Centennial College Dance Program

Centennial College Dance Program
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By Rachel Levitt

The Centennial dance department will be performing at the Colts basketball games March 2nd, 3rd and 4th as part of their Storyworks project. Here is what two of the student choreographers have to say about their experiences.

Jennifer Carter

Trained at Premier Studio of Dance in Peterborough ON. She began teaching there in 2012 and has since choreographed several competition routines for them.

Who are your choreographic influences?

My choreography is very heavily influenced by some of my biggest inspirations; Leah Totten, one of my mentors; Derick Robinson, also a mentor of mine, and even my friend; Jac Villaquete. She’s amazing and then obviously all of the choreographers in LA that I watch on Youtube.

What elements do they have that you like to use in your choreography?

For the Toronto-based teachers, it’s their body awareness and the way they use their full range that I really admire. And the fact that it’s not all about cleanliness all the time, it’s more so about feeling your movement and being invested in it per se. Whereas in LA… for performances it has to be very clean, it has to be very easily put across to an audience which is why that really inspires me in the sense of this game, and the way that we’re doing this.

What inspired your music choices for this piece?

The decisions I made are pretty much based on what’s popular right now, because the way to get a crowd involved would be to use things that are current and things that people understand. So we use a lot of more energetic music because people tend to resonate with that a little bit more.

Erin Jacobson

Trained and now teaches at her home studio Dance Sensation. This past year at Terpischore, she received five out of seven awards for choreography as well as recognition for the training of her students.

How did you get into choreographing?

I was fifteen years old and the director of my studio asked me to start choreographing solos, because she knew I wanted to choreograph for my profession.

What do you like about it?

I like being in control, bad as that sounds. I’m a perfectionist, so if I can teach it and make my kids do it the way I want them to and have control over how they’re doing it and helping them get better and seeing them grow as dancers; that’s really fulfilling for me.

Why did you want to choreograph for Storyworks?

I do it for my profession, so it’s something that I find fun, accomplishing and again, I like to be in control.

Who’s influenced you as a choreographer?

Recently, Allison Bradley, Kylie Thompson, Cora Kozaris, I’ll even include Jen [Carter] in there. Previously, Tanya Newstadt, Shaun Wolch. There’s so many more, but that’s what I’ll narrow it down to.

Celestine Eagle is the program coordinator of Centennial’s Dance Performance Program. She has had an incredible international career as a dancer and choreographer that includes theatre, television, commercials, and more. We sure are lucky to have her!

How did you design the course for Centennial?

Celestine Eagle: When I got the position I thought “what is it that I found was missing and that was needed in the dance industry? How can you really give students coming out of high school, real industry relevant information that is going to transport them into the industry?” I’ve worked with a lot of college students who came into the industry, who actually had no idea about being a professional dancer and what that means. You know, actually learning about not just improving on their skills, but learning about how to be in the professional world, because it is a different world.

For me versatility was a huge thing that I found, working with different dancers. Some dancers are beautifully technically trained, but when it comes to doing something that’s a little bit more grounded, a little bit funkier, whether it be jazz or commercial or anything like that, there’s a real lack in that. And now as a dancer you have to be able to do everything.

What was some of the good and the bad of the first year running the program?

CE: The good thing is that it was well received. The bad thing is I think everything’s always going to evolve. There are things that until it’s actually been done, your creation in your mind or how it’s going to work and fit and look, may not necessarily work when it’s actually put into practice.

To be honest with you, everything has gone really well. There was only one course that the structure was changed, which was the cultural course. Everything else is just a matter of as we’re teaching, and as you know what dancers are like and students are like, you have to be flexible. You can’t have a set thing that you’re going to teach and then go into a classroom and just teach it regardless of the student dynamic and student ability. You get in there and it takes you much longer, or sometimes you’re done and you think “okay now I have to introduce something else.”

What are the student dynamics with each other and the teachers like?

CE: I think the relationships with the students and the teachers is great. When we’re doing assessments or we’re watching choreography pieces, there’s a lot of support from the other students behind that and they’re clapping and they’re cheering. So I think for the most part the dynamic is actually really good.

Moving forward, what are some plans for the program?

CE: I want this to be an elite program. I want the dancers to be of the highest caliber and for it to be a place that is very professional. Having students come in with a respect for the program, I want the program to be respected outside of here and I want there to be a buzz about the program. Not just about the students that graduate or the work that’s given here, but also that it is an inspirational environment. That’s really huge for me. Being a good person, a good dancer and a professional, that’s the goal of the program.

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