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.

 

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.

ENJOYING CHRISTMAS BREAK? The benefits of rest and relaxation

As Christmas fast approaches, many of you will be taking time away from the studio or work to take a well-earned break! But a lot of people don’t know enough about the multiple benefits that utilising proper rest and relaxation can bring.

‘Rest’ is anything that gives you a break and can be either physical or mental. There are multiple benefits for everyone and especially for performing artists. This is partly a result of the many physiological changes that can occur when utilising rest and relaxation successfully. These changes can include

  • reduced blood pressure
  • reduced muscle tension
  • reduced sensitivity to pain
  • improved immunity
  • increased circulation
  • slowed breathing rate

Another key benefit of rest and relaxation is that it can reduce the effects of stress. Stress can cause disruption to daily life in many forms including sleep and digestion, as well as increasing aches and pains and the likelihood of getting ill (coughs, colds etc.). Taking time out to rest and relax can help to tackle stress and keep our bodies and minds healthy.

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Image: Trinity Laban matwork class; JK photography 

 

In what other ways can it benefit me as a performing artist?                       The benefits of rest and relaxation can include both physiological and behavioural advantages which can be important for performing artists. Studies have reported that relaxation can reduce mood fluctuations and increase concentration. Also, rest is key for muscle regeneration. This means that in order to see progression in physical training, one must rest or the muscles will not be able to regenerate and you will see no improvements. This is important for performing artists to keep in mind as there is often a tendency to want to train all the time and take little rest in order to improve. However, in actual fact this can inhibit physical progression and could increase the risk of injury. Research has shown that performers, especially dancers, often work through fatigue and that overuse is one of the most common causes of injuries among dancers.

Not obtaining enough rest can also increase the likelihood of overtraining and can even lead to burnout. This is a complex condition and can be acute or chronic, and is the result of a volume of activity/exercise that exceeds the performer’s capabilities. Overtraining and burnout can both increases the risk of injury also, as the body can be more susceptible to muscle damage, infections, allergies and will take longer to heal from even minor scratches. Research has also shown that taking time to review a piece of music or choreography mentally as well as physically, can be much more beneficial than just physically rehearsing alone, which could be a good way to tackle overtraining among performers.

How can I rest and relax properly?                                                                   It is ideal if you can set aside a certain amount of time each day or week to just rest and relax . This can be anything that gives your mind or body a break and can range from just having an early night or a weekend off, to participating yoga classes or doing breathing exercises. Research suggests that constructive/active rest can also be beneficial, which simply requires you to lie in a resting state and focus your mind on a particular task.

So enjoy taking some time out over Christmas to rest and relax and begin the New Year with a great start! #dancersneedrest

 

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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Different Pathways: Laura Gagliardi

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

Here we speak to first-year Laura Gagliardi about her journey from professional volleyball and a biology degree to studying dance at Trinity Laban.

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Can you tell about your journey to studying at Trinity Laban/studying contemporary dance?
Both my parents are dancers and I started studying contemporary dance at the age of 15. I’d spent seven years playing professional level volleyball but it was very competitive and athletic and required a lot of time. I was just starting my high school and was very busy so I didn’t want to commit so much to sport but I wanted to continuing doing something physical.

I have a passion for the natural world and wanted to explore more so chose to do a BA in biology. When I started at university in Ferrara, Italy I continued to study contemporary dance alongside my course. Then I did an Erasmus year in Spain to study marine biology and genetics and met a choreographer and teacher who asked me to dance in his company, but I wanted to conclude my bachelors first. I finished my BA and was going to start my masters in biology and realised I couldn’t do it, that I should dance. I knew if I didn’t try I would regret it.

Why did you choose Trinity Laban?
I decided to come to a dedicated, specialist educational institution because you’re in 5-8 hours a day, you are focused. You have your own place, your origin of training. I asked friends where was good to study dance and one of them had studied at Trinity Laban and she recommended it – and she wasn’t the only one.

