A Meeting of Extraordinary Dancers

On Sunday, January 31st, 2010 a group of dancers from Santa Cruz, CA met in a private home for the first ever Santa Cruz Dance Salon. In order to keep numbers relatively small, this was an invitation-only event. Still, we had a full house with nearly twenty local dancers attending. This was clearly something we’d all been waiting for: an opportunity to meet and learn about one another; to share, network, and generally schmooz.

It was a stellar gathering. Studio directors and teachers, college instructors, choreographers, producers, musicians, and historians…and one anthropologist. Many were pioneers of the dance scene in Santa Cruz creating the dance programs at our local University of California and Cabrillo College or establishing long-standing dance studios. There were Modern, Jazz, Polynesian, Flamenco, and North African dancers. And we were all of us “old guard” (dancers in our senior years).

Our guest for this event was local dance teacher and historian, Connie Kreemer who presented some findings from her book, Further Steps 2. Connie is a New York trained modern dancer who began performing professionally when she was in her early twenties. She performed with the Erick Hawkins, the Nancy Meehan, and the Mel Wong Dance Companies. After moving to Santa Cruz, she and her husband Mel taught at UCSC and raised their family.

Connie’s scholarly training came under the mentorship of Selma Jeanne Cohen whom she met at University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1976. Together, they founded the Society of Dance History Scholars, perhaps the most vital dance history organization in existence. Connie’s first book, Further Steps, is a collection of interviews she personally conducted with 14 of America’s foremost modern dancers. Her current publication follows up on many of her original interviewees, though several were already deceased by the time she began book two.

Her new book is Further Steps 2: Fourteen Choreographers on What’s the RAGE in Modern Dance. RAGE is an acronym for the four subjects Connie and her interviewees grappled with: Race, Age, Gender, Environment. She introduced us to the depth and tenor of these discussions through the first subject, Race. It is a subject Connie became intimate with after marrying fourth generation Chinese-American, Mel Wong and observing how he was treated within the dance industry. She points out that Race is reflected not only choreographically, but in dance company demographics and in funding policies.

It was a fascinating presentation and we all wanted more time to talk about the other subjects, especially, perhaps, Age. After all, most of us at the salon were approximately the same ages as the dancers Connie interviewed. Sadly, we ran out of time but we hope to continue these gatherings. In future events we will meet for discussions, presentations, and workshops. I hope as well that these salons will become a starting point for deeper commentary via this blog.

Further Steps 2 by Constance Kreemer is published at Routledge

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