Susan Hess’ upbeat end to 30-year run on Sansom


By Merilyn Jackson For The Inquirer

After 30 years at 2030 Sansom St., Susan Hess Modern Dance Studios presented its final concert there Sunday night. But instead of a wake, it was a celebration of the far-reaching dance legacy shaped in that space. Former Philly dancer Steve Krieckhaus came in from St. Louis to honor Hess, and so – surprise! – did famed global choreographer Lucinda Childs, whose spectacular 1979 Dance will have its Philadelphia premiere at this fall’s LiveArts Festival.Krieckhaus was one of many who went on to success through Hess’ 26-year-old Choreographers Project (others include Rennie Harris and Eric Schoefer). And Childs participated in Hess’ Masters Exchange series, also begun in 1984, which brought in dance icons including Deborah Hay and Daniel Nagrin.

The evening, despite bittersweet moments, was upbeat. As Krieckhaus said during the closing honors, “After all, Susan is not dying.” Indeed, Hess told me earlier that she’d received funding from Dance Advance to move her two signature projects to choreographer Jeanne Ruddy’s Performance Garage on Brandywine Street next season.

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About Merilyn Jackson

Merilyn is a guest contributor to the Dance Journal. She writes regularly on dance for The Philadelphia Inquirer since 1996 and writes on dance, theater, food, travel and Eastern European and Latin American fiction for many publications. More than 800 of her articles have appeared in publications as diverse as The New York Times, The Warsaw Voice, The Arizona Republic, The Phoenix New Times, MIT’s Technology Review, and Arizona Highways, Dance, Pointe and Dance Teacher magazines, Broad Street Review and www.exploredance.com.

She was awarded an NEA Critics Fellowship in 2005 and a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship in 1999 for her novel-in-progress, O Solitary Host. A chapter of that novel, “A Sow of Violence,” appeared in the Massachusetts Review in the Fall 2004 “Food Matters” issue. In 2012 she attended poetry workshops at Colgate University and Sarah Lawrence College, working with poets Peter Balakian and Tom Lux, respectively. Several of her poems appear in Exquisite Corpse, The Rusty Nail and Broad Street Review. She likes to say that dance was her first love, but when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although, she also writes poetry. Much of her writing can be read on her personal blog Prime Glib.

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