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.
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A little more about Elliot
Mathematics, Dance Minor
Why did you choose your major?
I grew up competing in math contests throughout middle and high school (because I am a nerd), but when I came here, I thought I would stop doing math. I took Multivariable Calculus with Dr. Carrie Finch Fall Term of my first year, and declared my math major in winter, with Dr. Finch as my advisor.
What professor has inspired you?
Oh gosh, so many. All of them really. Jenny Davies, my dance professor, has really been my biggest cheerleader for me pursuing a career in dance, though. She gave me the opportunity to dance in her company in New York, Roanoke and Richmond. She has shown me how dance can be a driving force for change and community throughout history and the present day, and I’m excited to hopefully continue that trend.
What’s your personal motto?
“That’s what she said.”
What’s your favorite song right now?
“Scholasticism” by Purser, but “The Cure” by Lady Gaga is a close second.
Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Blue Sky. I get the California Sun-Dried.
What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
If you want to do something here, you can. You just have to ask someone, who probably knows someone, who works with someone, who knows someone else who absolutely wants to help you do that thing. It will happen and someone will help you do it.
I’m pursuing a master of fine arts in dance at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in fall 2017.
Favorite W&L memory:
I have so many amazing memories, but one of my favorites was the summer I spent here doing research with Dr. Finch. Walking up the Colonnade on a brisk foggy morning with an iced coffee and my notes in hand, I felt very academe chic.
British Literature: Queered Science, Spring Term of junior year (very closely followed by Aerial Dance, Spring Term of senior year).
Favorite campus landmark:
The Graham-Lees archway.
What’s your passion?
Netflix . . . also broadening access to dance via social media . . . also pizza.
What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
Why did you choose W&L?