College of Visual and Performing Arts
George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

A Day in the Life of a Mason Dancer

March 10, 2018

Dancer Lauren Stucko/Photo by Tim Coburn

Imagine having the top professionals in your field at your fingertips. As members of the Mason Dance Company, School of Dance students do! Dance majors have the opportunity to work with some of the leading choreographers in the world, stepping into the shoes of a professional dancer while still in college. 
Just this past year, the company worked with the likes of Doug Varone, Yin Yue, Ivan Pérez, and Lar Lubovitch in preparation for the 2018 School of Dance Gala Concerts, on March 23-25. These guest artists worked closely with Mason students to impart them with renowned choreography.

Performing alongside professional dancers is an invaluable experience for these budding dancers. Let's hear from one of them about her experience learning from these choreographers: 

Lauren Stucko, BFA Dance 2018 

Q: How long have you been in the dance program and when are you expected to graduate? Why did you want to be a dance major? 

L.S.: I have been a dance major since 2014. This will be my final semester at Mason. I wanted to be a dance major because I knew at a young age that I wanted to be a professional dancer.  I needed an atmosphere that could provide an academic education but, most importantly, provide serious dance training and infinite opportunities that I could take advantage of and use to progress my dancing and artistic experiences. 

Q. Give us a brief run-down of a day in the life of a Mason dance major.  

L.S: Wow! Well, my day starts at 7 a.m. I wake up, get to the studios early to warm up properly before our two morning technique classes from 9 a.m.-12 p.m.  Then, I will typically have Gala rehearsals up to three times a week for a couple hours, attend senior synthesis class, and other courses to fulfill my academic requirements. I also go to evening rehearsals led by students who are creating their own choreography for Harris Theatre concerts. I like to fit in time to take care of my body, which often involves seeing our amazing trainer, Jena. The days are very long, so time management is a must. That means scheduling in some relaxation time to allow our bodies recovery time. Just like other dance majors, I work and am focusing a lot of my attention on planning out and preparing for my post-graduation plans, which requires a lot of time to research and network. 

Q: Looking ahead at the Dance Gala Concert, which piece did you like learning the most and why? 

L.S. I am a soloist in Lar Lubovitch’s A Brahms Symphony, as well as in Doug Varone's in the shelter of the fold. Both processes were very different in terms of style, mood, expectations, and much more. They are both extremely lovely pieces of work created by two very honorable choreographers of our time. Not to mention, both experiences have challenged me to channel new, unexplored areas in my training and go to a deeper place within my own artistic voice. That is the beauty of these residencies. First, you are excited to be cast and to receive a wonderful opportunity but then, as you continue to rehearse and work alongside these amazing artists, you realize how you have changed and evolved into a different dancer. I loved both of my experiences. 

Q: What did you enjoy the most about working with professional choreographers and stagers? 

L.S.: It’s really so special to learn the work, but to learn from the choreographers’ dancers or the choreographer themselves, is one of the best learning experiences. You are automatically placed into a setting with expectations and awareness that you were casted to dance the work, so when you are in the studio with choreographers and stagers, in my eyes, it excites me to now create this new relationship with the artists, and to gain as much knowledge and ‘coaching’ as I can. It is a lot of work and is by no means easy or simple, but the joy we all feel when dancing as individuals and together is unlike anything else. 

For the Lar Lubovitch residency, I was particularly excited because I have admired his work for many years now and have been taught in the past by a few of his dancers. To be a soloist in his legendary work, A Brahms Symphony, receive private coaching from him, and be able to share my own interpretation of such an amazing work was a dream come true.  

6) Anything else you'd like to tell our readers about the Dance Gala Concert? 

The Gala is something the Mason dancers look forward to. For us, it’s not about showing off what we can do and how we do it. It’s the lovely feeling of sharing an experience, growth, community as dancers and the pride and integrity we feel to have learned works of such admirable and honorable choreographers and artists in our world today. With quite a diverse program, it is definitely impressive to watch my fellow dancers push boundaries and share the artist within. I feel so proud to be graduating from the Mason School of Dance—a place that has been my home for the past four years.  

I hope to see many attend this Gala. We love a good crowd! 

2018 Mason Dance Gala Concert
Friday, March 23 at 8 p.m. 
Saturday, March 24 at 8 p.m. 
Tickets start at $10 

*This performance will also take place at the Hylton Center on March 25.