Research, learning, and professional development are in full swing this summer for VCUarts College of the Arts students taking their talents on the road, many of whom hold passports. The enriching opportunities take them throughout the United States and abroad to develop their crafts. Summer residencies, festivals, and jobs provide worldwide research, performance and professional development opportunities for academic credit, a personal challenge, or a networking opportunity.
This story highlights a few of their summer plans — dancers taking to stage in Paris, Maine, and New York City, a theater student he runs with the Shakespeare Theater Company in Washington, and photography students capturing stunning landscapes in Canada and Ireland.
Stage performance from Brooklyn to Maine
This summer, choreographer and choreographer Holly Trainpath will have the opportunity to expand her repertoire, increase her portfolio and stage work for choreographers she admires on the professional stages.
Trenpath, a dancer trained in neoclassical dance with modernist undertones, and a devotee of postmodernism, will co-create a movement with The Red Project in New York City for the inaugural fellowship program under the direction of VCUarts alum Johnnie Cruise Mercer. Trenpath describes this opportunity as an opportunity to express herself through dance and gain experience in creative projects. There is a public display on June 12th.
“It’s really a great opportunity to connect with people in New York City,” said Trenpath, who is due to graduate in December 2023. “It’s very exciting to be able to perform there.”
Then from July 3 to August 9, Trenpath will travel to Lewiston, Maine, to mentor young dancers at the Bates Dance Festival on the Bates College campus, and produce and present works by the professional choreographers and dancers who attended the program.
“People come from all over the world to participate either in the performances or in the training programs that they offer,” said Trenpath, who hopes to gain more skills in production. “I am really excited to be showing work to people I want to work with in the future. By going to Bates, I get all these skills that I never had before.”
Photographing coastal landscapes in Canada
Armed with a VCUarts Dean’s international research grant, photography pioneer Barrett Reynolds and Jack Fox focus on capturing the landscapes, people, and shipwrecks off Nova Scotia for a week in June.
Friends love to go on neighborhood excursions around Richmond to explore photography. Camping trips across the state and a road trip to Texas showed that they are compatible travel companions.
To Canada, they take enough 120mm analog film to shoot eight hours a day.
“We’ve been looking for unusual places with mysterious characteristics, so we can create a photographic story based on that, because we really enjoy exploring weird and weird things through photography,” Fox said. “The excessive fog that led to so many shipwrecks also led to a lot of Nova Scotia folklore, and a lot of speculation about why there were so many shipwrecks.”
While filming puffins is part of their plan, favorite photographers Fox and Barrett emphasize spontaneity.
“A lot of our work is mostly focused on landscapes, but we also try to explore as many different aspects of photography as possible – anything at the moment that we find really interesting and captivating,” Fox said.
The goal is to create a successful collection of amazing photos to add to their portfolio, captured with new experiences, while exploring a place they have never been to before.
Study dance and culture in Paris
The Paris Dance Summer Program is the perfect blend of Ashanti Brantley’s dances and major and minor dances in French. She is one of six VCUarts students to attend the month-long program through the University of South Florida that focuses on technology, composition, and history.
To help Brantley achieve her goal of studying abroad, she won one of the US Department of State’s Gilman Scholarships, which allow students with limited resources to study or train abroad.
The multidisciplinary dancer who trained in ballet, modern, and jazz is also interested in hip-hop and street styles such as salsa.
“The VCU dance program really makes smart movers, people who understand movement and what it includes in a profound way. I think having that understanding can really help with our applications,” Brantley said.
“I feel like a dance program in Paris will level me up, help me formulate what I want to do after graduation in my career and help me feel comfortable in a new place and make new relationships. It is invaluable.”
Being in Paris will also help Brantley to communicate effectively and confidently in the French language.
“I want to get myself out of my comfort zone with the different dance styles being offered and the amazing choreographers I’m going to learn from,” Brantley said. “He absorbed everything.”
Management of the Shakespearean stage in the capital
Theater major Angela May Vivaldi learned about the opportunity to work as a theater director this summer at the Shakespeare Academy of Classical Acting at the Shakespeare Theater Company in Washington, DC, through Sharon Ott, associate professor in the Department of Theater at Virginia Commonwealth University, who directs one of the plays there.
For Vivaldi, the opportunity to join the company as one of the three phase managers is important to the hands-on experience and the networks you form.
“Coming out of the pandemic, working in the world of theater and the arts in general has been really difficult as the arts have been hit hard. Broadway has been closed for a long time, as have many other regional theaters. So being able to do a personal show with the audience, with the actors,” Vivaldi said. Without having to wear masks, which is really exciting for me because I haven’t done that in a long time because of COVID.” “The other thing I got out of it is making connections in the capital, which is pretty cool.”
Vivaldi directs a stage production of “Hedda Gabler” and a theater assistant directs production of the Jacobin revenge tragedy “Tis Pity She’s a Whore.” She is also learning about management as the COVID-19 Safety Officer.
“I have a secondary sound design and so I have the ability to talk to the sound designers for these shows and understand what they are saying and collaborate better because we speak the same language,” Vivaldi said. “I was really fortunate that Virginia Commonwealth University gave me this opportunity to get started.”
Documenting Ireland’s Glacier Trails
Photographic avant-garde Lily Hobart credits photography professor Caroline Minchiu with an art residency at Burren College of Art. Armed with advice to constantly apply for residencies and opportunities, Hobart studied biographies of professional artists to see how they developed in their careers. I discovered Buren’s residence, which takes place on the northwest coast of County Clare in Ireland, on Minshaw’s biography page.
The residency, which runs from July 17 to August 12, doubly stresses Hobart because its trip is supported by a VCUarts Dean’s International Research Scholarship. She hopes to give Burren an insight into what life will be like as a working artist after she graduates next year.
As a young photographer drawn to landscape photography that can show the concept of time, Hobart is excited to set her own path in independent artistic experimentation. Her plan is to take in the region’s unique landscape, featuring rocks rolled into soft hills that clearly show the presence and movement of glaciers, to highlight geological time gone by with medium and large sized films.
“I hope to paint a picture of the necessity of a human relationship with [geologic concept of] “Deep time and how that might have an impact on climate change, because I think it’s hard to understand that the Earth will always be able to repair itself,” Hobart said.
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