What’s New with U? – Week 3

Hello Usdan Families.

We’re capping off Week 3 —also known as “Process Week”— at camp.

Over the last five days, we’ve had the pleasure of hosting parents (and grandparents and caregivers) for studio visits and lunches throughout the week. It was a true joy, and we thank those who were able to join.

Now, here are some of the images and excitement from the last five days on campus.




“What if I make a mistake?” It’s ok! Make a mistake! Life is full of mistakes. You learn from them. – Kageki Nagao, Director of Orchestra I and II



TEACHING U: Meet the dance department

Pass by the spacious open-air studios of Usdan’s Dance program, and you’ll catch glimpses of shuffle-ball-changes, jetés, and other such moves, reflected in the many mirrors and highlighted by the sunshine streaming through the skylights.

Guiding each class are the talented teachers, hailing from all facets of dance and accomplished performers in their own right. We talked with three of the amazing Dance instructors about their experience and philosophy about the lock-step between teaching and creating.

First up: Dance Department Chair Juliana May, who teaches dance and choreography at numerous institutions including Trevor Day School, Barnard College, The New School, Sarah Lawrence and, most recently, at The American Dance Festival in Durham, NC. A Guggenheim and NYFA Fellow, May has created nine works since 2002, including seven evening-length pieces with commissions and encore performances from Dance Theater Workshop, New York Live Arts, Barnard College, The New School, Joyce SoHo and The American Realness Festival.

How has being an artist helped you as an educator and how has being an educator helped you as an artist? 
As an artist, I am constantly working on the deconstruction of the forms. I am working inside of and looking for ways to shift the formal rules of shape, level, time and more. This mode of questioning and exploring has made my teaching more spacious.  It allows the act of teaching to not always be about the building up of learned skills but also about breaking them down and looking at them with more time, space, and interrogation.

What are you most excited about this summer?
I am most excited about introducing our students to a depth and breadth of new dance forms and new ways of working with the body, allowing them to safely step out of their comfort zones and take new creative risks.

What’s your favorite Usdan U (logo/letter)?
The Rainbow U!

Meet Angie Pittman – a dance artist and educator. Angie has performed the work of many great choreographers as well as her own in top venues across the country. She holds a MFA in Dance and Choreography from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also served as a 2015 DanceWEB scholar for Impulstanz Dance Festival in Vienna, Austria and as a 2016 Artist-in-Residence with Movement Research.

How has being an artist helped you as an educator and how has being an educator helped you as an artist?
They definitely inform one another. My artistic concepts around protest and resistance motivate my teaching. My work’s accessibility to young people is important, and the immediate response I receive from them informs my work. Being an educator gives me the chance to work with many of my concepts about movement with a group of young dancers.

What are you most excited about this summer?
I’m most excited about the ongoing opportunity to dive into figuring out what dance is and what dance can be with my students. Dance is an art form that is directly coming from the body, which, to me, means that it is always changing. We constantly try to figure out what it is, put words to it, codify, and teach it, which are important and beautiful efforts.  As a part of my teaching practice, I engage with the ever-changing quality of contemporary dance as a place of dynamic power.

What’s your favorite Usdan U (logo/letter)?
The Hip Hop U with the pink sneakers and black pants – it comes up on the website with the phrase, “Groove begins with U.”

Groove is a concept that I use in my teaching of technique, both in Contemporary and Hip Hop.  It is a way of living through movement that is not just about the arrival, but the journey there.  Investing in every moment of the movement is important, not just the “ta da!”

Next up: Jessica Azenberg, a highly accomplished musical theater performer and dance teacher with lots of stage credits to her name. Born and raised in New York City, she first learned tap at eight, while attending Usdan. She went on to attend high school at the Professional Children’s School and to graduate from The Boston Conservatory with a B.F.A. in Dance. Her professional debut? It was on ABC’s One Life To Live as “Baby Jessica.”

How has being an artist helped you as an educator and how has being an educator helped you as an artist?
I’ve been performing professionally in musicals for the past 12 years, and everything that I have learned throughout my professional career I bring in to my students. That ranges from the choreography that we do to the professional environment that I aim to create in my classroom. Being an educator has also greatly contributed to my success as a performer and choreographer. Last summer, I choreographed Spamalot at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. A huge part of that involved teaching the material to the entire cast. Without my teaching experience, I would not have been able to set this show so efficiently.

What are you most excited about this summer?
This is my first summer teaching at Usdan. I am excited to be a part of a new environment and to get to know a new community of young dancers!

What’s your favorite Usdan U (logo/letter)?
The Musical Score U with the treble clef and musical notes!


This idea grew out of conversations where we were trying to think of not just what happens here, but how the entire camp itself is an art medium. – Pedro Lasch, Artist-in-Residence

Usdan’s physical setting conjures words like “Amazing,” “Magical,” and “Inspiring.”  Amid the 140 acres of natural beauty, students feel protected and independent enough to step out of their school-year selves. That sheltered risk-taking allows these young artists to push their existing talents and delve into new ones.

To support that process, every summer, Usdan brings world-class teachers and visiting artists – actors, directors, playwrights, painters, sculptors, musicians, composers, dancers, poets and novelists – to teach and collaborate with Usdan campers ages 4 to 18. It’s a two-way exchange because we know experienced artists and young creators learn from one another, each contributing to the other’s work and development.

One such project: Usdan’s collaboration with Pedro Lasch, an internationally exhibited artist and Duke University professor. Entitled “Dreaming in the Woods,” Lasch’s artistic experiment encourages all to view Usdan’s grounds, as well as its people and resources, as inspiration for the creation of new works.

The project launched this spring with Art in Your Inbox, a series of paintings by Lasch sent via email, designed to bring art to Usdan families before the summer season. Over the course of the next three years, Lasch will work with students to experience Usdan as a place where they can explore their creative voices and engage in a process of art-making that flows from a basis of mutual trust and the freedom to imagine new possibilities.

In the end, the goal of this program – and all of Usdan’s programs – is to encourage every student to be a collaborator in this amazing creative community.

To do so, Lasch says, “First, forget what you think something is and start with a clean slate. Instead of asking “Is it art or not?”, ask yourself what would you like to do that seems interesting to explore.”

Read more about Pedro’s three-year project and follow the process here.

Share your thoughts with us at questions@usdan.org.

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