2010-11 OFA Flashback: Dance transitions

by Dance

2010-2011 was a year to celebrate, explore, and await! Leadership passed from retired Dance Director Liz Bergmann to Acting Director Jessica Berson, while dancers, instructors, and staff envisioned our future director.

Fall festivities celebrated Liz's legacy with events highlighting her choreography and the creative richness that she cultivated in her students. A Harvard-Radcliffe Modern Dance Company performance and reception at the Harvard Dance Center and an additional party at the Faculty Club provided opportunities for Dance Program staff, students, alumni, Harvard faculty and administrators, and dance colleagues to share heartfelt words about Liz's far-reaching impact. We also connected with alumni to create a book filled with remembrances, and this gift to Liz turned out to be a strong testament to the Dance Program’s lasting influence on students’ lives. (We will soon have a copy in the Dance Center library...come see for yourself!)


January brought snow and school closures, but the Dance Program kept moving, regardless of the weather. Optional Winter Activities—a new campus-wide initiative—offered dance students a transformative three-week performance intensive with Liz Lerman and company members from her Dance Exchange alongside theater faculty from the American Repertory Theater Institute. Here’s what one participant had to say:

"I can hardly explain how personally beneficial this program was to my growth as a dancer and artist....It is something special to be able to focus on one activity all day and I found myself learning in magnitudes comparable to that of an entire year in just three weeks. The guest instructors offered great mentorship and provided a noncompetitive atmosphere that broke down any barriers against our development. I would be highly supportive of future programs that provide a similar opportunity for Harvard undergraduates to pursue a nonacademic passion in depth."

Spring brought more snow, but also Dancers’ Viewpointe 11: Point · View · Voice. Audiences were treated to improvisation, multimedia dance-theater, and choreographic collaborations among both students and dance professionals, in addition to powerful works by Jessica Berson, Artistic Associate Brenda Divelbliss, and Liz Bergmann. "The dancing was effortless, choreography seamless, and emotion palpable," said the Harvard Art Review.

The Dance Program hosted a record number of guest artists this year, many of them part of the "Postmodern Visiting Artist Series": Heidi Latsky, Tim Miller, Aki Sasamoto, Sara Rudner, Emily Coates, and Jill Sigman. These artists shared their wisdom with the Harvard community, and with the students of Dramatic Arts 162: Where Dance Meets Performance Art.

Other guest artists who visited the Dance Program also enriched and enlivened Harvard’s dance scene. Peter Pucci taught a master class, shared his dance-making techniques with the students of Dramatic Arts 120: Introduction to Choreography, and created two vivacious, athletic works on Harvard students. Alvin Ailey dancer Antonio Douthit’s inspiring master class continued the Dance Program’s celebration of Alvin Ailey’s choreographic and cultural legacy. The dancers of Boston Ballet expertly performed contemporary works by William Forsythe and former Forsythe dancer Helen Pickett at this year’s Boston Ballet Dance Talk, while Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen taught a master class and discussed everything from the politics of selecting choreography to his opinion of the hit movie The Black Swan.

As the spring term came to an end, the OFA announced the appointment of Jill Johnson as the new Director of Dance at Harvard. Fresh from setting William Forsythe’s "The Second Detail" on Boston Ballet, she returns to Boston in the fall of 2011, bringing with her 24 years of experience as a dancer, choreographer, and educator. We can’t wait to offer her our warmest welcome, and to introduce her to our students!