Young Dancers and Musicians Learn and Grow from Collaboration

Violinist Ezra Shcolnik and ballet dancer Summer Keller will perform on the Counterpointe Concert on March 24 in Zipper Hall.

For the third year in a row, Dance Academy and Music Academy students will come together for the Counterpointe Concert on Saturday night in Zipper Hall at 5 pm. The performance offers these young artists a rare opportunity to work and learn with their colleagues from across the school.

We sat down with dancer Summer Keller, a first year Dance Academy student from Dallas, and Ezra Shcolnik, a fourth year Music Academy violinist from Santa Fe, to talk about the challenges and opportunities of collaboration. They will be performing excerpts from The Four Temperments, with music composed by Hindemith and choreography by George Balanchine.

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

Have you ever performed with live music or dancers before?

Summer: I have performed with live musicians, but it’s not very common that such a young group of dancers would get to do it. At my old studio back in Dallas we did a live performance, but we didn’t have as much rehearsal time.

Ezra: This is the second time I’ve performed with dancers. The first was actually an earlier Counterpointe Concert here. It’s very challenging for me, but these these concerts and rehearsal process have really piqued my curiosity.

What are some of the challenges?

Ezra: As the first violinist of the group, it’s traditionally my job to cue the musicians, but now I have to also take that cue from a gesture that the dancer makes. It’s a unique and interesting situation to have to react right away to a move or flourish, then to transfer that to the rest of the group so we know how and when to play. They are the soloists and we want to make them shine, so that is a lot of fun.

Summer: For the dancer, especially as the girl in this pas de deux, we have some moves en pointe where we have to sustain it for a longer period of time if the music is slower. It’s really all about listening to the musicians in the moment while still executing the steps and choreography.

When rehearsing and performing, does it feel more like you have a musical group and dancers, or are you more of a cohesive unit all together?

Summer: Definitely cohesive. If you are doing a solo, the dancer may tend to think more about what they are doing and forget that they have live music. But when we come together as a group and it’s really on point, the audience sees that and they enjoy it. That’s what we are trying to do—get the audience to feel something.

Ezra: [Laughs] I’m glad Summer feels that way because there are times where I am thinking “wow we really need to be better at reacting to what the dancers are doing.” Being a cohesive group is what we are trying to work for in this process, and we’ve realized more and more that we are in this together.

What have you learned?

Summer: I’ve learned to just open my ears more to what the musicians are playing. I’m soaking everything in and portraying the movements, and I’ve grown so much as a dancer and with my partner. Having musicians there makes the process so amazing.

Ezra: And I feel like I’m also learning to open my eyes more to what the dancers are doing. I think doing this has shown me that I also would like to continue this learning process more and more as I go on in my career. I never want to be one sided in my playing, only sticking to things that I am familiar with. There is really a whole world of exploration to be doing with other artistic mediums, and I would love to be involved in that.

What’s it like to work with your peers who you already know, but haven’t performed with before?

Ezra: It’s a lot of fun for me because I do know many of the people who are dancing since we all live on the same floor together, so it’s interesting for me to finally see the side of them that is their art form. I like that process and I’m sure many of the dancers would probably say the same.

Summer: Dancing and music are two different, but same art forms. They require so much focus and so much practice. We dedicate our lives to this art form, and doing this together means there’s so much passion in the room. It’s really powerful. Since we’ve collaborated, we’ve built relationships and it’s great to see the musicians doing what they love while we’re doing what we love.


In the third annual Counterpointe Concert, Summer will dance the First Theme, a pas de deux with her classmate Blake Lanesskog. Violinist Daniel Bae, violist Julian Seney, cellist Eugene Lin, bassist Ethan Moffitt, and pianist Jimmy Shen will join Ezra in the group of musicians. If you haven’t already, get your tickets to see these young artists perform.