Dancers From Cirque De Soleil’s
Michael Jackson Immortal Tour Teach
By Brittany Lombardi
Three dancers from Cirque De Soleil’s Michael Jackson Immortal Tour taught a day of master classes at Dean College in Franklin, Massachusetts. Having been on tour for almost three years, Shondra Leigh, Mikey “Dropz” and Pom were more than excited to share their creativity and knowledge with the students. Shondra Leigh, an alumnus of Dean, taught a contemporary piece to Sara Bareillas’ song Gravity. Exploring elements of the fall and release qualities, deep ‘c’ curve contractions found in Limón and Dunham techniques, Shondra stressed the importance of not just learning the steps, but finding the meaning behind the steps. In addition to choreography, she had the group do sections of improvisation at the beginning and end of the combination to showcase each individual’s aesthetic and abilities. Having taken Shondra’s class before, I knew she did not want to see messy pirouettes or forced emotions on the dancers’ faces; instead, she wanted each student to reveal their personal stories through their motions and relate them to the lyrics in the music. “Whether you choose to fall to the floor, run around the room, onto the stage- I don’t care, just live in the moment” (Shondra Leigh).
Following Shondra’s expressively driven class, Mikey “Dropz” Cameron brought forth a different type of energy; an energy that most young female dancers would be shy to bring out on the dance floor. Originally trained in all styles of dance, including jazz, tap, ballet, and hip hop, Mike incorporated sharp isolated torso movements found in popping and locking with smooth grounded steps from jazz techniques. Although feminine in content, the phrase material had a sense of intensity that required emphasis on certain down beats in the music. If one of those movements were executed too lightly, the rest of the steps would not mold into one fluent sentence. Some of the students were unsure how to approach Mike’s choreography, especially toward the end of the combination because of the faster tempo. However, instead of expecting the dancers to remember every detail of his fast-paced sequences, as he taught, Mike explained every step and reviewed their counts in order to clarify any mishaps he saw while the group did the choreography. By the end of Mike’s portion of the workshop series, we were sweating, sore and ready for more!
Hip-hop dancing has become increasingly intriguing to me over the past few years. I cannot fathom how some choreographers, such as Pom Arnold, can listen to a song and create motions that match the lyrics and rhythms of the music to a tee. As soon as he played "Welcome to my Hood" by DJ Khaled, Little Wayne and Ludacris and began to demonstrate the routine, my heart stopped. Every word and beat seemed to play through his body- every sound affected his actions, as if the music cast a spell on him to make him move. Each time I have taken class from Pom, I am always in awe of his versatility and ability to transform any rap song into an artistic expression of the themes behind the lyrics. Having started break dancing at age ten, Pom is mostly known for his thrilling stunt work, defying the laws of gravity with ongoing head spins, windmills and freezes. Because of his background in break dancing, Pom utilizes quick footwork that glide through space effortlessly while the upper body maintains a steady groove with hand gestures and accented arm motions, similar to those found in locking.
Seeing these three talented individuals on stage performing is both inspiring and entertaining; when they are teaching, it is almost impossible to not be star struck. What was most fascinating about this day of workshops was the number of dancers that came to learn from these incredibly talented artists. When in doubt, if there is a master class or workshop being offered, whether or not it is in the city, it is always essential to learn from as many different teachers as possible. Not only will they benefit your training, there could be opportunities to network with active performers in the business. Who knows, that could be your grand entrance onto the stage of your dance career!