Dance Spotlight: Sircey Smith

This interview has been lightly edited for style, content, and clarity.

To start, how are you doing? What is your life like these days?
I’m currently a trainee with Ballet Idaho [in Boise]. We’re in-person and we all wear masks. There are ten of us, and it’s a really big studio, so we’re able to social distance. We have to do an intake form every morning that asks you questions to make sure you’re not having any symptoms and stuff like that. But it’s been nice to be in a studio and learning and feeling like I’m actually dancing again. I’ve been here for a month almost.

You like Ballet Idaho so far?
I do. I really like it. I’ve loved all the teachers. The group of trainees—I think we’re all just super excited to be back. So, everyone is super positive and just really uplifting.

Most of us haven’t been really dancing for several months, so everyone’s figuring out their place, and at least personally, I’m trying to remember, how did I do this? Muscles are definitely very sore, but it’s been nice. And I really love it so far.

Has there been any issue or hesitation around getting back into it and being around people?
I think most of us try and social distance a lot. And most people aren’t going out just because if we want to dance, we all have to make sure we don’t have COVID. And I think we all have that trust with each other that we are staying as safe as possible so we can all dance in person, because it isn’t fun doing it on Zoom in your small apartment or trying to figure out the space.

When did you begin dancing?
I began dancing when I was 12. I used to do competitive gymnastics, and I stopped that in middle school.

What made you make the transition from competitive gymnastics?
I loved gymnastics, but I was always scared, and I loved to dance. My floor and beam routines were always extremely dance-y. And I was like, I really like dance. I wonder if I would just like to do that and not have to do flips from a bar four feet off the ground. I mean, there’s some scary things [with dance], but it’s completely different. If you fall, your injury is probably going to be a little bit worse if you’re ten feet off the ground. It’s about your movement and not so much the tricks that you’re doing.

How did you join the Colburn dance community?
I was at Los Angeles Ballet Academy for about a year and a half. One of our friends, her son actually did music at Colburn, knew there was a dance program. Colburn was a lot closer for my family, and so I auditioned for the advanced program in the Community School and got in. So, I started Colburn in my freshman year, and I was in the Dance Academy for two years.

What was the experience like? What did you think of Colburn?
I loved Colburn. The teachers are amazing. I mean, from the ballet teachers to the contemporary teachers and the tap teachers we had. I’d never done tap, and the teachers knew a lot of us hadn’t. They were just like, “Just try it.” I always felt really comfortable just going for things and feeling like I was in a non-judgmental space. I feel like I’ve grown so much from Colburn, and the experiences that I’ve learned, I’ve taken them to Ballet Idaho.

The Dance Academy curriculum introduces other genres while you’re focusing on ballet. Can you say more about that experience?
We always have technique ballet classes and pointe classes and variations, but sometimes, in different parts of the semester, we’ve had tap, contemporary, urban movement, which is kind of hip hop, but not. We had eurythmics, which is learning about music and moving with music. And we learned piano, which I love. That was probably one of my favorite things that wasn’t ballet based.

Do you still play piano?
I don’t because I don’t have a piano in my apartment, but I wish I could.

When you think about the cross genre experience at Colburn, how much of that informs your movements today?
I think you are able to have different movements and different dynamics. So, if you’re doing a movement that’s a little bit “sharper,” you can relate it to tap. Or contemporary, it’s really the upper body I’ve noticed. So, you can use that contemporary movement technique in ballet, which is fun to play with. You have more of a vocabulary with your body.

When did you know dance was the goal and not just an extracurricular activity?
I think when I went to Colburn. I was really falling more in love with it, and I really liked progressing and having to work for things. If you love what you are doing, you might as well go for it. Not to say you don’t have days you don’t like, but there’s still something inside of you. You wouldn’t be there on those days if you didn’t love it. You get driven, and you work for things. It’s fun, but it’s hard.

What were your favorite or most memorable experiences at Colburn?
I loved the connections I made with my teachers. In Dance Academy, we would go on field trips, and everyone would be there. Sometimes, we’d go see shows or we would go to a museum. Those were always fun for me because I felt like we bonded a little bit more.

This is a pretty big question. Why do you dance?
For me, I’m very active. It’s something to be able to do that, [to dance], that I can let out energy, and it’s definitely a more expressive thing. I’m not a competitive person, [but] it’s like a game in a way, where it’s more of your self-competitiveness. What can I do better today that wasn’t great yesterday, or yesterday that was really great? Why isn’t it working today? That’s how I stay motivated and just continue to do what I do because it’s this constant cycle.

