Student presents work at Young Choreographer’s Festival

Image courtesy of Jaqi Medlock.

On June 23, Vassar’s own Camryn Spero ’24 presented her work, “Juncture,” at the Young Choreographer’s Festival (YCF) at Symphony Space in New York City. The festival, now in its 13th year, showcases the work of up-and-coming 18 to 25-year-old choreographers across all genres of dance. According to the festival’s website, YCF states, “We aim to educate, foster, and cultivate talented young artists by providing them with the tools, education, resources, and platform to successfully pursue a career in dance.Spero first presented “Juncture” in Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre’s (VRDT) Spring Showcase in 2022 and submitted a video of the piece for consideration in Spring 2023. 

Set to trance-like electronic music, “Juncture” is angular and rhythmic. With six dancers dressed in deep red costumes, the dancing builds in fluidity and intensity until it reaches a moment of quiet halfway through as the lighting dims. From there, the dancing grows in energy once again as Spero plays with unison and individual movement. Dancers split into different groups, creating a collage of motion. 

Spero explains that the driving themes of the piece are dependency, reliance and power. She first heard the music for the piece, “Gathering” by Forest Swords, in 2020. Though she said the unique sound of the track sent her to an inspired place, she explained that it was actually movement that determined the theme of the piece, saying, “The first movements I envisioned with the music happened to be what’s at the start of the piece, and it’s a movement that can be done both by oneself and in pairs.” That juxtaposition of solitary and collaborative movement led Spero to explore ideas of agency and relying on others. “Throughout the piece I play with a lot of hinges, people arching their backs, people falling to their knees and people falling to the floor as if there’s some sort of codependency with something, whether literal or abstract, which they are literally leaning on or being manipulated by,” she explains.

As part of admission into the festival, choreographers are paired with a mentor who provides feedback on their piece. Spero was paired with jazz dancer, educator and choreographer Sheila Barker. Barker’s feedback, along with Spero’s artistic growth since first creating “Juncture,” gave her the necessary tools to adjust and strengthen the piece for the festival.

One challenge of taking “Juncture” to YCF was gathering all of the dancers together again. Two of the original dancers weren’t able to commit to the festival, so Spero asked VRDT dancers Dana Tagliaferro ’25 and Courtney Spero ’24 to step in. The two learned the piece in a day during final exam week this past spring. The majority of the dancers came to Vassar the weekend before the festival to rehearse, but the whole cast was not together until the day of the show. An added challenge came when dancer Jalene Medina ’23 sprained her ankle while running tech for the show. Just hours before the performance, Camryn Spero found herself back in the studio, rechoreographing and setting the piece. She changed Medina and Tagliaferro’s duet into a solo for Tagliaferro, and spent time figuring out her own entrances and exits. Ultimately, when she looked back on the video of the performance, Spero thought it looked smooth, but she was sad that Medina could not perform. 

Despite these difficulties, Spero and her dancers had a great time working on the piece. Spero commented, “It’s always very happy and rewarding to have everyone want to come back and dance.” On the day of the show the group had a fun and busy day in New York City, with Spero adding, “Everything surrounding the show was equally as memorable as the show itself.”

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