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Center Stage at Barnard: Dance

Photograph by Dorothy Hong

Mary Cochran, chair and artistic director of Barnard’s dance department and a former soloist with the Paul Taylor Dance Company (1984-1996), is a dynamic and energizing presence—one whose influence on the program since joining the Barnard faculty, in 2003, has been profound. After a series of visiting professorships at small colleges, large universities, and a conservatory, she had several goals in mind when she arrived at the College. One of those objectives was to build a collaborative and interactive teaching structure that would meld dance theory, practice, history, and creativity within the context of a rigorous liberal arts tradition. In stressing the connectivity between both, Cochran draws parallels between writing a paper and choreographing a dance, neither of which is a linear process. The student begins by doing research to bolster an idea or concept, and begins to create original material; as the piece progresses, she may find that the format or the various sections may need to be rethought or reworked—just as in writing a paper.

Today five full-time professors, including Cochran, provide instruction along with 35 adjuncts and guest artists drawn from the ranks of top professionals in the world-class dance capital that is New York City. In addition to working with accomplished artists, Barnard students also study with outstanding research scholars, gaining a thorough artistic and educational foundation with which to pursue a career or further study. More than 60 courses are offered each semester; these courses are open to Columbia students as well. Cochran estimates the department produces between 10 and 15 dance majors per academic year. With such explosive growth in the department and the expanding interest in non-western, or global, dance, space is becoming a more pressing issue, but Cochran looks forward to renovations in Barnard Hall that will ultimately provide more performance and rehearsal space.

Another of Cochran’s aims was to create “a porous and fluid relationship with the professional world [of dance].” The nature of the partnerships she has forged with groups such as Dance Theater Workshop, City Center, Williamsburg Art Nexus, and individuals such as Susan Marshall and Bill T. Jones, brought her vision into focus. Four new premieres were developed and presented to mark the sixth season of a groundbreaking collaboration between Barnard College’s dance department and New York’s Dance Theater Workshop. Internationally acclaimed choreographer and Barnard instructor Ori Flomin (at center in brown T-shirt), created “All we are” on these student performers: Adrianna Aguilar ’13, Eleanor Barisser ’13, Nicole Cerutti ’12, Lauren DeMaria CC ’13, Liana Gergely ’14, Garnet Henderson CC ’13, Marie Janicek ’12, Taryn McGovern ’13, Molly McMenamin ’12, Ellie Morris, Daniel Pahl CC ’14, and Danica Young ’13. Lighting by Tricia Toliver; costumes by Liz Prince.

- Annette Kahn