Save the last dance for the Cutler Majestic

by Beacon Staff • February 15, 2006

The sprawling stage of Emerson's Cutler Majestic Theatre has been home to many creative performances since its construction in 1903: Bud Abbott, Frank Allen, the Tchaikovsky Ballet Orchestra and Lewis Black and Friends. the college uses the expansive space to host its annual EVVY awards. But for the members of one of these acts, Emerson Dance, this weekend's program (Feb. 17-19) will be their final Cutler Majestic show.

The BFA Dance Theatre major at Emerson will see its last students graduate in 2007, and long-time director of the program, Janet Craft, retired last December.

According to a Beacon article in the Sept. 29 issue, one of Craft's reasons for retiring was "her desires to focus on her own dance studio."

Craft said in an e-mail interview that she "found it increasingly more difficult to fulfill [her] role as a faculty member and program director in the current environment that exists here at the college."

In a recent interview with the Beacon, Performing Arts Department Chair Maureen Shea cited space and other resource shortages for the ultimate demise of Emerson's dance program.

"We were responding to an outside evaluation of our programs . Because of the lack of resources we were recommended to eliminate dance," said Shea. "It was a difficult decision . It's always painful to cut programs. We value dance as a performing art, [but] we just had too much dance for our studio space and [more] faculty than we could afford."

This does not mean, however, that those looking to cut a rug can no longer do so at Emerson. Shea recommended the musical theatre major to those interested in dance, because many of the resources from the dance program were re-directed to the musical theatre program.

"Dance is not going away," Shea said. "We will still have dance classes, a dance minor and the Emerson Dance company."

The final show of Emerson Dance, called EmDance by its members, is something that the group in the program said they are very excited about.

"The show is just amazing," said senior dance major Lauren Tymon. "Some parts are comical, some will probably make you cry. We've had shows in the past that were really great, but this one is a really solid performance."

Lisa Dimick, a junior dance major, echoed this sentiment. "It's not your typical dance-theatre Broadway type. It's more of an avant-garde show," she said.

Tymon said she is upset about losing the program, but that it is only pushing the Emerson Dance members harder.

"It's making us grow as dancers, because in the real world, things like this are going to happen," she said. "But we keep doing it because we love it, and we've become really strong as dancers."

Dimick said she thinks the show will also be an opportunity to showcase the talents of the little-known dance major program.

"People forget about us," Dimick said. "Some people have absolutely no clue that there is a dance major [at Emerson]. So this being our last performance is kind of good in the way that there's more focus on [the program] now. We've gotten so much attention, which is good, but it's still sad to know that there will be no new freshmen coming in."

For these dancers, holding the show in Emerson's historic theatre is a reward.

"It's a big honor to hold this last show in the Majestic, because it shows that even though we only have 14 dance majors left, we still have a big impact," Tymon said. "I guess we really want to show Emerson that we have some really talented people, and it's really cool to be able to do that on the Majestic stage."

David Dorfman, who the Connecticut College Web site lists as the 2005 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship award winner for his studies and performance of choreography, joins the list of featured first-class choreographers this year.

Among them are Nicole Pierce and Tommy Neblett, whose Web site boasts his list of awards, including a Creativity Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Every other year for the last 15 years, dance majors have performed in the historical Majestic Theatre.

Shows in the off-years at the Majestic are performed in Emerson's smaller venues, such as the Greene and Semel Theatres, according to Shea.

The BFA dance major will not go out quietly, students said. Next year will be the final show by EmDance while a dance major still exists, probably in the Semel or the Greene Theaters.

"I imagine we'll have a big going away party for dance," said Shea.

Performances will take place this Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $21 for general admission, $14 for students and senior citizens, and $9 for members of the Emerson community.

Tickets can be purchased at maj.org or by calling the Majestic's box office at 1-800-233-3123. Emerson Stage is also offering two free tickets to any student with a valid student ID at the Cutler Majestic box office, while seats remain available.