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Get technical: studying design and tech theater can bring dance students new understanding of their craft.

Though technical theater is an integral aspect of most dance works, many performers don't study it in-depth, if at all. But a familiarity with all the elements that make a piece come together--from costume, light, set and sound design to stage management to crew work--can give college dancers a new creative perspective and an invaluable resume boost.


* Take a class. Many schools have classes available within the dance or theater departments that provide introductions to various technical elements.

* Volunteer for your peers. Student dance groups and students choreographing for department shows are often looking for peers to contribute lighting, sound, costumes and sets to their work.

* Land a side gig. At UNT, Adam Chamberlin has chosen dance students to work in the school's scene shop.

* Design your own work. Execute your choreographic vision from start to finish by designing all the tech components yourself.


Technical skills can be your ticket to a summer festival. American Dance Festival and Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival both offer paid production internships, where students get hands-on tech experience and have the opportunity to take classes and attend performances for free.


Assert your vision. Student choreographers who've taken design classes "know the questions to ask designers instead of getting steamrolled by them," says Adam Chamberlin, associate professor of lighting and sound design at University of North Texas.

Respect your collaborators. "It's important to know what you're asking other people to do," says Shawn Hove, assistant professor of dance at Connecticut College. "You might be able to come at things in a nicer way because you respect the work they're doing." For Don Borsh, chair of SUNY Potsdam's dance department, "it's humbling and it gives that perspective of, Wow, they work really hard to make me look good. It emphasizes to the performers that they are part of the whole picture."

Understand the space. "When I picture a piece, it's not complete without the lighting," says Alexis DiBartolomeo, a dance and art history double major at SUNY Potsdam. "It helps me divide up the space and place my dancers." Cut costs. For students who are producing their own work or may be doing so in the future, having technical skills can save them the cost of hiring outside designers or crew members.

Caption: University of North Texas dance students get a hands-on lesson in technical theater.

Caption: Backstage at UNT

Caption: Connecticut College students in a piece choreographed and lit by their peers

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Title Annotation:in training: HIGHER ED
Author:Wingenroth, Lauren
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2017
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