The theater murmurs in collective anticipation. Behind the scenes, dancers shake off last-minute nerves and prepare for their entrance. The lights go down, the crowd goes quiet. The music starts and the dancers of A.I.M—shoulder to shoulder with SJSU students—take the stage in an explosion of movement and light.
A.I.M, or Abraham in Motion, is a NYC-based, award-winning dance company that brought their emotionally powerful and genre-defying energy to the Hammer Theatre in February. The dance company performed two of their newest works, Drive—grounded in hip-hop with a score by Theo Parrish and Mobb Deep—and Meditation: A Silent Prayer, along with postmodern choreographer Doug Varone’s Strict Love. Led by Artistic Director Kyle Abraham, A.I.M is currently bringing the best of American dance to audiences around the world. “The work entwines a sensual and provocative vocabulary,” says the company, “with a strong emphasis on sound, human behavior, and all things visual in an effort to create an avenue for personal investigation and exposing that on stage.”
A.I.M’s visit to the Hammer Theatre came with more than their cutting edge performances. Prior to these evenings of dance, the company held an intensive residency in the School of Music and Dance where they worked alongside SJSU students for two weeks of intensive dance instruction. Students participated in master classes, lectures, and demonstrations led by A.I.M dancers. Open rehearsals were held for the Hammer Theatre performance and a number of students were selected to perform alongside A.I.M. Regardless if they joined A.I.M on stage, all students participated in professional rehearsals, getting hands-on experience with all the work it takes to put on a dance performance like this. “We’re learning it all,” says SJSU dance student Kaitlyn DelaCruz. “Dancing, lighting, costuming—it’s basically being thrown into the deep end and seeing what we’re capable of.”
SJSU dance student Ryan Tucker agrees. “We’re part of a great department here, but there is only so much dance you can learn at one university. Dancers need many different perspectives. We’re connecting with people currently working in the industry, dancers from the East Coast as well as the West.”
“Such a program is crucial to students planning on dancing professionally after SJSU,” says SJSU Associate Dance Director Heather Cooper. “During intensive sessions like these, students can learn more in two weeks than they can in two months of regular dance instruction.”
“In these residences,” she continues, “students get to work with the best of the best. Students learn from professionals who not only give them instruction and feedback, but something to strive towards, helping students to find their own places within the larger framework of professional dance. Programs like these build bridges to the wider dance community.”
Rehearsal Director Tamisha Guy, one of two A.I.M dancers who came two weeks before the performance to work with SJSU students, also sees the value such exchanges provide. “As we teach the choreography,” she says, “I can see students learning to trust themselves and their instincts, as well as their fellow dancers. Our company comes from diverse backgrounds, like many of the students at SJSU. I hope we can show them that there’s a pathway for all kinds of dancers to express themselves professionally, no matter where they come from. Moving audiences emotionally by expressing ourselves. That’s the most important thing.”
Such programs bring practical job advice along with intensive training. “We’re not only learning movements and choreography, we’re learning about their experiences of moving from being a student to professional,” says Tucker. “Things like interviewing, auditioning, about how a dance company works, and what being a professional dancer really means day-to-day.”
DelaCruz points out that A.I.M is a boon to the dance program as well as students. “Bringing such high-caliber performers to San Jose State elevates the status of our program. The more we increase our visibility, the more opportunities we have as we graduate and move into the industry. We are so thankful to everyone in the community whose support and donations make this a reality for us, and help us to continue to make San Jose a center of dance on the West Coast.”
A.I.M’s appearance and residency was made possible in large part by the generosity of the Virginia Ann Choreographer in Residence program, a wonderful benefactor of performing arts education.
To learn more about A.I.M, check them out at: http://www.abrahaminmotion.org/
To learn more about the dance program at SJSU, please visit their website at: http://www.sjsu.edu/dance/