What are your interests outside of dance?
I’m currently working with the Biden campaign in Idaho, which I love. I think it’s so cool. It’s so interesting. We phone bank. We text bank. We have discussions of how to reach out to people who either aren’t registered or don’t know what to do or who to vote for—not just presidential, but down-ballot. I think it’s super important because it plays into everything. The arts should be, in my opinion, funded more. And that starts with our government. It’s really nice to do something different outside that feels meaningful.

I’m registered to vote [in Boise]. I just got confirmation a couple days ago. It’s my first election, so it’s super exciting, and one I will definitely remember.

The conversation around equality and community activism happens so much faster in the cultural sphere because there’s just a free exchange of ideas.
There’s so much creativity with that. There’re so many ideas—good, bad, whatever. But there’s a way that people are able to bring them together and make it work. If you want it to be different, then vote for the change that you want. May not happen. But soon enough, if you also tell your friends or post about it, in a couple of years it could be different.

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Fall Registration Begins for Community School and Trudl Zipper Dance Institute, Featuring New Online Programming

Over the past few months, as we have pivoted and adjusted to our collective new reality, Colburn has remained dedicated to providing the best possible online education for our students. As we transition to an online Fall semester, the School will continue this commitment. Academic leadership and faculty have spent countless hours exploring best practices in online learning, investigating new resources, and planning a variety of unique opportunities for students in each unit to create the most enriching, rewarding, and effective learning experience for all our students.

As the Fall semester begins for the the Community School of Performing Arts and Trudl Zipper Dance Institute, students will benefit from new online offerings to help them perfect technique, build musicianship and artistry, and develop new ways of learning throughout this challenging time.

Community School of Performing Arts

Community School students will be able to continue their private lessons and group classes (early childhood, instrumental group classes, jazz workshops, chamber music, and drama) remotely. Students who register for private lessons prior to August 31 are eligible for special incentives including no payment plan fees, the same tuition fees as last year, a $25 loyalty discount for continuing students, and a sibling discount.

Students can also take advantage of new classes for the fall, including gap year packages for students planning to defer their undergraduate studies; a master class series with celebrated guest artists; and new online group classes. Additional classes will be announced as they are confirmed.

One such class is the Music Production course taught by Brian Langsbard, which teaches the basics of Logic Pro X, recording, engineering, and mixing—especially valuable for students who may want to share recordings digitally.

Music lovers will be able to take a new Music Appreciation and History course for adults: a four-week lecture series on Beethoven and the Ninth Symphony taught by Music History Chair and A Serving of Beethoven host Dr. Kristi Brown-Montesano.

In addition, string players can also choose from two levels of Violin Sight Reading and Musicianship and two levels of String Workshops for Violin, Viola, and Cello. These group classes are designed to give students the feeling of community while providing them with the necessary skills that will enable them to evaluate and analyze their own musical progress. Additional classes for advanced violinists will be added soon.

Registration begins on August 1 for returning students and August 15 for new students.

Trudl Zipper Dance Institute

The Trudl Zipper Dance Institute has outlined three goals for students in the Colburn Connected virtual dance program this fall: engagement, progression, and inspiration. Even in the students’ at-home studios, the study of dance is productive and meaningful. There are many ways to keep students connected to their Colburn family in their dance technique and in their personal artistry while staying safely at home.

Engagement: Each upper-level student will receive private lessons to assess progress and set achievable goals for the semester. Class sizes for all levels will be small to increase the amount of personal attention each student receives.

Progression: Each individual student will be made aware of their technical goals for the year and will work with their teachers to accomplish those goals. We will support student progress by increasing their strength and stamina with cross-training opportunities and helping them to create an optimal home studio learning environment.

Inspiration: The faculty and staff of the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute will work to inspire students by adding film and choreographic projects for all levels that will provide the students an outlet for their creativity, keep them dancing, and help them develop their artistry in new ways.

In addition to the 100+ dance classes offered each week in ballet, modern, tap, and musical theater, Colburn Dance is including new “Plus” classes to supplement our students’ dance training and physicality. Students will be able to take master classes with notable professional artists, create solo dance videos and audition videos for advanced students, and take cross-training classes and wellness lectures.

In particular, a new Artists of Influence curriculum series will be offered to enhance students’ historical knowledge, highlighting dancers of color. Later in the semester, all dance students regardless of genre will be able to participate in a new winter film, recorded remotely. The working title is Sweets from the Nutcracker, performed to the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, arranged by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.

