By Amanda Domurad
Seniors Autumn Dolan and Kristen Collins share the stage with modern greats.
For the past two summers, Autumn Dolan has studied at the American Dance Festival at Duke University, where she has danced for such high profile choreographers as Trisha Brown and David Dorfman. Back at Hofstra, Dolan has worked with such guest artists as Martha Clarke and Nathan Trice.
Fellow dance major Kristen Collins has spent her summers dancing in repertory projects at New York University and Bates Dance Festival, working with companies and people she has long admired, including Keigwin + Company and Nora Chipaumire of Urban Bush Women.
Dolan hopes to land a job with a modern dance company when she graduates this May, and Collins hopes to become a choreographer. But first, we got them to stop moving long enough to answer a few questions.
Q: When did you start dancing?
Autumn Dolan: My mom enrolled me when I was three at a local dance school taking ballet, tap and jazz. At 12 years old I studied at Miami City Ballet. During the summer before my senior year of high school I went to Boston Conservatory and fell in love with modern. My modern teacher there convinced me that dancing is what I needed to do and when I got back home I changed my major on all of my college applications.
Kristen Collins: I started dancing when I was three, here on Long Island, and continued seriously through high school. Making it my major was an obvious choice for me.
Q: What’s the most embarrassing moment you’ve had, either on stage or at rehearsal?
KC: On opening night of my first performance freshman year at Hofstra, my foot got caught in my skirt and I fell straight down to the floor. Apparently it only lasted a split second and no one noticed, but I felt like I was down there forever.
Q: What’s your favorite style of dance? Least favorite?
KC: I am most interested in the exciting experimental world of post modern dance, but I still love and appreciate the classics in ballet and modern. My least favorite style of dance is one that is a product of marketing and advertising, like “lyrical” dance, which for me involves no rich history or practice.
Q: Who or what are your inspirations?
KC: Anything and everything has the ability to inspire me – teachers, art, music, bodies, a nice day, a bizarre dream. Ordinary pedestrians have been inspiring me lately.
AD: Ah so many! My parents really inspire me as well as my peers who I dance with. As far as the dance world goes, I am incredibly inspired by Jennifer Nugent, Miguel Gutierrez, Robert Battle, Martha Clarke, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Laura Halzack, Doug Varone, Twyla Tharp just to name a few. I know and/or have worked with all of them, well… except for Twyla and Doug Varone, but one day! As a young artist and choreographer, I find myself being like a sponge – taking everything in and using it toward how I perform and what I choose to create. It is vital to be open- minded.
Q: What’s going on through your head when you’re on stage doing a solo and the audience’s eyes are on you?
KC: You can feel when the audience is with you or not, and when they are, it allows you to take hold of the space on a more intimate level.
AD: When I am onstage I know there is an audience in front of me but I can choose to acknowledge their presence or not. I like to play with the level of vulnerability between the audience and myself. It is sometimes hard to not think, ‘Oh, no, don’t mess up,’ but if I do, the audience won’t really know since they do not know the choreography. I have actually been working on a solo since September, which I am performing at Dance Theater Workshop in NYC. I’ve performed it several times at Hofstra and still have the original feelings of a bunch of eyes staring at me but I just have to get that out of my head and live in the moment because with dance it is here and then it is gone. You can never reproduce that moment.
Q: Do you find music to be essential when choreographing?
KC: My most recent choreography, “There’s Nothing I Hate More Than Stopping for Pedestrians,” was a 10-minute piece with no music, that was sent to the Northeast’s Gala Performance at the American College Dance Festival. Silence gives you the ability to set your own pace and rhythm, which I think can be very exciting.
AD: I do not think music is essential. I have used it in different ways during the creation process; sometimes I have used a song or piece of music first, which allowed the movement to come later. I have also made movement first, from an emotion or story, and then found music or just left the piece in silence. One time when making a piece, I created the movement using a random artist or song like Wu -Tang Clan and then would perform it to Bach; there is something about the opposition of the percussive bass of movement to the light strings.
Q: Do you see dance as an integral part of your life in 10 years?
AD: Of course! This is my passion and my life and there isn’t a way that I can’t see this not being a part of my life in 10 years, whether it is performing with a big company and traveling the world or with a small Brooklyn-based group or even just creating my own work. I know it will transcend in my life somehow. It is like my own form of therapy.