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Lilac Garden Workshop at Principia College by John Gardner and Amanda McKerrow

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

John Gardner at Principia College - Tudor Workshop

This year we spent our holiday season in a quite unique and stimulating way. The day after Christmas we traveled to Principia College for a week long Tudor workshop that was to serve as a pilot program for the official launch of the Antony Tudor curriculum that will take place in June 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri.

The idea for the workshop was put forward to Amanda Mckerrow by the Dance Department Chair at Principia College, Hilary Harper Wlicoxen. Principia had done Little Improvisations a year earlier with much success, and Hilary was hopeful that they could follow up with another Tudor piece. This was to prove challenging due to many factors, most importantly the lack of male dancers. Hilary thought that a good solution would be to excerpt a solo from one of the Tudor ballets. She had a lovely dancer at Principia by the name of Kanoe Wagner who had performed Little Improvisations. Hilary thought Kanoe would make a lovely Caroline from Lilac Garden, and Amanda suggested that the solo she dances to the violin cadenza would be a good choice. Amanda shared this idea with Sally Bliss, and she too agreed that it was right for Kanoe, and it was a wonderful opportunity to bring Tudor back to Principia. However, there were some concerns. One of them being; how does one excerpt a character from a story, and give it the full depth of understanding it requires, if one has never performed the work, or been involved in the process of character development with the choreographer or the cast as a whole? This question opened up much discussion, which led to the idea of a one week Lilac Garden workshop at Principia College. It was important for us to allow this workshop to develop as naturally as possible, and that would mean tailoring some of the specifics to fit the given situation. First of all, the only time we were all available was the week between Christmas and New Years day. While this wasn’t the most ideal time, Hilary thought we could find enough students if she opened it up to community. As it turned out we had fifteen dancers attend, four of them being men, who we were delighted to have, and their contribution was invaluable. The workshop was to include a two hour ballet technique class each day given by John Gardner. Amanda would then work on setting Caroline’s solo and other scenes that are vital to her characterization and the story. The other interdisciplinary classes, Music with Jim Hegarty and Literature with Heidi Snow, added another dimension to the experience, and were certainly informative and helpful. It was wonderful for the students to hear about Trude de Garmo Harper’s personal experiences with Mr. Tudor, which helped bring the man to life. However, it was Meg Eginton’s acting for the dancer classes that really accelerated their character development and enhanced the entire process. Meg attended all of the Lilac Garden rehearsals and designed her classes to directly support what was being done in the studio.

 We have always enjoyed working with college and university dancers. Their minds are so focused on learning and they are completely engaged in every aspect of the process. This workshop at Principia was no different in that respect .The dancers all threw themselves into the work with a refreshing curiosity that gained momentum as the week progressed. It was this curiosity of mind that was essential to the success of this workshop in an educational sense, and we found that the more the dancers learned, the more hungry they became to express themselves artistically. We are all thrilled with the outcome of this workshop and truly believe that the Tudor curriculum has the potential to play a most valuable and important role in higher education by providing a tool for the understanding of how to clearly inhabit a given character through dance, and also by teaching the value of being sensitive and mindful of our artistic selves as interpreters and creators of art in the highest. This is the legacy of Tudor, and its continuance insures the integrity and inspiration for the future generations of dancers and choreographers who will explore and carry this art form forward.

We spent time with and met some wonderful and lovely people along the way, and we are thankful for that. We want to especially thank Hilary and Sally for their efforts in making this workshop possible. We want to thank everyone who helped bring this endeavor to life, and that joyfully includes the dancers!

John & Amanda

Categories: Repetiteur