Dancers Bow Out of Radcliffe Yard Home

After more than a century, dancers say goodbye to Rieman Center

Ravi P. Ramchandani

Dance Director Elizabeth Bergmann spoke on Saturday at the Rieman Center, where she and 50 others bid adieu to the old building and celebrated the new dance facility being built in the Quad for use this fall.

After 107 years and countless performances, Harvard dancers have taken their final bows in the Amelia Tataronis Rieman Center for Performing Arts.

On Saturday evening, about 50 members of the Harvard dance community gathered to celebrate the art and to say goodbye to the Rieman Center—the performance space they will be forced to vacate next month.

While moving from the spacious hardwood dance studio in Radcliffe Yard is a loss for many dancers and teachers, the dance program will find a new home in the Quad this fall. The University is currently in the process of renovating and building a new dance facility in the Quadrangle Recreational Activities Center (QRAC), which will be ready for use next semester.

According to Cathy McCormick, director of programs for the Office of the Arts (OFA), after the merger of Harvard and Radcliffe in 1999, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies informed the OFA that their lease on the building would end in June 2005. In response to this loss of space, student activists campaigned in 2003 to have the University provide dancers with an alternative.

McCormick, who also emceed the event, recognized several “dance heroes”: students who took part in what she called “the rise of a volcanic undergraduate rebellion” to create a replacement dance studio.

Two of these “warriors”—Rebecca J. Alaly ’04-’05 and Anna K. Weiss ’03—attended the reception.

The evening centered around a speaking program by members of the dance community and a video of selected clips from performances between 1975 and 2005.

Mayman and Director of dance Elizabeth Bergmann joined dance alumna, current students, and former dance director and lecturer on Dramatic Arts Claire Millardi in addressing the guests.

Millardi’s comments were a bittersweet farewell to a space she has used for 40 years. She lauded the studio as an integral part of the dance community.

“This space has inspired me to do all kinds of work, inspired by the architecture,” Millardi said. “When you’re trying to teach students about space, this was a gift.”

The new floor plans for the QRAC performance space, designed by Bruner/Cott and Associates, were also on display at the event. The new 1200 square foot facility—that was once a basketball court—presents improvements for dancers, including an extra studio, dressing rooms, a costume storage room, a green room, air conditioning, American Disabilities Act compliance and handicap accessibility, and parking for staff members.

An additional studio will also minimize space conflicts between performances and dance classes, while the air conditioning will provide an opportunity for summer dance programs.

Myra A. Mayman, founding director of the OFA, was “just thrilled” by the new space in the Quad.

“The new facility is just fabulous,” said Mayman, who is also the former Master of Cabot House. “There should be no moping tonight.”

Bergmann said she is ready to move on to a more modern space, after having lived through the clanking radiators and hard floors of the aging Rieman Center. She said she felt “nothing but support from the students and the administration. At a time when we’re seeing a lot of things cut, they’re giving us a new home when they didn’t have to.”

Co-president of the Harvard Radcliffe Dance Company, Sonia K. Torodova ’07, expressed some sadness about moving to the Quad.

“We had so many memories in this building, and just are really attached,” she said. “We will just have to get used to the distance.”

“We will go on forever,” Millardi said in her speech. “The arts will live as long as we persevere.”

—Staff writer Kristina M. Moore can be reached at moore2@fas.harvard.