School Buzz: Jacob’s Pillow Awards Excellence

Jacob’s Pillow Awards Excellence

I-Fen Lin dreamed of dancing at Jacob’s Pillow from the moment she first learned of the dance mecca, seven years ago in a Western Dance History class at Taipei National University of the Arts. Little did the Taiwan native know that her fantasy would one day be fulfilled: The School at Jacob’s Pillow recently selected Lin, 26, to be the 2009 recipient of its Lorna Strassler Award for Student Excellence!

Lin, now pursing an MFA in modern dance at the University of Utah, was selected for the award based on her spring audition for the Contemporary Traditions Program at The School at Jacob’s Pillow. It was during this extremely competitive process that she demonstrated her superior technique and performance quality, along with a strong work ethic and unwavering commitment to dance.

The best part: The award comes with a full scholarship to any one of the school’s professional programs and a $2,500 cash stipend. Lin couldn’t be happier. “I was amazed that I had been chosen for this award! I couldn’t stop thinking about how I had read about Jacob’s Pillow in my textbooks and now I was being awarded this great honor,” she says. As for the prize money, Lin already has a plan: “My thesis is going to be amazing now! Just think of all the sets, costumes and props I will be able to use. Maybe I’ll even be able to take it on tour!”

Choreo Prodigy

Alexandra May Ballance turns 11 this month and she’s already got a choreography credit on her resumé! In addition to dancing with Washington D.C.’s Joy of Motion Dance Center Youth Dance Ensemble and attending Potomac Elementary School, the Maryland native found the time to create a work called Disconnections. The modern piece premiered in January at a concert for the DC-based CrossCurrents Dance Company.

This fall the dance hit the stage of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where Alexandra and two of her fellow Joy of Motion dancers performed it during Dance/MetroDC’s 9th Annual Metro DC Dance Awards ceremony.

Alexandra created the dance as part of an independent choreography project with the guidance of her teacher Helen Hayes (Hayes was a finalist at this year’s Metro DC Dance Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Dance Education). As for her process, Alexandra says she always begins choreographing the same way. “I turn on the music, I start dancing and I think about what I like,” she says. “I express my feelings through the movement of dance.” Next on her list of goals: middle school!—Colleen Bohen

Tap Takes Chicago

Chicago Human Rhythm Project (CHRP) held its 19th annual Rhythm World tap festival this past summer. Nearly 500 participants took classes with a cast of tap legends, including Jason Samuels Smith, Step Afrika! artistic director Jakari Sherman and Idella Reed Davis – to name a few!

DS caught up with CHRP co-founder and director Lane Alexander to find out his favorite festival moments and hear his thoughts on the future of American tap. Check it out at dancespirit.com.—Colleen Bohen

Bard Teams with Bill T.

Bard College’s dance program is bridging the gap between the undergraduate and professional dance worlds through a new partnership with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. This fall the program began offering two modern dance technique classes and a methods course focusing on Bill T. Jones’ choreographic process. All are being taught by current and former company members. —Colleen Bohen

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