Fancy Footwork

Student athletes earn national recognition for dance piece on movement of athleticism

Jacob Thousand '23, Alex Bourhas '23, and Carter Breitenfeldt '23, all class of
By Gabe SouzaPhotography by Gabe Souza
May 3, 2021

Ice hockey teammates Alex Bourhas ’23, Carter Breitenfeldt ’23, and Jacob Thousand ’23 found solace during last fall’s lull in competition in an unexpected place: dance. They also found unexpected praise.

This spring, the skaters’ final project for the course “The Art of Athletics,” a short film titled Rehearsal: 11/3/2020, earned national recognition from the ACDA, American College Dance Association. Rehearsal was selected as one of the strongest dance films submitted nationwide for the ACDA’s virtual “Screendance” gala on April 10.

“I think one of the things the recognition demonstrates is that dance artists have expansive definitions of dance and choreography and want to hold that up for college students across the country through this platform,” said Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Annie Kloppenberg. In selecting Rehearsal,  the Screendance judges were wanting to “encourage students to understand diverse aesthetic choices in this field,” Kloppenberg said, “and to challenge those assumptions about what makes a ‘dancer.’”

Rehearsal examines the movement of athleticism while integrating “camerawork and editing to create a distinctive lens on sport,” Kloppenberg said. The video was filmed almost entirely on an I-phone—at times taped to a hockey stick—and explores the flow of bodies, pucks, skates, and basketballs, each “dancers” in their own right.

“There’s a constant routine to sports that we wanted to show,” said Breitenfeldt. “When you take the people out of the stands and all you can hear are the pucks, skates, and ice it really dramatizes the sport.”

Thousand, an economics major, learned that some of the movements he performs during a hockey game translate well across disciplines.

“The creativity of stick-handling when you’re on the ice is really its own art,” said Thousand. “Annie showed us how that translates to so many things from hockey to simply walking or even falling down. Every movement has its own intricacy.”

For their short film Rehearsal, Jacob Thousand ’23, Alex Bourhas ’23, and Carter Breitenfeldt ’23 experimented with translations of movement—from ice to land and back—using various camera angles and rhythmic editing. Their finished piece was selected from more than 150 works submitted from around the country that were evaluated in a blind review process by a panel of experts.

ACDA Adjudicator Roberta Shaw, a dance teacher at CalARTS and Pasadena City College, called Rehearsal “innovative,” hailing the hockey players as athletes as well as creative forces. Shaw also singled out the puck, “art in and of itself.”

“We’ve walked away with a ton more knowledge to push past our perceived limitations and embrace the creative process,” said Bourhas. “It’s rewarding to see the little building blocks become a production at the end of the finish line.”

The film presents what Kloppenberg calls a dance of objects, “movement initiated by bodies in motion in the absence of those bodies themselves. … There is a sense of preparation, patience, and waiting.” Only later do the bodies join in.

It is distinctive, she said, but the real “strength of the work is its sense of movement.”

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