The cornerstone of the programme is dance training. Students follow daily dance technique classes in the morning. The approach to all techniques is twofold: functional - through which a technique is practiced as a set of physical and expressive tools, and artistic-cultural through which a technique is understood as a form of embodiment specific to artistic and cultural history.
In the afternoons students follow classes that give them a three dimensional, comprehensive approach to their physicality and dancing:
Movement analysis classes and somatic practices support students in approaching dance and physicality through motor and expressive principles, next to formal aspects of dance vocabularies. These become fully appropriated, tested and reinvented by students through periodic classes and workshops in movement research, improvisation and composition, as well as dance jam sessions organised by students themselves. Through these different experiences, physicality is put into context of an artistic practice and performing languages. Theory classes are offered to make sure that dance practice never disconnects from reflection, and that embodied knowledge communicates with discoursive knowledge.
If dance training is the base of the program, dance is approached as interrelated to other performing arts. Thus, periodically an important part of the afternoon program is dedicated to some of the following practices: physical theatre, drama, music and voice/singing. These all bring an extra layer and a different perspective on technique, embodiment and the construction of meaning in performance.
The structure of the timetable varies from period to period (meaning every 6 to 9 weeks) with the aim to strike a balance between the training routine and discipline on one side and dynamic and stimulating environment on the other. The rotation of certain practices also stimulates students to take responsibility for the transfer of skills from one practice to another. To this end, they are facilitated by coaches.
The interweaving of dance, performing techniques, movement analysis, somatics, artistic practice and theory create a web of reference points: dance and performing codes and idioms, analytical approach to posture, attitude, action, space, time etc.,insight into a student’s personal desires, habits and tendencies, and historical and conceptual positioning of dance practices. Over time student starts to connect them through their main reference point: their own body in action. Through this process they become able to adapt dance and performing vocabularies to their own body, interpret them and/or create new material, by understanding personal, cultural and artistic expression of their dancing selves and its performing, theatrical possibilities.
As aspiring artists, students are expected to be able to go beyond simply executing someone else’s creations and instead have meaningful personal practice and be able to contribute to the development of choreographic work, and engage creatively and intellectually at every step of the process.
Between 1 and 3 times per year, students periodically have the opportunity to spend time on their own creative practice in the form of student projects of varying formats and lengths. In those periods the number of classes decreases to leave room for projects, yet the classes that are programmed feed and support student’s works. Some projects are presented to students in a form of assignments while, others are constructed by students themselves based on their wishes and in consultation with coaches and mentors. These projects are considered as tools rather than an end in themselves. While their research and choreographic projects give space to students’ creativity and development of their personal style, they are also an important learning device. It enables them to experience and appropriate every step of a creative process, develop their vision, understand the construction of choreographic and dramaturgical concepts, while learning to collaborate and contribute to a common goal and to an artistic vision.
In the first year students have three collaborative student projects, in the second year they work on solos and in the 3rd year they create and produce entirely by themselves a student festival. These project are mostly developed within ECD department. In addition to these, in their second year, ECD students collaborate as performers with the young choreographers enrolled in the third year of SNDO, bachelor of choreography.
Crucial aspect of the education are creations that can comprise construction of new works and reconstruction of (excerpts of) repertoire pieces. Students thus realise a number of choreographies through the first three years of the programme, as well as an interdisciplinary production in the third year, being totally immersed in the creative process, methods and world-view of a guest artist with whom they work. In the creation of new works students are expected to display their co-creative abilities, expressive potential, individuality and stage presence, as well as collaborative and communication skills as they gradually reach the professional level. They become equally acquainted with relevant contemporary practices which allows them to define their own artistic position. In repertoire reconstructions students encounter fully developed, known, choreographic idioms. Through this constraint they learn how to adapt and be precise, but also to take responsibility to find freedom and strategies for personal interpretation .They also make embodied connections between contemporary innovations and works of artists that left a mark in dance history in order to make focused choices in their current practice.
Stage experience is an essential ingredient in a dancer’s education. Student projects, all new works, and repertoire pieces lead to a stage production. In addition to this, all student projects lead to studio showings, making performing in its various modes a natural state of being in the programme. From being each other’s “first” audience, students regularly show works in the in-house theater for a larger community of the Academy, and finally perform in professional theatre houses across Amsterdam and other cities in the Netherlands.