Cornish College of the Arts Dance Department welcomed Alana Isiguen as our newest Assistant Professor in the Fall 2018 semester. She has trained, danced and taught in North Carolina, New York and California in techniques varying from ballet to somatics. Dance student Jessica Zynko spoke to Isiguen about her career and her plans for classes at Cornish.
We’ve all seen the little girl at a dance studio waiting with her mother to pick up her older sister. The one who is drawn to dance, peers in at the class and imitates the movements. This is how Alana Isiguen started dancing. Most of her elementary school years were spent focused on building her ballet foundation. She studied the Cecchetti Method, all the while taking jazz and tap classes, which she very much enjoyed because they allowed for more freedom than her ballet classes. Later she moved to North Carolina Dance Theatre where she continued working double duty for two years by way of the competition studio at which she was also enrolled. Eventually, she was devoted full time to an apprenticeship with NCDT. Competition dancing gave her a whole new perspective. Isiguen started working as part of a team and says she figured out that, “there is a performance quality that has to be on right away,” something that she has now extended to her teaching.
Cornish College of the Arts Dance Department welcomes Isiguen as our newest Assistant Professor in the Fall 2018 semester. She has trained, danced and taught in North Carolina, New York and California in techniques varying from ballet to somatics. Isiguen has now moved to the Pacific Northwest to begin a new chapter in her career.
Initially, Isiguen was sort of thrown into teaching. In her last few years of high school, she was burnt out and had had enough from the years of trying to make herself fit into the mold of a ballet dancer. She sought out private training from Rebecca Massey Wiley, founder of Piedmont School of Music and Dance, who guided her to figure out how to make the technique work for her body. One day Wiley was busy in the office and asked Isiguen to start one of her classes. Never having taught before, she was tentative, but it only took a short time before something clicked. Her teaching voice was the same voice in her head that guided her when she took class. Coming from such a strict background while continuing to learn new techniques in her adolescence gave her an edge as a teacher. She was able to identify exactly what her students’ needs were because she was still actively identifying her own needs.
Shortly after, while attending college at Tisch School of the Arts in New York City, she met Gerald Casel who introduced her to somatics. This was Isiguen’s first introduction to anatomical imagery and cueing, skills that she found greatly helpful when initially approaching modern technique. “To be able to think about modern and contemporary technique that way blew the hinges off the doors for me,” she says. She loves the overlaps you can find when incorporating anatomical and somatic concepts to her classes. “If a concept isn’t making sense at barre, you can lay down and try it on the floor. Then you can try it seated and eventually standing again,” Isiguen explains. She draws on these concepts in her own physical practice, whether technical or compositional, to feel good while dancing.
“I like to teach dancers what feels good to them,” Isiguen says of her choreography, “I want to see the human in the dancer. Where does your weight fall after the step? Where does your body want to go?” She looks at the flow of everything. An improvisational task based on one of the choreographed phrases may evolve to a geometric pattern in space. Each step comes from a place of physicality and abstract movement. Isiguen tests her dancers. She wants them to push their physical stamina and challenge them to feel out of breath, really moving and filling the space. Most of all she wants her dancers to be open.
Isiguen is thrilled to be relocating to Seattle, WA from Seal Beach, CA to work for Cornish, a school whose energy is so positive and direction so focused and honed in. She has long wanted to be involved with a place where she is part of the development in giving its students a realistic and employable skill set. It is the authenticity of Cornish that drew her here and she is still pinching herself. “I’m incredibly grateful to be given the opportunity to do this,” she told me. Working for a school that she really respects and that she herself would want to attend has been a long-time dream of hers. Fortunately for the students and faculty of Cornish, Isiguen will have reached this milestone in Fall of 2018 as she joins the Dance Department.