Class Act: HBO's documentary series, "Masterclass"

June 3, 2010

If you haven’t been watching the HBO documentary series “Masterclass,” now’s the time to tune in. In each episode, a veteran artist mentors a small group of YoungArts winners, and on Sunday, June 13, that veteran is legendary modern choreographer Bill T. Jones (who’s nominated for a Tony Award this year for his Fela! choreograpy). Jones worked with a handful of budding artists, including Olivia Rehrman, a 2009 YoungArts winner in jazz dance. Nineteen-year-old Olivia is
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now a dance major at the University of Arizona and took time between classes to tell DS about her “Masterclass” experience. 

Dance Spirit
: How did the producers decide who was going to participate in the series?

Olivia Rehrman:
Bill T. Jones watched videos from the YoungArts performance week in Miami, FL, and he hand-selected us. The fact that he saw something special about me–out of all of the amazing dancers that were there–is surreal.

: Where did the master class take place?

We were in NYC at Judson Memorial Church. We worked with Bill for five days, 6 to 8 hours a day. He was very intense. We didn’t take many breaks. I’d never really worked like that. It taught me how to push myself.

: What was the process like?

: Bill is known for putting together pieces with dance, acting and monologues, so he was there to mentor a group of us while we created a piece along those lines. He also had us do a lot of improv. It was cool to see how our improv turned into choreography.

: What was the best part of the experience?

The final performance. Having worked on something so hard and then having an end product was cool. It felt like we really accomplished something together.

: What did you learn from the experience?

Now I think about how I can make my movement bigger or more subtle to make it more interesting. I’m really aware of what the movement looks like to others instead of how it feels to me. Through Bill pushing me, I came to that on my own.

To see the piece Olivia’s master class created with Bill T. Jones, t
une in to HBO at 6:30 pm (EST) on Sunday, June 13. 

Photo of Olivia and Bill T. Jones courtesy HBO.