Registration begins on July 28 for returning students and August 10 for new students.
 

Colburn Alumni Take Back the Narrative with New Podcast

Allow us to introduce So, How’s That Going?—Colburn’s first alumni-powered podcast and a joint project between the Alumni Office and the Center for Innovation and Community Impact (CICI). Envisioned as a series of insightful and inspiring conversations with alumni, So, How’s That Going? premiered on April 3 with a debut episode featuring voices of former dance and music students as they wrestled with the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The podcast seeks to take back the narrative on what a life after a performing arts education really looks like, from landing the job to navigating the community. The title itself is a nod to the often-skeptical response even the most accomplished alumni of an arts education might expect to field.

Over a series of production meetings, what began conceptually as a collection of professional development webinars that would be produced by CICI evolved into a format that put the experts front and center. The stories of our alumni community continue to unfold far beyond Grand Avenue. Alumni are on the stages of New York City, in the labs at Northwestern, in classrooms in Georgia, on the silver screen worldwide, pursuing virtual business ventures, and more. And while our world-class staff provides excellent professional development know-how, we look for ways to strengthen the alumni network and to inspire each other.

Dr. Nate Zeisler, the Dean of Community Initiatives, has worked for years to provide professional development resources to our students, and the recent formation of the Center for Innovation and Community Impact as well as the Alumni Office has made it easier to adapt these resources into useful tools for alumni.

The Alumni Office works to help alumni build and maintain networks with others passing through the school’s hallways as well as to offer resources and direction in navigating the great hallways beyond. One meaningful tool that can serve both of these causes is mentorship. Establishing a connection between one alumni and another, each with their own unique experience or cachet that the other can tap into, can be the basis for long-lasting relationships. So, the question shifted from “What can we do to guide alumni?” to “How can we empower alumni to guide one another?”.

Prior to the COVID-19 closures, the podcast’s inaugural guest was appropriately the first piano alumnus of the Conservatory, David Fung (Conservatory ’09). David’s remarkable story took him from medical school to music and then around the world. He now splits his time between New York City and a faculty position at the University of Georgia. Given the current state of the performing arts and the world at large, we opted to take a cue and match the conversation that was already on everyone’s lips. We reached out to alumni Anatalia Hordov (Dance Academy ’16), Nicholas Rose (Dance Academy ’15), and the members of the Calidore Quartet (Conservatory ’16) to see how they were being affected and ask their advice for young alumni going through such unexpected and drastic changes.

Dr. Zeisler, who also guested on the first episode to provide broad perspective on the situation, later remarked, “I hope that this podcast will help unify our strong network of working artists and enable all of us to learn from alums who have created wonderful careers in the performing arts.”

While So, How’s That Going? is driven by and for alumni, the benefit of hearing their stories and sharing their insights resonates across every layer of the Colburn community. For our current students, we hope the podcast serves as a way to stay connected to the friends, faculty, and families surrounding them even after they leave and find connections out in the working world. For our families, we hope that it gives a sense of the beneficial consequence of a performing arts education and the community it sustains. For our faculty and staff, we hope it renews their passion for hearing about the accomplishments of artists that their work supported and nurtured on campus. And for our friends in the community at large, we are excited to introduce you to some of the incredible artists and humans that Colburn has nurtured over its history.

Chicago-based journalist Sydney J. Harris once wrote, “The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” A performing arts education is not without its challenges—real or perceived—in opening those windows to long-term success and growth in a modern world. As the recent pandemic has reminded us, we’re all in this together. Hours spent in practice rooms and preparing for performance hone the craft but don’t always tap into the resource that is the person in the next studio over.

So, How’s That Going? aims to open a window into those lives and gives everyone the opportunity to see what’s possible when we can really connect.

Listen to the first episode now and stay tuned for the next quarterly episode featuring David Fung this coming July.

Colburn Responds to COVID-19 with Online Instruction and Student Support

This past month, the Colburn community transitioned from attending lessons, eagerly rehearsing for upcoming performances, and anticipating the rest of the spring semester to sheltering in place and navigating arts education online. Our faculty and staff have been working tirelessly so that students across all areas of the School can stay connected to the performing arts and continue training through virtual instruction, coaching, and . We are striving to make sure we can all turn to the performing arts as a source of comfort in this time of uncertainty.

