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HomeKatie Burks

Katie Burks  Jerry Bywaters Cochran Scholarship

Kaitlin Burks, or ‘Burks’ as most people call her, is infectious with high energy both
on and off the stage, which would explain her favorite color—glow in the dark. Far from
mainstream, Kaitlin hopes to join a contemporary ballet company; her favorites
including Lines and the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. She attributes her growth this past
year to being a member of the Repertory Dance Company II at Booker T. Washington
High School.

I will soon be beginning my senior year at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts; most of which will be spent concerned with colleges, AP classes and in rehearsal with Repertory Dance Company One. Upon finishing my Junior year at Arts, I couldn’t help to be excited about the effect of attending Perry Mansfield. As of the time I finished Junior year, I would have been a new face to Rep. One, holding no credibility or experience in the specific company and very much more concerned with my intimidation by company members than technique or performance. Six weeks later, I now expect to be on par with my new company members, as I possess new knowledge that only I could have acquired a Perry Mansfield: a mean of interpreting any and every kind of dance.

As I stepped out of the Alpine Taxi, which drove me four hours out of Denver International Airport to Steamboat Springs, I hardly realized how much was in store. The horizon consisted of a boundary closing off Perry Mansfield with the rest of the world: The Rockies sheltered the camp to form my little safe haven. Upon entering the camp I found a field of horses, open and all-glass studios, and at least a million pine trees. A master class began the experience, taught by Peter Chu and soon after we the students auditioned for class placements and choreography. Luckily, “Miss Linda”, formally known as artistic
director and Julliard faculty member Linda Kent, formulated my schedule, allowing me to take both level Modern and Ballet classes to maximize my chance for growth as a dancer. I was lucky enough to get to endure advanced composition and set my Senior Choreography for BTWHSPVA on dancers at camp, a huge advantage, but I also felt privileged that the program offered Pointe, Jazz, Partnering, and Ballroom - all of which fit into my hectic schedule.

Following placements normal classes began, along with rehearsals with, for me, Jennifer Golonka and Nicholas Villeneuve, two of the most wonderful people residing on this planet. Both were choreographing modern pieces for the end of camp’s Evening of Dance, but the pieces would be worlds apart. Nick, as I informally came to know him, reset a piece previously choreographed on Toronto’s Arts Magnet, entitled Photo Finish. The intense nine-and-a-half minute dance centered on enduring running a marathon, from stretching and training to the actual run. My favorite was the costume’s racing stripes, and the fabulous use of a strobe light: At the end of his piece, the entirety of the ensemble ran slow motion and jumped traveling from far upstage to the very edge of downstage in the flashing light. The effect was none other than spiffy. Genuinely getting to know Nick as a dancer and a person gave my experience so much more significance – not only did I learn from him to never stop trying, I learned if ever out of a job in New York, it is a horrible idea to DJ for Bat Mitzvahs and Bar Mitzvahs because, “You will want to try to get people to dance, but they just won’t want to.”

Jen, formally Jennifer Golonka, affected me even more. Her flowy, sentimental piece focused on an idea nearly foreign to me: having one’s heart broken. Paradoxically, I noticed how beautiful the movement became while yet somehow managing to show sorrow. Through her teaching, my summer became more about approaching material as something to be interpreted rather than something to be given and repeated. At one point I remember her stating, “I realized why what I’m asking you to do is so hard: I’m not asking you to run a marathon or be a diva or a Russian character dancer or celebrate behind a funeral (references to other pieces to be performed at Evening of Dance), I’m asking you to be a real person, show genuine feelings, and risk everything by showing the audience you. Because that’s what dance is really about – putting yourself into the choreography. Anyone can do the steps. It’s what you bring to them that make you a dancer.”

And so epitomizes the incredible faculty I had the advantage to not just work with, but get to know, learn from, and love. When I wasn’t rehearsing, I was taking class or sleeping – the only two things I ever had time to do. Ernesta Corvino and Rick McCullough taught ballet – each for three weeks – and this story would not be complete unless I stated at least once that I truly loved the both of them. Rick McCullough made my day by telling me I was “an interesting dancer,” and Ernesta with her entire Corvino technique and attire consisting of half shirts and sweat pants.

Modern with Linda Kent proved effective when she told me I, “met the challenges by maintaining my focus and letting the movement come from my core.” This was extremely exciting to me – for six weeks we worked on initiating our movement from the inside, which was favorably made easier without mirrors. The Taylor technique, new to myself, taught me to stay grounded with reason: I had always been yelled at to plie and drop my weight, and with Linda’s help, my body found itself being grounded for the sake of effect of breath and movement rather than just bending my knees to get closer to the floor. Miss Linda taught me to find reason within each transition, for to her, “transitions are the real dance.”

Composition with Liz Keen was incredibly helpful and insightful: I learned in depth what my composition teacher at Arts Mr. Richards considers “repetition with variation.” When I met her on the Alpine Taxi to Steamboat, I told her I was interested in choreographing for my Senior Project, and six weeks later I had majestically set a piece on my peers. This majesty, of course, would have to have been aided by her willingness to work with me so constantly unconditionally.

Partnering with Nick and Linda was one of the most noticeably effective of my electives. I learned repertory from Paul Taylor, Nederland’s Dans Theater / Jiri Kylian, and Ballet Hispanico, was lifted, tossed, thrown, spun, flipped, and rolled over, and learned to give weight while still maintaining enough of it to keep myself balanced.

Nick’s Jazz class, which switched off with Ballroom dancing, was by far the most versatile. I learned Fosse repertory, contemporary combinations, lyrical movements, and fundamentals to tie them all together. In Ballroom, taught by the oh so lively Yvonne Marceau, I learned everything from Tango to Swing. Not only can I dance the Merengue, I know the guy’s parts too!

Besides dance classes, I was able to work with Eric Ting, Artistic Director of Long Wharf Theatre, for a class entitled Theater Foundations. Only able to teach the last two weeks, we started the class learning a style of acting called Meisner Repetition with David Becker. The high level of intent required, and a necessity for openness in the work related to my current situation and helped tie the idea of personalizing dance together. Eric’s teachings centered on external influences and an openness to impact and effect. I was surprised to find how much this related to dance, especially my current role in Jen’s piece. In Theater Foundations, I learned to respond to the world around me as an artist first above a human. I learned to take more personally behaviors in given situations, as to let emotion fully effect me in performance. The class taught me to dance genuinely.

My peers and I seemed to agree on one thing: we all craved dance. This made the class' atmosphere incredibly positive and encouraging. I loved that no limits were placed on anyone’s growth with judgments and popularity like I have found with other intensives; at P.M. there was truly little to no favoritism, and the family like environment made it easy to leave my inhibitions outside the studios and never hold back.

Inside a wall of mountains, I grew as a dancer, and as a person. The environment was safe: I gave my movement the entirety of myself and was never judged or empathized with. Every single peer of mine influenced me by holding back nothing, and without limits, my dancing became less and less about movement, and more about emotion and genuine feeling. The wonderfully extraordinary faculty placed the highest respect toward and goals for me, and I cannot thank them enough. I expected, before experiencing Perry Mansfield, to come back “a better dancer.” I knew not, at that time that “better” would not mean technically more advanced. I have gained knowledge more worthy than most anything else. I have acquired insight toward feeling dance, as opposed to simply completing movement. I no longer just “do the steps,” I bring something to the work each time I try it. Because I attended Perry Mansfield, I have gained the most valuable insight I could imagine; I know what it is to truly dance, and for that I am ever so thankful to the Dance Council.


Kaitlin Burks