Guest choreographer teaches new style to dance students


Renata Shen

Students in Christien Polos’s Intermediate Dance class perform at Progressions.

Renata Shen, Staff Writer

A group of girls dance on the auditorium stage, emotion written into their every move and facial expression. Soft music plays in the background, as the dancers move about, seeking an answer to an age-old question: what does it mean to beautiful?

Last year, choreographer Christien Polos asked guest choreographer Meghan McCaffrey to create a piece for one of his dance classes. “Eye of the Beholder,” choreographed by McCaffrey and performed by his intermediate dance students at Progressions, is the product of their collaboration. While learning a piece with McCaffrey, Polos’s students learned a new style of performance and gained insight into the life of a professional dancer, choreographer and teacher.

McCaffrey’s professional career began in Boston, where she started dance at the age of two. Through high school, she studied dance at Boston Arts Academy, a public high school in Boston with a focus on the arts.

“I grew up here and then my adult career basically was in Boston. I founded my company when I was just 21, 22 and kind of just went head on into the community,” McCaffrey said.

Polos observed McCaffrey choreograph “Eye of the Beholder” in a distinctly modern style.

“It more of an emotional dance, it’s not ballet at all,” Polos said. “It’s curved body work, it’s floor work, it’s a little bit of partnering work.”

For the dance, McCaffrey drew inspiration from her and her peers’ struggle with self-confidence as women in the twenty-first century.

“What we came to was that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and sometimes we’re not always as confident because of social media, or family, or friends, that bring us down or not make us feel good about ourselves,”  McCaffrey said. “Beauty doesn’t actually have anything to do with what influences us.”

Intermediate dance student and sophomore Wish Pandey expressed that the dance has elements that are feminine and powerful.

“It’s very airy and soft, but also has strong elements to it; it has a girls empowerment type of message,” Pandey said.

Exploring the topics of female beauty and self-confidence was an entirely new experience for his class. Polos strongly believes in the value of bringing in a guest choreographer, particularly because it expands his students’ view of dance.

Choreography isn’t steps, choreography is structure,” Polos said. You have building blocks and you put them together in a certain way. They’re learning so much from Meghan that they wouldn’t learn from me. She’s a woman, it’s a whole-women class; it’s a different movement quality.”

According to Pandey, McCaffrey’s professional experience in dance makes her an interesting choreographer for their class.

“It’s so cool, because you know that she really works in the industry right now and is actively making her own pieces, and we get to experience a part of that, which is great,” Pandey said.

In future years, Polos would like to continue to introduce aspects of the Boston dance community to his dance classes. Pandey agrees with this sentiment and thinks that bringing in guest choreographers can support the dance program in the future.

“I think that the whole dance program should have more guest artists like this, because I think it’s a great opportunity to kind of branch out and see different styles,” Pandey said.

For McCaffrey, her favorite part of the choreographing experience was working with the girls in the class. As unique individuals, they all contributed different themes and ideas for her piece.

“I only really had 40 minutes every other day for a few weeks, but I feel like I made relationships with these girls and now I’m like, ‘I don’t want to leave,’” McCaffrey said.

McCaffrey hopes that this experience serves as a reminder to the girls and to their audience of the power of dance.

“Dance, in general, is an amazing outlet for emotion, stress relief, things that just keep you going like anytime,” McCaffrey said. “Dance has always been my everything and I think everybody should dance.”