Vassar Dance Program Spreads Its Wings

Photos Shayni Richter ’26

Some exciting things are happening to Vassar’s Dance Program. Members of the Dance faculty have recently incorporated new dance genres into the curriculum and have developed courses that focus on new topics in the field. Students are learning teaching methodologies and going into the dance studios of a nearby nursery school and high school to further develop their teaching. And the Dance Program continues to invite prominent choreographers from major dance companies and academic institutions to create new works for the program’s repertoire. In just the past two years, students have worked with guest artists affiliated with such renowned choreographers as Jerome Robbins, Mark Morris, William Forsythe, and Yvonne Rainer. 

Video by Jim Sulley

One example of the Dance Program’s enhancements was on display before a capacity crowd in the Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater in performances at the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre (VRDT) annual spring concert on April 12 and 13. Twenty-eight dancers performed Learning, an original work by visiting Bard College Professor of Dance Souleymane (Solo) Badolo, a native of the West African country of Burkina Faso.

Silhouette of a line of people on a stage with a light orange glowing background.
Lighting is a key component of many dance performances.

Two VRDT dancers who took part in the performance said their experience with this new form of choreography had helped to improve their techniques in all forms of dance. “This performance enabled me to approach and enhance other styles of my dancing in new ways,” said Maria-Fernanda Rodriguez ’24, an international studies major from Miami, FL. “It was a form of choreography I’d never experienced before, and it was scary but also really exciting. The Dance Program has enabled me to work with an amazing array of instructors.”

A large group of people dancing on a stage. They are all wearing different color dresses while leaning over on one leg with their arms out straight in unison.
Many dancers said Professor Badolo's choreography differed from anything they'd experienced before.

Emily Tieu ’24, who took at least one dance class every semester throughout her Vassar career, agreed. “After so many years of concentrating on ballet, it was challenging to adapt to a new style, but when I did, it improved my ballet too,” Tieu said.

Miriam Mahdaviani, Chair of Dance and a former member of the New York City Ballet company, said the Dance Program had recently qualified as a correlate and would continue to grow and expand. “The Dance Program is undergoing a transformation,” Mahdaviani said. “As long as there is a desire from students to learn and expand their horizons, we will do our best to provide a top-notch nurturing and multi-faceted program.”

May 6, 2024