JU Alumna Dances Her Way Home


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Photo By: Jon Martel

The Jacksonville University Department of Dance was given a week long taste of what it’s like to work for a dance company from one of the dance world’s hotspots, New York.

The renowned company, “Jennifer Muller/The Works,” ventured into the halls of JU from Apr. 8 to the 12 for a workshop with the entire department, teaching classes, answering questions, and working on a repertoire piece that was performed in an exclusive company show that Friday.

“It’s really exciting because the JU dance program is really cutting edge,” said Lana Heylock, assistant professor of dance. “We try hard to give our dancers a real world dance experience by bringing in some of the best companies from around the country.”

This week comes full circle for Heylock because she danced for the artistic director and founder of Jennifer Muller/The Works, Jennifer Muller.

“Dancing for her was a life changing experience,” Heylock said. “I grew professionally as an artist and as a woman and I am so thankful for that experience.”

Muller has impacted the dance world for more than 40 years, according to her company’s website. She has been dancing professionally since the age of 15. She was the principle dancer with the Jose, Limon Company for nine years, during which she received her degree from the Julliard School.

She is also one of the only choreographers of her time to invent her own style based upon Eastern principles known as Muller Polarity Technique, according to her company’s website.

She founded her company in 1974 and has been to JU two times before this trip.

“I’m delighted to be back,” Muller said. “It’s like coming home for me because the dancers are trained so well and work so well in my company’s style.”

While here she will be teaching an excerpt of a piece she entitled “Island.” The piece is based off of photography from Roberto Dutesco that depicts horses. However, the horses are not ordinary because they have been stuck on an island from shipwrecks.

“There’s no human intervention on this island so Dutesco had to sneak on and he took these phenomenal pictures of these wild horses,” Muller said. “I was so inspired to do a piece on this because here are the horses who are so wild and untamed, and yet, at the same time they are stuck on this island.”

In a special concert performed on Friday, Muller’s company performed several excerpts from “Island.”

While the JU department of dance was graced by the presence of a world-renowned choreographer, it was also graced by the presence of a familiar face, JU class of 2011 alumna Olivia Jordan.

Jordan, who danced for Heylock at JU and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in dance and dance education, is currently a member of Muller’s dance company.

“JU really helped me discover who I am as a dancer and a professional,” Jordan said. “A huge reason I chose it was because of the personal relationships I could have with my professors. This school helped me discover what I wanted to.”

She says that these relationships that she has established with her professors still continue. She says it makes her happy because she knows she can call them at any time for anything that is on her mind.

“I am so proud of her and the changes I have seen in her as a professional student. There is a new maturity to her as a being and a dancer,” Heylock said. “There is a groundedness and an awareness of who she is and what she has to offer. It is beautiful.”

Jordan moved to New York a week after graduating from JU where she dances five days a week and performs in shows with Jennifer Muller/The Works when in season. She said she had been to New York every year during high school to work on her craft, but visiting and living are not the same thing.

“It’s tiring but you get used to it,” Jordan said. “I’m going on my second year now so I have my schedule down. It’s definitely worth it because I’m living my dream job every day.”

Jordan calls Jacksonville home and says that she was excited when she heard her company was coming here.

“You don’t always get the chance to go to your home with companies so it’s special to me,” Jordan said. “I’m a homebody and my family lives here so it’s nice that they could come and see me dance.”

Jordan has a season coming up with Muller’s company in which they will be performing on consecutive nights. She also is working with her fellow dancers on a new Muller piece called “Grass” based on a poem by Walt Whitman.

The JU department of dance continues its 2013 concert series Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of this week in the Swisher Theater.

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