Image of the members of Doug Varone and Dancers company based out of NYC. PAULA LOBO/COURTESY PHOTO

There are three things most college students do when on winter break: sleep, eat our favorite home cooked meals, and sleep some more. However, this stereotypical break trifecta cannot be applied to Mary Anne Bodnar ’16, Laura Pietropaoli ’17, or Riley Hopkins ’18. All three of these students took a week out of their winter breaks to further explore the world of dance.

Bodnar and Pietropaoli spent a week in Boston with the dance company, Doug Varone and Dancers. Though the company is based in New York City, it runs a winter intensive session for dancers and choreographers alike. Bodnar and Pietropaoli had the opportunity to work with many people belonging to the actual dance company. According to Pietropaoli, participants in the Winter Intensive got to work with “all the current company members and the artistic director, Doug Varone, in the classes covering dance technique, creative process, and company repertory.” For people wanting to break into the dance field, working with successful people of similar ilk allows students to gain much needed insight.

While the dance program here at Bates is stellar and produces many fantastic dancers and choreographers, it is always nice for students to take a step outside the Bates Bubble and see the similarities and differences to the real world. Pietropaoli saw that the philosophy of the teachers in the workshop was very similar to Bates’ professors, as the safety and wellbeing of the students was a top priority.

However, Pietropaoli notes that “the vocabulary of movement was much more codified and specific to the way of moving that the company practices, whereas here at Bates, we get a larger conglomeration of many different techniques and styles.” The point of a Bates dance education is to expose students to a diverse repertoire of dance methods and techniques and to give an entrée into this world of dance.

Each day, participants in the workshop took classes from three different teachers and were privy to a demonstration made by the company. The days were jam-packed with classes on technique, repertory, creative investigations, and Q&A sessions with the company members.

As a senior Dance major with a Mathematics minor, Bodnar has been busily working on her thesis. She is constantly finding new inspirations and this workshop was no exception. Bodnar states that her thesis “advocates for the role of intuition in creative processes and [Doug Varone] articulated this typically vague choreographic ingredient so clearly.” It is rare to find an expert who is so open to questions; Bodnar praised how approachable Varone was and the “generosity” of his answers to her questions.

Now back at Bates, Bodnar is involved in her many dance classes. In Professor Harwood’s Abstract Expressionism lecture, Bodnar was struck that the professor “mentioned how some artists’ ability to talk about their work can occasionally in his opinion eclipse the work itself, but [Varone] was able to elaborate on and articulate his creative process in a way that made [Bodnar] really believe in the work he does and how he goes about it.”

Riley Hopkins ’18 trekked down to New York City from his hometown of Augusta, Maine, this past break to participate in the Bates Dance Festival/Gibney Connect workshop. The director of the Bates Dance Festival (BDF), Laura Faure, also coordinated this intensive. Overlap like this is common, as Hopkins notes, “in the dance world, there are endless avenues and interweaving relationships among dancers, and this was a great example of how integrated the art really is.” For Hopkins, it was exciting that “the dancers who taught the classes were all past BDF participants, counselors, or faculty members” because they are all such icons in the dance field.

At this intensive, because it is so closely linked to the BDF, Hopkins remarked that the classes at the intensive felt very comparable to those he has taken at Bates. Hopkins “[thinks] this is because every teacher gained their dance values in some way through their connection to the Festival, and not surprisingly everyone in our dance department [at Bates] shares those same values.” This intensive shares a similar philosophy with Bates: “each class [should] be an open discussion facilitated by movement.”

For Bodnar, Pietropaoli, Hopkins, and many other dancers, the experience to work with a respected and accomplished company not only adds to their dancing at Bates, but also to their furthered exploration into the medium as a whole.