ADF Composition Class
  • Photo by Sarah Ewald
  • ADF student dancers discuss relevant issues in Jesse Zarritt’s composition class.

After sitting in on Kat Folckomer’s two technique classes, I follow her to the Nelson Music Room. It’s here where she’ll attend her last class of the day, “Composition, Improvisation: the Practice of Performance.” This class is designated as Section B, meaning that it’s a class devoted to theory.

“We’re only allowed to take two technique classes a day, so the other one has to be theory,” Folckomer says.

“I wanted to take this class because I’m focusing more on technique [theory] and I wanted to think about dance in ways that were more than just movement,” she says. She says that she’s taken similar classes to this one at Hollins University, where she is a student.

When teachers Jesse Zarritt and Lindsay Clark arrive, Zarritt gives the class their prompt. “Where am I in the body of dance?” Dancers spread out across the room, notebooks in hand, to ponder the question and jot down thoughts.

Afterward, the students gather in a circle as Zarritt leads a discussion on the distinction between being interested in a performance as opposed to the actual performance being interesting, and how acting as an observer differs from beinga performer. This leads to discussion of using performance as an idea of practicing presence, and that there always needs to be a “why” attached to performing.

Student Leanne Schmidt speaks about wanting to excel at her craft and wanting to know if someone’s not interested. She then gets up and performs a short piece inspired by this notion for the rest of the class.

After sharing thoughts, it’s time for a 15-minute exercise. Zarritt tells his students to “engage in getting out of your own way.” Clark chimes in, asking that they “engage in a catastrophic loss of experience, and act like this is no big deal.” Dancers knock on walls and jerk around arhythmically.

ADF Composition Class
  • Photo by Sarah Ewald
  • Dancers engage in “getting out of their own way.”

Then the class breaks into groups. Folckomer will work with Schmidt, Sarah Kocz and Inertia DeWitt. After some discussion, the group decides to work in the hallway.

The assignment is for group members to act out scores (either their own, or someone else’s), and then discuss them. “Improvisational scores work as guidelines to lead you throughout an improv practice,” Folckomer explains. (The class will later tackle composition, where they can expand their most interesting scores.) One score consists of written instructions that are deliberately vague, so that the dancer may interact with the space around them as they see fit.

Later, DeWitt mentions having her mind blown by participating in ADF, with all of the new ideas she’s encountering. Schmidt talks about creating new work as a way to filter her experiences. Kocz speaks about her experiences coming from theater, and how it both parallels and diverges. All students mention having “break-through” moments during scores where they felt they could take the movement further.

After the group’s hour is up, the entire class reconvenes to discuss their experiences with the exercise. On the way out, the dancers talk a bit more about the day’s topic, but quickly run out of steam.

“I can’t think anymore,” DeWitt says, laughing. “My brain is full.”