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For a quarter of a century, Hofstra’s Dance Program has been preparing students for successful careers in the performing arts, education and dance and physical therapy. The Department of Drama and Dance currently boasts 70 dance majors and 78 minors, making it hard to believe that the program started as just a few disjointed classes in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences. Today, graduates are living out their dreams, performing with the world’s most prestigious dance companies, working with their own dance companies, teaching new generations of dancers, and working in the administrations of major performing arts organizations and in the growing fi eld of dance therapy. In 2008 the program expanded to include a B.S. in Dance Education – the first degree program of its kind on Long Island.
When dance officially became a major at Hofstra in 1984 under the auspices of Professors Harriet Peters and Carl Morris, it did so with only four students and a dance studio with a ceiling so low, that it posed problems for taller students, says Associate Professor Stormy Brandenberger, who has been with the program since the beginning. Nonetheless, she says, “Dance classes were always popular and very full. And the students were also very active within the department and within the social organization of the University.”
As the popularity of the program grew, so did the diversity of the classes. Initially, only modern dance classes were offered, but soon ballet, jazz and choreography at all different levels were added. Associate Professor Lance Westergard, who served for many years as director of the Dance Program, says, “More faculty came on board, and they were all artists with remarkable professional backgrounds.” The faculty continues to be a major draw of the program. Professor Brandenberger adds, “The faculty hail from diverse backgrounds and talents – they are not all cut from the same mold. Outside of Hofstra, they continue to choreograph and run their own dance companies. Our students are learning from professionals – some may enter the program with more training than others, but they are all performing at the same level by the time they graduate.”
A major turning point for dance at Hofstra came in 1988, when the program presented its fi rst major concert at Dempster Hall. Now the Dance Program presents a concert every semester at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse, featuring original choreography by faculty and students and re-creations of famous dances and period pieces. Often guest artists are brought in to work with the students. In spring 2007 Martha Clarke, a celebrated choreographer known for her production Garden of Earthly Delights and other groundbreaking, visually inspired musical theater pieces, joined the dance faculty as a visiting professor for the spring semester. In spring 2009 Keith Thompson, a former member of the renowned Trisha Brown Company, worked with students on recreating Brown’s choreography for a piece titled Canto/Pianto, an abstract retelling of the Orpheus myth.
Alumni like Larry Keigwin ’94 remain appreciative of the creative and supportive environment they experienced as students. Keigwin is now artistic director of Keigwin + Company, a modern dance company that combines physicality with theatricality and pop culture references. The company recently made its debut at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in October 2009 and will have its fi rst full season at Manhattan’s renowned Joyce Theater this March.
“I started dancing a few years prior to starting at Hofstra,” he says. “When I was 16, I became a dancer on Club MTV with Downtown Julie Brown. I didn’t realize that dance was something that I could major in at college, until someone suggested it to me. Hofstra offered me a great scholarship, and I thought the facilities and studios were beautiful. I studied with Stormy Brandenberger, Lance Westergard and Robin Becker, who really nurtured me. Even today, when my company is performing in New York, I always see the faces of my professors in the audience.”
Keigwin was one of several dance alumni invited to return to the Hofstra stage and participate in the fall 2009 concert, November 19 to 22, as part of the program’s silver anniversary celebration. Joining Keigwin were Dina Denis ’02, founder, artistic director and president of Dance Into Light, Inc., a nonprofi t modern dance company; Salvatore LaRussa ’00, artistic director and choreographer of Salvatore LaRussa Dance Theater; and Makeda Thomas ’99, dancer, choreographer and artistic director of Makeda Thomas/Roots & Wings Movement!, which creates new dance works through cross-disciplinary collaboration with artists around the world.
Even with today’s shaken economy, Professor Brandenberger and her fellow professors have high hopes for the marketability of dance alumni and students. “There are so many doors that are open to students of dance. They have to be creative, know rhythm, have a great eye and an understanding of the physics of movement. These are skills that have applications in a number of different areas.” There is currently a 99 percent graduate school acceptance rate for students pursuing studies in dance therapy. Because so many of the dance faculty have their own dance companies and are strongly connected to other companies and artists, there are numerous opportunities available for students who want to perform. Many of the program’s graduates have gone on to careers behind the scenes in writing, arts administration and grant writing.
As for the future of dance at Hofstra, Professor Brandenberger says to watch how studies will continue to extend to other programs within the University, like African Studies, Irish Studies, History and other cultural studies.
For more information on the major or minor in dance and future dance performances on campus, call the Department of Drama and Dance at (516) 463-5444.
Robin Becker is founder of her own dance company and a former performer with the Martha Graham Ensemble. She has served on the faculties of American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York City, the Princeton Ballet Society, The Actors Studio, Peridance Center, and the Stone-Camryn School of Ballet in Chicago. Stormy Brandenberger’s diverse choreographic talents were highlighted in the off-Broadway production Slow Drag at The American Place Theatre in New York City, and a multimedia collaboration, with artist Susan Share, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. Her more recent projects include choreography for the Yale Repertory Theater’s 2002 production of Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides and To My Chagrin, in collaboration with performance artist Peggy Shaw.
