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Meet New Dance Faculty Member: Ryan Corriston
Growing up, new dance faculty member Ryan Corriston frequently “jumping over milk cartons and sliding to the ground” in the Kaleidoscope Dance Company at the Creative Dance Center (CDC) in Seattle, Washington. Corriston is bringing that same energy and enthusiasm for dance into the classroom at JMU.
It all started for Corriston when he was eight years old. Anne Gilbert, who was a friend’s mother and the director of the CDC, came into his first grade class to teach movement. That exposure led Corriston to take a class at the Center called “Just Boys,” where he learned to choreograph dances and move “in a fun, creative and exploratory way.”
Corriston continued weekly dance classes at the CDC during his elementary and middle school years, but says he “never really focused on dance until college.” “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, so I just wanted to pick a good liberal arts school and not pay a gazillion dollars to go out-of-state.” Then he took a class during the winter quarter of his sophomore year, and “really enjoyed it.” After one more dance class during his spring semester at the University of Washington, Corriston was sold. He declared a major in dance the following year.
After graduating from UW in 1998, Corriston spent six months traveling to Nepal and India before making the decision to move to New York to pursue a career in dance. According to Corriston, finding “good work in New York was difficult” at age 22, and he took odd jobs just to make ends meet.
But Corriston found his way. During his time in New York, he worked with a number of choreographers, including internationally acclaimed artist, Doug Varone. Corriston was a member of Doug Varone and Dancers from 2005-2011, where he observed the “raw, unabashed physicality, yet beautifully controlled and musical” nature of Varone’s work. “One of the things I also really liked about his [Varone’s] work is that I felt like I got to be myself when I performed it. I am drawn to seeing people on stage, interacting and being honest and authentic with each other.”
Corriston says his style was most influenced by Varone. “I love to get dancers moving in a real physical way. I also love music and am driven by the score.” In addition, Corriston says he strives to create an environment that fosters genuine creativity. “I try to work with who’s in front of me and use their movement ideas and inspiration.”
JMU dance students and members of the Virginia Repertory Dance Company are getting the opportunity to share their ideas and inspiration with the new dance professor. Corriston, who earned his M.F.A. in Dance from his alma mater in 2013, is choreographing a piece called “The Underpinnings” for Dancescapes, Virginia Repertory’s 3oth Anniversary Celebration Concert (Thursday-Sunday, December 5-8 at the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts).
Corriston will step in as artistic director for the Company next semester while current artistic director, Shane O’Hara, is on sabbatical. “I’m really excited,” claims Corriston. “One of the reasons I wanted to work at a university was to work with students on dances and to help them continue work on pieces that have already been developed.”
Next semester promises to be a busy one for Corriston and the Company. Trips to New York, Richmond and the ACDFA (American College Dance Festival Association) at George Mason are already on the calendar. But Corriston seems to be enjoying the ride. “I’m having a great time here. I feel like students are getting to become artists and well-rounded people.”