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A Report on the 2008 University of Florida/NYC Xchange Program

by Joshua Stansbury
May 15, 2008
New York, NY
Upon returning from New York City with the University of Florida on Mother's Day, I realized just how much I had benefited from this experience. I have been to the city many times before, but I have never taken away as much crucial information as I did this time. Through this dance-oriented trip orchestrated by Neta Pulvermacher, I got a taste for the professional dance world in New York City. Between catching performances from emerging artists and putting together our own show, I began to understand how complicated it is to produce a small show in the city. We had the opportunity to meet with several experts-in-the-field and gain inside knowledge on what it takes to produce and perform in the Big Apple, as well as the country.

Of the performances on our itinerary, some were enjoyable and some were not so enjoyable. Personally, I took pleasure in the performance of Hilary Easton and Dancers at Judson Church. This hour of dance was slightly theatrical, but not over the top. This performance demonstrated two things for me; one being that as an emerging artist any space can serve as a venue, even a church. The space seemed that it was made for the piece. The lighting was spectacular and it was very open, which I appreciated. Secondly, this demonstrated for me how much you have to put yourself on the line to present work. Even as I was leaving I heard some of my colleagues voicing their displeasure with the performance. There is no way to know whether your art will be loved or not. While I enjoyed it, my friend next to me did not. Personal preference is not a new idea, but when you think about how much one person has invested in their work, everyone's opinion is important.

Even with our busy schedule, we did have time to take dance class at different places in the city. My experience at Dance New Amsterdam (DNA) was particularly memorable. I started the morning with a class in Klein technique and came away with so much awareness of my lower body that I was completely ready for my ballet class right afterward. I loved the atmosphere at this school, mainly because it was much different than what I expected. My idea of a dance class in New York was largely impersonal and intimidating. The instruction that I received at DNA was quite the opposite. My ballet instructor, Ms. Goheen I believe, made a point to introduce herself to me and inquire on my reasons for being in the class. This was totally unexpected, but completely welcome by me. I feel that I received so much more information in the class because of that personal connection. Of everything that she said in class, her quote from Baryshnikov has stuck with me. "No one is born a dancer." It is so true and I felt that her teaching style reflected this in a great way. I did not feel that I was being taught to meet an ideal or a standard of what "intermediate level" ballet should be, but rather I was being improved from where I was to somewhere else.

We also had the pleasure of having discussions with several field experts in the city, one being the Chief Dance Critic for the New York Times, Alastair Macauley. He allowed us to pick his brain and understand what he as a critic looks for in dance. I feel I can speak for everyone and say that it gave us an inside look on where the art of dance is, where it has been, and where it is going. Also, as dancers we have to think about what to do after we can no longer dance. In one of our meetings, we were turned on to a wonderful organization called Career Transition for Dancers. This is an invaluable resource that I do not feel that I would have found otherwise. It offers opportunities for retired and working dancers, which is so necessary in these trying times in the country.

Of course no trip to New York is complete without a trip to Broadway. I had the pleasure of seeing In the Heights, which I thoroughly enjoyed. While we did have ample performance opportunity in New York City, I feel that I took more away from the information sessions and viewing opportunities. It was a moment for personal discovery about what I like and what I am interested in. I was able to delve into the secrets of the trade in such an influential place. This excursion with the University of Florida School of Theatre and Dance was very useful and I hope to have the chance to participate again in the future.
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