UMass Amherst: Department of Music and Dance: Dance Program
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Welcome to the Dance Program at
UMass Amherst!     Click for News

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.

Spring 2015

Thurs-Sat, Feb. 19-21, 8pm, Smith College, Theatre 14

Tues, Feb. 24, 7:30pm, Fine Arts Center Concert Hall Details

Sat, Feb. 28, Red Barn, Hampshire College

Wed-Sat, Mar. 11-14, Rhode Island College  Website

Thurs, April 16, 7:30pm, Fine Arts Center Concert Hall

Thur-Sat, Apr. 16-18, 8pm, Dance Studio Theatre, Hampshire College

Thurs-Sat, Apr. 23-25, 8pm, Bowker Auditorium
Box Office 413-545-2511

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



Annie Heath in Before/AfterAnnie Heath in Hart's Before/After

This past year, 2013-14, has been an incredible one of successes for UMass Dance.  We were privileged to have Jennifer Hart, from the Austin Ballet, set a new work, Before/After, on University Dancers (our faculty/guest artist concert) this year.  Hart has been hailed by critics as a choreographer “with an imagination so exuberant that one could not be sure how one movement led to the next” and “not only inventive but heart-rending.”  The piece was performed at the New England American College Dance Conference, and was chosen to be on the final gala concert.  

Before/After cast at Kennedy Center

From there, Hart's dance was chosen from among a small number in the country, to be performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in June 2014.  We brought back Ms. Hart for a second round of rehearsals and the piece was performed more tightly and brilliantly than ever!  This was quite an honor for our Department.

Pictured at left is the cast of Before/After at the Kennedy Center. 


Speaking of ACDA, the other piece we brought to be adjudicated at the conference was senior Sarah Elaz’s Duette, which also made the gala concert.  Duette was a stunning work which featured two pairs of dancers reflecting a simultaneous inner and outer conversation.  UMass dancers were also seen in Chris Aikins’ (Smith faculty) piece, How Did I Get Here?, which also made the gala concert.  We were well-represented in performance excellence at the conference!

Sarah Elaz's Duette
Sarah Elaz's Duette

Sidra Bell

We also brought in renowned choreographer Sidra Bell (pictured), who created at the bazaar for a UMass cast in University Dancers, and a Five-College cast, which was performed at Smith and Mount Holyoke colleges.  Ms. Bell has been commissioned around the world, and is known for her development of “Contemporary Systems: an interior and material approach to movement.”  The work challenged the dancers with high levels of interaction and spontaneous choice-making each night on stage, and was both esoteric, and mesmerizing to watch. 

We were particularly happy to bring up Lisa Chow and Renee Davis, of Desert Dance Theatre in Phoenix, to help revise and reconstruct a powerful work about racism, misogyny, and homophobia, entitled Judgments (pictures at right).

The performance of the work coincided oddly with the passing of Nelson Mandela, whose words and images and writings were part of the video and soundtrack that was part of this half-evening work.

It was a very powerful and moving experience for all in the audience, and presented a wonderful set of lessons to share with schoolchildren on our annual schools tour this year.





Dancers at Symphony Hall
Dancers at Symphony Hall


In October, we were honored to perform at Boston’s Symphony Hall, with live music provided by UMass’s own Jazz Ensemble, with choreography by our own Jazz Guest Artist Erica Wilson-Perkins.  This was part of UMass’s 150th Anniversary.  A number of our students also performed in a work by Andrea Miller (of the acclaimed NYC company Gallim), entitled Wonderland, at the Five College Dance Department faculty concert in March.

In the coming season, we will be bringing in John Heginbotham, of the Mark Morris Dance Company, to set a brand-new work on our students, for which they begin rehearsals in August.  His work features highly structured, technically rigorous, and theatrical choreography, frequently set to the music of contemporary composers.  In addition to Heginbotham, UMass dancers have been cast in the work of guest artists Delfos Dance Company from Mexico, this fall.

On our plate this coming year, we will have classes and performances by the Martha Graham Dance Company, Cloud Gate Dance Theater, Mummenschanz, Grupo Corpo, and the Stephen Petronio Company (pictured).  Petronio is an alum of Hampshire Colllege/Five College Dance Department, who recently set work on our students a few years ago.  

We are once again hosting the Massachusetts Dance Festival, bringing in 11 professional companies from the northeast to perform and teach on our campus.  This festival helps connect our students with professional opportunities, and helps professionals gain more visibility in our region.  It’s a win-win situation.


Stephen Petronio Company
Stephen Petronio Company
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
Former Director of the Dance Program
New Co-Directors, Spring 2015:
Professors Paul Dennis & Thomas Vacanti

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