Pictures of Ralph Freso
Each semester, the College of Arts & Media brings two or three nationally and internationally renowned guest artists to work with the GCU dance program. Guest artist for the first dance residency of this semester Shauna Meredith brought him warmth Grand Canyon University dance residency last week, but was impressed with the students’ perseverance and commitment to the movement.
“There were several students that I could really tell were pushing beyond their physical abilities and pushing beyond their comfort zone – that’s where we’re seeing growth,” said the guest artist of the residency.
Meredith, who completed her Masters in Dance Science in London and has worked professionally in film and live performance, brought a unique perspective on dance to a five-day residency on campus. Her company’s mission statement, Vital Motion, states that she strives to bridge the gap between the science behind movement and the practice of dance.
This was evident through Meredith’s classes, which reinforced the “basic release technique” that comes from hanging and falling while allowing your breath to facilitate movement. Her teaching also challenges the dancer to isolate and utilize the tension that is naturally stored in the body.
“My classes merge these two concepts of breathing, falling and hanging and ask what we need for these movements to happen muscularly and what we need to do to let go of the extra tension – it’s a mesh of these two ideas,” she said.
Through her hobbies, Meredith discovered the importance of strength and conditioning in dance. The stronger she became, the more she realized how much force fueled her movement, which helped her move more efficiently.
“Our job as dancers is to work to make the movements seem easy and effortless,” she said.
The combination of Meredith’s teaching style with the techniques of other mentors left an impression on the students – and on their bodies.
Intense athleticism left major dance Trinity Gracia instantly painful.
“A lot of his choreography is very physical and involves a lot of intense movement,” she said. “I really felt it in my body – and it hurts, but it’s a really good boost and a great way to jump into my senior year.”
Body aches were common even after just one session with Meredith, especially after summer vacation. Classes required critical reflection on how dancers use their bodies as instruments and overcome physical and mental blocks.
“I haven’t danced all summer, so getting my body used to how it usually moves after two months off is really important and beneficial for me,” said Kilele Casillas, who has a minor in dance education. “Being able to do dance as a form of conditioning is really exciting and fun.”
Junior dance secondary education jessie madillwho is new to the dance program, longs to apply what she learned from Meredith.
“She definitely challenged us to not get stuck in our heads, to relax and just feel the music,” Madill said. “I took her classes because I thought it would be a great opportunity to see if I could learn from her and incorporate her techniques as inspiration when I choreograph my own dances.”
Meredith’s teaching style is no stranger to GCU students. Last semester, several of them went to the American College Dance Association festival in Lamar, Texas, and connected with Meredith’s teaching style and approach to movement.
dance director Bekki AwardThe decision to invite her to campus for a dance residency was unanimous.
“It was a really easy choice to have him come in and work with our students and work with the seniors to put together the choreography for the ‘Flourish’ faculty concert,” Price said. “I have always appreciated the quality and rigor of its movement requirements and the way it involves the science of dance.
The song Meredith chose for the senior performance: “Between Heaven and Earth”, by David Karaganis.
“I have dreams where I see movement, and I try to bring that to life through my choreography,” Meredith said. “I had a dream early in the summer about this particular piece, but I had no idea whose piece it would be. So when Bekki reached out to me and offered me this opportunity, I knew that my vision was for the GCU dance program.
Among the many seniors in the dance program is Gracia, who learned choreography from Meredith in preparation for “Flourish.”
After seeing many other seniors before her perform at the GCU, now it’s her turn.
“It’s really bittersweet, but I’m grateful to be able to experience opportunities like this and work with teachers like Meredith,” she said.
Watch Meredith’s Vision Come To Life When You Buy Your “Flourish” Tickets here.