New Dance Center in the Spotlight

Harvard dancers will be in a bit of a strange position this weekend, and it won’t be a split. They’ll have to contend with the usually unwelcome possibility that a promising but inexperienced upstart might steal the spotlight at their show, yet they don’t seem at all unhappy.

That’s because the scene-stealing youth is not a dancer at all, but the new Harvard Dance Center, which this week’s Inaugural Gala Concert will celebrate. So far, the center has received praise from dancers and non-dancers alike, both for its innovative architecture and the additional space it provides to performers.

“The studio is beautiful. It’s definitely a testament to the school being dedicated to the arts,” says Larissa D. Koch ’08, who will dance in multiple pieces at the concert.

The centerpiece of the seven-segment concert will be José Limón’s “Suite from a Choreographic Offering.” The piece is directed by Jennifer Scanlon, a teacher at the Boston Conservatory and a former dancer with the Limón company, along with Director of Harvard Dance Program Elizabeth Bergmann.

The 14-minute piece is actually an excerpt from a longer work set to Bach’s “Suite for Musical Offering,” and is Limón’s tribute to his mentor, renowned choreographer and dancer Doris Humphrey. According to Adam R. Singerman ’09, the 13 dancers in the piece have been practicing a minimum of three hours per week since just after shopping period.

Another piece in the show, concert opener “Homage,” is Bergmann’s tribute to her own mentor and former teacher—Limón himself. “Homage” is performed to the mandolin and consits of two sections: the first is set to Heitor Villa-Lobos and tends to be amorphous and less structured, while the second, accompanied by Bach’s “Concerto in D Minor, ” is more upbeat.

The concert will change tone with its second number, an intense jazz piece choreographed by Jodi Allen, a Harvard Dance Program instructor and a professional dancer.

“It’s a very powerful piece,” says Julia K. Lindpaintner ’09. “It definitely pushes us to our physical limits.”

Gianni DiMarco, a dancer and choreographer from the Boston Ballet, choreographed the third number specifically for this concert. The piece has a challenging seven-count time and promises innovation all around.

“It’s modern on pointe,” says Madelyn M. Ho ’08, one of the seven dancers in the contemporary ballet piece.

The fourth number, titled “The Rose Hunt,” is a student piece by Ebonie-Shay D. Hazle ’06, who is also a Crimson editor. Choreographed last year, this piece, in addition to the fifth number, “Here is Now,” by Brenda Divelbliss, the Harvard Dance Program artistic associate, will be performed at the New England Regional of the American College Dance Festival next February at Boston University.

Hazle’s piece is particularly unique because it will be accompanied live by Bong Inh Koh ’08, one of the students hand-picked by Yo-Yo Ma to perform with him in the Silk Road Festival earlier this year. Koh will be playing the Bach Chaconne on the cello to the contemporary number.

“[Divelbliss’s piece] is a more minimalist type of modern, accompanied by techno music,” says Joanna R. Binney ’08, one of the four dancers who have been performing this number since last year.

The sixth piece—choreographed by Rebecca Alaly ’05, now a dancer in New York City—is something of a mystery. The piece has been put together specifically for Harvard alumni and will be performed by seven former Harvard dancers, but because rehearsals have taken place in New York, few current dance company members have seen the number.

Such a large compilation of student performances is unusual for the dance program here, particularly at this point in the year. But Harvard dancers have a lot to celebrate this season, and a lot to look forward to in the New Year. And, as they surely know, there’s no better way to make merry than by dancing the night away.

“We don’t usually have an all-student show in the fall,” Bergmann says. “But because it’s the inaugural weekend and the Harvard Contemporary Dance Ensemble has toured less this season, we’ve pulled out all the stops for a fantastic concert.”

The Inaugural Gala Concert will take place this Friday, Dec. 9, and Saturday, Dec. 10, at 8 pm. Tickets are available through the Harvard Box Office, (617) 496-2222. $10 general admission, $8 students.