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BYU Arts Bravo

‘Find Your Why’: Gibney Company Instructs BYU Students in Dance Techniques and Social Change

BYU Students Learned How to Use Dance to Express Their Motivations, Values and Dreams.

Amy Miller, Director of Engagement at Gibney Company, works with students in her “Contemporary Dance Technique” masterclass. Photo by Emma Olsen.
Photo by Emma Olson

Gibney Company continued their nationwide tour with a week-long residency at Brigham Young University in the week of Jan. 30. Artistic Associates and other members of the Gibney Company team held multiple masterclasses throughout the week for BYU Dance students.

Jesse Obremski
Jesse Obremski, a Gibney Company Artistic Associate, teaches students how to find their “why” in his “Finding Your Why” workshop. Photo by Kaeli Dance.

Jesse Obremski, one of the Artistic Associates, held a masterclass entitled “Finding Your Why,” where he explained how the company advocates for global change in areas they are passionate about.

Gibney Company reaches out to survivors of domestic abuse, as well as addresses mental health, equal opportunities within the field and any other subjects they feel should be addressed.

Obremski told BYU Dance students to focus on the “why,” “how” and “what” questions while they’re preparing to perform and/or choreograph a dance in order to give it more personal meaning.

For example, a dancer would ask themselves why they’re dancing a specific piece, how they will move through the space during the dance and what they will do when they begin performing the dance.

Amy Miller, a New York City-based dancer, choreographer, educator, administrator and advocate, held a few masterclasses throughout the week, the first being “The Role of Civic Engagement and Dance.” Miller discussed The Hands are for Holding® program, “a youth-centered workshop series which uses dance and movement to engage in conversations about healthy relationships, boundaries, respect and choice in everyday interactions.”

Miller also reminded students to shift their focus from changing the world to changing the people around them. She gave three invitations to help students in their quest for change: First, show up in spaces; second, learn how you learn; third, attend and make yourself available for anti-racism and anti-oppression workshops.

Amy Miller w/ students
Miller (third from the right) poses with the attendees of her “Facilitation as Activism” workshop. Photo courtesy of Madison Rice.

Miller’s second workshop, titled “Facilitation as Activism,” was shared with dance students in their BYU Contemporary Dance class. Madison Rice, one of the students in the class, shared her summary of and thoughts about Miller's workshop.

“We discussed how to have productive conversations when opinions differ and methods of maximizing student engagement by managing structure and choice in a way that promotes equity,” Rice said. “My biggest takeaway was the idea that the ability to make choices is power!”

Miller also held a Contemporary Dance Technique masterclass, where she led BYU students through different motions and steps, accompanied by percussion, piano and vocals. Her instruction focused on allowing dancers to take up space instead of staying in a small bubble.

Miller works closely with BYU Dance students, acknowledging one student as they dance next to each other. Photo by Emma Olsen.
Photo by Emma Olson

“I’m interested in the connection, inviting this connection with other humans, and making choices that feel good to you,” Miller said.

Lauren Carroll, a BYU student majoring in Dance Education, loved Miller’s focus on balance throughout the masterclass.

“We talked about the balance between choice and freedom, about how much we structure choreography versus how much we let ourselves have artistic freedom,” Carroll said.

It was evident in each masterclass and workshop that every member of Gibney Company truly cares about participation in social action, the meaning behind contemporary dance and how they can use their art to make an impact on the world around them.

When asked what lesson she most wants people to learn from her instruction, Miller said, “Even in the most rigorous structure, we often have more choices than we think we do. We often have more choices of how to activate our humanity…[There can be] freedom around a structure. Keep looking for it.”