What Juilliard Means to Me
The Juilliard building reverberates with the legacy of innovation, and infinite collaboration. Each note of a sonata is a grand combination of years of practice, experience, and knowledge sourced from teachers and mentors around the world. Nothing is solitary. It is through a combination of unique parts that the most amazing whole is created. In the past two years of my Juilliard journey my definition of collaboration has evolved and come to encompass what Juilliard means to me at every moment.
I first realized this delicate balance of individuality and the power of collaboration in the first New Dances rehearsal of freshman year. New Dances is a program which features four new works which choreographers create on each class of the Division. It is the first time the freshman get to perform on the huge Peter Jay Sharp stage, and it is the beginning of our collaborative journey as ensemble artists. Helen Simoneau, our choreographer, had a soft air about her. This however did nothing to combat the telltale anxiety which boomed through my body, making it almost impossible for me to execute the tranquil phrase work she presented to us on the first day of our rehearsal process.
“ Now make your own phrase based off of the material I gave you.” Her voice permeated the room, breathing inspiration into my classmates, all working tirelessly to prove ourselves on this first day of a creation process that would define our class. Thus we began. Each one of us made a small piece of a puzzle that unfolded on the Peter Jay Sharp stage. The final piece was entitled Strange Garden, with our individual phrases and movements emerging out of a fertile soil of brash freshman spirit. Together we built up a garden of cacti, roses, strange creatures, and a jungle of horticulture. As I stood in my contorted starting position, I saw my classmates strewn across the stage in various jewel colored costumes, like petals scattered across sand. I saw each individual flower, and a garden at the same time.
A year and a half later the collaborative spirit of my class has grown, as we have weathered the good and bad times together. With each year, we have a new set of challenges to face. I meet these hurdles with the developing knowledge that collaboration is not only an artistic tool, but a building block of life at Juilliard as a whole.
Aside from the standard definition of collaboration - one that's curated by an artistic fantasy of a chamber group watching each other’s bows in a hawk-like manner, waiting for the beginning of the next measure. Forget the “always say yes” rule of an improv skit, or a composer and a choreographer coordinating the swell of a climatic moment. Now envision this: a group of students in the heat of finals and juries and performances, collaborating to create a special evening for their peers complete with a jazz band, desserts, and ambiance. I balanced two whipped cream crowned desserts in the crook of my elbow, and about four other desserts in as many digits as I could command, as I slipped past a saxophonist into the unrecognizable, transformed student lounge of the Residence Hall. The room was dimly lit by Christmas lights, a few dorm lamps, and electric candles. Conversing students were strewn across the couches, many of whom subconsciously swayed to the strains of the jazz band located at the end of the lounge. I breathed a sign of relief as I deposited the desserts at at small corner table, yet I was immediately overtaken as a new group of students entered from the florescent glow of the hallway, their eyes searching hungrily for the source of the sweet smell of dessert, and their faces transformed by the smooth swell of irresistible jazz. Jameel, my fellow Resident Assistant team member slipped by me with an impossible number of brownie sundaes. He did this all the while taking the next order of desserts from the new group that had infiltrated the quasi night club atmosphere of the the Jazz Night event which three of my fellow RA’s had organized with me. Relief, and appreciation overtook me as I headed back to the kitchen to retrieve the next order. I was proud of the experience I organized with the Residence Life team, and I was not alone in the conception, or reward of the hard work.
All the moments outside of the studios, practice rooms, and stages at Juilliard present another level of collaboration, organization, and flexibility. Being an RA put me in the position of being steeped in the daily life of Juilliard students. I learned that collaboration is an art, and at the same time, collaboration is the only way to survive, and thrive at Juilliard. You can’t create a jazz band with just one player, or carry all of those desserts back from Trader Joe’s with just two arms, or cultivate a garden with a single flower.
By Moscelyne ParkeHarrison (Dance, 2019)
Photos by Rosalie O'Connor, and Moscelyne ParkeHarrison