[Originally published by Suzanne Speight in The Florida Times-Union / Jacksonville.com on October 2005]
They’re dancing for the future
By SUZANNE SPEIGHT
River City News correspondent,
Aspiring dance students got a fast-paced glimpse of reality recently when New York-based choreographer Jennifer Archibald paid a visit to DanceWorks, Florida Community College at Jacksonville’s repertory dance company.
Archibald, 28, founder and artistic director of the Arch Dance Company, choreographed and directed a piece called Kept at the South Campus for DanceWorks students in the course of one emotional week, filled with intense rehearsal sessions and some candid advice on the chances of achieving success in the harshly competitive New York dance scene.
“The opportunity to work with Jennifer has been very significant for me personally,” said Tanesha Sumerset, a 2003 graduate of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. Sumerset, 20, plans to pursue a dance career in New York City, and professed a love/hate relationship with Archibald’s straightforward style. “She’s been tough, pointing out things I’ll need to work on if I expect to have any chance of dancing in New York, but I know that toughness will benefit me in the long run.”
DanceWorks director Rosemary Fletcher met Archibald at the Florida Dance Festival in Miami earlier this year, and said she and her students were immediately excited about her style of dance, which combines contemporary modern, interpretive and hip-hop movements. She said the chance to work with a young, female emerging artist was inspirational for the students.
FCCJ dance students rehearse a dance created by New York choreographer Jennifer Archibald. Archibald created and directed the dance piece, titled Kept, for DanceWorks students.
“This gives them a connection to an accomplished, emerging artist,” she said. “These girls are envisioning, dreaming and wondering, ‘What’s next?’ Jennifer has been to that next step.”
She said even if students don’t plan to pursue dance professionally, the discipline and regimentation required of dancers is relevant in whatever they decide to do.
Nicol Santiago, 20, plans to enroll in nursing school next year, but said words can’t describe the experience of working alongside Archibald.
FCCJ DanceWorks student Nicol Santiago rehearses a dance created by visiting New York choreographer Jennifer Archibald.
“She has pushed me to find a different way to approach dance, and really has stretched each of us to our limits, emotionally and physically.”
Archibald’s choreographed works have been presented and showcased throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, including music videos and nationally televised basketball games, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, off-Broadway shows, the Apollo Theater and others. She is a professional dance educator and a classically trained dancer, and said her classical training allows her to incorporate the technical fundamentals of both modern dance and hip-hop, resulting in an edgy execution of urban dance.
“The students here have been very open to my direction; they are mature and eager to learn,” Archibald said.
The choreographer said she emphasizes authenticity in her work.
“I want to create something with meaning that an audience can relate to, so I push the dancers to draw upon their own life experiences and bring that reality to the stage.” She said Kept, set to an eclectic, changing urban rhythm, is meant to convey the culture of hip-hop.
“I don’t want to just show the audience. I want it to be learned, understood and appreciated.”
The DanceWorks repertory company will perform the piece Thursday, Dec. 1, and again at their spring concert April 6-8, 2006. Both performances will be at the Wilson Center for the Performing Arts on the South Campus. The group will also hold several performances at local elementary and high schools.