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Dance at Lewis Center

Sarah Fingerhood '11 in "City of Rain"
Choreography by Camille A. Brown
Photo Credit: Bentley Drezner

The Program in Dance is committed to providing all students an opportunity to deeply investigate dance at the kinetic, creative, and cognitive levels. At the core of the program is the belief that physical and intellectual engagement with dance disciplines and choreographic processes fosters an integration of mind and body that allows for a greater understanding of and connection to our own selves and, by extension, to our community. To that end, we aim to increase and expand the University community's exposure to and appreciation of dance through practice, performance, and critical academic discourse.

The Program in Dance at the Lewis Center for the Arts familiarizes students with creative, performative, and analytical approaches to dance through exposure to professional choreographers, dancers, critics, and scholars. While pursuing a liberal arts education, students have the opportunity to undertake demanding, studio-based courses in dance with first-class dance professionals. The program provides advanced courses for the pre-professional dancer in addition to creating opportunities for students who have never danced. The creation of original work, both choreographic and written, is emphasized alongside rigorous technical training. The program supports multiple performance opportunities each year, ranging from full professional productions in the Berlind Theatre with choreography by faculty, guests, and students, to site-specific interdisciplinary thesis projects and independent experimental work. Students with a special, perhaps even a career interest in dance, can choose to earn a certificate in Dance.

The curricular wing of the program offers courses in four areas. Seven levels of studio based courses that integrate contemporary techniques with repertory and choreography start at beginner level and proceed to production of pre-professional work, allowing students growth and advancement. Students can delve deeper into specific areas of interest in separate studio courses focused on ballet, African dance, and through special topics in contemporary practice that expose new approaches to dancing and dance-making. Seminars courses change yearly and cover dance history, theory, analysis and criticism. The program also provides special interdepartmental performance collaborations as well as yearly interdisciplinary opportunities with the Princeton Atelier program. In each course, original work is balanced alongside the deep investigation of studio material. Some recent examples of courses are Approaches to Ballet: Petipa to Wheldon, guest taught by Suki Schorer, Susan Jaffe, and Jeffrey Edwards; The American Dance Experience and Africanist Dance Practices; Special Topics in Dance History, Criticism, and Aesthetics: Music Collaborations in the 20th Century; and dance repertory workshops featuring the work of distinguished contemporary choreographers.

Students in rehearsal for the
2010 Spring Dance Festival
Photo by Bentley Drezner

A daily, free intermediate/advanced ballet class and regular morning modern classes with distinguished instructors from Princeton Ballet School including Mary Barton, former dancer with the Joffrey Ballet, and Tina Fehlandt, a founding member of Mark Morris Dance Group, add to the many ways in which the Program in Dance reaches students. These co-curricular classes allow students to continue intensive technical training in the ballet and modern idioms outside of for-credit courses.

In order to further expose Princeton’s dance community to new and different choreographic voices, each year, the Program in Dance brings nationally and internationally lauded, guest artists to the campus to stage work for the annual Spring Dance Festival. These auditions are open to anyone on campus. The program also provides master classes. Recent guest choreographers and master classes include: Susan Jaffe, Jeffrey Edwards, Suki Shorer, Bebe Neuwirth, Camille A. Brown, Reggie Wilson, Jill Johnson, Deganit Shemy, and K.J. Holmes.

Program courses are open to all undergraduates. Past experience in dance is not a requirement for admission to introductory courses, whereas the program’s intermediate and advanced classes demand a high level of technical sophistication. These advanced courses, alongside co-curricular opportunities, provide the opportunity for a serious student to, upon graduation, be prepared for advanced study or professional work in the field.

A certificate program for dedicated dancers provides the opportunity to do advanced creative work under the mentoring of faculty. Past independent projects have included performances in the Berlind Theater, site specific productions and video installations. Often senior certificate dancers choose dance as the topic of their departmental thesis. For example: an anthropology major wrote on Sri Lakan dance, a comparative literature major explored links between poetic and dance theories, other students have looked at dance from the viewpoint of computer science, mathematics, neuroscience and music.

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