By Debra Danese for the Dance Journal
Making Change for Better Communities Through Dance was presented Saturday, October 1, 2016 by Swarthmore College and the Department of Music and Dance. The program was held to honor the distinguished career of Professor Sharon Friedler. Professor Friedler was Director of Dance at Swarthmore College from 1985-2014. The tribute recognized Friedler’s contributions to both the college and the broader dance community.
The event, held at Swarthmore College’s Pearson Hall Theater, was free and open to the public. Friends, students, alumni and colleagues gathered for a program that included dance, live music, spoken work and video. A feeling of respect and admiration filled the theater as Professor Friedler took the stage to open the program.
Friedler began by expressing gratitude for her professional opportunities in dance. She then explained that the program would work in reverse. It would start with her latest passion, Dance for PD (Parkinson Disease) and end with tap, which is how she started out in dance at age five.
Friedler was then joined on stage with members of her Dance for PD group. Men and women of various ages, and stages of the disease, took their places on chairs in a V-shaped formation. The audience joined in with a short warm-up consisting of easy arm movements. Friedler added in a mantra, “breathe in peace; breathe out love.” The PD group then performed excerpts from Falling Down Stairs, accompanied by two cellists. Originally set and staged by Mark Morris for his company, the piece was adapted by Friedler in collaboration with the Mark Morris Dance Group’s Dance for PD program. The music and movements were beautiful. However, it was seeing the joy in the dancer’s faces that made this a special and memorable moment to be a part of.
The remainder of the program featured presentations by Sita Frederick, C. Kemal Nance, Katia Lom, Cynthia Ling Lee and Melanie Kloetzel. These artists are alumni of the dance program and have gone on to distinctive careers in the dance world. Their pieces examined issues relating to love, age, gender, culture and politics. The artists challenged the critical thinking skills of the audience to interpret the work. The pieces were diverse and well executed.
Suits, choreographed by Nance, explored of spirituality that emerges wherever African American men congregate. The dance started in a church with a baptism. The settings, depicted on the back drop, changed as eight men danced on and off stage. The movement was a fusion of contemporary, hip hop, African and dancehall. It was the combination of dance styles that made this piece noteworthy.
Another stand out was otro lado by Frederick. Frederick entered the stage moving between a pliable, metallic mesh circle. She eventually emerged from the mesh but repeated the same movement. It implied that one is still emotionally affected even after a physical obstruction is removed. The work was powerful because it was so thought provoking.
Friedler encouraged her students to integrate art with issues of social importance. This program honored her legacy.