Making Gators Dance – Part 1

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Jeremy Miranda Photo: Jeremy Miranda
Jeremy Miranda
Photo: Jeremy Miranda

As a former USA Gymnastics JO Level 10 co-National Floor Exercise Champion in 2005 and a summa cum laude graduate with a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance performance from the University of Florida (2010), Jeremy Miranda seemed to prepare himself for a life of choreography in women’s gymnastics.

As the choreographer for the 3 time NCAA National Gymnastics Champions, the Florida Gators, Jeremy has made his mark as an elite choreographer for some of the countries top college gymnasts.

Since starting to work with the UF Gators in 2007, Jeremy’s choreography on floor has helped individual Gators achieve 1st Team All-American status 15 times, over 85 of his floor routines have scored 9.90 or higher, and 5 of his floor routines have earned the honor of being awarded a 10.0.

Gym Blog Central had the honor of talking with Jeremy about his training and professional career in dance and gymnastics.

Q: Did your participation in gymnastics lead you into dance?  If not, how did you get involved in dance?

A: Gymnastics was certainly the first and foremost in my mind growing up. I really had no interest in dance or any concrete understanding of what dance was…let alone the fact that I could be good at it!  My gym frequently had choreographers come in and work with our female athletes. More often than not, I would watch these interactions with the choreographer and athlete and somehow had a knack for remembering their routines better than the gymnasts themselves.

Once the choreographer would leave, often times I would be the one to go over and help refresh the athlete’s memory about what the choreographer had choreographed.  Eventually that led to me choreographing club routines and that’s when my passion for dance ignited.

Jeremy Miranda during one of his many dance performances. Photo: Jeremy Miranda
Jeremy Miranda during one of his many dance performances.
Photo: Jeremy Miranda

Q: Did you find that dance helped or hindered your gymnastics?

A: Since I never had any formal dance training while I was a gymnast, I do think that just my natural understanding of movement greatly helped my performance as a gymnastically.  I was a vault and floor specialist, as my gyms didn’t offer the other men’s apparatus, and therefore I was able to pay particular attention to these two events and fine tune details that most male gymnasts would not focus on.  Pointed feet, full knee extension, rhythmic contrast and timing.

All of these elements were innate in me and esthetically logical in my mind and body, even without proper training.

Q: What made you choose the University of Florida and how did you first get involved with the UF Women’s Gymnastics Team?

A: The only reason the University of Florida came into the picture was because of Adrian Burde’s departure (from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln) to join the coaching staff at Florida in 2007.

He strongly encouraged me to meet with Rhonda, as he felt they needed a choreographer to help take the program to the next level.  After meeting with her, I decided not to enroll for my fifth semester at Nebraska and instead relocate to Gainesville to work with the Gators and become the volunteer coach and choreographer.

Only after I had started to work with the team did I…try to enroll in the University of Florida to continue my education.  I looked very seriously at their exercise science program but was also very intrigued with their School of Theatre and Dance. After having met with the School of Theatre and Dance faculty, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to begin a new chapter and start focusing educationally on my passion for dance and choreography.

All the while, I was working with the University of Florida women’s gymnastics team in the afternoons and evenings.  It was thrilling to be able to implement what I was learning in the classroom to how I was presenting information and offering up new suggestions choreographically to the athletes.  Rhonda Faehn, Adrian Burde and Robert Ladanyi were also huge mentors to me and really trusted me and gave me license to explore and expand my creativity.

Q: When creating a floor routine for a gymnast, how do you choose the type of music and dance style for them?

Jeremy Miranda with Rhonda Faehn while coach the UF team. Photo: Jeremy Miranda
Jeremy Miranda with Rhonda Faehn while coach the UF team.
Photo: Jeremy Miranda

A: Music selection, for me, begins with the athlete.

I open up dialogue during the summer months and ask them what direction they would like to take with their floor routines for the following season.  I give them the opportunity to come up with and generate ideas and if they feel like they aren’t sure what direction they would like to go in, I certainly offer up my input as well.  I also sit down with the coaching staff and feel out what their thoughts are in terms of what direction each athlete should take in order to maximize their strengths and abilities through a carefully selected music genre.

Once a general direction is decided upon among myself, the athlete, and the coaching staff, the hunt begins to find an appropriate music selection choice.  Although I certainly have my opinions and so does the coaching staff, I ultimately feel the athlete’s opinion is of utmost importance in determining what direction the routine should go. If the athlete is happy and excited to perform to the music selected, I know that no matter what is generated choreographically, there will be a better chance of success because the music makes the athlete feel something that they want to express and perform.

I am thankful that I have the ability to be able to cut, edit and alter the music selections personally as I feel that greatly affects the overall product.  I am able to structure the music selection very specifically and thoughtfully in a way that not only showcases the athlete and what story they are trying to tell, but also in a musical framework that supports a gymnastics routine.

Q: How involved is the gymnast in the creation of the floor routine?

A: Once the music selection is finalized and everyone is happy, the choreography process is very collaborative. I never come into a choreography session with a preconceived notion of what I want the athlete to do.  I know that ultimately the routine must look good on the athlete’s body and not in a vocabulary that feels right on my own body.  I also greatly encourage the athlete to have input on how things feel, what logical side to do different movements on and offer up the opportunity to incorporate previous tricks or dance movement that has worked well for them in the past.

This open book collaboration ultimately results in a product that not only provides the athlete with more ownership of their floor routine, but also maximizes the potential of ability that would otherwise not be achieved through a preconceived, choreographed routine that was just taught to the athlete without their input.

The second part of the article can be found here.

Source: floridagators.com, jeremyjamesmiranda.com

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