Five College dancers to perform at Kennedy Center

Top student dancers from Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges and University of Massachusetts Amherst will perform two original dance works at the National College Dance Festival on June 6 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The students are all part of the Five College Dance Department, a collaboration of the dance departments and programs from Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts.

Held every other year, the National Festival showcases dances chosen for their outstanding artistic excellence and merit. The festival highlights, on a national scale, the exceptional choreography and dance performances produced on college and university campuses. Approximately 30 colleges and universities from across the country will be represented.

“I feel extremely lucky and blessed by the opportunity to perform in the National Festival,” says Ailey Picasso, a Hampshire College senior, who will perform her original piece, undigested logic.

Picasso performed undigested logic at the New England American College Dance Association Conference at Boston University this past February. Students from 45 other New England schools performed at this event, including dancers from UMass, Smith College and Mount Holyoke College, who performed Before/After, a large ensemble dance choreographed by award-winning choreographer Jennifer Hart. Judges chose undigested logic and Before/After to be performed in the National Festival in Washington, D.C. Smith College faculty member Chris Aiken’s group work, How Did I Get Here?, was also selected but scheduling conflicts prevented it from being performed.

A largely improvised piece, Picasso says that her dance changes and develops in new ways with every performance. “I’m looking forward to the experience of performing it again and seeing what it becomes at the Kennedy Center and in the context of this festival,” she says.

UMass ballet professor Thomas Vacanti brought guest choreographer Jennifer Hart of Ballet Austin in Austin, Texas to UMass last fall. Hart held auditions in October, where she cast eight students to perform Before/After. The student dancers are: UMass junior Annie Heath, UMass sophomore Alanna Sade-Milburg, UMass junior Allison Dancewicz, Mount Holyoke College sophomore Celine Barreau, Smith College senior Nadia Belkin, UMass junior Emily Relyea-Spivack, Smith College junior Katherine Taylor, and Mount Holyoke College junior Margaret Wiss.