Acclaimed choreographer leads, challenges students in residency

Roger Coda
Carlos Jones works with a student

Guest choreographer Carlos Jones worked with B.F.A. Dance majors during a week-long residency.

A week-long “Global Majority Men in Dance” residency, directed by guest choreographer Carlos Jones, an international artist whose work spans the concert stage, theatre, television and film, has culminated with a new choreographed work.

It will be presented by B.F.A. Dance students in the spring Fredonia Dance Ensemble concert on May 6 and 7 in Marvel Theatre.

“One of the best moments that came out of this residency was watching Carlos work with the dancers in ways that challenged them to use the two very different skill sets,” said Department of Theatre and Dance Associate Professor Paula Peters.

The first was being able to learn and retain the sequence of movements quickly as they are shown with the intention behind the movement intact, Ms. Peters said. The second was staying intellectually and emotionally nimble when something within the movement phrase needed to be inserted, deleted or developed at a moment's notice. This skill set is crucial to the success of any dance artist, and it takes decades to hone, she explained.

Dancers in the residency, held Feb. 28 through March 4, had to work hard at navigating the space between these different, yet related skills at a very fast pace, Peters remarked. “They did excellent work rising to the occasion of this challenge.”

For Virginia Raffaele, a senior also majoring in Theatre Arts, the Jones’ residence has been unlike any other.

“My experience in past residencies has involved the choreographer setting existing work on us. Carlos’ process is really interesting because he isn’t only making the piece as we go but he is making his work based on the information he’s given,” Ms. Raffaele explained. She described the choreographed piece as jazz heavy and female-empowered.

“It’s very clear that he came in with a structure and idea of what he wanted to create but is using our personalities and interpretations to make the piece itself,” Raffaele said. The “process” feels very close and personal, she added, even though this is the first time Fredonia students have worked with Mr. Jones.

Mikayla Johnson, who’s also a Mathematics major, agrees the residency was a memorable experience.

“Over the course of a few days, the dancers and I have been able to create a community and groove with one another. Although community is a big aspect of this piece, Carlos mentioned that our overall goal is showing individuality within the collective,” explained Ms. Johnson, who also has a minor in Dance Studio Administration.

“This has given me artistic freedom to move how I feel in the moment, yet I am still sharing the same steps with other dancers,” Johnson added.

As they learned the choreography, students were given base phrases to remember, and as the week progressed, these phrases were then manipulated and later transformed into larger pieces that included canons, repetition and group work.

“Reworking phrases can be challenging and take some time, but seeing his visions with choreography and formations come to life has been beautiful to observe. Ultimately, his process has inspired me as a mover and choreographer greatly,” Johnson said.

Dance students participating in the residency included Emma Voit, Alaysia Jourdain, Justis Mendez, Raffaele and Johnson, all seniors; Tia Clark and Iaisha Babb, juniors; and Gianna Dobrich, Paula Rodriguez and Amaiyah Murphy, first-year students.

In bringing Jones to campus, Fredonia’s Dance faculty have followed through on their commitment to hire Global Majority guest artists to make works for the Fredonia Dance Ensemble. The residency was supported by the Williams Visiting Professorship Endowment established through the Fredonia College Foundation.

Concert works by Jones, an associate dean and coordinator of Africana Studies at SUNY Buffalo State College, have been presented with San Jose Dance Company, Dance Spectrum Alaska, Adage Repertory Company, Bethune Theater/Dance and Link Dane Theatre, among others.

Among Jones’ theatrical directing/choreography credits are: “History of White Music,” “Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens,” “Reefer Madness,” “Lost in Hollywoodland,” “She Hysteric,” “West Side Story,” “City of Angels,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Babes in Arms,” “Black Nativity,” “Hair,” “Godspell,” “Dames at Sea” and “Once Upon a Mattress.”

Jones has performed with dance artist Loretta Livingston as well as dance companies that include: Bethune Theatredance and his own Carlos Jones & Company. His theatrical credits include: “Some Like it Hot,” “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” “Man of La Mancha,” “It's a Pretty Good Life” and “Sesame Street Live.”

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