When you think of dance classes, does the image of little girls in frilly, pink tutus twirling around a ballet studio pop into your head? If so, Moving Target is about to open your mind to a whole new world.

The Moving Target program started when the professional dance community of central and southern Maine got frustrated with the lack of access to peer groups that could critique each other’s work. However, to combat this problem in Maine, the professional dance community had its first Choreolab. Carol Dilley, the head of the Dance and Theater department at Bates, defines the Choreolab as “an opportunity for professionals to show work in progress to other working artists and get feedback, something students do all the time but faculty and working artists have less access to.” From this base model, bringing Moving Target to Portland, which was already established in Boston, was able to happen.

Moving Target acts as a way for professional dancers to come take classes with their peers and learn from visiting teachers that come through the area. Each week, a new guest instructor will come to teach a class. Multiple people in the immediate area will be guest teaching, including Bates professors Rachel Boggia and Meredith Lyons, and Colby professor Annie Kloppenberg. Each teacher brings his or her own style, intellect and pizzazz to the program

A project as large as this needs skilled and committed people behind the reigns. Cookie Harrist and Delaney McDonough are the movers and shakers behind this project.

A graduate of Marlboro College class of 2013, Harrist met fellow performer Delaney McDonough, a Colby 2013 alum, at the Bates Dance Festival in 2012. In an interview, Cookie Harrist remarks that she loved performing and dancing all her life. She is attracted to dance because “we all have bodies through which we experience our day to day lives and dance provides [her] the opportunity to subvert, deepen and further enjoy physical experience.”

Staying mostly within the post-modern dance style, Harrist likes to explore “somatic and improvisational practices that anyone could try.” This type of dance is free flowing and easily creates a link between the dancer, the choreography, the music, and the audience. In this style of dance, Harrist remarks dancers “don’t walk into a performance knowing exactly what we are going to say but form the performance experience in real time, using our scores as a jumping off point.” That spontaneity is one of many factors that keeps improvisational dance exciting and fresh.

Harrist and McDonough began collaborating in Denmark, Maine a year after meeting at the Bates Dance Festival, before starting Moving Target in Portland. Harrist remarks that “it seems time that dancers in the greater Portland area have access to high quality contemporary training, akin to how dancers study in New York or San Francisco.” Gathering highly trained dancers and performers together allows for a great level of constructive evolution to take place in the greater Portland dance community.

These two great dancers were also able to show Bates their skills when they substituted for Boggia’s Improvisation class last week. By already showing their work and being involved in the Moving Target community, these two teachers were able to bring that information to the dance students on campus.

Though most of the Bates student population will be unable to take classes at Moving Target, they will not lack for experience. Carol Dilley notes that “the department faculty is part of the professional dance community and we participate in Choreolabs, community performing projects and things like [Moving Target].” So, the professors are learning through this wonderful experience and bringing back that knowledge to their students. Furthermore, Dilley notes, “through [the faculty] the advanced students also find their way to this dance community.” This is a very unique and important step in anyone seriously considering dancing as a career because those few students will get the chance to see how real world dancing and critiquing is done.

Moving Target is a great outlet for professional dancers and a way for the advanced dancer student body to check out the dance world.