Christina Briggs Winslow hails from Virginia, where she danced with the Richmond Ballet. In New York, she has been dancing for Heidi Latsky since 2000 and has worked for other choreographers, including Carrie Ahern, Pat Cremins, and Susan Osberg. She performs for children nationwide with the Hudson Vagabond Puppets, and she is co-director of Incidents Physical Theater.
Darrah Carr, named one of the “Top 100 Irish Americans of the Year” by Irish America Magazine, has been active for more than a decade in both the Irish and modern dance communities as a choreographer, dancer, educator, and writer. In addition to her work as artistic director of Darrah Carr Dance, she served as assistant choreographer for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical James Joyce’s The Dead and has worked with a number of local and regional dance companies.
Anita Feldman, director of the Dance Education Program, has garnered an international reputation as a leading innovator of tap dance, choreographing pieces in collaboration with new music composers that incorporate electronics and the patented “Tap Dance Instrument,” a wood and brass multi-timbre fl oor. Anita Feldman Tap, a company of musicians and dancers, has performed at more than 100 venues in the United States, Japan and Germany. Giada Ferrone came to the United States from Italy as a member of the Florence Dance Theatre. She later joined the Peridance Center, Michael Mao Dance Company and the Neo Labos Dance Theatre in New York City. In addition to teaching ballet at Hofstra, Ms. Ferrone has also taught at Eliot Feld’s Ballet Tech, and the Peridance Center, and is currently on faculty at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Niles Ford is a dancer, teacher and choreographer with an extensive background in ballet and modern dance. He has performed with the Boston Ballet, Bill T. Jones, Ron Brown, the Rod Rodgers Dance Company and Dance Theatre of Harlem, among others. In 2003 he began creating and producing his own work, and he is the founder and artistic director of the Urban Dance Collective.
Dyane Harvey-Salaam has performed as a principal soloist with some of the most recognized dance companies in the United States and abroad. In 2004 she participated in the New York City Dance Divas and Divos Concert at Symphony Space. The year before, she was involved with the founding of the series New York City Dance Divas at the The Schomburg Center’s Langston Hughes Auditorium with Dr. Glory Van Scott, among other distinguished dancers. She was a solo performer for a benefi t for Fred Benjamin at Symphony Space in New York City, and she is a founding member of the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre Company.
Rachel List is director of Hofstra’s Dance Program. She has taught ballet nationally and internationally since 1978. She has taught at the Paul Taylor Summer Dance Intensives, Bates Dance Festival, the Balettakademien in Stockholm, Sweden, and Danse Projektet in Copenhagen, Denmark. She has been a member of the New York Baroque Dance Company since 1990, performing soloist roles at venues such as Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, the Meyerson Center and the Handel Festival in Goettingen, Germany.
JoLea Maffei teaches the Horton technique. She served as the choreographic and teaching assistant to Milton Myers from 1988 to 1998 and has taught, choreographed, and performed both nationally and internationally. In addition to her work at Hofstra, Ms. Maffei has also been on the dance faculties of Marymount Manhattan College, New York University, City College of New York, the Ballet Arts School and Steps on Broadway.
Amy Marshall has performed in the companies of esteemed choreographers Paul Taylor and David Parsons. While a member of these companies, she taught master classes and residencies throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. She formed the Amy Marshall Dance Company in 2000. In 2002 Winthrop University commissioned the creation of her “Sentido de Mujer” for a gala honoring the venerated Broadway costume designer William Ivey Long.
Teresa (Te) Perez has her own collection of choreographic works, which she has presented in venues such as The Evolving Arts Theater, Galapagos Art Space, Williamsburg Arts Nexus, Joyce SoHo, Kasser Theater at Montclair State, and The Little Theater at Queens College. Her international teaching credentials include master classes and workshops in Canada, Holland, Spain, and Scotland, and nationally in Texas, Montana, Connecticut, New Jersey, Tennessee and the Bates Dance Festival in Maine.
Maxine Steinman has been presenting her choreography for the past 10 years at various venues such as Joyce SoHo, Dance Space, the Dumbo Arts Festival, Teachers College, New Dance Group, Urban Artworks, Ballet Arts, The Limon Institute, The Field, Peridance, American College Dance Festival, and the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center. Maxine Steinman & Dancers was formed in 1996 and is dedicated to expressing thoughts about the human experience though movement.
Lance Westergard made his professional debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in a work especially created for him by the great choreographer Antony Tudor, titled Concerning Oracles. He has performed with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company, Eliot Feld’s American Ballet Company, Lotte Goslar’s Pantomime Circus, Kathryn Posin Dance Company, Los Angeles Dance Theater, Lar Lubovitch, Manuel Alum, Kazuko Hirabayashi, and Remy Charlip’s International All Stars. He has been the ballet master for both the Joffrey II Dancers and Ballet Hispanico of New York.
Karla Wolfangle danced with the Paul Taylor Dance Company from 1981 to 1993 and was also a member of the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company and The Boston Ballet, and was co-director and co-founder of the Cliff Keuter Dance Company. Her choreography has been presented in New York City at City Center, Cunningham Dance Center, Dance Theater Workshop and the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.