An Update from the Kent Dance Ensemble
A Message from Artistic Director Gregory King
Kent Dance Ensemble: woMENtum
The Kent Dance Ensemble presents their annual concert April 5-7, 2019 in E. Turner Stump Theatre, located in the Center for the Performing Arts, 1325 Theatre Drive, Kent, OH. The concert features choreography by artistic director Gregory King and guest artists Christopher L. Huggins and Shaness Kemp. Cleveland-based hip hop company ELEVATED will present a special guest performance.
To purchase tickets to Kent Dance Ensemble: woMENtum, visit https://www.kent.edu/theatredance/kent-dance-ensemble-womentum
Morgan Walker (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2018)
Q: Can you tell us about the projects that you are currently working on?
A: Currently I am a professional company member of Cardell Dance Theater based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while training as a full-time scholarship student at The Ailey School in New York City. Cardell Dance Theater is currently touring Supper, People on the Move!, a sociopolitical work exposing the layers of immigration through visual art and dance. I am also currently developing my own work and research through a feminist lens that focuses on shattering the male gaze. Exploring the contemporary relationship between women and their photographic image to themselves, men, and society is a topic that has consistently sparked my interest since college. I am interested in the Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s, therefore my exploration focuses on but is not limited to passivity, authoritative subjects, body ideology, beauty norms and feminine identity.
Q: What are some tools that you learned through being a part of KDE that have helped you in your post graduate endeavors?
A: Professionalism, professionalism, professionalism. In KDE we showed up to show out even through the informal performances and with that demeanor flourished motivation, expectation and hard work within the company. Company Artistic Director, Gregory King, strives to offer experiences in residency with noted guest choreographers that not only advance our performance skills but also our audition skills, professionalism, movement versatility and simply building contacts. I have experienced firsthand the importance of guest artist exposure because my first professional dance job was built through KDE, with guest artist Silvana Cardell, during my senior year at Kent State. Most of my “tools” obtained through being a part of KDE that have helped me in my post graduate endeavors have been coached by Gregory King. His willingness to offer individual coaching to every student, not only KDE members, is quite nothing less than spectacular. Gregory King prepared me for my travels to New York, for the professional dancer life and led me on the track for success.
Q: What is the largest struggle you’ve faced/are facing since graduation?
A: My largest struggle I have faced as a professional artist is the financial stress. I have a day and night job to sustain myself along with training and dancing professionally. But hey, you must do what you have to do to make the dream work. It’s difficult to take three classes a day, then head to work until midnight, travel to Philadelphia to rehearse on the weekends, and know that if I just work one more hour that I can afford my subway pass and that audition I want to go to next weekend... But it’s worth it.
Q: Plans for the future?
A: My future plans include performing in and auditioning for project-based works and contemporary companies, earning my master's in either Dance Therapy or Choreography, working at the collegiate level and establishing my own dance school.
Q: Advice for current students?
A: Stay humble and stay hungry for the art. Do not think about entering this game if you do not love it. Also know that self-doubt and disappointment are regular emotions you’ll wrestle with. You must be ready for rejection but have faith in yourself as an individual and never stop working and developing yourself. Also, first impressions count. You never know who your future employer could be and know that your attitude is more important than your talent.
Austin Coats (B.A. Dance Studies, 2018)
Q: You are attending graduate school at NYU, tell us about your experience thus far.
A: Now looking back upon my first semester, class-wise I experienced a lot of repeat information but examined and applied in a different way. I noticed these new perspectives and applications specifically in my theory classes: Composition and Theory taught by Phyllis Lamhut, Anatomy taught by Andrea Zujko, and World Dance Cultures by Patricia Beaman. For example, in anatomy there was a discovery in relationship to race, in terms of alignment that I will remember for all my teachings (not all blacks/people of color have lumbar lordosis, their ribs most often may be out of place). In composition, I’m learning to not take critiques personally. Also, one of the learning tools implemented in the structure of the graduate program is that both graduate and undergraduate students take class together (technique and elective classes). Although there have been some ups and downs to this strategy, it helped me realize you can learn from anyone and anyone can learn from you. Emotionally, the semester was a bit tolling and I didn’t realize how much I would miss home.
Q: How has your experience with KDE helped you in your current endeavors?
A: My experience has helped me learn about professionalism and how to be more of a chameleon when taking classes or auditioning. Because of the various artists that we got to work with in my time in KDE, I can’t have an excuse or actually be able to say the word “can’t” when doing different styles of work. KDE also gave me more confidence to say I can, especially when I’m in a classroom full of talented people who are 5 years younger than me. Lastly, the meaningful talks with Gregory and resident artists like Jamal and Jess gave me even more hope that there is room for you and everyone is absolutely and individually dope. You just have to show up and do the work.
Q: What are you currently researching/reading?
A: I am currently reading Brenda Dixon Gottschild’s "The Black Dancing Body: A Geography From Coon to Cool." I used to refer to it a lot in undergrad but never read the book in its entirety. Now, I’m basing a movement study on that book consisting of all men of color. I am researching the intersections of my identity (introvert, queer, black, visual artist) by going to museums, researching time periods like the Harlem Renaissance, seeing a lot of dance, and just reflecting on my own personal human experiences.
Q: Do you have any advice for current students that want to attend graduate school after undergrad?
A: Two ideas that were presented to me last semester come to mind: “graduate school is a gift” and “self-research.” I bring these ideas up as determining factors and ways to look at graduate school. I felt like I just wasn’t ready for the professional world of dance and knew there was more to me that I was interested in. Graduate school can really give one the space to explore oneself and create some meaningful and professional relationships while doing so. You decide to sit aside these next two years for yourself, so in that sense it can be a gift.
This may be a personal application but looking at my first semester, there was a lot of introduction material and projects that felt like they weren’t preparing for creating my thesis. So, I recommend that if you know what you’re interested in exploring, try making each assignment, project, piece of writing possibly tie in with what you are hoping to look into for your final thesis. That way when it’s time for thesis proposals and the actual presentation you’ll have more of the work done and a wealth of work to pull from.
Q: What is the largest struggle you’ve faced/are facing since graduation?
A: The largest struggles I’ve faced were emotional and judgmental. Although I didn’t know what to expect going into grad school, I went into grad school thinking I was going to have more freedom than in undergrad — nope. Well, maybe a little.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: I plan to create as much as I can and just dive in to whatever pathway my interest takes me.