Thanks To Dance
As an artist and educator in Jacob Pillow’s Curriculum in Motion and Medicine in Motion programs, BFA in Dance alumna Liv Schaffer ’13 was given a chance of a lifetime to present her work at the oldest internationally acclaimed summer dance festival in the country.
On August 1, in the Inside/Out Performance Series at the dance center and school located in the Berkshires, Liv presented three separate pieces of choreography that featured five dancers, including fellow LINES Ballet BFA in Dance alumni Hayley Bowman and Alexis Staley.
“This is definitely the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had. It’s truly an honor,” Liv said on the eve of the presentation. “My connection to the Pillow is so meaningful because of being trusted as an artist in both community and concert modalities. I’ve built a relationship as an employee there, and to feel the support of the organization behind me not limited to one role is really exciting.”
There are in fact many parts to Liv. She has performed with AXIS Dance Company, the Dance Exchange and Robert Moses’s Kin. She also teaches courses in Contemporary Dance and Intergenerational Dance at the University of San Francisco and stays engaged locally and abroad with the JUNTOS Collective, which she participated in as an undergraduate at Dominican in the School of Liberal Arts and Education.
“I used to view the dance field as a vertical ladder to be climbed from dancer to choreographer to director. Though my reality, and the reality of many of my peers, is a very horizontal ladder; doing bits of teaching, performing, choreographing, and administrative work,” Liv says. “It’s a kind of package deal that sews many things together simultaneously, and really challenges ideas and versatility.”
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Growing up in Chicago, Liv remembers choreographing dances by herself in the family’s basement. She was eventually drawn to Dominican following an audition in the LINES Ballet Summer Program at age 15.
“My mom used to tell me this story over and over again. I guess I looked at her after the LINES audition and said `Mom, I don’t care if I got in, that was the coolest class I have ever taken!’” Liv says.
Soon after joining the LINES Ballet BFA in Dance program, Liv’s father passed. Four years later, she lost her mother.
“Because of the intimate size and the individual attention given to each student in our program, I really did feel the LINES faculty hold space for me during that period and allowed me space to grieve, yet still trusted me as a student and an artist,” Liv says. “I was really nurtured and I so appreciate that.”
Liv, now living in Oakland, has returned to Dominican several times to work with current students. She has choreographed works for a couple of events in Angelico Concert Hall, the Senior Showcase at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the program’s tour to American College Dance Festival Association in 2016.
“There’s something really special for the students when an alumna comes to work with them. It’s a living example of what could be.” Liv says. “Every path to a successful career is different, but there’s some automatic trust and relevance when an alum walks in the studio. Students can see themselves in that representation, and start to dream up their own routes. It’s like having gained a new cheerleader, or an ally in the field.”
Liv’s presentation at Jacob’s Pillow in the Inside/Out Performance Series will enhance her professional resume and reputation as a versatile and valuable artist and educator.
“This is a big leap into another chapter of my career,” Liv says. “I’ve cast a wide net and let the opportunities that bit back guide me here. I don’t know the specifics of what I hope for my future after this. I know I am most stimulated when choreographing, and am passionate about sharing choreographic tools and experiences with non-dancing communities.”
Liv is applying the values she learned at Dominican – with its ideals of study, community, refection, and service – to her craft.
“I love considering what makes for a good ‘dance citizen’ and am curious about how to invite more citizens to dance,” Liv says. “I’m up for any adventure, really. My creativity is sometimes most successful in making the hand I was dealt look like the hand I wanted. You can make anything into the best experience as long as you have the right mindset.”
July 24, 2019
Photo credit: Quinn Wharton