A couple weeks ago, this year's Cover Model Search finalists were in NYC—which got everyone at the office thinking about last year's winner, Ida Saki. It seems, everywhere we turn, Ida's doing something amazing! And this Wednesday, we got to see her in action with YoungArts, a national organization that recognizes outstanding 17 and 18 year old artists in a variety of disciplines, from jazz vocalists to Irish step dancers. Medalists in the competition are invited to NYC for a week of workshops and performances, and we were lucky enough to see these talented teens at work.
On Wednesday afternoon, deputy editor in chief, Alison Feller, and I got to sit in on a dance master class led by Alvin Ailey company member, Matthew Rushing. When we entered the studio at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, the dancers were just starting to collaborate with a group of five jazz musicians—also YoungArts winners (we had to keep reminding ourselves that these accomplished musicians were in high school!). As the band improvised, a handful of the dancers came up with movement phrases on the spot. Ida's was in a deep second plié punctuated by a quick foot pop and geometric arms.
When the dancers had enough material and the band had worked out a basic framework, Rushing started shaping the choreography. He had Ida begin the choreography on her own, then pass the phrase to other dancers. After giving a couple other suggestions, he turned the piece over to the dancers, who built on Rushing's structure. The dancers incorporated some improvisation, and we particularly liked Jacquelin Harris dancing right on top of guitarist Gabriel Condon! Over the course of an hour and a half, a messy idea became a clearly defined piece.
Even after seeing how much the YoungArts winners were able to accomplish in 90 minutes, it was surprising to see what they were able to do with three days. When they arrived in NYC last Saturday, the artists began collaborating on pieces they performed Wednesday evening. Dancers, vocalists, musicians, actors and visual artists developed short works centered around the idea of "courage." In one called "Mist," Ida, Austin Goodwin and Robert Moore danced a trio accompanied by pianist Gregory Zelek (music composed by Michael Taylor) in front of a film by Michael Beuttler. The piece seemed to have grown out of a contact improvisation; the three dancers rolled and leaned on each other, creating architectural shapes that matched the film's cityscape. Ida was captivating as always, throwing herself into each step without fear or hesitation. For three days of work, it was truly impressive.
You can see previous YoungArts winners working with legendary professionals in the new HBO documentary series, "Masterclass," which airs Sundays. And look for an interview with 2009 YA winner Olivia Rehrman, who is in the "Masterclass" episode with Bill T. Jones, in an upcoming Dance Spirit e-newsletter.
Photo of Ida Saki at New York City Dance Alliance's 2009 National Season Finale by ProPix, UT