Lafayette receives $450,000 Mellon grant
Lafayette College is the recipient of a $450,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will bring established and emerging choreographers to the classrooms, studios and stages of area colleges.
Lafayette will partner with the five other Dance Consortium members of the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC): Cedar Crest College, Moravian College, Muhlenberg College, Lehigh University and DeSales University.
The collaborative program will explore the use of dance as an art form and how its creative powers can be infused across a liberal arts curriculum.
"We are delighted at this opportunity to partner with other area colleges and universities to enhance dance education and performance in the Lehigh Valley," said Lafayette College President Alison Byerly.
"This project will not only benefit the dance community, it will showcase the way in which art can stimulate explorations of creativity across a range of fields and disciplines," Byerly said.
"It will also provide significant opportunities for curricular development across disciplines, using guest choreographers to advance learning in the humanities as well as engineering and the sciences," said Wendy Hill, Lafayette College provost and dean of the faculty.
"We don't just want dancers, but students interested in how dance works in our culture," said Suzanne Westfall, director of the arts and professor of English and theater at Lafayette. "We all have the need and desire to move. You don't have to be a professional dancer to be engaged in dance."
The grant will promote collaboration of dance resources among the participating colleges, said Diane Dimitroff, executive director of LVAIC.
The Mellon Foundation recognized the commitment that Lafayette College has made over many years in presenting the work of choreographers and supporting them through artist residencies and commissions, according to Ellis Finger, director of Lafayette College Williams Center for the Arts.
The project will be led at Lafayette College by Hill in concert with Finger and Westfall.
Centerpiece of the project is a series of semester-long and short-term residencies, many of them connected to touring performances by the guest choreographers' companies with Lafayette College as the primary venue and one or more of the LVAIC campuses as partners.
The initiative began Nov. 1 and extends through Oct. 31, 2016. It encompasses short- and long-term artist residencies, classes, workshops, performances and commissions of new work.
New York choreographer Ben Munisteri will lead the first residency. He will offer the course Dance as an Art Form in spring 2014 at Lafayette. Munisteri will also serve as principal visiting choreographer-in-residence for the duration of the project, facilitating performances, classes, and teaching workshops on the LVAIC campuses.
Goals of the project include broadening the network of potential collaborators for choreographers, expanding opportunities for undergraduate students from all backgrounds to interact with visiting choreographers both in and out of the classroom, providing professional development activities for faculty and staff members that focus on ways dance and performance can be integrated with a liberal arts curriculum, and further establishing the Lehigh Valley as an important regional center for dance.
Additional support and advice will be provided by LVAIC Dance Consortium members, including Deborah Sacarakis, artistic director of the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University; Robin Gerchman, assistant professor and director of dance at Cedar Crest College; Dawn Ketterman-Benner, professor and chair of physical education and faculty adviser to the Dance Company at Moravian College; Karen Dearborn, professor of ballet, composition, and dance history, director of dance, and executive director of the Muhlenberg Community Dance Center at Muhlenberg College; and Timothy Cowart, associate professor and director of the dance department at DeSales University.