in and my teacher suggested I do a year-long dance course at Lewisham College but it got to a point where I didn’t want to dance anymore, so didn’t complete the year. Later, my singing teacher asked me to choreograph for her opera company in France and I went back to BRIT to assist a dance teacher for 3 months. The teacher I was assisting suggested I should apply for dance at Trinity Laban. It took a while to realise that dance is where I should be. I feel that it’s the right place for me.

Why did you choose TL?

I looked at the dance course here and in the prospectus it said ‘we like the autonomous learner’ and that hooked me instantly – I liked the emphasis on creativity. It’s such a versatile course, it’s so much more than just dancing. It’s about becoming dance artists.

What has your experience been of Trinity Laban so far?

I’m engaged the whole time, I’m never bored, and there are things to think about constantly. It’s so much more than just the timetable – you’re encouraged to take opportunities – and I’m proactive, I feel like you have to do that to develop your artistry. I’ve been exploring where I’m from and sharing my knowledge.

My first year gave me a foundation of skill level. I wasn’t much of a dancer before, I was more singer/actor so it really grounded me in my technique. I’m learning so much and I’m able to think about my body and what it’s able to do. I can now say I’m a dancer.

Before coming here I thought you had to be perfect before you could dance or that was it. But you’re learning every day and that’s the most rewarding thing. I’m glad it’s lived up to the promise of the prospectus. For me it really works.

How do you feel your previous experience influences your current study?

I feel glad I came at 20/21 and took those two years out because I learnt so much in that time. Doing musical theatre before this gives me the skills to think about the bigger picture – to combine all the different art-forms together to push my practise now. Having experienced something already I’m now more focused on what I want to do. I have a more mature respect towards my studies and a level of professionalism, as well as punctuality and time management. And I now have this confidence and presence that I didn’t have at 18. I needed that experience to really be sure this is what I want to do.

Do you have any advice for others who might be thinking of a change in study and what advice would you give to yourself looking back at your changing path?

Listen to what you want to do in that moment and if you’re unsure just take that time out. As long as you’re pro-active you can learn so much. Everything is transferrable. If opportunities arrive then take them but also take your time to decide what you want to do. Personally I would recommend that everyone takes a year or two out so you can have more things under your belt.

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