Dance Students Let Their Feet Do The Talking at Ailey Citi Group Theater

Senior Ailey/Fordham BFA Students Showcase Their Original Choreography


Published: October 8, 2009

Fordham’s community has its share of upstanding students, ranging from various intellectuals, eccentric artists and budding musicians. But one aspect of this special community is sometimes overlooked despite its vast city-wide and regional reputation.

Time and time again, Fordham’s dance program, introduced to the students through the Ailey School and Fordham University, brings some of the best upcoming talent that New York has yet to see. Ranging from dramatic interpretive dance to traditional West African culture, Fordham has it all. Fordham’s dance program aims to “develop graduates who are highly versatile dance technicians, adept creators of dance movement, well educated in the liberal arts and knowledgeable about the history and interpretation of the arts.”

But what separates Fordham from the rest is the large number of student dancers who bring creativity and determination to the stage. Best of all, these students are so well versed that they are even asked to choreograph their own original dance numbers. On Oct. 14 and 15, under the direction of co-directors Ana Marie Forsythe and Edward Bristow, Ph.D., Fordham’s senior dance students will be performing two 7:30 p.m. shows consisting of 17 original compositions of various dance routines at the Ailey Citi Group Theater. This is only one of the stages in a four-part series that lasts the whole year for these aspiring dancers. For this first component, the senior dance students are required to choreograph an original composition that is four to six minutes long, either of solo, duet or group pieces. While not only being responsible for the choreography, the senior students have the duty of fitting costumes, controlling the lighting, and organizing different practice times for the dancers they have chosen to perform in their pieces.

“It takes one hour of time to practice one minute of choreography,” Forsythe said.

The participating students have contributed a tough 20 to 30 hours of studio time amidst their own hectic schedules.

“My piece is called ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ and is set to music by Nico Muhly,” said Kile Hotchkiss, FCLC ’10 and one of the senior dancers responsible for original choreography. “My original inspiration came from the music, and from that, I drew physical and emotional intentions for each of my three dancers.  I enjoy the collaborative efforts within a creative process so I asked each of my dancers to make short movement phrases which I gradually built into three separate intentions throughout the piece.”

Despite being only the first of four performances, the senior dance students embark on a year-long journey that takes them through Fordham’s grinding but rewarding dance program. From Feb. 10 to 11, the second component of the senior project forces the students to hire a professional choreographer from a company they’re interested in attending. Through this interaction, the dance student builds a strong relationship with what that company expects in a dancer. The third component sends the dance students among the masses to perform their own repertoire for various audiences. On April 17, the fourth and final part takes place at the Senior Concert, where specific dance students are asked to come back and perform a piece taught to them by three major choreographers.

Co-directors Forsythe and Bristow couldn’t be happier for their students and the program.

“It’s fun to see what seniors come up with. Some of the presentations are quite interesting,” Bristow said. Not only does Bristow act as a special academic consultant to the dancers, he has also had a major hand in establishing the program.

Forsythe, a one-time dancer of the notable Garden State Ballet Company and the Sophie Maslow Dance Company, has been hard at work constantly reviewing and conducting the show. Along with double-checking tech rehearsal, Forsythe oversees the dancers’ submitted proposals that include the name of the piece, music choice and story line.

During the two dates in October, you’ll be sure to find the lights shining bright, the curtain pulled back and the stage set for some of the most impressive, originally-choreographed dance pieces Fordham has to offer.