By Katherine LeClair
Dancer and choreographer Annie Corley (C’20) first graced Sewanee’s stage at age four at the Sewanee Dance Conservatory. Her mother, a dance major from The University of Texas at Austin, became her first ballet instructor and instilled Corley’s love for dance.
After moving to Dallas and taking a two-year hiatus from dancing, Corley resumed her ballet training at the Dallas Ballet Center. There, she regularly performed in the company’s repertoire, The Nutcracker, and other full-length ballets.
During her junior year of high school, Corley toured in Austria alongside two other pre-professional companies, where she became fully immersed in the ballet world. Additionally, Corley and her fellow dancers were featured at Regional Dance America, a dance festival that provides scholarships for pre-professional students and awards young choreographers.
“I had the opportunity to submit choreography for RDA,” she said while reflecting on this experience, “but I never did.”
Corley notes that her interest in choreography began when she was young; however, she was hesitant to fully explore it. In her interview with The Purple, she described becoming attached to certain songs and seeing movements play out in her head, matching the accents in the music.
Sewanee’s Perpetual Motion program gave Corley her first opportunity to choreograph. During her sophomore year, she constructed a piece to Maggie Rogers’s song “Alaska.” This dance was influenced by both ballet and contemporary movements and resulted in an elegant pairing of the two styles.
On her piece for Perpetual Motion this year, she remarked, “I want it to be something really goofy. Chaotic fun.” Additionally, she wants to make this piece a collaborative effort between her and her dancers in order to incorporate their creativity as well.
“What I like most about choreography is, it’s like a big puzzle, and you really have to untangle all of the sounds and weave your movements into them,” said Corley. “Sometimes I just want to bang my head against the wall because I’m getting a choreographer block, but it always works out in the end.”
When asked about her preferred style to choreograph, Corley remarked that she’s exploring a “much more grounded, earthy music style,” and tends to gravitate towards modern movements.
In regards to her ballet roots, she said, “I’ve been essentially trapped in the ballet world for 18 years, and now that I’m finally starting to take more modern and contemporary, I’m realizing that the movements fit my body so much better than ballet.”
She continued, “You don’t want to say that it’s true, but [ballet] caters towards a certain body type, and there’s a lot of challenges that you have to work around if you don’t have specific lines that they’re looking for.”
Though Corley was “burnt out on ballet” when she arrived at Sewanee, she emphasized how much she still appreciates the art form, and she has since taken a handful of ballet classes from Assistant Professor of Dance Courtney World. “It’s good to get my body back into ballet,” she said.
“But some of my favorite moments in the dance world have been watching other people dance…. and see that the dancers are really having a good time and experiencing different dance styles that I know I could never really, fully do,” she added.
When asked if she plans to dance after college, Corley simply commented: “Wherever the wind takes me.”
In addition to performing in Perpetual Motion’s 2019 show, Corley will be featured in DanceWise: Body and Soul, which will run from January 25-27 in the Tennessee Williams Center.