College Dance, Spring 2015

Centary College, Hackettstown, New Jersey, April 1

Ursinus College, Collegeville, Pennslyvania, April 23

Hunter College, New York City, May 1

A Review

This spring I have seen three college dance concerts and have these observations.

Excerpt from the play A Thousand Cranes
choreographed by Lea Antolini ~ Photo: Pat Lanciano

Centenary College

This program was choreographed primarily by the students, with the students, for the students. Cente­nary has no dance major and so has no guiding aes­thetic of its own. The audience was treated to toe, tap, and acrobatic dance going from one aesthetic and technical genre to the next. It was a long pro­gram well danced with great enthusiasm. They per­formed a reconstructed group work of mine (Shapes and Shad­ows), which swelled from six dancers to eighteen because the whole class wanted to partici­pate. I watched the augmentation happen. Under the guidance of Lea Antolini, they added shapes drawn from familiar postures (such as yoga’s “downward dog”) rather than from the motion source itself, but this served the work well. And both performers and audience had a good time.

Earthbound Flight choreographed by Karen Clemente
Photo: Matthew Wright/Fig Tree Photography
Ursinus College

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.

Hollow, choreographed and designed by Gerald Otte
Photo: Sabrina Polanco-Ferreyra
Hunter College

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 Hunter’s 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