Credit: Nick Romanenko
A dancer’s education requires more than classroom instruction. For Megan Hebert, a dance major at Mason Gross School of the Arts, the chance to see her work performed at schools across New Jersey played a central role in her development as an aspiring dance professional.
“I knew about the dance world when I first arrived,” said Hebert, who is from Laconia, N.H. “I just didn’t know there was so much for me.”
Choreographers, dance writers, artistic directors, costume designers and dance administrators – all play a role in bringing dance to the stage. And Hebert was able to experience the creative process and see her work, “Undercurrent,” come alive through University DanceWorks, a Mason Gross program that combines real-world learning with classroom and studio instruction.
“‘Undercurrent’ is one of the strongest student works I’ve seen in my eight years at Mason Gross,” said Randy James, assistant professor at the Mason Gross School and an acclaimed choreographer who directs University DanceWorks. “It was beautifully crafted and possessed inventive movement and music. I expect great things from Megan as a choreographer.”
University DanceWorks comprises a selective company of junior and senior dance majors who tour schools each spring, giving performances and workshops. Grade-school students enjoy the company’s vibrant performances, as Rutgers students learn from the experience of performing – or, in Hebert’s case, seeing her choreography performed – in varied venues.
Hebert reveled in the demands of working with fellow Mason Gross students on her dance piece. The experience wasn’t just about having her work performed; it also was about adhering to a schedule, deciding on costumes, choosing the music and adapting the dance work to a variety of performance spaces.
All through this, Hebert was challenged to define and refine her work. “I live more for rehearsal than performance,” she said. “Rehearsals are where everything really happens and gels.” Yet it was during performances, when students asked questions based on how they saw her work, that she would gain new insights into her art. Easy access to the dance mecca of New York City also helped in her development as a dance professional, providing an opportunity to see lots of shows and take additional classes and summer workshops.
All of her hard work paid off, too: She is the recipient of Rutgers’ Marjorie Turner Choreography Prize for Artistic Excellence. Next up, Hebert plans to move to New York and continue her dance career. Her ultimate goal? To run a dance company as the artistic director.