Dance Student Uses OSCAR Grant for Choreography Project

Posted: March 14, 2014 at 5:02 am, Last Updated: March 18, 2014 at 4:21 pm

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By Catherine Probst 

Hannah King. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Hannah King. Photo by Evan Cantwell

George Mason University junior Hannah King realized her love of dance at a young age. She was a member of Kaleidoscope Dance Company, the longest-running modern dance company in Seattle, Wash., and by age 15 she had already choreographed nine dance pieces. During the fall semester, King worked on her most challenging piece yet — a choreographic study of dependency, isolation and perpetual motion.

With the help of a grant offered by the university’s Office of Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR), King was given the perfect opportunity to further explore her passion for choreography.

“I have found that there is much more of a science to creating a successful piece than I had realized before,” says King, who is working on a bachelor’s degree in dance. “The challenge is finding a balance between what is esthetically pleasing, emotionally poignant and relevant to the audience.”

King explains that during the past few years at George Mason, she has become more aware of dependency among her peers and herself — dependency on a substance, lifestyle, belief or another person. “I wanted to create a dance that explores the intricacies of dependency and entreats the viewer to reflect on the issue in their own lives,” says King. “I believe dance is a more effective medium to introducing this topic than dialogue.”

King's dream is to be a choreographer. Photo by Evan Cantwell

King’s dream is to be a choreographer: an OSCAR grant gave her the opportunity to  explore that passion. Photo by Evan Cantwell

King’s dance piece features a six-person, all-female cast. She held auditions in August 2013, and the roles went to dancers from the Mason Dance Company. Armed with $1,000 in grant money for studio space, rehearsal time, dancers and costumes, King began rehearsals for the eight-minute piece right away.

“The rehearsal process is a balance between plan and exploration that needs time and commitment to be fruitful,” says King. “I wanted to focus on the interactions between my dancers and use concepts from contact improvisation to set choreography that will allow them to move together in organic ways.”

When it came time to choosing costumes and music, King wanted something that would enhance the various dance phrases of the piece. She chose costumes in purple and black silk, and music selections that are as diverse as they come: a classical prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach and contemporary pieces by British composer Max Richter and American composer Philip Glass. “It was very important to me that both the costumes and music connect with the audience kinesthetically and emotionally,” says King.

After a rigorous rehearsal process, King previewed her piece for the dance faculty multiple times during the fall semester. The feedback she received was invaluable. “It was so important that I receive this feedback from the dance faculty, who are some of the most talented dancers in the field,” says King. “The various perspectives on the piece that they provided allowed me to take a fresh look and see things that I might not have otherwise seen without their expertise.”

Earlier this week, King had the opportunity to talk about her OSCAR project in the Johnson Center Cinema alongside some of her peers from other universities as part of the American College Dance Festival, which was hosted this year by Mason’s School of Dance.

Write to Robin Herron at rherron@gmu.edu

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