Student’s choreographed work makes Gala at ACDA

Jordan Reanne Patt
Jordan Reanne Patt

By Jordan Reanne Patt

This past summer, when my mind had a chance to wander, I was almost always thinking about what I wanted to create that coming semester in composition class. Before creating, ...but when are we going to paint the apartment? I’d never choreographed anything before. I really wanted to create something different, powerful and thought-provoking. I decided to create a duet on two men. I wanted to do this because people don’t typically see two men dancing with one another, therefore are often uncomfortable when they see two men dancing together. I wanted to break down this preconceived notion because two men dancing together is so beautiful.

I wanted to create a duet that was extremely connected in movement and emotion. Rarely are the dancers away from one another. Obviously, some sort of relationship is being depicted onstage, but the specific origin of the relationship is ambiguous or up to the audience’s interpretation. About halfway through my creative process with this piece, I came up with the idea to add props. Two props, a table and a bench, are actually used during the piece; the other props are simply for aesthetic purpose. I wanted the audience to feel like they were witnessing something maybe they shouldn’t… like eavesdropping on a conversation you aren’t apart of. This piece is patient. It isn’t in your face, begging for you to watch it… it invites you to watch; it’s quiet and delicate but every so often has moments of greatness.

I had the honor of presenting my piece at ACDA – American College Dance Association -- in one of the four adjudicated concerts. In each concert, there are about 12 pieces that are performed. After each concert, the adjudicators give feedback about each piece to whomever wishes to stay and listen. The adjudicators focus a lot on the concept, emotion, dynamics and intent of the pieces instead of strictly looking at the technicality of the dancers.

I’ve performed twice in adjudicated concerts at ACDA but being a choreographer presenting my work was a completely different feeling. Dancing on a stage in front of hundreds of people is a vulnerable space to be in, but presenting your choreographic work in front of hundreds of people brought vulnerability to a new place for me. I was extremely anxious to hear what the adjudicators would say about my work.

I remember the third adjudicator was speaking about my piece and I started to feel extremely lightheaded and tunnel vision began to set in. I realized I wasn’t breathing; I was just too focused and in tune to what they were saying. I couldn’t focus on anything else but what the adjudicators were saying. I remember a few specific quotes from the adjudicators: “I wrote down on my paper, ‘I didn’t write a lot because I wanted to experience and live in this piece… and that’s not what I’m here to do.” Another quote, “There was nothing normal about this piece.” “It was a great post-modern tango.” “What’s the difference between a duet and two dancers dancing on stage at the same time? This was a DUET.”

I’m not exactly sure how to describe the feeling I experienced after hearing the adjudicators speak about my piece. I immediately broke down in tears. Hearing that they enjoyed and understood my piece was a truly overwhelming feeling. I respect those people immensely. Choreographing is a genuine passion of mine, I want to draw people in to what I create and I want my dancers to feel good in the movement as well. I felt as though I accomplished this after that first performance at ACDA.

...but when are we going to paint the apartment? performed in the last adjudicated concert so we were to find out which pieces got into the Gala that next morning at 7 a.m. I set an alarm for 6:50. I awoke to a text from Susan Ourada congratulating me on getting into the Gala, something the UNL Dance Program hasn’t done in many years. I was once again overwhelmed with emotion.

Seeing my dancers perform at the Gala was something I will never, ever forget. I felt immensely proud of all the hard work they have given the piece and me. The piece absolutely would not be the same with anyone else. They are essential to the success of this piece. I can’t wait to show this piece again at Evenings of Dance.