A Thoughtful Approach to Dance
“The stereotype is that dance majors just dance around in a studio, that they’re not the smartest,” says JT Weaver, a promising young dancer and choreographer on the national and international scene. “But framing a dance major through a liberal arts context was game-changing for me.”
Weaver earned his BFA in dance from the University of Minnesota in Spring 2017 and his education has equipped him to explore ideas through movement and to create dance pieces not just as mere entertainment, but as thoughtfully crafted ideas of creative research. “My dance classes spanned theory, and intellectual knowledge as well as a very physically technical process,” he says. “The dance degree I received was rooted in the way us as humans interact with one another by examining our intersectionality and the systems and modalities we all exist in.”
Weaver became fascinated with the physics of movement itself, taking full advantage of his movement technique classes to deeply research nuanced ways of approaching dance.
He cites his UMN professors for their influence in his approach and mentality.
He credits current Director of the Dance program Carl Flink as his primary mentor through his time in the program. “During any class, even movement classes, there is a lot of open discussion between everyone about whatever topic or idea comes up. His way of verbally articulating his thoughts was so concise and precise. I connected to his choice of phrasing because it often left no room for assumption, which I find such a powerful tool in connecting and communicating with those around you. Also his approach to movement in technique classes was so simple in nature but not easy to accomplish. Carl has actually noted the difference between simple vs. easy.”
He points to Professor Ananya Chatterjea as the “social justice goddess in Minneapolis,” because of her passion for articulating injustice and the way she guides students to explore how they as humans interact with each other and the world.
Throughout his senior year, Weaver got to connect with new dance faculty member Michel Kouakou. Kouakou’s pure ability as a mover was instant inspiration for Weaver. Kouakou helped push physical boundaries in class and in his choreography.
Weaver has continued to collaborate with his mentors, dancing with Flink’s Black Label Movement (BLM) and Kouakou’s Daara Dance Company. He recently toured with each of them, first to Florida to teach and perform with BLM and then to Bielefeld, Germany, to participate in the Artists in Fusion Festival at DansArt, a two-week residency to rehearse and premiere a new work. There were also workshops and performances from artists around the world.
His time in Germany renewed Weaver’s respect for the artistic process and the exhaustive energy that comes through a collaborative dance project. In reference to Kouakou’s choreographic process, he says, “Yes, it’s choreographed... but there is the world we tap into.” He explains, “As long as you exist in that world, you are free to make choices within the choreography, and you’re able to find your way in this world as long as we connect to one another.”
The Next Move
Looking forward, Weaver says he is ready to embrace the unknown of his future. He hopes to spend time in New York City, though he is very much an active member of the Minneapolis dance community and isn’t putting a timetable on his endeavors.
Whatever the specific companies or projects may be, Weaver is certain that he will continue to experience art and human connection in unique ways, through the lens of his diverse, liberal arts education.
“What I crave for my future at this moment is to dance professionally at a very high level for as long as possible, to let dance travel me not only across the stage but across the world and to continue to explore what life has to offer and create what it doesn’t,” Weaver says. “The biggest takeaway from my time at the University is my level of awareness in all facets of my life. My years at the U instilled an approach to life that is highly thoughtful and perspective-driven.”
This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.