As the new guest director for the Dartmouth Dance Ensemble, John Heginbotham, a Julliard graduate and Brooklyn-based choreographer, has guided the group to explore new perspectives and techniques in dance. Heginbotham is one of the artists that the Hopkins Center imported to lead the nine-person Ensemble.\Courtesy of johnheginbotham.com
The Ensemble’s previous director, Ford Evans, is now teaching classes within the theater department. Under Evans’ direction, the Ensemble hosted evening-long performances, which brought together dance and theater. The exhibits incorporated dancing, acting, speaking and multimedia content, according to Annie Munger ’13, a member of the Ensemble since her freshman fall.
In contrast, proceeding from Heginbotham’s influence, this term the ensemble has focused more on contemporary short pieces and modern dances.
“So far, everything we’ve been doing this term is purely movement-based,” Munger said. “I really love his choreography – it’s quirky and yet feels natural to the body. It’s playful and very different.”
The dances this term are “intricately choreographed,” said Genevieve Mifflin ’14, also a member of the Ensemble since her freshman fall.
“There are an infinite number of ways you can move the human body. John has opened another door to us,” she said.
One of the Ensemble’s two shows this fall occurred outside the Black Family Visual Arts Center, in honor of the Hopkins Center’s 50th Anniversary. The Ensemble eventually broke into various groups around Wilson and the Hood Museum of Art, culminating outside the Hop.
As the Ensemble usually performs inside, dancing in a more open atmosphere without a stage brought a new energy to the performance.
“Being outside created different components, which was a challenge. It was nice to do something different,” said Mifflin.
Heginbotham has pushed the Ensemble members to take risks and discover new territories in dance, while cultivating the dancers’ enthusiasm for their work.
“The atmosphere of the studio has been more lighthearted and fun this term,” Munger said.
Heginbotham travels back and forth from Hanover to New York each week. A former fourteen-year member of the Mark Morris Dance group and an artist for the Pilobolus Dance Theater, Heginbotham currently has his own company, Dance Heginbotham, which has performed at various notable venues, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Initially a performer, Heginbotham was exposed to numerous genres of dance at his local dance school in Anchorage, Alaska, but he finally settled on contemporary dance.
“It is the most direct way for me to express myself,” he said. “It can be very liberating.”
Eventually, Heginbotham decided he wanted to move from performing to choreographing. He also developed a passion for teaching dance and became one of three founding teachers of Dance for PD, an organization that offers dance classes to individuals with Parkinson’s disease.
Eleven years ago, the Mark Morris Dance group collaborated with the Brooklyn Parkinson group to host classes, which now take place once a week and serve over fifty people each class. Since its conception, Dance for PD has rapidly expanded and has even gone international.
Heginbotham finds teaching for Dance for PD even more rewarding than leading his classes for experienced dancers.
“It’s offering more expressive possibilities for the human body than perhaps they are aware of. It’s really fun to be part of that with them,” he said.
The Hop initially announced that there would be a new guest choreographer each term this year, but it was recently revealed that Heginbotham will remain with the Ensemble next term. Heginbotham’s goal for winter term is to have a show featuring just the ensemble, hopefully collaborating with music ensembles from the Hop. This fits with the Ensemble’s goal of expanding its scope on campus.
“The Ensemble over the course of the last seven years has been trying to reach broader audiences and try different works. We’re always moving forward,” Mifflin said.
About the rotating choreographers, Munger said, “It keeps things fresh, and at the same time I’m happy he’s staying two terms. It’s nice to have some continuity and to build a personal and professional relationship.”
Of his dancers at Dartmouth, Heginbotham said, “They’re all really smart, interesting people. They’re willing to take risks and to trust in what I’m asking to do.”
DDE in the spring – Undue Influence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctRyuwlEm0c
http://vimeo.com/20434954 – His company’s performance of “Closing Bell” at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, on January 8, 2011.
Tags: dartmouth dance ensemble, Emma Moley, hopkins center, john heginbotham, theater