Our goal is for Colburn’s vibrant community to remain safe, connected, and engaged, so we have taken a number of actions to establish remote learning. Faculty in the Community School, Conservatory, Music Academy, and Trudl Zipper Dance Institute have developed online curriculums to ensure that students will be provided with an uninterrupted learning experience. Students are able to attend private lessons, group lessons, and lectures virtually and stay in touch with their peers and faculty. All students in degree-granting programs will stay on track and graduating seniors will be able to earn their degrees.

Learn more about our transition to online learning.

In particular, faculty in the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute have developed an extensive real-time interactive curriculum, with technology that allows them to teach and provide feedback to students as if they were physically in class. Our Jumpstart programs in the Community School, taught primarily by our Gluck Teaching Fellows in the Conservatory, will also be able to resume later in April by connecting the Conservatory teaching fellows virtually with Jumpstart students in their homes.

In addition to the shift to online instruction, another focus was ensuring that all residential students who had to move out of Colburn’s dormitories were housed and supported. Staff helped to relocate each student to a friend or relative’s house. Conservatory, Music Academy, and Dance Academy students were provided with over $45,000 of meal, travel, and housing stipends. Conservatory pianists, percussionists, and harpists who are away from their instruments were also matched with private instruments in homes in Los Angeles, rental studios, and other creative practice options so they can continue their training uninterrupted.

Read more on student hosting.

We remain committed to supporting our students, faculty, and staff throughout this period. Now more than ever, we rely on the arts to stay connected as a community. We are grateful to have the support of you, our community members, as we traverse these unprecedented times, and look forward to having you back on campus.

Music, Dance, and Performing Arts Camps this Summer at Colburn

Although the spring semester has just begun, Summer at Colburn is quickly approaching! At Colburn, music and arts education happens all year round. Both the Community School and Trudl Zipper Dance Institute offer summer programming to reach those interested in high-quality arts training all year long.

The summertime offers the perfect opportunity to provide unique programs. Without the distraction of school and other events, Summer at Colburn gives students time to be completely devoted to the arts.

Summer at Colburn also provides access to our state-of-the-art facilities and campus. The Colburn School is located on Grand Avenue, amongst some of the most prestigious arts organizations in the country. With three recital halls, countless practice rooms, and plenty of stunning views of Downtown Los Angeles, Colburn’s facilities are the perfect place for aspiring artists to work on their craft.

What Camps Does Colburn Offer?

This summer, choose from music, dance, and performing arts workshops and camps for students ages eight and older.

Community School of Performing Arts

Colburn Performing Arts Camp (ages 8–12)
The Colburn Performing Arts Camp is the perfect program for students 812 years old looking to enter the world of the arts. Students sing in a choir, learn music theory, and have the option to participate in group piano, percussion, guitar, or tap class. Students will experience the arts in a fun, engaging way, surrounded by encouraging faculty and students. No musical or artistic experience required!

Piano Camp Intensive (ages 9–13)
For young pianists, the Community School is offering Piano Camp Intensive. At this program, students take private lessons with Colburn faculty, participate in theater and acting exercises, and perform challenging new repertoire. Camp co-director Micah Yui says, “Piano Camp Intensive is unique in that it is an experience specifically for a younger group of piano students who most probably never before experienced immersing themselves in music intensely for two weeks alongside their peers. It is two weeks where students can learn, be inspired by others, and form friendships with fellow piano students.”

Chamber Music Intensive, Jazz Camp, and Percussion Workshop (high school students)
The Community School of Performing Arts’ programs not only serve as the entry point into the arts, but also as the stepping-stone for greater musical achievement. For high school musicians looking to heighten their musical experience and challenge themselves, the Community School offers the Chamber Music Intensive, Jazz Camp, and Percussion Workshop. These programs draw talented and serious musicians from all over the Los Angeles area and beyond.

At Jazz Camp, students focus on improvisation and performance in this week of all things jazz related. Young jazz musicians will collaborate with a community of talented players as they receive instruction from Colburn faculty. Colburn jazz musicians are regularly recognized in the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival, Spotlight Awards, and Downbeat Magazine. By participating in the Jazz Camp, students can be part of this award-winning jazz tradition at Colburn.

High school percussionists will find a place for themselves at the Percussion Workshop. Rehearse and perform complex music specifically written for percussion. This ensemble experience is unique as percussionists can explore their instrument and their own musical capabilities without the constraints of being part of an orchestra or band. Guest artists and offsite field trips are part of this weeklong experience.

