Guest artist shares knowledge with GV dance program


Courtesy / Dayton Contemporary Dance Company

Omari Seaberry, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University’s dance program works to provide dancers with both the education and experiences applicable to a career in dance. The program brings in guest artists to help students learn more about different styles of choreography from artists with different experiences.

Recently, the program held a week-long residency with guest artist Qarrianne Blayr. During the residency, Blayr taught technique classes and set a new piece for some dancers in the program to perform in their fall concert in December.

Blayr is an independent teaching artist, choreographer and Associate Artistic Director at Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC), a professional dance company she has been part of since 2012. 

Blayr said movement taught from the contemporary African and contemporary American modern dance perspectives allows each student to embrace their own creativity while learning or relearning awareness and control of their bodies. Blayr said that as a teacher, she works to enrich the physical and metaphysical experience of students and trainees. 

Blayr studied dance at Howard University and the University of West Indies. She said she works to share what she has learned in both her education and personal experiences with students. Blayr wants to give dancers she works with the tools to thrive as artists and expand their own creative voice in their education. 

“Artists are invaluable to the holistic education of students,” Blayr said. “It has been my experience that most students actually want to express themselves artistically, but they, unfortunately, do not always have the support or guidance needed to dream dreams outside of textbooks, wooden desks or team sports.”

Blayr was selected for the residency by Edgar L. Page the GVSU Dance Program’s Assistant Professor. Page and Blayr have worked together professionally for many years. They met originally in late 2009 at Dayton Contemporary Dance Second Company, where they were part of the training program. 

Page thought that Blayr would be able to bring not only dance to the students but knowledge of the professional world as well. 

“She graciously gave so much real-world knowledge and positive energy to our students,” Page said. “Her creative process is truly nourishing of the mind, body and spirit as a result.”

The choreography of the dance piece Blayr set surrounds the idea of being “summoned” to something greater than a single individual. The movement works to reflect this idea.

“The piece is about a group of beings that go back and forth between summoning and being summoned,” senior dance major Megan Vernier said. “The piece showcases a group of beings working collectively to accomplish something larger than themselves.”

Vernier said the week spent working with Blayr was influential. Working with her, students are able to freely express themselves while learning and challenging themselves in more physical aspects. 

“In class, she taught me a lot about strengthening the proper muscles to dance safely,” Vernier said. “In rehearsals, she taught me to really go for it and to invest myself fully into the piece.”

The Dance Program typically hosts two guest artists a semester. The guest artist pieces in addition to GVSU faculty pieces will be performed at the Fall Dance Concert held in the Louis Armstrong Theater in the GVSU Haas Center for Performing arts on Dec. 10 and 11.