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FSU Dance Presents: 2016 Dance in Paris – A summer of “firsts” and meeting Mr. Gaga

Published August 5, 2016

2016-05-31 Florida State U dance group shot-9884 copySince it’s inception in 2012, seventy-nine dance students have traveled to Paris as part of the FSU Dance in Paris program under the umbrella of the FSU International Programs/Summer Study Abroad. Students follow two courses of study – technique classes in ballet and contemporary, as well as a dance history course with an emphasis on art history related to dance.

This year’s Dance in Paris was filled with “firsts” including a visit to the Paris Opera Ballet School where the students had an opportunity to tour the facility and observe classes. At the US Embassy students were treated to a tour of the George C. Marshall Center and a chance for program leader, Joyce Fausone, to acknowledge some of the key people who have been part of the program since it’s beginning – Brooke Desnoës, Christophe Boïces, Nathalie Guilbaud and Nicolas Celik. The last week for the program was highlighted by a two-hour workshop with Benoit Swan Pouffer, former artistic director of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. Benoit was in residence at the School of Dance in 2008 creating a work that was featured in Evening of Dance the same year.

The Paris Opera Ballet first performed the classical romantic ballet Giselle in 1841. The FSU students had the opportunity to first attend a rehearsal of Giselle at the Palais Garnier followed by a performance of this historical work. The evening was truly magical for everyone to watch this world-renowned company perform a full-length ballet in a world-class setting. This particular group of students filled their evenings with other performances including the Pina Bausch Dance Company, Hofesh Shechter Dance Company, and Sidi Larbi to name only a few.

DSC_6846Nine of the 14 dancers who were a part of the Dance in Paris program also participated in a research study during the Spring semester at FSU. This type of study had never been conducted before within a pre-professional university dance-training program. The School of Dance was solicited for this particular research study because of its internationally recognized dance conditioning and wellness curriculum. The research was led by Amit Abraham– B.P.T, MAPhty–, PhD candidate, a musculoskeletal physical therapist and a post-doctoral fellow at Emory University, the School of Medicine; Loren Davidson (MFA), Visiting Guest Faculty in the School of Dance at FSU; and Dr. Tom Welsh (PhD), Professor and head of the dance sciences curriculum in the School of Dance at FSU.

The research aimed to provide a supplementary injury rehabilitation approach for dancers through Gaga classes, taught by Bobbi Jene Smith, a Batsheva performer for 10 years, choreographer and certified Gaga instructor. Gaga, the movement language developed by Ohad Naharin, began as a method of movement exploration for the dancers in the prestigious Batsheva Dance Company based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Now, Gaga has become a popular class for dancers as a supplement for their dance training. The research component, facilitated by Amit Abraham, consisted of pre and post measurements in which the data is currently being analyzed for publication.

Loren Davidson, program assistant for Dance in Paris, left for Paris to begin the study abroad IMG_7339
program one week after the Gaga research finished. What happened next could not have been planned better. Mr. Gaga, a film, was premiering in Paris the third week of the program and Ohad Naharin and Tomar Hymann (director) would be attending the premiere. The tickets were purchased for everyone in the study abroad program including 9 of the 19 Gaga research participants. The movie was simply stunning and after it finished Ohad Naharin made a humbling appearance telling everyone “to dance a little each day.” Even though the theatre was packed with donors and patrons waiting to speak with Ohad Naharin, Loren Davidson and the students had the opportunity to talk with him about the School of Dance’s participation a few weeks prior with the Gaga research he had only heard about. He was more than delighted to match faces to names and continue to talk about further research in the field. Needless to say, the movie was a spectacular homage to Ohad Naharin’s life. It was inspiring and filled with passion. The dancers that were involved in the research mentioned that having the experience- the research, the classes, seeing the movie, and getting to meet Ohad Naharin- was among one of the best experiences in their lives, something that will continue to shape their individual dance stories.

Joyce Fausone, who developed the Dance in Paris program, has recently retired. The program is on hiatus for one year and will be reinstated in 2018.