Since last fall, the members of the Vassar Repertory Dance Theater have had the opportunity to pursue their muses in the school’s newly renovated dance department facility. The multi-million-dollar project created three new dance studios and the stunning Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater, named for the college’s recently retired president. Despite its present incarnation as a state-of-the-art performance space, it’s a site which some Vassar alumni may fondly recall as Kenyon Hall’s former swimming pool.
Dance is a nonmajor elective program at Vassar, and most of these dancers might be equally comfortable discussing anthropology or the intricacies of Rumi as they are at executing a perfect entrechat quatre. Two full-time and three part-time faculty members teach modern, classical ballet, and jazz techniques. This year’s concert promises more than two hours of varied styles that reflect the diversity of their training. The company’s repertoire ranges from modern dance reconstructions and classical ballet divertissements to original student choreography and all pas de deux en pointes in between.
The icing on this cake is a performance of Donald McKayle’s celebrated four-part exploration of black culture, “Songs of the Disinherited.” The legendary dancer, choreographer, and five-time Tony Award nominee also visited the campus last December to lead the students in a master class and put them through their paces.
The repertory’s artistic director, Paul D. Mosley, is clearly enthusiastic about both McKayle’s visit and the opportunity for the ensemble to perform excerpts from the master’s classic 1972 piece. “It is a tribute to the quality of our dancers that, each year, we are able to present a signature work of a major choreographer,” Mosley says. “I have seen very few theatrical events in my life that portray hope and courage in the face of desperation as this dance does.”
Professor Czula proffers a piece of advice to those who don’t know their Laban from their elbow: “Come to the concert, enjoy, and see [how] you feel.”