“I went to an American College Dance Festival in high school and I was thinking about which college I wanted to attend when I learned about the program. I had other options, but I wanted to be in New York, and I had stayed at the LIU Brooklyn dorms when I attended the Alvin Ailey summer program in my junior year. I wanted to dance for Ronald K. Brown/Evidence and there was a dancer from his company that was teaching at LIU Brooklyn, so I knew the program would help me be seen by people I wanted to work with. I had also heard that it was a great program, so I knew I would learn a lot from training there.”
What was your freshman year like?
“It was difficult at first. My professor told us: ‘Everything you’ve learned –forget it’. I came from the Duke Ellington High School for the Arts, a performing arts high school in Washington DC, where I had taken Horton, pointe and ballet every day for four years, so I was used to a certain style of dance. At LIU I was adding Graham and release technique, which was definitely an adjustment as it was a very different style of movement, but I am glad got through it.“
What were your favorite classes at LIU?
“My favorite classes were my Graham classes with Kim Jones, whom I still talk to. I also loved taking class with Tina Fehlante, who was one of the modern teachers and used to dance for Mark Morris. She was so fun to take class with -She used to call me Crunchy, because when I danced my toes would make a crunchy sound. She knew all of Mark Morris’ repertoire and we even did one of his pieces for our tech/rep class.”
What was your most memorable performance experience at LIU?
“I started to create my own pieces, and in my junior year I showed a bit of what I was doing to my professor, and I was so nervous thinking she wasn’t going to like it. After seeing the piece, she said to me: “Krystal, that’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen!” I could have cried when I heard her say that, as I didn’t think that would be her response. It made me feel so great to see that creating pieces was something I was getting better at, and that she saw artistic growth in me.
“I then did a piece for a student concert, and after I graduated, I used the skills I learned from creating pieces at LIU and decided to create a piece at American Dance Festival. Those experiences at school helped me gain confidence and trust my creative instincts, which has been crucial in my career because that’s what we do at Piloboulus - we are constantly collaborating and doing improv to create new work.”
How did the program prepare you for the dance world?
“Because we took so many technique classes, from ballet to Horton, Graham, release technique, Limon, etc., we were introduced to so many styles of dance, and that helped me become a very versatile dancer. I was used to so many different types of movement, which is crucial when you get out into the real world, because I could adapt quickly to the style of each audition.
“I also appreciated the small classes, because we all got so much individual attention. The professors were always available to talk after class, and give us a better understanding of whatever we didn’t get or needed to talk through. The faculty was so great. I went to Italy with one of my professors to study baroque dance, Graham, Limon and Horton with another student, so I appreciate the personal relationships that we formed with the faculty.”
Do you have any advice for incoming students?
“You are living in New York City, so don’t just stay on campus. See performances, get off campus and explore the city. Take time to people-watch, go to museums, and get inspired!
“Use the opportunity of being at a big university to take classes that aren’t just about dance. Take an accounting class at the business school to learn about taxes, or take an acting class to enhance your performance as an artist.
“I recommend travelling. There are so many dance companies I didn’t realize existed until I started traveling with Pilobolus, and seeing companies like Pina Bausch Dance Theater in Germany has inspired me so much as a performer, so I recommend that students travel as much as they can to expand their world view on dance.”
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