Peabody Dance Institute plans centennial

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Carol Sorgen
Choreographer Carol Bartlett has served as Peabody Dance Institute’s artistic director since 1995.
Photo courtesy of Peabody Dance Institute

If you ever attended dance classes at the Peabody Dance Institute, Artistic Director Carol Bartlett wants to hear from you. In 2014, the institute will mark its centennial anniversary, making it one of the oldest ongoing dance programs in the United States, and Bartlett is hoping to locate as many past Peabody dance students as possible to mark the historic celebration.

In preparation for the centennial, researchers poring through Peabody’s extensive archives have already rediscovered some of the groundbreaking collaborations and other important contributions to American dance history that have marked Peabody’s long tenure.

This includes the pioneering instruction in 1927 of Native American dance; the establishment of the modern dance program by former Martha Graham dancer Dale Sehnert in 1955; the addition of Barbara Weisberger — first child student of famed ballet master George Balanchine and founder/director of the Pennsylvania Ballet — as Artistic Advisor in 2001; and the establishment of the Estelle Dennis/Peabody Dance Boys Program in 2009.

Peabody Dance alumni have, like Martha Clarke, gone on to form their own companies, or, like Stephen Greenston, danced with international troupes such as the Stuttgart Ballet. More recent alumni include Pasha Knopp at JKO School of American Ballet Theater, Tyler Brown in Alvin Ailey Company 2, and Stacy Martorana in Mark Morris Company.

Upcoming dance showcase

But while it looks to its past, Peabody Dance continues to focus on the future, and on Saturday and Sunday, March 31 and April 1, will present its 2012 Choreography Showcase, danced by upper-level Peabody Dance students and young guest professionals.

As part of the showcase, on the road to its 100th birthday celebration, a video highlighting Peabody Dance’s past, present and future will have its first public screening.

A special feature of the upcoming dance concerts is that four of the six works on the program will be danced to live music performed by eight Peabody Conservatory cellists.

“Bringing musicians into the dance studio puts sound and space in a new context for both players and movers, and the opportunity to connect live in performance brings into play a vital interpretation and heightened empathy for the work being realized,” said Bartlett, who makes use of her extensive experience in collaborative choreography in producing the annual showcase.

“Aside from enhancing the quality of the program and the audience’s enjoyment, these opportunities for collaboration are fruitful outgrowths of Peabody’s training classes and have immense value for both musicians and dancers,” she said.

Two of the eight cello students, Antoinette Gan and Jason Kim, will also perform preludes for solo cello by Bach, newly choreographed by Peabody Dance faculty member Meredith Rainey and danced by guests Christine Buttorff, formerly of the Nashville Ballet, and Andrea Lasner, who apprenticed with the New Jersey Ballet.

Another premiere by Rainey, a former Pennsylvania Ballet soloist, is a work for five dancers set to a Vivaldi sonata, performed live by Conservatory students on baroque violin, baroque cello and harpsichord.

 Also on the program are tangos choreographed by Bartlett to the music of Astor Piazzolla and played by a Conservatory guitar quartet; a new dance set to a recording of “Eclosion,” the middle movement of Olivier Bensa’s “La Grande Terre,” by the Atlantic Guitar Quartet, an ensemble of Peabody alumni; and “Raymonda Suite,” a classical ballet adaptation and restaging of variations and group dances to the music of Glazunov by Peabody Dance faculty member Laura Dolid.

The work set to “Eclosion” is a short tale using props and constructed from improvisation segments related to the themes of emerging and shedding. “Raymonda Suite” will be performed by eight Peabody dancers and two guest artists from Pennsylvania Ballet, Amy Holihan and Eric Trope.

Skilled choreography

Bartlett, artistic director of Peabody Dance for the past 17 years, is a prolific choreographer whose work with both established and developing composers has resulted in music-dance collaborative projects in theaters and festivals across the United States and Europe.

After receiving her early dance training in England and earning a degree from London University, Bartlett studied with German expressionist dancer Sigurd Leeder, protégé of Rudolf von Laban and ballet master for the Jooss Ballet Company.

Prior to moving to the U.S., Bartlett was a performer, teacher and choreographer in England and Switzerland, and received the first prize for the Concours Internationale de Chorégraphie in Nyon.

She founded and chaired the dance department at USC’s Community School of Performing Arts in Los Angeles, founded and directed her own company, Pertpetuum Mobile, and was artist-in-residence at California State Universities in Fresno and Long Beach.

The two performances of the 2012 Peabody Dance Showcase will take place in Peabody’s Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall, 17 East Mount Vernon Place. General admission seating is $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $5 for children under 18 and students with ID.

A $50 Showcase Patron ticket includes reserved VIP section seating; a champagne, cheese, and dessert reception after the Saturday performance; a 1914-2014 Peabody Dance Centennial tote bag, and invitations to upcoming pre-Centennial events.

For general admission tickets, call the Peabody Box Office at (410) 234-4800 or email boxoffice@peabody.jhu.edu. For Showcase Patron tickets, and more information about the showcase and the centennial, contact the Peabody Dance office at (410) 234-4626, email dance@peabody.jhu.edu, or visit www.peabody.jhu.edu/dance.