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Student Spotlight: Claire Crause at Mark Morris Dance Group

UMS

By UMS

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of reflections from students who are part of UMS’s 21st Century Student Internship program. As parts of the paid internship program, students spend several weeks with a company that’s part of UMS’s seasons. U-M Dance student Claire Crause was with Mark Morris Dance Group. The company performs in Ann Arbor October 13-15, 2016.
NYC skyline from across the reservoir in Central Park. Taken during one of my post-work runs. View from one of my walks across the Brooklyn Bridge. The Statue of Liberty can be seen in the distance.

Left: NYC skyline from across the reservoir in Central Park. Taken during one of my post-work runs. Right: View from one of my walks across the Brooklyn Bridge. The Statue of Liberty can be seen in the distance.

This summer was one of such profound gratitude. I never pictured myself in Brooklyn interning for Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG). Yet there I was, and it was better than a dream. Within nine short weeks my heart had virtually exploded with pure joy and fulfillment. I learned so much and experienced incredible opportunities. I found myself in the right place and time for miraculous things to occur. I know my words will not do justice to my summer, but if there is anything I learned in New York it’s that doing anything with full confidence is never a fruitless endeavor. So here I go.

3CrauseMMDG dancers perform a work by Mark Morris for students during the Summer Intensive.

Left: The Mark Morris Dance Center! My daily destination from Harlem to Brooklyn. Right: MMDG dancers perform a work by Mark Morris for students during the Summer Intensive.

I threw myself headfirst into MMDG. My first two weeks I did nothing but dance from 9 am – 5 pm in the MMDG Summer Intensive. I took class with and from company members, learned MMDG repertory, and had the occasional class or coaching from choreographer Mark Morris himself.  The training I received in the intensive was excellent, and I especially loved learning excerpts of Mark Morris’s choreography. I was grateful to physically experience the work before delving into the administrative side of the company.  As the majority of my time with MMDG was spent interning in the office, I was excited for my first interactions with the company to be in the dance studio, the place where I feel most at home. Connecting with the MMDG dancers and getting to know them as people also made my office work more relevant. I now had faces and personalities to pair with the names I would eventually enter into documents.

Pictured here with Derek Crescenti, an alumni from the University of Michigan Dance Department. Derek and I met for the first time during the Summer Intensive. View of my office on the third floor of the Mark Morris Dance Center. My desk is behind the middle dividing-wall.

Left: Pictured here with Derek Crescenti, an alumni from the University of Michigan Dance Department. Derek and I met for the first time during the Summer Intensive. Right: View of my office on the third floor of the Mark Morris Dance Center. My desk is behind the middle dividing-wall.

After two blissful weeks of dance training I was honestly bracing myself for office work to be a slight disappointment. I’m glad to say that I was very wrong. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed working with the management team. I would always rather be dancing, but the work I did at my desk was fulfilling in its own way. I worked under Nancy Umanoff, the company executive director, Jen Rossi, the company manager, and Huong Hoang, the general manager. Julia Weber, the management assistant, was my desk buddy and accomplice. We became quick friends and worked side-by-side on similar projects.

Snapshot of my desk while I researched Layla and Majnun.View of the studio where I took class from Mark Morris.

Left: Snapshot of my desk while I researched Layla and Majnun. Right: View of the studio where I took class from Mark Morris.

I worked primarily on tasks relevant to MMDG’s upcoming tour of Layla and Majnun, a new work Mark Morris has choreographed to music by the Silk Road Ensemble. (The performance will be in Ann Arbor October 13-15, 2016.) I organized information relating to ancillary activities for each city on the tour, contacted co-commissioners about these activities, organized flight information, conducted interviews with dancers and a violinist, and created a Brooklyn “welcome” directory for the Silk Road Ensemble, which they will use during their rehearsals with MMDG at the Mark Morris Dance Center. (And, yes, I also made the daily trips to Starbucks and neighboring restaurants to pick up coffee and lunch for Mark Morris.) I’m looking forward to seeing my work come into fruition when MMDG and the Silk Road Ensemble come to Ann Arbor.

The company took a field trip to the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, where Mark Morris was recently inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame. The museum included an exhibition on Mark Morris and his life’s achievements. The company took a field trip to the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, where Mark Morris was recently inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame. The museum included an exhibition on Mark Morris and his life’s achievements.
The company took a field trip to the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, where Mark Morris was recently inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame. The museum included an exhibition on Mark Morris and his life’s achievements.

My experience suddenly shifted remarkably during my last three weeks. With Mark Morris’s permission I began taking the morning ballet class he teaches for his dancers. Most of my workdays now began at the ballet barre, surrounded by MMDG dancers, breathing in Mark Morris’s insightful words. I was intimidated at first. I was dancing in a room full of beautiful professional dancers and receiving corrections from Mark Morris. The same Mark Morris I had learned about in my dance history and dance composition classes. Was this even real life? I quickly discovered that yes, it was real, and that it was also quite amazing. The dancers were so generous and kind and treated me as an equal. They grew to joke with me and playfully tease me along with Mark Morris. I felt my dancing grow as I became inspired by the talent of everyone around me. After class I would thank Mark, take his lunch order, and proceed back to the office with a mind full of sandwich toppings and fresh perspectives on ballet.

Lincoln Center at night after the performance of American Ballet Theater’s Sleeping Beauty. Aside from seeing performances I occasionally went to Lincoln Square for some peaceful relaxation time. Daily breakfast at Music and Mentoring House, prepared by Lauren Flanigan. We all ate breakfast together in the mornings before parting for our busy days.

Left: Lincoln Center at night after the performance of American Ballet Theater’s Sleeping Beauty. Aside from seeing performances I occasionally went to Lincoln Square for some peaceful relaxation time. Right: Daily breakfast at Music and Mentoring House, prepared by Lauren Flanigan. We all ate breakfast together in the mornings before parting for our busy days.

By the end of July I had formed close friendships with the office staff and the dancers. I had also made a home in Harlem at Music and Mentoring House, the house where I stayed with opera singer Lauren Flanigan. Lauren was a lovely host, mentor, and friend. Those of us young artists staying with Lauren this summer became fast friends, and the welcoming atmosphere inside the house was a true gift. Returning back to my Michigan home at the end of the summer was bittersweet.

Pictured in front of Music and Mentoring House on my final day in the city. Pictured in front of Music and Mentoring House on my final day in the city.

At school it is easy to become narrow-minded and trapped within the confines of a schedule flooded with exams and rehearsals. Sometimes, it can be hard to remember why I love art. In New York, all of that melted away and I was able to live.

As much as I learned at the desk, I also found ways to become nourished as an artist. I attended performances each week (dance companies, operas, Broadway musicals – although I’m still resenting never having won the Hamilton lottery), went to a variety of dance classes and auditions, rented studio space and improvised alone, visited museum galleries, had many inspiring conversations with Lauren Flanigan, and listened to what the urban rhythms of the New York streets had to offer me each moment.

I carried around a small notebook everywhere I went and constantly scribbled down choreography inspiration for my upcoming senior concert. The world of performing arts moved a little more into focus everyday. It was insane; I walked down the streets smiling like a fool because I was just so happy to be alive.  I have no more words other than thank you. Thank you UMS, thank you Mark Morris Dance Group. From my smiling heart to you, thank you so much.

See Mark Morris Dance Group in Ann Arbor on October 13-15, 2016.

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