Dance Department Opens New Headquarters, Hosts Gala

Cheryl Cutler MA '71, founder of the Dance Department, served as department chair for 32 years. She spoke about the department's history and changes as part of the Dance Department's grand opening gala Feb. 28. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Cheryl Cutler MA ’71, founder of the Dance Department, served as department chair for 32 years. She spoke about the department’s history and changes as part of the Dance Department’s grand opening gala Feb. 28. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

The Dance Department now has a studio/office space of its own, having opened new digs in a converted church at 160 Cross Street Feb. 28 with a grand opening gala. Artist-in-residence, African dancer/drummer Iddi Saaka gave the inaugural performance at an intimate reception attended by dance majors and some early alumni from the program (which first took shape in the late ’60s and early ’70s as an extension of the Theater Department).

The newly renovated Dance Department building — constructed in 1978, was once home to the AME Zion Church.

The newly renovated Dance Department building, constructed in 1978, was once home to the AME Zion Church.

“We finally have our own space, our own building, our own entity,” said Hari Krishnan, assistant professor of dance. “Statistically, more than 40 percent of students at Wesleyan have taken a dance class during their time at Wesleyan. This has been the case for over 10 years and the figure is consistent across all three divisions. Now we can build on that. We can make it an integral part of life at Wesleyan. This building reaffirms that for us.”

The newly renovated building — constructed in 1978, once home to the AME Zion Church, and most recently, an archeology laboratory — will yield many benefits for the Wes dance community. Until now, faculty and students have been sharing offices and spaces in tight quarters, based inside the Center for the Arts. The Theater Department has taken over the former space. Now each faculty and resident has an office to him or herself and there’s adequate space to increase enrollment and continue expanding and evolving the program. Scheduling independence will allow for more performances and less hassle in the planning stages, Krishnan said.

The new location makes smart use of design and technology, and can be easily converted to function either as a classroom or a performance space depending on the needs of the day. There’s a permanent lighting rig and it possesses high-tech audio-visual capabilities.

“It functions as a sophisticated pedagogical space as well as performance facility, which is what we had always dreamt of,” Krishnan said. “A lot of work has gone into this and it really shows the solidarity of the Dance Department.”

The grand opening event also included workshops by Cheryl Cutler, founder of the Dance Department; “sound painting” with Tess Jonas ’15; “queering of the body” with Djibril Sall ’16; an improvisational jam with Ari Kaufman ’16 and Clara Pinsky ’16; and “hooping” with Emily Jones ’14.

Learn more about the history of the Dance Department here.

In 1971 a “Concentration in Dance” was made possible within the Theater major, and in 1976, separate and autonomous programs were formed within one department.

In 1971 a “Concentration in Dance” was made possible within the theater major, and in 1976, separate and autonomous programs were formed within one department.

The permanent lighting rig possesses high-tech audio-visual capabilities.

The permanent lighting rig possesses high-tech audio-visual capabilities.

Faculty, staff and friends attended the Dance Department's gala on Feb. 28 and March 1.

Faculty, staff and friends attended the Dance Department’s gala on Feb. 28 and March 1.