"We have reconstructed important modern dances at University of Idaho in the past, but this will be the first time we preserve a dance for the entire world.”
- Greg Halloran,
Associate Professor of Dance

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Students performing a dance

Idaho Dance Program Receives Grant to Preserve Famous Works

Written by Cheryl Dudley

MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho's Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance has been awarded a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpiece: Dance.

The grant will support the restaging and notation of "Suite of Three" by choreographer Jean Erdman. The University of Idaho Center for Dance, in conjunction with the Dance Notation Bureau and Jean Erdman interpreter Nancy Allison, will restage "Creature on a Journey," "Hamadryad" and "Passage."

The National Endowment for the Arts awarded 43 grants nationwide, and only 18 were awarded to colleges and universities. This is the fourth NEA grant awarded to the University of Idaho Dance Program.

Past grants include an American Masterpieces: Dance grant to restage post modern legends Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane’s dance "Continuous Replay"; a National College Choreography Initiative to have swing/vernacular jazz legend Frankie Manning choreograph two new works at the university; and world-renowned choreographer Bill Evans choreographed "Landscapes Idaho," a work based on the landscapes of the state, which toured the state in 2002.

“Although we are a relatively small dance program at the University of Idaho, we are still nationally competitive,” said dance professor Greg Halloran. “These grants help us assure quality training and exposure for our students. The dancer in each notated work will have his or her name published in the score as the notated cast, and the university will be known through history as contributing to the preservation of Jean Erdman’s works.”

Erdman is a leading artist of the post pioneer generation of American modern dance. Anna Kisselgoff, chief dance critic of The New York Times, wrote in response to a 1985 retrospective of Erdman’s work, “anyone wishing to know something about where modern dance is today can find the root in this retrospective.”

University of Idaho Dance, which is committed to the preservation of American modern dance, is thrilled by the possibility of restaging Erdman’s works. "Creature on a Journey" and "Hamadryad" will be staged from Labanotation scores that were created under the auspices of the Dance Notation Bureau. The DNB’s mission is to advance the art of dance through the use of a system of notation. DNB does this by creating dance scores using the symbol system called Labanotation. This allows the dances to continue to be performed long after the lifetime of the artist. Dance scores function for dance the same way music scores function for music. This work is especially suited for the university’s small, predominately female dance program.

The stager, to be determined by the DNB, will cast soloists and restage over six days. Nancy Allison, Erdman authority, dancer and former DNB Director, will overlap with the stager to check the scores of "Creature on a Journey" and "Hamadryad" for movement veracity, which is the final component of the Labanotation process.

Allison will then restage "Passage" as a Certified Professional Notator from the DNB notates of the work. Allison will coach the three solos and Halloran, trained in Labanotation, will rehearse the dancers. The restaging will take place in the university's dance studio. "Suite of Three," performed by three university dance soloists, will be showcased in the November 2010 Dance Theatre Concert held in the Hartung Theatre.

When completed, the DNB will house the three Erdman scores and coaching DVDs, and make them available to professional and university companies, researchers and educators.

"We have reconstructed important modern dances at University of Idaho in the past,” said Halloran, “but this will be the first time we preserve a dance for the entire world.”