Future of Dance

Shannon Elliott, head of SFUAD’s dance department, takes a deep breath, double checks her computer screen for details and lists off yet another event that the dance majors will be participating in this semester. Her plans to keep the dancers busy and give them performance opportunities has already taken off.

Shannon Elliott, head of SFUAD's dance department, discusses the upcoming semester.

Shannon Elliott, head of SFUAD’s dance department, discusses the upcoming semester. Photo by Alejandra Rodriguez

By the second week of school, the first of two guest choreographers has come and gone through Santa Fe. Both will create original works for the dancers to be performed a couple months down the road. Hearing outside opinions and learning from developed, working choreographers will benefit all seven in the department.

“It’s not like they’re just coming in and setting a work that they’ve already done in the past. It’ll be created on the [dancers], and especially for them,” Elliott explains. The chance to be part of this professional-level creative setting is one of many rewarding opportunities in store.

Elliott also has multiple field trips and community performances in the works. They range from taking master classes with the dancers of University of New Mexico in late February to performing in the annual Railyard Choreography Showcase sometime in early April. One of the bigger ideas Elliott has in mind is taking a group to Albuquerque in order to participate in the Nuvo Dance Convention. Choreographers such as Travis Wall and Stacey Tookey (famous via the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance”) teach classes and workshops all weekend to a large group of pre-professional dancers. This will give the dancers of SFUAD the chance to not only learn from Emmy-nominated choreographers but also to meet other students with a large variety of backgrounds, experiences and abilities.

One event that Elliott is looking forward to due to the exposure and collaborative process it will offer the dance department is Outdoor Vision Fest, happening on campus in the beginning of May. Local choreographer Jocelyn Danchick is already part of the team, which is a relief to Elliott, who does not hesitate to cite Danchick’s credentials.

“She had her own dance company in Paris for 15 years. And she’s more in the dance-theatre realm and just very creative. She has a lot of experience with multimedia and projections and interactive [work].” Though the actual event is still a few months away, with a collaboration that involves so many departments, the process has already begun. Meetings with Terry Borst, who is overseeing all of OVF, Jason Goodyear from the music department, and Brad Wolfley from the film school are in session in order to guarantee a successful interdisciplinary, site-specific piece.

The dance students work with Elliott.

The dance students work with Elliott. Photo by Amanda Tyler

Looking forward, the entire Performing Arts Department is on the search for a new chair to replace John Weckesser, following his retirement this past December. As the search continues, Elliott looks ahead to new leadership and curricular changes, with high hopes for this young, flexible program.

“What I think is our strength is, because we’re so new, we have the ability to morph and change with the times, with what’s required of the current industry,” Elliott says as she mentions that today’s dancer needs more than just a solid foundation in technique to land a job. Giving her students performance experience and a wider scope of audience and exposure will continue to drive the heart of the program.

Elliott brings up creative collaboration in terms of future hopes as she states, “I just want to reiterate to our campus community, that I’d like to integrate as much as possible.” As she compares the school to a petri dish, Elliott encourages working with musicians, filmmakers, photographers and any student that wishes to collaborate across departments. “This is a perfect little laboratory for students to really try some crazy ideas, so go for it!”