Sept. 3, 2008

Dance reunion includes improv jams and yoga

While most Cornellians on campus were seeing new faces this Labor Day weekend, Cornell dance alumni were hugging old friends at the Cornell Dance Program's second All-Years Dance Reunion, Aug. 29-31, which kicked off the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts' 20th season.

Most Cornell reunions include such fare as visits to Collegetown and tent parties, but the Dance Program's reunion offered early morning yoga, dance improvisation jams, technique classes, seminars, a film screening of dance concert excerpts, and a nostalgic walk to Helen Newman Hall, where dance studios were located before the Schwartz Center opened in 1988.

More than 40 dance alumni from as far back as the Class of 1950 and about a dozen undergraduates attended, sharing ideas and techniques -- as well as stories and family photos.

"It is a deep, deep delight to return to Cornell and feel like a part of this community again," said Jane Desmond, a member of the Cornell faculty from 1975 to 1980 and now an associate professor of American studies at the University of Iowa. "My time here was a terrifically formative period for me, one of great passion as an artist."

Part of the trip to North Campus included a visit to Appel Commons -- a location unfamiliar to most of the attending alumni.

"I felt like a freshman again! I was so disoriented, and it was so crowded," said Rachel Boggia '00, who had majored in biology as an undergraduate.

Indeed, not all participants graduated with degrees in dance, but all had developed a close connection with the dance program and the people in it. "Of all the activities in college, I was most connected to dance, and the people I danced with were my closest friends," said Boggia, who has since earned an MFA in dance from Ohio State University and is an associate professor of dance at Wesleyan College.

That sharing of a common interest in and commitment to the arts contributed to the easy camaraderie that filled the weekend. "What makes this different [from other reunions] is that it's amazing how we can all share in the activities we enjoyed before, whether it's taking technique classes, seeing work or teaching," said Byron Suber '97, a Cornell senior lecturer of dance.

The seminars, presented by Scott deLahunta '84 and Desmond, two dancers who became scholars, were one of the highlights of the weekend, said Joyce Morgenroth '66, professor of dance and the organizer of the weekend's events. deLahunta noted that even in the performance arts, "the place where really groundbreaking practices might take place is the university." He urged those attending to think about the process of creating work, rather than simply considering the finished product.

"The weekend was like a well-rounded course," noted Morgenroth. A course, it seems, that alumni would eagerly enroll in over and over again.

Graduate student Nadia Drake is a writer intern at the Cornell Chronicle.