This is Vassar: The newsletter for Vassar College Alumnae/i and Families

Merrill Brockway, producer/director of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series, "Dance in America."

Dance: Past and Present

On November 7, some very big names in the world of dance will come to Vassar’s campus when the dance department hosts a conversation and panel discussion featuring Merrill Brockway, producer and director of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Dance in America, which brought the performing arts to television. Earlier this fall, Brockway donated the full archives of Dance in America to the National Dance Institute of New Mexico, making the acclaimed series accessible to a new generation of dancers. Russell Baker '91, a former dancer with the Kansas City Ballet, currently serves as NDI-New Mexico's executive director, and was instrumental in bringing Brockway to Vassar's campus this month.

Joining Brockway will be Merrill Ashley, former New York City Ballet principal dancer (whom the Wall Street Journal said “basically taught the world how ballet is danced”); Tom Gold, former soloist with the New York City Ballet; and Peggy Lyman Hayes, former principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company. Ashley, Gold and Lyman Hayes represent three of Brockway’s “Dance in America” films, which were screened on campus earlier this semester.

Vassar dance professor John Meehan, also a highly accomplished dancer, will moderate the panel. Meehan was principal dancer with the Australian Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. He’s also been no stranger to the New York City Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, and many other stages.

The panel discussion will focus on Brockway’s filming of dance in the 1970s and 1980s, when dance was at its peak in New York City, explains Meehan. Much of what we know about dancers and choreographers of this period is thanks to Brockway’s work, says Meehan.

Larry Keigwin and students

The dance department’s Sesquicentennial theme continues later this month, November 17–19, when the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre debuts several new works, commissioned especially for the 150th anniversary of the college’s founding. Howard Kilik, adjunct artist in dance, and Katherine Wildberger, lecturer in dance and drama, have collaborated on “Drumlin,” a piece inspired by Edna St. Vincent Millay ’17. “Howard has written a really exquisite piece of music for string quartet. Kathy is choreographing to it,” Meehan says of the work.

In addition, guest artist Larry Keigwin (pictured) will debut an as-yet-untitled new work, set to the music of composer Jonathan Pratt. The event will also showcase additional works by students and faculty members, as well as “Whispers in the Dark,” a ballet set to the music of Philip Glass by guest artist Ed Liang.

Approximately 30 students comprise the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre each season.

“I think it’s going to be a good show,” Meehan says tentatively. “It’s always nerve wracking to say that at this point, but they’re a very talented group of dancers.” –Peter Bronski

Ed Liang

Ed Liang gives instruction during a rehearsal with Brian Heil '14. Keigwin and Liang photos courtesy VRDT / John Meehan.

November 2011

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