W&L Graduate Returns to Teach Dance Master Class Elliot Reza Emadian ’17 will teach a virtual master class in screendance, a form that merges cinematography and choreography.
“Elliot is the first W&L dancer to complete a terminal degree in dance and begin a professional career. I’m so proud of them and so excited that they are willing to share their expertise with a new generation of W&L dance students.”
~ Professor Jenefer Davies
Elliot Reza Emadian ’17, who recently earned an MFA in dance from the University of Illinois, will return to Washington and Lee University – albeit virtually – to teach a master class in the basics of creating screendance, a hybrid art form that incorporates camera movement to produce a unique visual experience.
The class, which is part of the W&L Dance Master Class Series for 2020-21, will be held on Feb. 2 from 7-8:30 p.m. The class is open to anyone to attend on Zoom. Interested parties may email MGualtieri@wlu.edu for a Zoom link.
Emadian, who earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in dance at W&L, is currently an adjunct professor of dance at Millikin University in Illinois. During the Feb. 2 class, Emadian and the students will experiment with their phone cameras to learn about screendance, a form that is especially relevant in today’s world, as COVID-19 has put a halt to live performances and placed more emphasis on virtual programming.
Screendance is different from dance documentation, which usually involves leaving a camera at a set point and capturing a dance as closely as possible to how it appears in a live performance. With screendance, Emadian said, the camera is its own entity with its own character and personality within the dance, and the footage can be edited in interesting ways, using tools from filmmaking to create a unique performance.
“I hesitate to prioritize screendance over live dance performance because for so many of us, as artists and dancers, live performance is why we got into the art form. That is our bread and butter,” Emadian said. “But with the pandemic, artists understand that our responsibility now is to not be in person, so we look to adapt and look at what already exists. Having skills in screendance, including video editing, working with a camera, seeing dance from the view of a frame, and the theoretical considerations, all might play an important role.”
Emadian will work more closely with small groups of students during the weekend following the master class, and members of the W&L Repertory Dance Company will feature a final screendance piece in their virtual Winter Term performance, which is scheduled for late March.
Davies said she’s excited to welcome Emadian back to W&L for such a timely class. “In addition to dance, Elliot is a talented videographer and photographer and has been working as an independent artist in screendance for years,” she said. “Dance moving virtual and Elliot finishing their graduate degree was a perfect synergy and a wonderful opportunity for the W&L students. Elliot is the first W&L dancer to complete a terminal degree in dance and begin a professional career. I’m so proud of them and so excited that they are willing to share their expertise with a new generation of W&L dance students.”
Since graduating from W&L in 2017, Emadian has become a published author and self-released a number of original songs in addition to graduate school, dance and video work. Making original music is a passion that was sparked for Emadian while they were still at W&L, and they continue to work with friends Austin Frank ’17 and Dana Gary ’18, who helped start a W&L student-run label, Friday Underground Records. This spring, Emadian will be an artist-in-residence at Links Hall in Chicago.
Emadian said they are thrilled to work once again with W&L’s Department of Theater, Dance and Film Studies, in part because Dance Professor Jenefer Davies and others in that department invested so much in them.
“I think it’s really beautiful that Jenny understands, and the whole Theater, Dance and Film Studies Department understands, that while live performances may not be accessible or safe right now [amid the pandemic], the practice of making and seeing art is absolutely essential,” Emadian said. “I’m really glad they are prioritizing making art as safe and accessible as possible to students.”