Choreographing with the Stars: Elliot Emadian ‘17 Dancer, choreographer, musician, mathematician: Elliot Emadian ’17 has many roles, both on and off the stage.
“If you want to do something here, you can. You just have to ask someone. It will happen and someone will help you do it.”
I’ve been dancing since I was 2 years old. I started in tap, jazz, ballet, the typical small-town basics. I wasn’t introduced to modern dance until college, but professor Jenefer Davies truly opened my eyes. I joined the Repertory Dance Company in my first semester, and I began exploring choreography in my second. She’s been an amazing resource throughout my time at W&L, both in teaching me herself and in introducing me to opportunities for growth at and outside of W&L.
The Theater Department as a whole has been an amazing place to root myself, actually. I’ve received grants to attend the American Dance Festival, the Dance Department has sponsored performances in New York where I was able to present choreography, and I’ve had many other opportunities and experiences. I’ve been so fortunate with Professors Collins and Evans as department heads who really want to promote student-driven art.
Along those lines, during Spring Term of my junior year, I was involved with a Mindbending student play called “Police Squad In Color!” It was my first time acting in a straight play, although straight-faced, I was not. (It was a hilarious play.) After it ended one night, professor Jemma Levy came up to me with a proposition for an independent study for my senior year, choreographing “Dracula,” by Steven Dietz. At the time I thought “Dracula” was a musical, and, naturally, I was stoked. I later discovered that it was another straight play and that I was in for one of the biggest challenges of my W&L career. I had choreographed before, but only for my own pieces, contemporary-modern works set on members of the dance company. For this, I had to develop a movement vocabulary that was not only based on a pre-existing story and script, but also could be executed by a cast of non-dancers.
At first, I was nervous about whether our visions would line up, and how much she exactly wanted me to contribute, but almost as soon as we began to work we developed an awesome dynamic. We would step into a scene, both having our ideas about its direction, and begin to chip away until we had a fully formed unit. There were moments when I would take the actors through a specific piece of choreography or movement, and Jemma would step in to clarify or make a suggestion, while other times she would be directing and would stop to ask me if I had a suggestion for how someone could stand, or how to make “Dracula” seem more magical.
Working on “Dracula” with Jemma was an absolutely eye-opening experience, and the incredible foray into theater that I had been craving since starting college. I was so fortunate that she let me take on such a major role as choreographer. So, when Jemma asked me to work with her on “Macbeth” this summer, as my first post-graduation job, I didn’t even have to think about it. I knew I wanted to work with her again. My rehearsals start two days after graduation, and the show opens July 7th at Agecroft Hall in Richmond.