Acclaimed choreographer Sean Curran leads a body percussion workshop for the Fine Arts Residential Learning Community, Sept. 16, at Ohio University's Athens campus.
Photographer: Audrey Kelly
Sean Curran has created works for acclaimed dance companies across the globe, as well as for numerous college and university dance departments.
Photo courtesy of: Sean Curran Company
The OHIO community is encouraged to attend Sean Curran's second body percussion workshop, to be held Oct. 18 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Ping Center Combative Arts Room.
Photographer: Audrey Kelly
Oct 12, 2011
By Monica Chapman
With a few simple lyrics and a charisma all his own, acclaimed choreographer Sean Curran stomped his way into the hearts of the Fine Arts Residential Learning Community (RLC) during a recent body percussion workshop at Ohio University's Athens campus.
Next Tuesday, Curran will return for a repeat performance, open to the entire OHIO community free of charge.
The Sean Curran Body Percussion Workshop will take place Oct. 18 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Ping Center Combative Arts Room. According to organizer Tresa Randall, an assistant professor in the School of Dance, the interactive workshop will provide opportunities for students to express themselves verbally and physically through rhythm.
"Making music, for me at least, is kind of a nourishing thing. It feeds your spirit in a way," Curran said.
Many people are already familiar with the workshop's methods through the widely-celebrated percussion extravaganza "Stomp," in which Curran performed as an original member of the New York City cast. Like those early, revolutionary performances, Curran's Sept. 16 body percussion workshop met with favorable student reviews.
"There were a lot of folded arms in the beginning," Curran recalled. "But I use humor to loosen them up. I use some swear words… It was nice and loud, a little dance party. It wasn't your typical dance class."
Freshman music therapy major Maria Williams said she would have attended the Sept. 16 workshop even if it had not been required of students in OHIO's Fine Arts Residential Learning Community (RLC).
"You get to move. You get to use your body. You get to make music with what you have, just as yourself, and connect to everyone else around you. I'd recommend it for sure," Williams said.
Student groups participating in the body percussion workshop include the Movement Organization, Athens Black Contemporary Dancers and Ohio Fine Arts Collaborative.
A 'lifeline' to the arts
Building on a foundation in traditional Irish step dancing, Curran made his mark on the dance world as a leading dancer with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. As artistic director for the Sean Curran Company, he has created works for acclaimed dance companies across the globe, as well as for numerous college and university dance departments.
This fall, Curran is serving as a visiting artist at Ohio University's College of Fine Arts. His residency is funded through an 1804 Grant, with support from the college's Visiting Artist Program and Arts for OHIO.
"Because we're in Athens, we don’t have a lot of performances and exposure outside the University to what is happening in the arts. The visiting artists are a lifeline to what's happening around the country for our students," said Randall, who authored the grant proposal. "It gives them hands-on experience working with an artist of stature who brings a distinguished career and much experience… The visiting artists also bring professional connections that our students can benefit from."
A bridge across disciplines
Randall said that Curran's diverse background and ability to reach across artistic disciplines is a fitting way to honor the College of Fine Arts 75th Anniversary, taking place this year.
"He is a charismatic, ebullient teacher equally at home in opera and hip hop, and his classes will surely attract a diverse cross-section of students from across the University," Randall wrote in her grant proposal.
During two two-week stretches in September and October, Curran is instructing technique and composition classes for the School of Dance and a master class with the percussion ensemble in the School of Music. Curran also served as a guest lecturer in an introductory arts class and led discussion groups on strategies for careers in the arts with the Fine Arts RLC.
Curran is currently working with a hand-selected cast of Ohio University dance majors to polish a piece of Curran's original choreography.
The dance will debut at Ohio University's Winter Dance Concert in March. Students will have the opportunity to perform the piece again in April with the Sean Curran Dance Company, as part of OHIO's Performing Arts Series.
Curran said the latter performance offers Ohio University dance majors an unusual opportunity to network with professional dancers out of New York City.
"My company tours a fair amount, but it's rare that we would have a group of students dancing on the program with us," he said.
A passion for teaching
This is not the first time Curran has worked with Ohio University students. Originally invited by dance historian Maura Keefe, a former faculty member in OHIO's School of Dance, Curran has served as a guest artist at the University multiple times over the past decade.
"Not (all modern dance choreographers) like to teach, but I really get into it. And I can teach a good class," Curran said. "I can get a dancer pulled up and turned out and on their leg and all those things a dancer needs technically. And I feel like I'm a good motivator. I can get them moving."
Following his next tour, Curran said he plans to teach full-time at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. As a 1983 graduate of NYU, Curran said the move will bring his career full circle.
But the extra instructional hours won't curb his choreography. Rather, Curran said the variety of work is an inspiration.
"I never feel like I'm going to work. I get to do what I love, and for that I feel blessed," he said.