Student Choreographic Curriculum

Denver School of the Arts Department of Dance and Movement students investigate the process of building individual and group choreography.

Instruction in the improvisational process is designed to help young artists turn their focus inward to explore the motivations for self expression which are at the core of their desires to dance. Through individual composition assignments, students are provided the foundation for organizing movement into formal choreographic products.

Our intention is to have every student master the art of choreography, as well as become outstanding soloists and ensemble performers.

The outcome of this work is typically presented at the department’s annual Fall Concert. In preparation for that show, Beginning Level Students create group choreography in collaboration with dance faculty mentors. This work allows for an in depth study of specific choreographic form and fundamental dance elements while allowing students to generate their own unique movement phrases. Intermediate Level Students work as teams in a problem solving process. Given a collective assignment with individual responsibilities, these students shape their dances to assigned music selections. Advanced Level Students collaborate with Stagecraft and Design Department students to create original choreography as well as original costumes, music, and lighting.

An example of these efforts are the intermediate male dancers performing their work in the November 2010 concert COMPLEXITIES:

Martha Graham

Credit: Yousuf Karsh / Library and Archives Canada / PA-212251

The Denver School of the Arts Department of Dance and Movement has the distinct honor of having presented historic work from one of the pioneers of modern dance, Martha Graham. Ms. Graham’s early works are powerful statements of the human condition and the struggle that defined a time in our history that was marked by war and social upheaval. Through the guidance and instruction of former Martha Graham Dance Company member, Melissa Virtue, DSA dancers have been given the opportunity to study renowned 20th Century American dance by learning and performing 3 of Ms. Graham’s earliest group works.

Heretic (1928)

is a stark work that speaks of the outsider/nonconformist and her rejection by members of a community or society. In this work one can see the experience of an artist as she struggles to maintain her individuality and resist the increasing pressures of the group. From the Spring 2005 concert ARRAY:

Panorama (1935)

is a large and aggressive work that has been described as a “call to action for Americans to awaken their social consciousness”. The original work was set under an expansive mobile by Alexander Caulder and is distinguished by large groups of dancers in red moving swiftly and determined through space as though physically creating a call to action. From the Spring 2006 concert PANORAMA and the Spring 2009 concert FLOURISH:

Steps in the Street (1936)

from an evening length work entitled Chronicles, was subtitled “homelessness–devastation–exile.” 1936 is also the year in which Ms. Graham forcefully declined an invitation by Adolph Hitler to perform at an arts festival running in conjunction with the Berlin Olympics in protest to the Nazi regime. Steps in the Street has been described as a cubist expression of the devastation of war. The stylized shape of this dance evokes the devastation of spirit caused by war and has been likened to Picasso’s Guernica. From the Spring 2004 concert STEPPING STONES and the Spring 2008 concert TAPESTRY:

Video selections from DSA dancers performing Graham works: