Academic Spotlight
Faculty Research, Performance and Exhibitions

Festival Applauds Four Decades of Dance at Bowdoin

Story posted March 30, 2011

2002 dance duet
Jillian Grunnah '06 and Tauwan Patterson '06 perform in the December 2005 Dance Concert.

Students performing in the much-anticipated Spring Dance Concert are in exceptionally good company this year. Their eclectic April 14-16, 2011, performance caps a weeklong celebration of 40 years of dance at Bowdoin.

dance40@bowdoin features performances by two prominent American dance companies -- Troika Ranch and Larry Keigwin + Company -- as well as talks, films, and master classes showcasing the vitality and diversity of dance developed at Bowdoin over four decades. [See full schedule of events.]

Equinox dance 1982
Joan Addington '82, Lee Ann Evans '82, Trish Bauman '84, Betsy Johnson '85 and Sue Stover '83 perform Equinox, choreographed by Professor June Vail for the 1982 Spring Dance Concert.

"Bowdoin dance has always been a place where people of diverse backgrounds could celebrate their own forms of identity and also explore new ways of moving and performing," says Bowdoin dance founder June Vail -- who currently is teaching her final semester of dance at the College. "It creates an environment for people who might not otherwise meet to make and perform dances together."

Vail founded the dance program with a single course in 1971. Since then, it has merged with theater and become a full-fledged minor that is taught by a team of innovative choreographers. Studio courses, which are mostly modern, are complemented by courses in theory, criticism, and history that connect dance deeply to other disciplines.

Dance group Anokha
Ponnila Samuel '07 leads the Anokha dance group in a 2006 performance.

Larry Keigwin + Company kick off the dance40@bowdoin festival with a public performance of "Elements" at Pickard Theater on Saturday, April 9. The witty choreography plays off the four elements -- water, earth, air and fire -- combining inventive theatricality with acrobatic physicality. The New York-based company has performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Joyce Theater and American Dance Festival.

Bowdoin's newest choreographer/professor, Charlotte Griffin, follows with a showing of short dance films in Smith Auditorium, April 10. "When you combine dance composition with film production, you have multiple tiers of possibilities -- dancing cameras, dancing bodies, dancing images," says Griffin, who has produced two short dance films of her own work.

"I'm interested in how we can bring dance into our very screen-based culture as a very modern art. How can dance have a presence on all these devices we carry around with us every day?"

Benedicta Doe '05 performs Small Geometries , choreographed by Paul Sarvis for the December 2002 Dance Concert.

Troika Ranch, explores the ins and outs of screen-based existence with performances of their multimedia work "loopdiver," April 13-14 in Wish Theater. Dancers interact with a series of hanging screens that project imagery and spin. Their repetitive movements sometimes mirror the strained physical constrictions of people viewing screens, other times they evoke the cycling syntax of data queries. The work was described by The Chicago Tribune as "a battle between mechanistic predetermination and living human will."

It isn't just Bowdoin's dance program being celebrated in April. Forty years of dancers will be returning to campus to participate in a weekend of alumni events April 15-16, which includes an alumni master class and showcase.

A highlight of the weekend is an April 16 public discussion on the state of dance hosted by Vail and Claudia La Rocco '00, who is a frequent arts writer and dance critic for The New York Times. The discussion will focus on dance's changing choreographies, ideologies, aesthetic goals and social implications over the past forty years.

While dance40@bowdoin also marks the end of Vail's stewardship of dance at Bowdoin, she says: "It's less bittersweet than it is very satisfying. It feels very nice to have a sort of capstone event like this. I feel a great connection to my colleagues, students past and present, and to the program. I know dance will continue to thrive and evolve at Bowdoin."

john-humphreys dancing
John Humphreys '75 performs Children's Song in the 1975 Spring Dance Concert.

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