Let’s face it – not all, but most students who study abroad are doing so to relax and have a fabulous time travelling the world, without much studying involved at all! But for Jess Galvez, a dance major from SB, that’s not the case. Instead of relaxing completely, Jess has ramped up her dance training at a prestigious London dance school! Read about her experience dancing through her time in London…
My name is Jess and I am a 3rd year double major in dance and communication at UC Santa Barbara. I am currently studying abroad at King’s College London this semester; however, the university does not offer dance courses. I decided that it would be wise to take dance classes while I’m here to keep up my technique. I have a professor at UCSB, Brooke Smiley, who finished her MFA at the Laban Conservatoire in Greenwich, London, so I emailed her to ask for studio suggestions. She suggested I try taking classes at The Place, a contemporary school in Euston. The Place holds professional classes every morning at 9am, so I go on the days I do not have classes scheduled.
I started dancing ballet and tap at the local parks and recreation center when I was 11 years old. After seeing how happy it made me, my mother enrolled me into a more serious studio, and I kept moving up from there. Although I was not open to the idea of dancing anything but ballet at first, I eventually pursued studying all other types of dance. I learned the importance of being a well-rounded dancer through my studio owner, and I am so grateful for her advice because it opened so many opportunities for me! By the time I was 15, I was working in Hollywood; my first paid job was as a background dancer extra in ABC Family’s Bunheads, and I kept doing background work in film and live performances throughout high school. My current favourite style of dance is contemporary because there are hardly any parameters. I love that I can make the rules when I dance, and at the same time I am also free to break them.
My commercial and competition background in dance juxtaposes the dance mentality in London. I think the biggest difference between dance in London and dance in the U.S. is where the emphasis lies when you are dancing. In Hollywood, I was trained to turn as many times as possible, be as flexible as possible, and leap as high as possible. The emphasis there is on technique; in London, the emphasis lies in artistry. How can you make this pirouette your own? What can you do to put your label on extension or leap? Although I am flattered to be called out during ballet classes to demonstrate combinations here, I am also working on making my movement my own.
I love taking class at The Place because they bring in teachers from companies that I greatly admire. Today, I took class from Jose Agudo, an Akram Khan dancer. I found this particularly exciting because I got to watch Akram Khan on tour last year and take class with a few company members through UCSB Arts and Lectures. The Akram Khan dance company delivered a spectacular performance; their sharp and subtle movements were perfectly in sync throughout a large group, creating a visual image representing a machine. Jose Agudo’s class was very similar to what I saw on stage. Throughout the class, he taught us short, simple combinations. However, the combinations also required fixed precision. The quick movement of the feet had to be coordinated with elaborate arm gestures, which provided a workout for my body as well as my brain! His class is aimed at conditioning stamina, so I died a little bit at the end. I am so happy that I have the opportunity get to do what I love while I am abroad in London!