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Harkarvy at Juilliard Loving the Work.

WHEN BENJAMIN Harkarvy became director of Juilliard's Dance Division in 1992, he had a singular priority: to instill discipline in students and faculty alike. Not the cane-whacking mode of discipline, Harkarvy says, but rather "a sense of responsibility to themselves, to the people with whom they work and the people with whom they dance."

Having directed a number of companies, including the Pennsylvania Ballet, Harkness Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater, Harkarvy was fully aware of what it takes to shape dancers and teach them how to work successfully in a company environment. And in the seven years since, the proof is in the product.

In 1999, the restructured Juilliard dance department produced nineteen graduates. Of those, sixteen were signed to contracts/'or full-time employment in a major dance company by the time they received their diplomas. The prior year (1998) the figure was fourteen grads out of seventeen, Among those hiring the graduates were the San Francisco Ballet, David Parsons Dance Company, the Stuttgart Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal and Twyla Tharp's company, Tharp!

The Juilliard dancers are a highly select group to begin with. Out of four hundred auditioning dancers, no more than twenty-four are accepted each year at Juilliard. A visit to a student performance during the school year confirms what the statistics indicate, namely that the quality of dancers produced by today's Juilliard program is exceptional. Harkarvy insists on top-flight training from a faculty of renowned teachers, many of whom have had significant professional dancing careers of their own. Carolyn Adams, Jacqulyn Buglisi, Kazuko Hirabayashi, Christine Dakin and Pauline Koner are but a few of the well-established modern dance teachers on the roster, which also boasts Andra Corvino, Hector Zaraspe, Alexandra Wells, Paul Sutherland, Steven Pier and Harkarvy for ballet, and Joe Lanteri for jazz dance. For the students, there is no specialization in modern or ballet techniques. They have to do it all, and do it really well.

"Juilliard dancers learn to look at dance as dance, not as modern or ballet." says Harkarvv. "They recognize that really great talent has to do with how you move, how fascinating you are. They are, therefore, I feel, being trained for the future."

Part of that commitment to the future includes organic training that views ballet as a technique rather than a style. This is accomplished through a common vocabulary among the faculty as to how the body is placed and how ballet skills are built "Nothing drives a choreographer crazier than having dancers come in with a style that is impenetrable and inflexible," explains Harkarvy.

Justin Leaf, a 22-year-old junior, says that although he had studied at other major ballet schools, it wasn't until he attended Juilliard that he established a technically strong balletic base. "I learned even more at Juilliard what classical ballet is all about, which surprised me," says Leaf.

Students are also steadily being introduced to classic modern works of Limon. Graham and Taylor to instill what Harkarvy says is "the quality of movement, thought and artistry that has gone into creating the technique and choreography of these twentieth-century masterpieces,"

Maintaining a constant dialogue between the teachers and students is paramount to the academic process at Juilliard. Besides regular work evaluations, the faculty counsels the dancers on their best artistic options.

Pier, a former dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet and the Limon company, now teaches ballet technique, mews modern solos and partnering at the school. In his words, "Our goal is to help students discover the way they want to form their careers and help them do it in the most professional manner that we can. I am trying to inspire them to ask questions, to investigate, and then I'll be there as a reference source."

Heidi Stoeckley, a 20-year-old junior, decided to come to Juilliard not only to be exposed to the unparalleled dance scene in New York, but also for the obvious care displayed among faculty and students. "It is an extremely demanding program," she says. "They challenge us, but they challenge us with love."

The four-year bachelor of fine arts program at The Juilliard School offers students the opportunity to explore known repertory works and the chance to choreograph or have other students use them in their original works for student performances. In this way, says Harkarvy, "Juilliard is the bridge from the studio to the stage." The guided rehearsal process allows students to develop roles over a longer time, which few professional companies have the luxury to afford.

"I really see the advantage," says Leaf, "because learning the process now and how to do it over that long period of time makes you aware of everything you have to go through and the attention you have to pay ... eventually, you are working more quickly and you know how."

Established guest choreographers are brought in periodically, such as the 1999 student program consisting of ballets choreographed and coached by the Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen and original work by Guggenheim fellow Reginald Yates. And the fine Juilliard Orchestra is on hand to play for many of the sixteen student performances held during the academic year.

Along with academic and dance technique courses, dance students at Juilliard all take basic choreographic composition classes, anatomy and physiology for dancers, and seminars on auditioning, preparing resumes and teaching workshops. Guests from professional companies often come to speak to the students about their careers, including the gritty, difficult aspects of the profession. Of utmost importance, says Harkarvy, is to prepare students to become adults in a profession that is often prone to treat them otherwise: "We are trying to help them grow up. When they talk or communicate with anyone in their profession, be it a director, a balletmaster, or choreographer, they are not to turn into children."

The fact that the Lincoln Center campus also houses the Juilliard drama and music divisions gives dancers access to a broadened artistic and social world.

Auditioning for Juilliard is rigorous. After a round in which dancers take a ballet and a modern class and perform a solo of their choice, the remaining auditioners perform another solo, and if asked to stay, learn a piece of choreography from a faculty member. Here they are observed for their ability to absorb corrections, their perception of movement and their overall gift of dance. "Someone making a career has to love to dance and love to work," explains Harkarvy.

The fortunate twenty-four who are chosen from the audition process are groomed to take dance into the twenty-first century. "They are being told all the time that they are the future, which they well are," says Harkarvy. The point of dance now and always, he adds, is "to be able to give eloquently to other people. What more could you ask?"

Former American Ballet Theatre dancer Joseph Carman is a New York City dance critic for Dance Magazine and a contributor to The New York Times and The Advocate.
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Title Annotation:Benjamin Harkarvy and the Julliard's dance division
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Jul 1, 2000
Next Article:Anna Sokolow 1910-2000.

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