As we sat around the feet of Alonzo King this past summer reflecting on a day of working through nerves, excitement, and physical and mental exhaustion, we found ourselves completely inspired and humbled to work with such a passionate, inspiring creator and teacher.
As part of the MFA in Choreography program at Jacksonville University, I was lucky to be part of two cohorts of 10 choreographers who spend their first week of school at White Oak Plantation in the Baryshnikov Dance Studio as we completely detach from the outside world and selfishly immerse ourselves in our craft. For the first three days of school, King led us down a path of discovery of self, movement, and creativity within the mind and body.
Alonzo King has the ability to connect with people--to really see who they are deep inside. His words and energy inspire questions and reflection. As artists, we often doubt ourselves and live in the familiar, but the time we spent with King inspired us to step outside our comfort zones and push ourselves to make new choices and explore new ground.
King created opportunity for us, as dancers, to learn new ways of generating choreography and movement alongside a practice of how we look at movement through the lens of a choreographer.
Take away the mirror and the expectations, and a sense of freedom opens up a world of possibility to explore and feel without being or feeling wrong. Alonzo King says, “Don’t just do the choreography-become it. Submerge yourself and lose yourself in the movement.”
“You have to have a belief in yourself that is so deep that when the world seems to turn on you, you continue your journey and you pay it no mind. We have vast potential.”
As we reflected on the work we did during the day, he reinforced how we, as artists, need to keep in mind as we experience the highs and lows of creating. He said, “What is talent? Many think it has to do with the physical body. It’s a lie. We are talking about art. There are distinct character traits in real talent: Perseverance, fearlessness, conviction, a belief in yourself, and ‘there can be no other choice’--having an internal fire that is undaunted by criticism.”
King helped me feel free of judgment (from myself and others), which created the opportunity for me to push myself physically and mentally, as well as notice where my barriers lie. This process of discovery was invaluable as a choreographer, dancer, and educator. Alonzo King gave me so much to reflect on with the kind of person I am and what I have to share as a mentor/teacher. “Your job as a teacher is to awaken the inner teacher inside your students.”
His workshop was an emotional, creative, and inspirational three days that has carried on into my practice in every way. I want to thank Northrop for making the Alonzo King experience possible for my students and the community.
The author is a dancer/choreographer/educator in Minneapolis and artistic director of Borealis Dance. She graduates from the MFA in Choreography program at Jacksonville University this month.