The beginning of a new semester is like a renaissance. The renewal of friendships, the rebirth of school spirit and the resurgence of academics surround the campus. Those in the dance department at Duke University are capitalizing on this astounding energy and are planning to create a renaissance of their own, in the form of restaging of choreographer Bill T. Jones’ work entitled "Power/Full."
From Sept. 13-22, Shayla-Vie Jenkins will be on campus as an artist in residence. Jenkins is a New York City based dance artist. From 2005-2015 she was a principal dancer with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. During her time there, the company received two ensemble NY Dance and Performance Awards/The Bessies. Jenkins has taught numerous masterclasses and workshops for the company, and has even restaged some of Jones’ most notable works, which is what she will be doing on campus.
“For me this represents pushing the time forward," said Andrea Woods Valdés, Associate Professor of the Practice and lead faculty for Jenkins' residency. "This work is unfamiliar to me. Shayla-Vie is the vessel for the Bill T. Jones legacy.”
Valdés met Jenkins when Jenkins was a student at the American Dance Festival, which is hosted at Duke each summer. Jenkins wanted to work with Valdés’ dance company in New York, but very soon after the meeting she was accepted into Bill T. Jones’ company. Valdés was very understanding of her decision because she was a previous dancer in Jones’ company.
“For me that was very exciting,” Valdés said, “to think that someone so close to me was working with the company I used to dance with.”
Valdés and Jenkins stayed in touch over the years, and certainly have a mutual admiration for one another.
Valdés said, “Every time I used to see her perform with the company I would tell her, ‘I want to be you when I grow up.’”
Valdés will act as the rehearsal director after Jenkins' residency ends, taking notes and sending videos to maintain the integrity of the piece. Dancers who wish to be involved in the restaging will audition Sept. 6 and work throughout the entire semester. Only six to 10 advanced dancers will be admitted into the staging. They will rehearse as part of the Modern Dance Repertory studio dance class for credit, but there will be an especially big commitment for the 10 days of Jenkins' residency. During other weeks of the class, the dancers will also view and discuss videos of other Jones/Zane works.
As an educator, Valdés said the most important thing that she wants the dancers to understand is that this is an educational and scholarship tool.
“It will bring another generation to the Duke students and it will give them more exposure to Jones’ work,” Valdés said.
"Power/Full" is a group dance. It will be important for the dancers to form relationships. The piece is set to an abstract, dynamic soundtrack.
This is not the first time that Duke will be bringing in an outside artist to help educate students. There are regular residencies through the dance program that include all genres of dance, from classical Indian to West African to ballet. Much of the faculty on campus are linked to present day choreographers and directors, which is one of the many benefits of the dance program here. Duke Performances also brings artists in for master classes open to Duke students and the triangle community. Anyone interested can find out more by signing up for the newsletter on the dance program website.
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In addition to the restaging of "Power/Full," Jenkins will be hosting an open talk for anyone interested about what life is like for a dancer. It will be held Sept. 16 at 12:45 p.m. at the Ark Video Lab. She is also hosting a master class Sept. 20 at 4:40 p.m. in the Ark.
Jenkins will also conduct an open rehearsal Sept. 20 at 6:15 p.m. for those who are want to watch the process of the restaging. The final product will be revealed at the November dances concert in Reynolds Industrial Theater, located in the Bryan Center Nov. 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. In addition to the dances choreographed by the faculty, audiences can also expect to view 15 min. of high caliber student choreography.
Further information for all of these events can be found on the events calendar on the Duke Dance Program website: https://danceprogram.duke.edu/