Guest Artist Visits MacDuffie Dancers


Angie Muzzy

The MacDuffie Dancers and Kelly Johnson pose for a group picture.

Dima Aboukasm, Social Media Editor

On Saturday March 30 and Sunday March 31, choreographer Kelly Johnson visited MacDuffie for a total of eight hours to teach the MacDuffie Dancers a dance that they will perform in the Spring Dance Concert. Johnson is the fourth guest artist to visit the MacDuffie Arts Department.

Johnson is an assistant professor of dance at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. She teaches a style of Afro-Caribbean fusion dance which she gained experience in through her studies and training in Guinea, South Africa, and Jamaica. Due to her diverse studies, she is knowledgeable in a wide array of traditional and social dances.

The dance that Johnson taught the MacDuffie Dancers is called “Cycles Back Around.” It explores the themes of time and love, while incorporating movement from Johnson’s training, such as the Jamaican Bull Dance.

“The dance is actually really complicated and includes a lot of themes that relate to the heart of the mother, so it’s very meaningful,” sophomore Vy Dinh said, a member of the MacDuffie Dancers.

MacDuffie Dancers practicing their dance. Photo courtesy of Angie Muzzy

According to dance teacher Angie Muzzy, there are numerous benefits of having a guest artist visit. For one, it provides the dancers the opportunity to practice learning an entire sequence of movements in a short amount of time; the dancers learned the entire dance and all of the choreography in two four-hour sessions with Johnson. This experience also provides those who cannot take a dance class during the school day the chance to devote one weekend to learning the dance, and then only two rehearsals per week after that.

“I think it has many benefits. It gets them [the dancers] to learn quickly, to get out of their judgement zone, to work hard, and to hopefully have some fun too,” Muzzy said.

Although the dancers learned the entire dance in one weekend, they still need to rehearse it many times before the final performance during the Spring Dance Concert. During Johnson’s visit, Muzzy took notes and learned the dance along with the students in order to aid them during later rehearsals. Muzzy also recorded the dance in order to be able to look back at parts that are tricky or harder to remember and to check certain details such as the footing and timing.

“I’m also learning with them [the dancers] so it’s like I’m a student, which has been fun,” Muzzy said.

In addition, Muzzy and Johnson are in constant communication throughout the rehearsal process.

“She [Johnson] trusts that I will make the best decisions for the piece, so it’s a mutual trusting relationship,” said Muzzy.

Muzzy feels that overall, learning the dance and having Johnson visit was an enjoyable and valuable experience.

“ I thought it was a really great experience. I thought it tested their [the dancers’] stamina…because it’s fast movements and it also tests their musicality because there’s a lot of rhythm and syncopation,” said Muzzy, “Overall, I thought the experience was really great and I’m so proud of our students for doing this.”

Junior Martina Lopez, one of the MacDuffie Dancers, agreed with these sentiments, saying, “African dance is really fun to do; it’s very expressive and it can be really fast… the concepts that she [Johnson] wanted to portray to the crowd are something that I can really relate to, so it makes me really excited to do the dance.”

Johnson will be back to watch the MacDuffie Dancers’ performance during the Spring Dance Concert on May 3 and 4. The dance will take place in the gym at 7:00 PM.