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Dispatch from the Field: Dance Alum Julie Kaye Talks the Challenges and Excitement of Studio Work

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance and SMU Meadows Dance Alum Julie Kaye (’13) on her first season with the DCCD

by Julie Kaye

Dancers Julie Kaye and Emily Bernet ('16) in rehearsal for Louis Acquisto's 'Nemesis Variations' Photo by Joshua L. Peugh for Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

The past week has been both an exciting and intense one for Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. We are just over two weeks away from the premiere of White Day at the Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre in Ft. Worth, and since Tuesday, we have been working with guest choreographer Louis Acquisto on his new work, Nemesis Variations. Though currently based in San Francisco, Louis is a St. Louis native and Southern Methodist University alum ’09. I met him for the first time at our first rehearsal last week, but already it feels as if I’ve known Louis much longer. Perhaps that feeling stems from the fact that we both graduated from Division of Dance at SMU - even though our time there did not overlap, the common experiences we encountered during our years as undergrads make me feel like we are a part of the same SMU family.

Nemesis Variations is extremely different in both style and concept from Marshmallow and White Day, the other two works that will be performed in the spring program. This has made the past week challenging and even more exciting because we are getting the chance to explore a different style of movement as a company. Although this is my first season with DCCD, I’ve already become accustomed to the dynamics between all of the dancers and Josh as artistic director, choreographer, and fellow dancer – all roles that he typically rotates between multiple times within the course of one rehearsal. This week, the dynamics have shifted as Louis has taken over the role of choreographer, giving Josh more time to observe, manage, and direct. As a choreographer, Louis is fun, energetic, and also demanding. The process has been a constant adventure of learning choreography, work-shopping movement as a group, and even doing some individual choreographic assignments. From the first rehearsal, Louis expressed that the movement should feel good and asked that we share with him when something didn’t feel right so he could change it. I have great respect for the amount of trust he has bestowed on us as dancers by being open to our opinions throughout the creative process.

Louis has a very clear vision for this piece, and each section works to reiterate his choreographic statement in a new setting. Dancing the piece requires a transformation – while the concept is unchanging, the characters do change. There is no beginning, middle, and end - rather, the piece is comprised of snapshots from various landscapes that seem to be worlds apart. The structure is fascinating and complex – I feel as though I am an actor in six different plays that, despite the different scripts, costumes, and character names, all have the same ending. This structure speaks to the universality of Louis’s message, which I think will come across very clearly in the performance. While Louis shared with us the background of the piece during the second rehearsal, he again has given us a generous amount of freedom, asking that we form our own personal interpretation for the piece.

As a 2013 graduate, it is encouraging for me to see how just four years of experience in the real world can foster such an enormous amount of growth and artistic maturity while still calling on the fundamentals acquired through the dance program at SMU. One of the most special things about DCCD is how connected we all are despite the wide range in experience. Each day in rehearsal, I have the privilege of learning from multiple generations of SMU graduates who came before me, current SMU and Booker T. Washington students and alumni, and other Dallas-based dancers. It is exciting to see how each of our experiences have overlapped throughout the years, how we have crossed paths, and how each individual’s path has been shaped by other influences along the way. I see role models in those both older and younger than me. To me, this sense of community and the shared love for movement that has brought us together is what dance is all about.

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