Dance student Dylan Contreras (B.F.A. '20) writes from Axis Connect, a bicoastal dance intensive designed for young artists preparing to launch careers in the field.
I’m so excited to be writing from the Axis Connect summer intensive, which brings emerging dancers together with some of the most respected directors, teachers, choreographers, and agents from both the East and West Coast dance industries.
Under the direction of sisters Cherice and Charissa Barton of Barton Movement, Axis Connect is a two-week intensive that kicked off in Los Angeles, at the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance at the University of Southern California. In its second week, my fellow participants and I flew to New York City to finish the program at the distinguished Baryshnikov Arts Center.
The Barton sisters developed an amazing program for dancers who are trying to step into the working world, introducing us to the possibilities of what the dance industry has to offer. Here, I’m learning everything from the renowned repertoire of Crystal Pite and Alexander Ekman and the original choreography of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” to time and money management, dance on film, and fight choreography.
The overarching theme of this program is built on what Cherice and Charissa understand the dance world to be, and that is community. We do as much talking as we do dancing, and our discussions always circle back to the idea that the dance industry is a community that consists of the people who I am surrounded by today. My colleagues and I will be the industry’s next generation of artists, and the relationships I build now, combined with the celebration of the new work being created around me, will shape my future career and the future of dance itself.
Axis also embodies the modern meaning of being a dancer: that it is possible to do all types of dance work, whether it be in a contemporary company, on tour with a musical artist, on Broadway, or even in video games and stunt work. Dance is as limiting a word and field as I make it out to be, and to be able to stay open and curious is an amazing way to be fulfilled by the art form.
I’ve been nothing but inspired by and in awe of my peers and faculty at Axis this summer, for they have introduced me to new aspects of dance that I can’t wait to bring to back to the Conservatory this fall.