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Muhlenberg College celebrates twenty years of dance with Master Choreographers dance concert

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The Muhlenberg College dance program celebrates its 20th anniversary with a special edition of its annual “Master Choreographers” dance concert, Feb. 6-8.

The concert will feature a restaging of “D-Man in the Waters (Part 1),” by legendary choreographer Bill T. Jones, as well as seven world-premiere dance pieces, choreographed by acclaimed guest artists and faculty members.

One of the premiere choreographers of his generation, Bill T. Jones was the recipient of the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors (alongside Paul McCartney and Oprah Winfrey). He has won Tony Awards for his choreography in the Broadway shows “Spring Awakening” (2007) and “Fela!” (2010). The Dance Heritage Coalition has called Jones “an irreplaceable dance treasure.” The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, founded in 1982, has performed worldwide.

Premiered in 1989, “D-Man in the Waters” won a New York Dance and Performance Award (“Bessie Award”) and has since become one of the company’s signature pieces. Set to Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings in E-flat Major, Op. 20, the work is one of the finest examples of the post-modern aesthetic and was featured in PBS’s landmark film “Dancing in the Light: Six Dances by African-American Choreographers.”

“‘D-Man’ is the kind of piece that sets audiences cheering,” Anna Kisselgoff wrote in the New York Times in 1989, and acclaimed dance director Charles L. Reinhart called the piece “one of the greatest works ever choreographed… It’s extraordinarily moving emotionally and extraordinarily exciting and interesting choreographically with an incredible message of despair and hope which is what life’s all about.”

“D-Man in the Waters” is supported by the Dexter F. and Dorothy H. Baker Artist-in-Residence program, and presented with the cooperation of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.

The annual “Master Choreographers” concert features a diverse selection of styles and genres, ranging from classical ballet to contemporary jazz, modern dance, and tap accompanied by live jazz music.

“This concert presents a spectacular evening of dance,” says Karen Dearborn, founding director of Muhlenberg’s dance program, and the concert’s artistic director. “We are thrilled to showcase Bill T. Jones’ masterpiece, along with new works by internationally acclaimed guest artists and faculty.”

Dearborn has created a new work for the performance, which will also feature works by: Danish choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen, former artistic director of the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company; Corrie Franz Cowart, co-artistic director of Co-Art Dance; Heidi Cruz-Austin, alumna of the Pennsylvania Ballet; Dorrell Martin, founder of LEON Dance Arts NY; Shelley Oliver, director of Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers; and Jeffrey Peterson, former dancer with Danny Buraczeski’s Jazzdance.

In conjunction with the “Master Choreographers” concert, dance critic, acclaimed author and journalist Elizabeth Zimmer will present a lecture on Friday, Feb. 7, at 5 p.m., in the Baker Center for the Arts Recital Hall. Admission is free.

Other 20th Anniversary activities include a Dance Reunion Weekend, March 21-22, and an Alumni Concert, featuring dance pieces by alumni from throughout the program’s 20 years, March 22.

Performances of “Master Choreographers” will take place Thursday, Feb. 6, at 8 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 7, at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Feb. 8, at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for patrons 17 and under. Performances are in the Empie Theatre, in the Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. Information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 or muhlenberg.edu/dance.

The Choreographers

BILL T. JONES (Artistic Director/Co-Founder/Choreographer: Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company; Executive Artistic Director: New York Live Arts) is the recipient of the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors; a 2010 Tony Award for Best Choreography of the critically acclaimed FELA!; a 2007 Tony Award, 2007 Obie Award, and 2006 Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation CALLAWAY Award for his choreography for Spring Awakening; the 2010 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award; the 2007 USA Eileen Harris Norton Fellowship; the 2006 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Choreography forThe Seven; the 2005 Wexner Prize; the 2005 Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement; the 2005 Harlem Renaissance Award; the 2003 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize; and the 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award. In 2010, Mr. Jones was recognized as Officier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, and in 2000, The Dance Heritage Coalition named Mr. Jones “An Irreplaceable Dance Treasure.”

Mr. Jones choreographed and performed worldwide with his late partner, Arnie Zane, before forming the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1982. He has created more than 140 works for his company. In 2011, Mr. Jones was named Executive Artistic Director of New York Lives Arts, an organization that strives to create a robust framework in support of the nation’s dance and movement-based artists through new approaches to producing, presenting and educating.

Germaul Barnes (Restager) is a Bessie Award winner for his dancing in the work of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. He is currently Director and Founder of Germaul Barnes/Viewsic Expressions Dance, a New York based dance company that presents multi-media dance performances and educational residencies around the world. Mr. Barnes is also Co-Director of Burnt Sugar/Danz with Gabri Christa and Greg Tate. He has received many grants and awards for his extensive foreign experience as dancer, teacher, choreographer and anthropologist. He has created dances for The Ailey School, Southern Dance Work, Birmingham Southern College, Skidmore College, Jasmyn Fyffe Dance-Toronto, Ghana National Dance Theater, ChoreoQuest Project, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, among others. For a complete list of his achievements, visit: www.ViewsicEx.org.

