Performing Arts: Dance
December 18, 2015
“DO IT!,” insisted Bessie Schonberg.

That advice still rings in the ears of choreographer Jessica Lang who encountered the formidable mentor/composition teacher at The Juilliard School. Schonberg was adamant that her students be courageous and try to create whatever was most important to them. Creator, producer and moderator of the award-winning TV series EYE ON DANCE (EOD), Celia Ipiotis, brought together Lang, Director of Clark Center NYC, Jill Williams and choreographer Jawole Will Jo Zollar to talk after a screening at The Gibney Center. The EOD Episode #201, produced in 1986, featured Schonberg and Louise Roberts, mentor/director of the Clark Dance Center. The panelists all agreed that these two ladies were tough, but essential to “Nurturing A New Generation of Dancers,” as this EOD episode was titled.

We also hear Schonberg stating that modern dancers are trained to discover their movement, while ballet dancers simply do whatever is asked of them. Affirming this statement, Lang bragged that she has made 90 dances since 1999, but chose to start her own company because most of the ballet dancers she was commissioned to choreograph for, were unfamiliar with a collaborative, creative process.

Customary in this series--recently designated one of the nation’s “Irreplaceable Dance Treasures” -- Ipiotis’ chat was surrounded by dance performance excerpts: Zollar’s Anarchy, Wild Women and Dinah; Paul Andrew Thompson’s Frantic Romanticism and Valda Setterfield’s introduction of Schonberg at the first Bessie Awards presentation in 1984. On screen, Ipiotis asked Schonberg and Roberts provocative questions about how race and class affect the dance community. This questions led into the lively discussion that followed, prompting Zollar and Williams to share stories of black women choreographers’ struggles. Zollar, who founded her Urban Bush Women in 1984 and just celebrated her thirtieth anniversary season at Brooklyn Academy of Music, is humble yet, proud to be an example of success and a role model.

This talk was the second of two presented at The Gibney Center this fall, the first having been on October 26th featuring Carla Maxwell who had just finished an anniversary season for The Jose Limon Dance Company at The Joyce Theatre.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

©2001 Eye and Dance and the Arts | All Rights Reserved