By Deborah Searle
The Ad Deum Summer Dance Intensive, held in The Woodlands, Texas, was indeed intense. However, as demanding as the week was, the program was also inspiring and invigorating. Artistic Director of Ad Deum Dance Company, Randall Flinn once again created a smorgasbord for dancers, consisting of master classes, renowned guest faculty, performances and informative talks.
Ad Deum, meaning “Unto God”, is a renowned contemporary Christian dance company. Artistic Director Randall Flinn has taught and choreographed for the Houston Ballet, Cirque du Soleil, Ballet Magnificat, Belhaven College, Project Dance, Hillsong Australia and Dance Revolution Conventions. Having lived throughout Europe and Asia for ten years, Flinn has been a guest artist for the Hong Kong Ballet, City Contemporary, Guanzhou Modern Dance Company, Xaris Danz Europe and YWAM International Schools of the Arts. Flinn’s wealth of knowledge, experience and passion for what he does has created a moving force of contemporary dance and physical theatre – Ad Deum Dance Company.
The Ad Deum Summer Dance Intensive allowed dancers from across the US, and the globe, to come to Houston and taste and see the company’s creativity and calling. Open to dancers of all levels and ages above 13, the week provided classes in everything from ballet and modern dance, to hip hop, musical theater, mime, stage combat, tap and Latin jazz. Three hours of ballet and modern training every morning ensured that the dancers’ technique and strength were developed, and afternoon electives allowed the students to try new styles or enjoy informative discussions and talks. Question and answer sessions about the skills of choreography, the art of teaching dance, dance in the community and professional dance were interesting and informative. I especially enjoyed a choreography class with Steve Rooks, former dancer for Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey, who is currently the Chair of Dance and Resident Choreographer for Vassar College in New York. Other renowned faculty this year included Cheryl Cutlip, Radio City Rockette and Director of Project Dance, Laura Morton and Cynthia Newland, both dance professors at Belhaven College, Michelle Leaney of Hillsong College Australia and contemporary dancer Karen Castleman of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, to name a few. All the teaching staff were encouraging and exciting. Their classes were creative, fun and a great challenge. The safe atmosphere created by the staff and Ad Deum Company members was wonderful. The teachers were welcoming and the non-competitive and nurturing environment allowed the dancers to take risks, grow and develop their creativity.
Students were encouraged to perform their own works and share their dancing and choreography with two student showcase nights. The quality of many of these student performances was astounding. The talent and originality of the teenagers was impressive and the audience was encouraging and excited.
After a week of tough classes by the esteemed faculty, the Dance Intensive ended with a wonderful faculty concert, allowing the students to see their mentors in action. We were treated to amazing performances by Ad Deum Company and guest teachers Karen Castleman, Wesley Brainard, Dawn Dippel and Christina Schanta. Dawn Dippel’s performance of ‘Your Only Fault’ was flawless. She is an incredibly engaging dancer with outstanding technique. It is no wonder that she is enjoying such success with North Harris Performing Arts and Revolve Dance Company. ‘Gomer’ performed by Ad Deum dancer Shizu Yasuda was powerful and showed her amazing technique and strength. Shizu is just captivating. The company’s female ensemble in ‘Innocence Not Lost’ were heart wrenching and strong. It was a pleasure to see Australian dancer, Esther van Baren, dance with the company. Moving to Texas a year ago to join Ad Deum, she is a wonderful addition to the company.
The Ad Deum Summer Dance Intensive provides a wonderfully unique program of classes and a creative atmosphere for dancers to develop their love of dance for the glory of God. It was such a pleasure to take part in the 2009 intensive and I encourage Christian dancers to sign up for the 2010 program.
Very top photo: Ad Deum dancer Esther van Baren