Last week, UC Davis students lined up to audition for one of the world’s most renowned contemporary dance choreographers.
John Jasperse is the winter quarter UC Davis Granada Artist-in-Residence. He has been choreographer/artistic director of the John Jasperse Company New York for the last 3 decades and has received numerous grants, fellowships and awards, including a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award.
Anticipation, adrenaline and nervous energy surged through the bodies of each hopeful dancer during last week’s audition. Masters of Fine Arts acting candidate Anne Reeder, who was among the lucky dancers who were cast, said the dance combinations asked of everyone were incredibly challenging.
“John warned us at the beginning of the audition that he was going to push us and start with challenging combinations just to get a feel for what kind of levels of dancers he had in the room,” Reeder said.
Jasperse described his new dance piece, which is yet to be titled, as examining “truth and lies and subjectivity between what’s apparently real and what’s not, what’s alive and what’s the truth.” He explained that modern-day social and political issues inspired him to play with the idea of belief systems and reasons we construct them.
This intensely conceptual aspect of Jasperse’s work was all the more reason that those auditioning needed to step up their game. Second-year MFA acting student Hope Mirlis felt the pressure of proving herself during the audition.
“Since I am primarily an actor, it was difficult for me to pick up the steps. His movements are not something that come naturally,” Mirlis said.
Junior theater and communication double major Mathew Escarsega said his audition consisted of re-creating a two to three minute dance combination.
“[Jasperse] really wanted to see if we could take direction well,” Escarsega said.
However, along with the challenges of meeting Jasperse’s standards, comes great growth.
“A chance to perform in a new work with a choreographer of John Jasperse’s caliber is a gift and an opportunity I may never have again,” Mirlis said.
Escarsega elaborated that he thought auditioning was a great opportunity for him, both to work with Jasperse and to try his hand at modern dance.
“This is a whole different realm for me, but it’s just something you have to try,” he said.
Jasperse equally expressed his enthusiasm for working with UC Davis.
“You encounter a support structure that really isn’t available as an independent artist, so it’s great to be able to access that,” Jasperse said.
Reeder said that she anticipates her experience working with Jasperse to be ultimately inspiring.
“He is creating this work with and for us. I think working with John is going to be unforgettable. He is so intelligent and talented, and I am honored to be able to work with him and watch him work.“
JULIA McCANDLESS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.