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Dance Major Follows Passion To Regional Competition, New York

May 8, 2014
SHSU Media Contact: Marissa Nunez

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Cordarrel White dances in a piece by Dionne Sparkman Noble during the spring "Dance Spectrum: Radiate." White's "Passionate Savage" was also presented during the faculty- and guest-choreographed show and was one of 10 dances selected for the regional American College Dance Festival this semester. —Photos by Lynn Lane

 

The sound of a pulsating heart beat echoes through the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center Dance Theatre, as dancers begin moving under the illumination of spotlights across the pitch-black stage. As the heartbeats fade out, down-tempo music starts to bellow from the speakers, while dancers effortlessly move through the slow and fluid choreography of senior dance major Cordarrel White’s “Passionate Savage.”

“This piece is about my life at Sam Houston State University and my growing as a person,” White said. “I came up with the title because I wanted it to represent something being attacked ferociously with love and care.”

The dance, which took two months to complete, was included in the dance department’s annual dance spectrum, “Radiate,” last month. It was also chosen out of 50 other pieces from the south-central conference to be performed at the American College Dance Festival Gala in Austin.

“The festival is a great way for us to compare ourselves to other universities, by showcasing our students success and recognizing the strong work being done at SHSU artistically,” assistant professor of dance Dionne Sparkman Noble said.

With only 10 spots available in the gala performance, White said that he was nervous watching his piece being performed but that he was also confident in it because it was so different from the others.

By pulling inspiration from everyone he has learned from and the things in his life that have shaped him, White created his own style of dance—dubbed by an observer “creolized-hybrid” of jazz, ballet, and contemporary dance—that can be seen in “Passionate Savage.”

“His choreography was not only challenging but also a joy to dance. He was always eager and encouraging, and made sure we felt comfortable and confident in the dance,” freshman dance major and a dancer in the piece Autumn Harms said. “I am so proud to have been able to work with him during his last year, he is definitely one of my favorite choreographers to dance for.”

Dancing and choreography is more than just a series of eight-count movements for White; it has become a medium for him to express the things he can’t vocalize and a tool that has helped him grow comfortable in his own skin.

“Dancing lets me be me, and all of me,” said White. “I can’t live without it.”

His passion for dance started burning the summer before his freshman year at SHSU, when he caught an episode of the hit Fox TV show “So You Think You Can Dance?”

“I just thought it looked so cool, so I told my dad that I wanted to start dancing and he supported me,” White said.

He began enrolling in dance classes at the Allegro West Academy of Dance in his hometown of Katy, where he first learned the jazz dance style.

“Jazz is really spunky and all about having a good time, and my personality is really out there, so jazz was the perfect avenue for me to begin my dance career,” White said.

After a few short months, White became obsessed with dancing, and he realized that dancing is what he wanted to make his career.

“I would practice and stretch every night, sometimes until 6 a.m., and then I would go to sleep for a little bit and wake up and go to class,” White said. “I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.”

Switching from an education major his second semester, White enrolled in the College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication’s Department of Dance and began taking modern dance for non-majors.

During his sophomore year, he took his first choreography classes under Sparkman Noble, whom he said helped him find his love for choreography. Through choreography, he was able to face many issues he said both male and female dancers encounter.

“People think dancers are suppose to look a certain way and I feel like certain things I have auditioned for I didn’t get the part because of the way I look,” White said. “At first, I hated choreography because I wasn’t very good at it and I had no confidence in it, but I stopped trying to be something I wasn’t and began to get more comfortable with it.”

Through his work, he has also been able to face the stigmatization placed on males within the female-dominated industry.

“The dance industry is so low on males because of this stereotype that surrounds male dancers, that they must be soft or gay, which is not true. I have met many straight male dancers,” White said. “However, people are becoming a lot more comfortable with themselves and there are a lot more men coming into the industry, so it is becoming a lot more competitive.”

In his last year at SHSU, White began developing the choreography for “Passionate Savage” for his senior studio class, where many of these issues converged.

Getting 'Savage'

Student dancers practice White's "Passionate Savage" before it was presented at the spring "Dance Spectrum: Radiate" concert. —Photos by Lynn Lane

For the self-reflection piece (which can be viewed here), he started by playing around with various dance phrases, a series of eight count movements, until he found one that looked interesting to him.

“I usually start out with the movements first and then the story follows,” White said. “I came in with my dancers and just started teaching them the movements and began playing around with different groups to see how people move together.”

After finding a series of phrases he liked, White began searching for the right music tracks for the piece, which he said is a very important aspect to a dance performance.

“The music has a lot to do with a dance piece because the song is what pulls emotions out of you,” said White, who used songs by abstract DJs Kahn and Teeth.

“Passionate Savage” was designed to help illustrate White’s transformation over the past years and is presented in three parts.

“The whole first section is about discovering yourself and breaking out of your shell, because there are always people watching you and influencing you on a daily basis,” White said. “So, I told my dancers to internalize the choreography and to not project outwards towards the audience; make them watch you.”

For the second section, White had his dancers make heavy breathing noises to represent him finding himself and coming to terms with it.

“It’s suppose to be a sign of relief, like a breath of fresh air,” he said.

In the last section of the performance, the dancer’s movements becoming quicker and sharper and the music switches to a more fast-paced track filled with heavy drums and interweaving rhythms.

“This is to represent my life now: it’s kinda crazy but I’m always having lots of fun. There is never a dull moment,” White said.

When he isn’t in school or creating new dance styles, White teaches introductory through advanced level contemporary and jazz classes at the Hintze Dance Center in Cypress.

“The kids absolutely adore Cordarrel, and they get excited every time he comes to teach,” Virginia Hintze, owner and artistic director said. “He always has a smile on his face and always shows respect to the more experienced instructors.

“He is an absolute pleasure to work with.”

After graduating, White will continue his dance training at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York this fall, where he will have the opportunity to audition in front of choreographers and directors from various dance companies and commercials.

 

 

 

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