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American Dance Festival and Bard College Combine Educational Missions to Launch New Partnership

Nia Love, photo: Grant Halverson

Teaching artists are Quilan “Cue” Arnold, Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie, Beth Gill, and Nia Love.

The Bard College Dance Program and the American Dance Festival have begun a new partnership that seeks to challenge the way dance is taught in higher education. Uniting critical inquiry and professional practice, the new program contextualizes students’ training with an annual focus on a pressing contemporary topic.

The partnership’s first year examines how two influential roots of modern dance—the African diaspora and Western European dance traditions—operate within contemporary practice and in particular how the education of dancers at American colleges and universities can be reimagined.

Leah Cox, dean of the American Dance Festival and Term Associate Professor of Dance at Bard, leads the partnership. Cox selected ADF faculty that seek to decolonize their classrooms by challenging the way that dance is traditionally taught. Each ADF faculty member represents a unique area of expertise and presents students with ways to overcome divisions within the dance field or between the field and the world at large.

“One of the most pressing issues we are dealing with as educators is the way that whiteness has structured the academy,” stated Leah Cox, who was a longtime member of the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Company. “In dance, the influence of whiteness appears in content, pedagogy, and the way we create and organize courses. Western European–based forms are usually prioritized as foundational, and the way courses are structured—separating technique, composition, and improvisation, for instance—reflects a Western understanding of dance. The Bard-ADF partnership courses challenge these norms.”
Leah Cox Quote

This new partnership builds on the Bard Dance Program’s two previous professional partnerships, which began with the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Company (2009–15), then followed with the Trisha Brown Dance Company (2015–18). Maria Simpson, Bard College Dance Program director, states, “The Program was keen to pursue the next professional partnership with an entity that not only cultivates multiple artistic voices but also prioritizes the contemporary education of the dancer—an education that cannot lean exclusively in a Eurocentric direction.”

In the last five years, Bard’s Dance Program has expanded its curriculum to offer dance forms such as Palestininan Dabkeh and Contemporary West African Dance. The ADF partnership continues to build on Bard’s efforts to diversify the curriculum by creating courses that put different dance forms in conversation with one another. Working together, Cox and ADF faculty members designed partnership courses to provoke critical reflection among students through innovative pedagogy and collaborative teaching. Partnership activities in 2018–19 include:
  • In the fall, choreographer and performer Nia Love cotaught two levels of contemporary movement practice with Cox exploring alignments with African diasporic and Western European dance forms.
  • This spring hip-hop artist Quilan “Cue” Arnold teaches a movement course investigating the practical and pedagogical through-lines and differences between hip-hop and postmodern dance forms. Arnold also teaches a seminar in American popular dance and culture studies.
  • “Bessie” Award–winning choreographer Beth Gill will engage students in physical research toward the development of her next creative project. Gill’s repertory class will ask students to examine how they currently locate an idea of themselves within various frameworks of politics, culture, psychology, family, race, gender, and sexuality. The class will culminate in an informal performance on May 15.
  • B-girl, choreographer, and performer Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie will be the partnership artist in residence. Asherie will develop a new solo, work with students, and present her latest work, Odeon, at Bard’s Fisher Center on April 13 and 14, 2019.
Beth Gill Quote

“I’m thrilled to be working at Bard again,” stated Beth Gill, an ADF faculty member. “My past experience with Bard students was rich and inspiring and led to a whole new phase of working inside of my creative process.”

The partnership reflects the vision of the ADF School, which is known for its Summer Dance Intensive, Pre-Professional Dance Intensive, and Dance Professionals Workshop. “The School must be responsive and adaptable,” Cox said. “Today’s dance artists want their dance practice to reflect their identities and causes, and they want to challenge binaries that isolate us from each other.”

The ADF family of artists and faculty has grown to include newer members who engage these contemporary concerns, such as E. Moncell Durden, Gesel Mason, Michelle Gibson, and Abby Zbikowski, in addition to legends in the field like “Baba Chuck” Davis, Gerri Houlihan, Dianne MacIntyre, and Donald McKayle. The School has extended its curriculum to offer a weekly meeting group to discuss race, as well as regular discussions and reading groups on gender, sexuality, and social justice in the arts. In conjunction with its unwavering emphasis on professional training and contact with an international roster of companies and choreographers, these new offerings continue to make ADF an essential destination for dance artists worldwide.

More about the American Dance Festival

More about the Bard College Dance Program
Post Date: 02-04-2019