Education residency, noun: When a professional company visits a university, school or community from one day to several months in order to expand its audience, set or workshop choreography, create pieces, and test teaching techniques. For students, the opportunity affords exposure to new work and the chance to make professional contacts.
Here are some tips from Adrienne Westwood, who recently held a residency with her company, VIA Dance Collaborative, at the State University of New York at Fredonia.
Residency 101: For Choreographers
- Seek out opportunities, starting with where you already have connections, such as places your colleagues teach, your alma mater or schools in your hometown. Make a list of all possibilities, and contact dance program directors personally. Be prepared to articulate your educational philosophies and goals, and to send out press kits and DVDs.
- Ask each director how much the students dance per week, their skill levels, what styles they train in, and with which other guest artists or companies they’ve worked.
- With input from the schools that best match your teaching philosophy, pinpoint what a residency there would entail: It might include teaching classes, setting choreography on their dancers, or producing a performance.
- Delegate tasks, making sure all company members know their responsibilities and schedules. Don’t leave anything until the last minute, and don’t leave just one person with the bulk of responsibility.
- Set a positive example inside and outside the studio. Students are excited to work with pros, and can be impressionable. Even in your smallest interactions, you’re teaching what it is to be a professional.
- Befriend a faculty member or administrator to help fulfill your vision. This ally will prove invaluable, from negotiating logistical details to creating rehearsal and class schedules.
- Structure classes and rehearsals to build on curriculum and dancers’ prior knowledge, while leaving students with an imprint of your company’s unique attributes.
- Use the experience to forge new territory with your company by experimenting with ideas and creating new work.