New Dance Space to Benefit Performers
by Jordan McCord '10
June 29, 2010
Sarah Skaggs (seated) is eager to see the completion of the new dance space in the former great room of 25-27 West High St. Dancers are from left: Ryan Koons ’10, Andrew Kamerosky ’10, Erica Pitcairn ’10 and Anna Ciriani Dean ’12.
A liberal-arts education can serve as an ultimate interactive performance. This fall, the Theatre & Dance Department will help reinforce this truism by opening a multifaceted dance studio and living space in the heart of downtown Carlisle.
In an effort to create more space for the art of dance and performance, the college will transform an existing space into The Site, a place for students interested in the practice and study of performance.
This summer, work will begin in the great room of the college’s 25-27 W. High St. apartments to create a 45-feet-long, 30-feet-wide dance studio. The Site studio will accommodate all the co-curricular and extracurricular dance groups on campus, and the third floor of 25-27 W. High St. will house students who would like their artistic conversations to spill over into their living space.
“The goal is to bring academic conversation into performance space; we are looking at new ways to produce culture that aren’t necessarily traditional ways,” said Sarah Skaggs, assistant professor of dance.
When Skaggs arrived on campus two years ago she encountered a space conundrum, with dancers practicing in a small room in the basement of the HUB and a dance house at 417 W. Louther St. that could accommodate only five students. The Site will not only enhance the dance program but create an interdisciplinary space that will serve students interested in any type of performance art, defining the term performance broadly.
“Not only will The Site house students who are in the performing arts—music, dance, arts—it aims to foster interdisciplinary discussions between those students who create culture, that is, dance, art, music, drama, and those who analyze culture—American studies, English, anthropology,” Skaggs said.
Skaggs has high aspirations for The Site and the surrounding High Street area and envisions a mini-art district taking shape. “Perhaps we could attract new businesses to the area as well as innovative artists, thinkers and scholars,” she said.
Peg and Peter DiGiammarino, parents of Jaedra DiGiammarino ’08, helped to jumpstart the construction of this new space through a gift in honor of their daughter’s experiences with the Dickinson dance program. The DiGiammarinos also were motivated by the prospect of seeing a large dance floor equipped with new safety features.
“The whole program just fell into place for her when she was there, and she’s really happy to continue to be associated with it,” Peg DiGiammarino said. Her daughter currently is pursuing opportunities in Brooklyn, including professional dancing and modeling, as well as teaching dance, movement and yoga.
“Whatever is important to Sarah [Skaggs] is important to me,” Peter DiGiammarino added. “She and President [William G.] Durden [’71] are putting dance in the right place at the school. We were very happy with how things turned out for Jaedra.”
One student who has been instrumental in conceiving this new space is Ryan Koons ’10, a music major who was head of the dance house. He has pursued performance opportunities throughout his academic career as a part of the Dance Theater Group (DTG) executive board and as a choreographer of DTG’s spring performance this year.
As a graduating senior, he was glad to take part in the creation of a new interdisciplinary space for future Dickinson students. In the fall he will attend the University of California, Los Angeles, where he will pursue a master’s and Ph.D. in the six-year ethnomusicology program.
Koons said this new space could welcome dance historians, sociologists, anthropologists and other students of the social sciences.
“By bringing together residents who are involved both in performance and the study of performance, we hope to initiate a dialogue that can offer a new and rich perspective,” he said. “There is a fine line between what is and is not art, and I think this new space will play with that line and stretch it in a positive fashion.’ ”