UMass Amherst: Department of Music and Dance: Dance Program
College of Humanities and Fine Arts Department of Music and Dance

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Welcome to the Dance Program at
UMass Amherst!

We believe that we are a unique and powerful program in the country.

We believe in a strong cross-understanding of dance forms, and so emphasize jazz dance, African dance, and other world forms, in our curriculum, alongside intense training in modern dance and ballet.

We believe that understanding our histories makes us more powerful dancers, and more powerful communicators.

We believe in the beauty of different kinds of people, different kinds of body types, and multiple kinds of intelligences.

We believe in the transformative nature of performance, and the power that dance has to produce positive change in this world.

We believe that creating a strong community within the program leads to more learning than one in which we are competing against one another.

We believe in the cross-fertilization of the arts, sciences, and humanities, and constantly seek to build our relationships with other departments and programs, on and off campus.

We believe that dancers are among the most intelligent people on the planet, with required skills in many areas, from physiology to physics, from art to anthropology.

We believe that dancers are among the most complex athletes on the planet, requiring the skills found in many strength, stretch, balance, coordination, memory, team, contact, aim, timing, endurance, and precision sports.

We believe we have something to offer the planet.

And, we believe that the UMass Dance Program can help our students pave the way towards a healthy, balanced life, in whatever field (performing, therapy, teaching, technology) that they happen to follow.

Fall 2013

Fri-Sat, Sept. 27-28, 8pm
Rand Theater, UMass   Details

Thurs, Oct. 3
6:30pm in Bowker: Lecture on Loie Fuller by Billbob Brown
7:30pm in Concert Hall: Time Lapse Dance & Luminarium Dance (Interpretations of Loie Fuller)  Details

Fri, Oct. 18, 8pm, FAC Concert Hall

Including UMass Dancers

Tues, Oct. 22, 7:30pm, FAC Concert Hall
KYLE ABRAHAM/ Abraham.In.Motion   Details

Sat, Nov. 23, 8pm, FAC Concert Hall

Fri-Sat, Dec. 6-7, 8pm, Bowker
More info coming soon!

Also see the 5-College Dance calendar for much more..

Martha Graham, photo by Barbara Morgan
2011-2012 was an fantastic year of growth for UMass Dance, and we're gearing up for our most exciting year ever!

We were particularly honored and grateful to have received a gift of the famous dance photography of Barbara Morgan from Nils and Kara Morgan. The collection, now stored in our University Museum of Contemporary Art, includes the well-known images of the likes of Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and Pearl Primus. The familiar photo of Martha Graham's Letter to the World is significant in that the dance is based on the life of Emily Dickinson, the well-known poet and Belle of Amherst, Massachusetts.

We were thrilled to receive a grant from the College of Fine Arts and Humanities host renowned choreographer Camille A. Brown for a week-long residency in October 2011. While she was here, Camille reconstructed her work New Second Line, which celebrates the spirit and heritage of the people of New Orleans, and is a joyous, powerful mixture of moves from modern, jazz, African dance, and other urban forms. She also taught college master classes, workshops with the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School, worked with inner-city kids in Springfield, and gave a lecture on her work at the University Museum of Contemporary Art. New Second Line was performed on the University Dancers concert in December, at Multibands in October, and on our January schools tour. It will also be seen in Bowker in September, having been chosen for the Mass. Dance Festival.

Camille Brown

Rebecca Steinberg's dance

We're looking forward to hosting the Massachusetts Dance Festival on Sept. 22-23, which includes performances & masterclasses by ten professional Mass. companies. Sunday's show at 3pm presents emerging choreographers & companies, featuring our student Rebecca Steinberg's piece from our Emerging Choreographers Series. Congratulations Rebecca! The 2011 August festival at UMass was cancelled due to an impending hurricane (which went around us). The October festival was also cancelled because of a freak early snowstorm which put everyone out of power for an entire week. We are interested to see what nature has in store for us this time!

On our University Dancers program this year, we also presented a major work by Merce Cunningham, one of the 20th century's most important choreographers. This was a Five-College-wide project; the piece was performed on UMass, Smith, Amherst, and Mt. Holyoke College campuses, each with its own set of video imagery, costuming, and unique live musical score. Our own UD performance featured the musical composition of Salvatore Macchia from our Music Dept, and Patricia Galvis-Assmus from our Art Dept. One of the dancers had a hand-secured camera which projected close-up stage images onto the back screen. It was very cool!
Merce Cunningham's MinEvent

Pictures at an Exhibition

We're fortunate to have guest artist Adrienne Hawkins back for a second year, 2012-13. Adrienne brings much knowledge about the history of jazz dance, and about ways of understanding the body in her Conditioning for Dancers classes. Her mega-piece, Pictures at an Exhibition, was a fabulous addition to the 2011 UD concert, and she has big plans for more choreographies (!) coming this year!

Some fabulous companies came to UMass during 2011-12: Gallim Dance Company, Ballet Hispanico, Circa, Shantala Shivalingapa, SamulNori Korean Drums and Dance, Suzanne Farrell and Company, and my own Cello Theory Dance, among many others. We had wonderful master classes with Camille Brown, Gallim, Daniel Gwirtzman, Bliss Kohlmeyer, Jimena Paz, Suzanne Farrell, and a talk by our own Dr. Peggy Schwartz (former head of the UMass Dance Program) on the work of the late Dr. Pearl Primus.
Cello Theory Dance

We are excited to host the American College Dance Festival, from March 14-17, 2013, right here on our campus! There will be dance workshops and activities everywhere, from the Rec Center and the new Marching Band facilities, on up to the Campus Center and Totman. The conference will begin with African drums and dancers moving across campus in a joyous opening ceremony, and that evening with a performance of Joffrey Ballet performing Njinksy's original Rite of Spring. It's going to be an amazing experience!
Download 2013 flyer (pdf)

We spent long hours this past year in an intense search for our new modern dance tenure-track position, and found none better than our own
Paul Dennis
, who danced with the José Limon Dance Company for many years. Presently working on his certification in Laban Movement Analysis, Paul brings a wealth of experience and professional credentials. This coming year, he will help reconstruct Anna Sokolow's 1955 classic modern dance/jazz-scored piece, Rooms, for our University Dancers concert. A recent review of the José Limón Company says of this piece, “Anna Sokolow's Rooms blew me away!” It's going to be a powerful evening of theater!
Paul Dennis

We have so many opportunities for performing around here - I dare say more than most any college in the country, when we configure the possibilities and performance dates for the Five Colleges. Phew!

We look forward to seeing you at one of our events, whether a performance or a lecture or an alum gathering. Dance is about community - it works best when there is an audience to watch and give feedback, or support in any way. We survive because YOU are part of who we are. Let us continue to build on ways of making dance, and dancers, strong in our beautiful commonwealth. And may you find some kind of dance today, as you go about your day!

With joy in dance,
Billbob Brown
Director of the Dance Program


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