Dancer Sage Sullivan, middle, rehearses a routine for the upcoming Dance Showcase on Friday at Steamboat Springs High School. Liz Keen, an instructor at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp and The Juilliard School, stopped by to help the students with the routine.

Photo by John F. Russell

Dancer Sage Sullivan, middle, rehearses a routine for the upcoming Dance Showcase on Friday at Steamboat Springs High School. Liz Keen, an instructor at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp and The Juilliard School, stopped by to help the students with the routine.

Steamboat high school dancers get guidance from Perry-Mansfield instructor

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LIz Keen, an instructor at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp and The Juilliard School, talks with Steamboat Springs High School students preparing for the upcoming Dance Showcase.

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Choreographer Anala Sokolowski works with dancers at Steamboat Springs High School as they prepare for this year’s Dance Showcase.

— Liz Keen paused for a moment, and 12 Steamboat Springs High School girls went silent.

Then, thoughtfully, she said, “We’re going to build a sculpture in this space.”

The sculpture would be created in an upstairs hallway in the high school, and it would be made out of bodies.

One by one, the high school girls added on to the work of art, experimenting with angles, twists, movement and composition using their posture and limbs.

Sometimes they felt awkward, and sometimes they collapsed in giggles. But they rose to the challenge of thinking about choreography with fresh and unadulterated creativity.

“It’s really to show people what exists inside themselves, what you can tap into,” Keen said. “When you make a dance, sometimes it comes out right the first time, but sometimes it doesn’t. You have to create your own path through the woods.”

The 12 girls are all choreographers, directors and producers of this year’s 16th annual Dance Showcase, a student-led dance show that takes place in January.

Keen’s visit from New York City was a treat for the production team, who had from Nov. 15 to 19 to work with the renowned choreographer and movement director.

“There are teaching experiences that people can have so that when they go out and choreograph, they have some tools,” Keen said. Her focus laid in allowing the students to find their own paths to make their dances more interesting through varied timing and atypical formations.

Keen’s resume begins with dancing with companies such as Paul Taylor and directing her own company from 1966 to 1981. She taught dance composition for 22 years at The Juilliard School and has been a part of the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp faculty for 11 years.

Perry-Mansfield is known as a summer camp deeply rooted in the Yampa Valley for almost 100 years, but Keen’s Perry-Mansfield-sponsored visit was intended to help the school reach beyond its campus.

“Perry-Mansfield is very interested in making connections with Steamboat youth,” Keen said.

Last Friday, the group of 12, which makes up part of the 19-person creative team, were breathless with amazement at the opportunity to work with Keen.

“It’s been really good,” said Showcase director Maggie Stanford. “She’s been so helpful in giving us new ideas on formations and even in conveying emotions.”

Keen sat in on rehearsals with the full cast, offered movement workshops with the creative team and choreographers and held individual conferences on the Perry-Mansfield campus. For director Emily Laurinec-Studer, the lessons ranged from broad concepts to specific actions.

“We learned how you can repeat certain things — maybe not the exact move, but the general idea — and make it into a motif,” she said.

Keen said the Dance Showcase program was like nothing she’d seen.

“It’s very impressive,” Keen said about the Showcase program. “And it all has to do with leadership.

“I’m pleased to come out here and give whatever help I can.”

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com

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