College Dance, Spring 2015
Centary College, Hackettstown, New Jersey, April 1
This spring I have seen three college dance concerts and have these observations.
This program was obviously choreographed with the guidance of a faculty member, Karen Clemente. It was decently choreographed, danced, and produced. But it confused me a bit at first as it was unexpectedly centered on both protest and black culture. As I commented during audience feedback, both Anna Sokolow and Alvin Ailey would have been most pleased with the program. I found out afterward the theme was a product of the proscribed campus-wide investigation into discrimination and protest. Every teacher had been conducting an ongoing seminar on this subject. So what I saw was the product of social issues and was not generated by aesthetic vision.
This progam confounded me. The steps were seemingly and persistently drawn, almost without exception, from street dance. I really don’t recall a quiet moment. Stops, yes, but nothing calm, totally sustained. Some of the works were interestingly constructed, but the motion itself was never a unique vision. The Danny Kaye, which is Hunters own theater, is a fully equipped house. The final work (the only piece constructed by a faculty member, Gerald Otte) took full advantage of this with spectacular, well-conceived comings and goings of drops and legs, and with interesting changes in light and color.
So where does this leave dance in academia? At Centenary and Hunter dance seems to come from from the students’ past dance instruction so that they have reconstrcted known motion. In them is it hard to find a fresh view. In the Ursinus concert dance was initiated by the college-wide social investigation, which dictated the aesthetic. I would like to see more dance created from a sensed perception of the stuff of our world.
Ruth Grauert, May 11, 2015