What has your experience been of Trinity Laban so far?
I’m really happy. The programme and the teachers are incredible, and the quality of the teaching is very good. A lot of people spoke to me so highly of Trinity Laban and it hasn’t disappointed. And being in London while studying is wonderful. Every week you can go to shows, galleries, take advantage of free entry to museums! I have just shifted from biology to dance so I’m just starting to understand why I’m here and what this study can bring me. I’m really open.

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

I think we all have to pass through some experiences before being a dancer or choreographer. On the one hand I think it’s a positive thing that I have done a degree before because I have some knowledge and can apply that to my practise, particularly studying nutrition, and physical awareness and development…etc. I’ve noticed that it’s useful to know biology and to know your body when it comes to dance. If you want to work with your body you have to know how it works. On the other hand, obviously I’m older than some of my peers and I’m not as trained as others who have trained in dance for longer. But my previous studies also influence me particularly when we do choreography because it’s my interest to put together biology with dance in a conceptual way.

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?

If they feel this desire, this impulse to dance and study dance they have to do it. Dance is intrinsic to human experience. From our first time in this world we start to dance. All cultures have dance in some form. If you come from another history and decide to dance you have to have this sense of commitment, hard work, and belief in what you are doing. And keep studying other things – life experiences influence dance.

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Different Pathways: Hannah Thomas

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

Here we speak to first-year Hannah Thomas about her journey from CAT to studying dance at Trinity Laban.

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

From an early age, I competed in multiple sports events, including football and athletics. Because of this, I already had that muscular foundation built into me. Taking dance as an option for GCSE was where it all really began. At the age of 14, I took part in a dance ‘taster session’, where I found a natural ability for movement. Following this, I began to spend a lot of my time training in a small studio in my Upper School. I then continued to gain an interest in choreography, taking part in One Dance UK’s ‘Young Creatives’ course as a choreographer in both 2014 and 2015. I discovered Trinity Laban’s CAT programme in 2015 when my upper school dance teacher pointed it out to me on the website. Not expecting to gain a place, I successfully auditioned and joined the CAT programme in 2015. From there, my passion for contemporary dance spiralled.

Why did you choose Trinity Laban?

For me, choosing Trinity Laban was not anything to do with the techniques on offer, or the facilities available. It was merely a gut feeling, a feeling that felt all warm and fuzzy. It was the perfect combination of familiarity and the desire to follow my curious instincts. It felt right.

What has your experience been of Trinity Laban so far?

So far, my experience of Trinity Laban has been messy… in the best sense possible! I’ve gained connections, friends and numerous experiences. I have learnt so much about the world of dance and even more about myself. I have discovered the importance of well-established technique, and the fun in improvisation; the excitement in new collaborations, and the thrill of performing with some of the most passionate people I’ve ever some across. Genuinely wouldn’t change a thing. If I’m honest, I have no idea where I will go upon completion of my training. I find that spontaneity is a good way to live. Trinity Laban has taught me to put absolutely everything into my daily practice, in order to open as many doors as possible in the future.

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

Coming from a non-technical background, my dancing body was raised from the ground upwards. Much like young children learn to walk, we spent the time exploring efficient ways in and out of the floor. Whilst I felt like this initial training gave me a good idea of what it means to be grounded, I was never so confident performing more technically demanding phrases of movement. Trinity Laban taught me how to move confidently when standing upright. I am now able to find the verticality in my movements, without it seeming distant from what I am used to. I now embrace the versatility of movements, allowing me to be a much more adaptable and playful artist.

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?

My advice to anyone who wants to pursue a career in dance is to just ‘run with it’. When it comes to your passion, there’s no point worrying about what others will think or say. Coming from someone who was close to pursuing physics in order to please my teachers, I would suggest that being upfront with what you want is the only way to get what you want.

On a side note, when I say ‘run with it’, I really mean to RUN with it. Don’t waste a minute of the time you have. I wish someone had told me that from a younger age.

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