Charlotte Boye-Christensen is the former artistic director of the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, located in Salt Lake City. A native of Copenhagen, Denmark, Boye-Christensen received her formal training at London Contemporary Dance School and at the Laban Centre in London and completed her Master of Fine Arts degree at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. She has been commissioned to create new works for numerous dance companies and universities around the world. Boye-Christensen is the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and grants from the Theatre and Arts Councils in Denmark, Germany, Mexico and Singapore, as well as a recipient of the Choo-San Goh Award for Choreographic Excellence. In 2002 she joined Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company to assist in the artistic direction of the company. She became the artistic director in 2008 and has created and re-staged 26 pieces on the company. In April 2013, she stepped away from that position in order to form NOW-ID, an interdisciplinary contemporary dance company, and to pursue more international commissions.

Heidi Cruz-Austin is an alumna of the Pennsylvania Ballet, and she has danced featured roles in works by choreographers ranging from Alvin Ailey to George Balanchine. In addition to dancing with Pennsylvania Ballet, Cruz-Austin has performed with the Philadelphia-based company Ballet X and as a guest artist throughout the United States and Europe. As a choreographer, Cruz-Austin was a winner for the 2003 Ballet Builders showcase in New York City. She has been commissioned to create works for Franklin and Marshall College, Bryn Mawr College, Repertory Dance Theater, and Ballet D’errico, and she was a recipient of the 2004-2005 New Edge Residency at The Community Education Center of Philadelphia.

Corrie Franz Cowart has performed with the Mary Miller Dance Company, LABCO Dance, Minh Tran and Company, the Dance Theatre of Oregon, and the Pittsburgh Opera. She is also the co-artistic director of Co-Art Dance and has performed both nationally and internationally with Impact Productions’ “Dayuma,” and “The Masterpiece.” Cowart continues to perform and choreograph for her own company Co-Art Dance, a contemporary dance company she co-founded in 1997 with her husband Tim Cowart. Corrie is an assistant professor at Muhlenberg College, where she teaches modern, dance composition, and dance on camera.

Karen Dearborn has choreographed more than 70 works in concert, theater, and musical theater, including national tours of the Tony Award-winning National Theatre of the Deaf and several Equity theatres. She has provided choreography for the Muhlenberg theater productions of “On the Town,” “The Pajama Game,” “Oklahoma!” “Urinetown,” and “West Side Story,” and Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre productions of “Hairspray,”  “The Sound of Music,” “The Who’s Tommy,” and “Oliver!” to name just a few. Dearborn is the founding director of Muhlenberg’s dance program. Her scholarly research has been published in the Journal of Dance Education, and she contributed an essay to the book “Performing Magic on the Western Stage.” She serves on the executive board of the American College Dance Festival Association.

Dorrell Martin is founder of the jazz and contemporary dance program, LEON Dance Arts NY, which is associated with LEON Contemporary Dance Company/NY, of which Martin is the artistic director. He was also the creator and director of the jazz and contemporary program at The Joffrey Ballet School. He is former artistic director/co-founder of Houston Metropolitan Dance Company in Houston, Texas. Martin was a soloist for the national and international touring company of “A Few Good Men Dancin’,” and has danced in such shows as “Aida,” “West Side Story,” “The Lion King,” and “Swing.” He has also performed with many professional companies, including Arch Dance, Locke Contemporary Dance, Houston Grand Opera, Metropolitan Opera, and Richard Rivera’s PHYSUAL. Martin has also performed with such recording artists as Jennifer Lopez, Pink, Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna and Debra Cox.

Shelley Oliver is a Canadian-born tap dancer, choreographer, and educator. She has appeared internationally with some of the legends of the tap world. She is the artistic director of The Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers currently touring with the David Leonhardt Jazz Group throughout the northeast. Oliver is a founding member of Manhattan Tap and served as a co-artistic director and choreographer with the company. She has toured in concert halls in Europe, China, the Caribbean, Canada, and the United States. She has performed with Savion Glover, Gregory Hines, Jimmy Slide, Buster Brown, Jimmy Slide, and Chuck Green. Oliver’s television appearances include “Tap Dance in America” with Gregory Hines and “Star Search.” On faculty at Muhlenberg College, she directs the Muhlenberg Jazz Tap Ensemble, providing community outreach in the Allentown area. Ms. Oliver has produced a series of “Tap Music For Tap Dancers” CDs that have become a standard pedagogical tool in the tap dance world. She is the recipient of the 2009 Outstanding Dance Educator award for the Lehigh Valley Dance Consortium.

Jeffrey Peterson serves as an assistant professor of dance at Muhlenberg College, where he teaches modern, jazz, and partnering techniques. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Peterson began his professional dance career in national tours with JAZZDANCE by Danny Buraczeski in 2000. Since then, he has performed in the work of Clare Byrne, Edisa Weeks, and Mathew Janczewski, as well as Stephan Koplowitz’s “Grand Step Project,” and the Minnesota Opera’s production of “The Pearl Fishers” with choreography by John Malashock. His choreographic work for Jeffrey Peterson Dance has appeared at Joe’s Pub, Joyce SOHO, and Dixon Place in New York City, The Minnesota Fringe Festival, Intermedia Arts, and Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis, and in “The Cloth Peddler” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. Peterson’s choreography has appeared in the concert repertory of numerous university dance programs. His ongoing creative work includes choreographic projects, colorguard and visual consultation for the Govenaires Drum and Bugle Corps, and sound design.

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