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Elizabeth Shea
IU Contemporary Dance

Tracy James
IU Communications

Last modified: Monday, October 22, 2012

IU Dance Theatre celebrates 85th anniversary with dynamic concert

WHAT: Indiana University Dance Theatre 85th Anniversary Celebration Gala. The concert is produced by the Department of Kinesiology in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Nov. 4
WHERE: IU Auditorium, 1211 E. Seventh St., Bloomington

Oct. 22, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Dance Theatre's 85th anniversary concert Nov. 4 will "open with joy" and "close with abandon," celebrating the program's long history on the Bloomington campus and looking to its future in the newly renamed IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.

Straight Duet

Senior dance majors Lalah Hazelwood and Joseph Musiel perform in Larry Keigwin and Nicole Wolcott's "Straight Duet."

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The dancers, some of whom returned to campus a week early this fall to begin rehearsing, will perform the works of acclaimed choreographers Paul Taylor, David Parsons, Larry Keigwin, Nicole Wolcott and William Evans, who directed the IU dance program in the 1980s.

The dancers will use movement to illustrate weighty subjects such as marriage and personal conflict with choreography that at times has the physicality of a soccer match and at other times a theatrical tone more suitable to introspection.

"I want people to come to the performance and experience the joy of modern dance," said Elizabeth Shea, director of IU Contemporary Dance. "Modern dance is particularly accessible -- there's sort of an 'every man' feeling to it. The early pioneers such as Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey wanted to bring a uniquely American perspective to their new movement form; they wanted to celebrate our very humanity that encompasses strength and fragility, but ultimately resiliency. This concert is a rich representation of life, and our dancers brilliantly display their athleticism and expressive talents."

The contemporary dance program began as part of a physical education dance education program at IU Bloomington and is considered the second oldest modern dance program in the U.S., next to the University of Wisconsin.


IU Contemporary Dance majors perform in Paul Taylor's iconic work, "Esplanade."

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Shea said most modern dance programs began in physical education programs for a simple reason: those programs had space. In the 1970s, when art programs became better established, many dance programs left their P.E. roots. IU Contemporary Dance remained in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, recently renamed the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.

"We are exceedingly proud that such an outstanding program continues to flourish through these many years, and that the contributions the program has made to the school, the university and beyond continue to inspire," said Mohammad R. Torabi, interim dean of the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. "I'm truly thrilled that, as we enter a new era as a school, that the exceptional program will continue to add strength, breadth and depth to the school's offerings."

For Shea, the dance program's role within the public health mission of the school is clear.

"Dance is such a good tripartite of the mind, body and spirit," she said. "It brings our entire sense of humanity together."

During the course of the concert, Shea will speak briefly about a new initiative of the dance program called Living Dance Community Partnerships. Already, the program has begun offering a Dance for Parkinson's class, and dance majors have also begun working with students at the Crestmont Boys and Girls Club through a service learning program. The Living Dance Community Partnership is involved with the School of Public Health's domestic violence initiative in Bedford. Shea also said they plan to offer free creative movement programs for 4- to 8-year-olds next year.

"We're really taking our art form out into the community," Shea said. "We hope that what we're doing with dance and health and wellness can serve as a model for other universities and communities, and ultimately will influence the job force for teaching and community artists."

The dance program includes 60 dance majors and more than twice as many students minoring in dance. The faculty have received grants from the National Endowments for the Arts, as well as from state organizations and opportunities internal to IU.

This funding often is used to bring visiting artists to campus to work with the dancers. This fall, for example, visiting artists include Connie Dinapoli, with the Paul Taylor Dance Company; Liz Koeppen, with David Parsons' company Parsons Dance; William Evans; and Nicole Wolcott of Keigwin Company. They are working with the dancers to prepare for both the anniversary concert and the annual faculty and guest artist concert in January. The anniversary concert is supported in part by an award from IU's New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities as well as an award from the new School of Public Health and involves a cutting-edge digital archiving project centered on the masterworks.

Rehearsals have gotten off to a good start, Shea said. The faculty were particularly moved watching the dancers rehearse Paul Taylor's "Esplanade," which will open the concert.

"It's just gorgeous," she said. "The students had to come back a week early to learn it and rehearse. We were all moved to tears. To see your students performing a work of that magnitude is simply amazing."

This work will be followed by Evans' "Rite of Summer," which Shea described as "a dark parody"; Wolcott and Keigwin's "Straight Duet," performed on a mattress by two dancers in their underwear; and then Parson's "Nascimento Novo," which is the choreographer's loving tribute to Brazilian composer Milton Nascimento.

"This concert will take you on an emotional journey and will leave you feeling joyous, fulfilled and, yes, tapping your feet," Shea said.

For more information, contact Elizabeth Shea, 812-855-7020 or

About the School of Public Health-Bloomington

With nearly 3,000 students across an array of undergraduate and advanced degree programs, the School of Public Health-Bloomington offers a traditional campus experience enriched by 21st-century innovation. More than 120 faculty in five academic departments -- Department of Kinesiology; Department of Applied Health Science; Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies; Department of Environmental Health; and Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics -- conduct major research, teach and engage with communities across a broad spectrum of health, wellness and disease-prevention topics. Each department offers numerous majors, minors and opportunities for graduate and undergraduate studies. In addition to its academic departments, the school administers Campus Recreational Sports, which serves roughly 80 percent of the IU Bloomington student body through various intramural, club and individual sports opportunities.