Senior Dance Production


Creating for Each Other

From left: Kristina Bentz, Lindsay Harwell, Jason Collins, Ingrid Kapteyn, and Gillian Abbott discuss elements of Jason's piece, which they'll perform as part of Senior Production.

 (Photo by Jeffrey Cuyubamba) More Photos »
Senior Dance

From left: Kristina Bentz, Lindsay Harwell, Jason Collins, Ingrid Kapteyn, and Gillian Abbott discuss elements of Jason's piece, which they'll perform as part of Senior Production.

Jeffrey Cuyubamba
Senior Dance

From left: Ingrid Kapteyn, Gillian Abbott, Kristina Bentz, and Lindsay Harwell rehearse a Senior Production piece by Jason Collins.

Jeffrey Cuyubamba
Senior Dance

From left: Lois Alexander, Corwin Barnette, Michele Carter, and Maximilian Cappelli-King rehearse a Senior Production dance choreographed by Lilja Ruriksdottir. 

Jeffrey Cuyubamba
Senior Dance

From left: Senior choreographer Lilja Ruriksdottir works with her classmates Michele Carter and Corwin Barnette on a Senior Production dance

Jeffrey Cuyubamba

One of the capstones of a dancer’s life at Juilliard is the Senior Production—three days of performances in which seniors perform works by other seniors. The Journal e-mailed three of this year’s soon-to-be-graduates a few questions about the experience. Jason Collins, one of the seven choreographers, was working with four dancers, among them Ingrid Kapteyn. Lilja Ruriksdottir was also choreographing for four dancers.


Please describe the piece you’re working on.
Jason Collins: My piece has been an exploration of speed. I have always been attuned to creating pieces with lots of fast-paced movement, so I wanted to challenge myself and explore the polar opposite: slow motion. I’m interested in how speed of motion can affect the perception of the material. 
Ingrid Kapteyn: I’m dancing in Jason Collins’s piece, which is a quartet for three women and one man who struggle to reach the end of an almost unbearably long and exhausting journey. It’s set to music by Juilliard composer Yuri Boguinia and it involves strings, horns, and the piano.

What has surprised you most—and least—about the process?
Kapteyn: What’s surprised me most is that we can spend an entire two-hour rehearsal dissecting intentions and thought processes behind Jason’s steps, and we can spend all of another two-hour rehearsal adding new steps and expanding his structure. No matter how we fill the two hours, though, I am always shocked by how much the piece has changed by the end of the day. Because one step or one thought alone requires enormous consideration, progress feels slow in the moment and somehow suddenly speedy in retrospect.

What’s surprised me least is that Jason has a rare ability to transcend his own uncertainties about where his piece is headed in order to communicate exactly what he needs from us, his dancers, at any moment. He can be confused in his head, as all choreographers must be from time to time, but still be absolutely clear with us.

What’s been your favorite aspect of Senior Production?
Collins: I have loved working with my dancers. Every day I am reminded in my rehearsals how blessed I am to have such wonderful dancers who are not only talented but also extremely intelligent and great collaborators.
Kapteyn: I love being in a studio with schoolmates whom I have been with and grown with for four years, knowing that they are the best of buddies but also now accomplished professionals. I think (and hope!) that both the fun and the formality of that will show in our work. 

I sense that all of Jason’s dancers would agree about how easy it is to lose ourselves inside of the world he has created. As soon as the music starts we launch right in, not to be distracted until it ends.

What’s been your least favorite part of the process?
Kapteyn: Part of revamping Jason’s piece after we took a break from rehearsals during the Spring Dance process involved remembering the material off of a video. I can hardly stand watching myself on film, anywhere, anytime, and though my revulsion may be overly dramatic I was glad when we could put the video away and start working again from memory!

What’s been hardest?
Kapteyn: Besides inventing wonderfully challenging movement material, Jason has made his process so seamless that I cannot think of it having been really difficult at any point. Settling on a piece of Yuri’s music that flattered the sound and the dance at once has taken time, but the result is worth the work! 
Collins: The realization that this will be my last creation as a student at Juilliard.

Please describe the dance you’re creating.
Lilja Ruriksdottir: The piece unfolds in a different way each time, depending on the dancers’ choices from moment to moment. They don’t rely on music to carry them along as time passes, but only on themselves and each other. However, the music affects what you see as much as the dancers affect what you hear.

What has surprised you most—and least—about the process?
Ruriksdottir: What’s surprised me most is that what I had first imagined the piece to be is worlds away from what it actually is now. What’s surprised me least? The dancers’ capabilities. I knew they’d be amazing—I’m working with brilliant dancers who can do anything.

What’s been your least favorite aspect of Senior Production?
Ruriksdottir: Getting stuck in thick, static and UN-translatable thoughts. The hardest part is communicating ideas accurately. Language never seems enough, so having a body has been of tremendous help!

And your favorite?
Ruriksdottir: All the learning that happens—what matters, what’s necessary, what isn’t, and somehow finding answers to the question: what now? 

If you could tell your first-year self anything about Juilliard, what would it be?
Ruriksdottir: Be sensitive to how much rest you need—you need a lot of it at Juilliard. When you have a moment of rest, don’t feel guilty about it, no matter how busy and productive everybody else seems to be. It’ll feel like all you do is dance, but don’t let your dancing define you, you’ll have too many bad days for that. Focus your energy, you’ll know where to put it. Learn from what is all around you. Keep things close but not too close. Breathe deeply before reacting to a challenge. And  keep doing what you’re doing—even if you haven’t a clue what it is—as long as it feels right. 
Collins: Savor the moments. Pace yourself. Don’t take everything so seriously. Try to create as much as possible. Explore as much as possible in every aspect of your life; it will improve your art.
Kapteyn: One does not need to know how a project will end in order to start it.

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