Harvard Dance: "Barre None"

by Katherine Agard

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Samantha Cohen ’12 is on the stage of the New College Theatre in her costume - and a puffy green jacket. "I like your alien jacket!" another dancer calls from onstage. She laughs and pulls up the collar as she stretches. Joseph Seering ‘13, a lighting designer, calls out cues and the lights flicker. Cohen takes a seat in the audience and begins to play her part as director of Barre None, the fall semester production of the Harvard Ballet Company.

"We’ve been in the NCT for three days now – and I’ve clocked twenty hours here already" Cohen laughs. "This is definitely a week in which my schoolwork is a distant second to dance."

But it's not as if she is complaining.

"I think you learn a lot when you’re first starting," adds Cohen. "It’s a bit scary – the company is pretty large – 45 to 50 people – all with individual views – so you learn a lot as you go. It’s exciting to be on this side of things. I was always just the dancer and being cast in pieces. It personally taught me a lot – you can’t make people happy all of the time. I’ve gotten to celebrate dance not only by dancing but also by making it happen. And that’s huge."

It seems like a big deal – dancing while directing oneself dancing -- but Cohen's dual role is not uncommon: The only member of the technical staff not dancing in the show is the lighting designer.

Cohen came to Harvard after training at the School of American Ballet in New York, and joined the company here as a way to continue dancing while pursuing diverse academic interests.

"In a lot of other places, in order to have access to dance programs and facilities you have to be majoring in dance and have that as your primary focus," says Cohen. "I’ve realized that the life of a dancer is not the life for me. But I still want to dance."

Nevertheless, dance has definitely shaped Cohen's academic work. She is pursuing a concentration in Social Studies – a field usually known for its interdisciplinary approach to the social sciences and not for its focus on art and art making – with a focus field in "Art as a Modern Social Phenomenon."

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Ricky Kuperman ’11, a student choreographer who danced professionally in jazz, tap, hip hop and contemporary dance as well as choreographed extensively in high school in Toronto, says: "Many of the people with whom I danced growing up joined conservatories or went straight into dancing professionally. So I was a bit torn when deciding to come to Harvard and pursue a liberal arts education. But I was incredibly surprised by the amazing community of talented and passionate dancers that I found on campus."

Rebecca Walker, a student at Harvard Extension School studying for a graduate degree in sustainability and environmental management, expresses the same surprise at finding such an extensive and supportive community of dancers at Harvard. She is choreographing a contemporary ballet piece about being an outsider in a group of girls -- though the theme is not based on her experience with Harvard Ballet.

"It’s definitely been great coming here, not knowing anyone, and having this instant group of friends -- very talented friends who picked up my piece in just a few rehearsals," says Walker.

Barre None, a production of the Harvard Ballet Company, runs November 5 and 6 at the New College Theatre. The evening features choreography by George Balanchine, Peter Pucci and student choreographers Ricky D. Kuperman ’11, and Marielena Sosa ’12 and alumna Nina K. Stoller-Lindsey ’10.

[Caption: Photo courtesy the Harvard Crimson]

[Caption: Photo courtesy the Harvard Crimson]