Governor’s School East Experience
by: Macon Carroll
Governor’s School, contrary to popular belief, is not where one learns how to become a governor, though current governor Roy Cooper did visit campus to meet everyone. Rather, it is a five-and-a-half-week program where students from around the state, studying various subjects, intermingle, live alongside each other, and learn from one another.
My Area I discipline was Dance, though the dance at Governor’s School East (GSE) was worlds apart than what I do here in Burlington. GSE at Meredith College, housed almost 400 students and only sixteen of us being dancers, making us the smallest group of all areas. Here at BDC, my main concentration is ballet, whereas our GSE class was everything but. We studied modern dance, a form stemming from a desire to break free of the traditional adherence to rules prevalent in other dance forms. We started off every nine o’clock morning class with a verbal check-in to make sure our bodies were okay to move and that we were emotionally ready to start the day rolling. We then moved into exercises in the center and then across the floor. Then we would stretch and work on choreography. For the first two-and-a-half weeks we focused on our midterm performance. The concept was based on a piece by German choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaker, who invites dancers from all over the world to learn her piece “Rosas Danst Rosas” and add their own movement to it. We did just that, splitting off into groups and making a movement series that went seamlessly with the original concept. Once we were all done, we learned each other’s movements and created a fluid piece that we then performed at the Meredith amphitheater. The remainder of our time at GSE was focused on our final performance in Jones Auditorium, the main event area on campus. We based our piece on sadness and the choreography was entirely our own. We mapped where we felt sadness, journaled, read poetry, improvised, and even doodled to find the direction in which we wanted to take the composition. Once the choreography was finished, it was up to us to agree on costumes, lighting, music, and even spacing. We were also left to roll out the marley, tape, and set up the dressing rooms. After hours in class and multiple extra rehearsals, we accomplished our goal and performed, soliciting tears from each of us at how far we had come as dancers and how close this experience had brought us. The best part of my Area I experience was that we were taught to not be afraid of failure. The studio’s mirrors were covered, so the entire time we never saw anything we did. There were no grades (in any class, for that matter) so you didn’t live in fear of “flunking” GSE. As a class, we even deemed Fridays “Fail Better Fridays,” where you purposefully mess up at least once to see what you learn from it because, to quote our instructor, “Failure is just information.”
Every day of class I also attended either a philosophy class, where we analyzed everything from Plato to Beyoncé, or an ethics class, where we were presented with various challenges to solve. In addition, there were also after-class electives. Electives were entirely optional, though most people went to at least one a day. These consisted of a little bit of everything such as US/Cuban relations, button making, album listening, open mic, poetry slams, “how to be a doctor,” cancer research, open gym, jazz jams, improv comedy, and book walks to name only a few. My personal favorite electives were the dance based electives. Though only a small number of attendees prided themselves on being a dancer, these events were so packed that people had to be turned away and even occasionally moved to a larger location than the dance studio. I took salsa classes, partner swing dancing, helped fellow dance students teach a jazz class, and of course took every ballet elective offered. In addition to the regularly scheduled events and electives, there were field trips to the art museum, a spirit week, and Hallympics, a competition between each hall in physical and mental activities. There were trips to coffee shops and birthday celebrations at the local restaurants. There were Saturday night dances, a masquerade, and a semi-formal ball. Everyone seemed so jubilant all the time. GSE was a life altering experience. The traditional classroom formalities were replaced with open discussion. Math students learned to salsa and dancers discussed the healthcare policies of our nation. I was taken out of my bubble of comfort and placed in an area where I knew no one. However, I made friends that I will keep forever, despite being nervous on the first day due to the fact that this was a foreign experience. I participated in academic classes and electives despite my main discipline being in a performing art. I didn’t spend my time afraid of others being better, or of failure. I simply embraced the experience of being uncomfortable.