Great Barrington — Twice annually, Bard College at Simon’s Rock students and faculty in the dance program come together to present their work to the community in a vibrant celebration of dance.
This semester, due to an overwhelming number of students who expressed interest in the dance program, the fall concert has been extended into a weekend-long festival, showcasing 24 dance pieces in two programs featuring 45 student dancers in performances created by 20 student and two faculty choreographers.
Faculty in dance Kati Garcia-Renart, who directs the program and choreographed a piece for the first-ever dance festival, guides and supports the students throughout the semester-long process. Isabel Filkins, assistant to the technical director of the Daniel Arts Center and an alumna of the dance program, choreographed two pieces.
The dance pieces will showcase a wide range of both creative and cultural expression. The first program, featuring works and performances by first-years and sophomores, will take place Friday, Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 9, at 2 p.m. The second program–featuring works and performances by juniors, seniors, and faculty and staff–will take place Saturday, Dec. 9, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 10, at 2 p.m. The dances will be performed in the McConnell Theater of the Daniel Arts Center, 84 Alford Rd., Great Barrington. The dance festival is free and open to the public, and each program will last approximately 90 minutes with a short intermission.
Garcia-Renart noted that “both programs are diverse and eclectic,” featuring original choreography in a wide variety of genres from modern to flamenco to Chinese classical to tap. “I am just amazed at what the students bring to the table. I am always moved by the creativity that comes out of their work,” she said. Whether they come from a dance background or not, the students show great conviction and expression in their work.
One of Filkins’ pieces, “Time,” “is about the way in which we move through life in the same spaces, but are often experiencing those spaces on a very different timeline. Whether it be differences in age, in the speed at which we are traveling, or in our perception of how time might be dragging on, these diverse experiences can either bring us together or create divisions and a sense of disconnect.”
For some students, “dance is a part of their life,” said Garcia-Renart. Some come to Simon’s Rock with a full dance background, but most will take their first-ever dance classes. Inspired by their experiences, some of these students then choose to continue on and concentrate in dance.
An inspiring example is senior Danielle Pendleton, who said, “I have always loved movement and dancing, but did not receive any formal training until I came to Simon’s Rock. I took a dance class my first semester to try something new, and then I fell in love with it and decided that I would concentrate in dance.” This will be Pendleton’s seventh dance concert as a dancer and choreographer, and she plans on choreographing and composing music for an eighth piece in the spring semester.
Behind the scenes, Filkins is helping Garcia-Renart organize the programs while John Musall, lighting designer and technical director of the Daniel Arts Center who has designed for hundreds of dance and theater productions, will guide the students working backstage. Another first this year: Faculty member, alumnus and costume designer George Veale ’98 is working with students on the costumes for the festival.
The dance program at Simon’s Rock allows students to learn, explore, create and express creativity through the world of dance. “Dance helps make them stronger in their individuality,” noted Garcia-Renart.