For students looking for a place to develop collaborative skills or to bring their chamber group to the next musical level, the Chamber Music Intensive offers both pre-existing chamber groups and individual instrumentalists a place to refine their chamber music prowess. Complete with master classes, field trips, and performances, this intensive seeks to build musically intelligent performers.

Trudl Zipper Dance Institute

All Dance Camp (ages 9–14)
Younger dancers of all experience levels can explore and develop their skills in ballet, jazz, modern, and tap dance. This all-day camp is offered for up to three weeks, giving students looking to expand their understanding of different dance genres a chance to immerse themselves in a fun, but intense environment. “Most students will have only studied one genre of dance, (i.e. ballet, modern, or tap) and exposure to other disciplines, and what they will experience and learn in those classes, will only further inform their main focus,” explains Modern Chair Tamsin Carlson, who will be teaching the modern dance portion of the camp.

Modern Choreographic Workshop (ages 12–18)
In this workshop, dancers of all levels will work with professional guest artists to explore different modern dance techniques and choreographic methods. Past guest artists have included Stina Ahlberg, Rachel Berman, Katherine Fisher, Jmy James Kidd, Banu Ogan, Andrew Pearson, Rudy Perez, and more. “It’s important for students to experience new teachers, especially faculty from higher level education,” Carlson shared. Dancers will also have the opportunity to put their new techniques into motion by choreographing their own short work, culminating by an informal showing at the end of the week.

Pre-Pointe Workshop (ages 9–14) and Intermediate/Advanced Ballet (ages 13–18)
Ballet dancers can choose from the Pre-Pointe Workshop or Intermediate/Advanced Ballet class based on their age and skill level. These workshops let dancers build their technique in the summer to prepare for the fall semester. In Pre-Pointe, new and continuing students will develop crucial knowledge and strength for going on pointe, and learn exercises they can practice throughout the summer. Intermediate/Advanced Ballet provides a bridge for older students who were enrolled in Ballet III, IV, and V in the 2019–20 school year to get back into their dance routines before fall.

Teen Tap Intensive (ages 13–19) and Musical Theater Workshop (ages 14–21)
Advanced tap and musical theater students can again participate in the Teen Tap Intensive and Musical Theater Workshop this summer. Work with Colburn faculty and professional guest artists to hone your skills and take them to the next level while working on style and stamina. Auditions are required for the Musical Theater Workshop, which will focus on excerpts from musicals that will be presented in an informal culminating performance.

Who teaches these camps?

Along with select guest artists, our renowned faculty at the Colburn School teaches the summer programs. Their performance, teaching, and artistic experience creates a perfect atmosphere for growth while still being supportive and encouraging. Summer at Colburn gives faculty a week of uninterrupted time to dedicate to teaching and helping young artists develop.

Summer at Colburn is one of the best times to experience our institution. For our current students, these weeklong programs offer more focused training and access to our teachers. For students who have never been to Colburn, this set of camps offer a chance to experience all that makes Colburn great: renowned faculty, like-minded peers, unbeatable location, and a high level of performance and training. Summer at Colburn is the perfect opportunity to begin, continue, or develop artistic and musical experience.

How do I apply?

Jazz Camp, Chamber Camp, Percussion Camp
Fill out an application form and send in a video audition. Learn more about application requirements.

Piano Camp
Fill out an application form and sign up for a live audition on March 15. Learn more about application requirements.

Performing Arts Camp and All Dance Camp
Fill out the registration form and pay the tuition. No video or live audition necessary. Learn more about Performing Arts Camp and All Dance Camp.

Modern Choreographic Workshop and Teen Tap Intensive
For new and continuing students at the appropriate level, register online and pay the tuition. Learn more about dance workshops.

Pre-Pointe Workshop
Students new to Colburn should contact the Dance office at dance@colburnschool.edu or 213-621-4530 to schedule an assessment. Colburn students currently enrolled in Ballet II, III, and IV can register online.

Musical Theater Workshop
All students, new or continuing, should contact Denise Scheerer at dscheerer@colburnschool.edu to schedule an audition. Auditions will take place on May 19. Learn more about audition requirements.

Intermediate/Advanced Ballet
Students currently enrolled in Ballet III, IV, or V can register online and pay the tuition.

Do you offer private lessons and other classes in the summer?

Yes! Private instrumental lessons are based on teacher availability and can be registered on a rolling basis. Submit an inquiry form with the Community School to get started.

For those interested in music and performing arts classes, the Community School offers summer session classes from June 1–July 26. Priority registration for continuing students begins Friday, April 17. Open enrollment for all students begins on Monday, April 27.