Eyes squinted, head cocked to the side, fingers pressed over his mouth, dance professor Nathan Andary sighs while watching his students perform the choreography they have created with careful intensity, occasionally uttering an “oh wow” or “beautiful” under his breath.
“Do it one more time, and really perform it. Don’t drop out,” Andary says as he coaches a freshman dance major through her choreography sequence. Andary tells the students what to think about to enliven their performance, whether it is a specific quality of movement or how their breathing affects a particular movement or shape.
Andary became a fulltime faculty member of the Dance Division at Ohio University at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year after spending two years as a visiting professor. He teaches a variety of classes in the Dance Division from Composition to Laban Movement Analysis to Senior Seminar. Each class requires a different approach but one thing stays the same: Andary’s commitment to himself, his students and the field of dance as a whole.
Andary started out as a “little bumpkin from Kentucky” pursuing a dance degree at Ohio University just as his students are now. After graduation he moved to New York in search of professional dance opportunities. He encourages his students now to explore career opportunities and internships to expose themselves to new opportunities in the field.
“I was so afraid of going to NYC because there’s so many people, and I thought ‘Will I measure up?’” Andary says. “But I did, and I do and you will.”
Andary later started his own dance company called Andary Dance, originally based in Providence, Rhode Island. He then moved the company to Boston in search of more competition among dance artists and a different aesthetic.
“Providence is a beach community and when you live at the beach, everything is chill. Life is a beach,” Andary says relaxing into his chair, reflecting the atmosphere of the beach with his body.
Even after moving the company, Andary was still experiencing a lack of creativity and passion for his work.
“I wasn’t feeling like I was being fed artistically. I was really at a crossroads, so I quit my job and joined the Laban program.”
Laban Movement Analysis is a way of analyzing and describing specific body movements created by dancer and theorist, Rudolf Laban. Laban also created Labanotation, which is a language that describes specific movements so they can be written down and recreated.
“Among its many contributions to the study of dance and movement, Laban Studies provides a language on which to build movement observation and description skills for performance coaching, teaching in dance, sports and other movement, and use as a creative tool,” says Madeleine Scott, director of the School of Dance, Film and Theater. “Its reach extends beyond dance to theater, sports, and rehabilitative applications to training.”
Andary is currently the only faculty member teaching the Laban Movement Analysis course.
Becoming a Certified Movement Analyst (CMA) gave Andary new perspectives and allowed him to get his creative juices flowing again.
“It opened up so many new worlds of thoughts and perspective for me and so many deep meaningful connections in the body and the work that I had already been doing. It justified what I had been doing internally and intrinsically,” Andary says.
Laban is a growing field of study in dance and is becoming more and more popular in college-level dance programs.
“Give me more twist through the torso,” Andary says as he demonstrates a shape from a student’s choreography sequence, using Laban language to get the students to understand the spiraling concept he is working on with them. The student mimics Andary, trying to recreate the movement in her own body.
“It really makes a difference, it’s more than just a shape.”
Although Andary no longer maintains his own company, he still continues to create and perform professionally in what he calls “Nathan’s Projects.” Over the summer he worked with sophomore dance major Holly Goldberg in two performances in Massachusetts.
“Working for him gave me the experience of what it is like to work as a professional,” Goldberg says.
Andary has also been working with Class of 2014 alumna Tori Casagranda since she graduated in May. Casagranda and Andary are working on a solo that will be performed during Andary’s piece for the annual Winter Dance Concert in February.
“Because of Nathans help, I have been able to deeply embody the material in a way that I never have before,” Casagranda says. “It has been a rewarding experience that I am very grateful for.”
Goldberg also says that Andary has the ability to see something that no one else does and brings new perspectives into his work.
“He is always generous with himself and his time for his students or for his dancers,” Casagranda says.
Andary’s generosity extends beyond the students he teaches in the Dance Division to the residents in the residence hall where he lives in as a part of the Faculty in Residence Program. Andary lives in the Reed-Johnson complex but he also works with the residents in Lincoln Hall.
“Providing curricular opportunities in the residence hall or in the residential area breaks down not only the division of faculty and student and makes it more accessible, but allows for the learning to happen anywhere. It doesn’t just have to happen over there on that side of campus or in that building or in that classroom. Living and learning partner with each other. They are not separate,” Andary says about the FIR program.
In his three years in the FIR program he has provided opportunities for students integrate the principles of dance into the everyday student life with meditation sessions, dorm room workouts, and weekly bike rides.
At the end of class the freshmen gather around Andary for some last-minute notes.
“I’m so happy with you all,” Andary says, his face glowing with pride.
Andary is a part of the students growth from the time they are freshmen, just beginning their journey as collegiate dancers, to the time that they are seniors about to enter the professional world. His desire for them to succeed constantly pushes him to become a better teacher, mentor and dancer.
“I think it’s obvious that there is a level of passion and a level of commitment and a deep-seeded need for excellence that comes out of what I have been saying,” Andary says.
Looking around the room, making eye contact with each student, he smiles warmly at each.
“I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing and I wouldn’t be so in love with you all if I didn’t. You will make it, I know.”