Dancers turned mentors

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By Lindsay Brink

Alysa Pires laughs self-consciously while having her photo taken, fretting about what her mother would say about the sweater she’s wearing, and whether or not to use the barre. However, once she starts dancing, her movements are fluid and confident, her eyes trained on the mirror as she twists her body for the camera.

Pires, a third-year dance student, is an aspiring choreographer. She has two group pieces in the Ryerson Theatre School’s upcoming Choreographic Works, a show which showcases the talent of Ryerson’s most promising choreographers.

“That’s kind of why I came to Ryerson, because I’m really interested in choreography and I used to do all my own solos for competitions,” she said.

Pires is directing her fellow students in her two group pieces: Repeat After Me, I Am Free and …It Wouldn’t Be In Springtime.

Repeat After Me, I Am Free features 12 student dancers and portrays ideas of conformity and individuality.

“There’s a lot of unison and people breaking away from the norm and joining the group. There’s this graffiti that’s all over the UK, and it’s the same four or five lines that come back in all the tags, and the last line is ‘repeat after me, I am free’.”

Pires found inspiration for …It Wouldn’t Be In Springtime in the musical Camelot, finally deciding on a quartet about infidelity.

“I have to work like that,” she says. “It provides a constant inspiration because if you’re feeling stuck for movement you can just go back to source material and be inspired again.”

Pires describes choreography as part creativity, part organization and part group management.

“You have to be creative in the way that you need to choreograph the actual movement, and then organization in the way that you have to organize the bodies and the space and the music, and management because you need to teach it and you need keep everyone on task.”

Camille Stopps is choreographing her own solo for the show and sees the opportunity to be in the teaching role as valuable.

“It’s a nice way to step out of the dance and see your work on someone else because you are able to capture the entire aesthetic of the piece,” she said.

However, Pires said the most important thing for a choreographer is the dancers.

“I always feel like my dancers are doing me a favour, not the other way around. They’re putting in all this extra time for me, for the piece that I want to have.”

Stopps is in another group piece choreographed by a classmate. A challenge students have in training for these shows is working with fellow students.

“You have to think about rehearsals in a professional setting. You can’t think of your choreographer as a classmate when working with them.”

Pires is fond of technical dancers, who can execute her choreography well, but she draws a line between what she calls ‘moves’ and ‘choreography’.

“It’s really easy to say, I want you to do a pirouette or I want you to kick your leg up to your face, but it’s not as easy to do choreography. Even though I have these amazing dancers who can do anything, sometimes they’re doing stuff that isn’t really hard,” she said. “There’s a difference between what’s impressive and what touches people.”

And when it comes to her own pieces she wants to leaven an impression.

“I hope it gives them something to think about. I hope people enjoy them while they’re watching, but that they remember them.”

Choreographic Works runs March 9-12 and 14-19.

Tickets are available through the Ryerson Theatre box office.

Photo by: Chelsea Pottage

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