The eminent dance historian and critic Lynn Garafola ’68 is retiring from Barnard College this fall after serving on the faculty for 16 years. Garafola is the founder of the Columbia University seminar Studies in Dance and a leading expert on Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, probably the most influential twentieth-century ballet company. She is the author of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and Legacies of Twentieth-Century Dance, the editor of several books, and former editor of the series “Studies in Dance." Garafola is also a critic, feature writer, radio and on-camera commentator, and exhibition curator.
On December 12, Garafola is being honored with a prestigious Dance Magazine Award for her outstanding contribution to the field of dance at New York Live Arts. This award recognizes those who have made a lasting impact on the dance world and has been granted to dance luminaries since 1954.
Garafola has held numerous fellowships including, most recently, from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and New York Public Library’s Cullman Center to support her research for a biography of the Russian-American choreographer Bronislava Nijinska. For the Guggenheim Fellowship, she was among 175 artists, scholars, and scientists chosen from a group of nearly 3,000 applicants. She has curated numerous public programs as well as exhibitions on Jerome Robbins, the New York City Ballet, the Ballets Russes, and Italian dance from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century. During the centenary year of The Rite of Spring, she lectured across the United States and Europe and participated in the Bolshoi Theater’s festival that explored Nijinsky’s ballet.
"Lynn Garafola essentially helped to shape the field of dance history," notes Barnard College Provost Linda Bell. "A true public intellectual, she has enabled dance enthusiasts to understand the meanings of dance in a deep and serious way. At Barnard, she has gone well beyond the classroom, bringing dance as an art form to research, learning, and the creation of an intellectual community."
“Lynn is our high priestess of the dance studies world,” adds Julie Malnig, a professor of dance and performance studies at the Gallatin School of NYU. “When we need an expert, we always turn to Lynn. She has done it all—writing, researching, editing, teaching, lecturing, mentoring, organizing—and always with mastery and aplomb. Her impeccable historical research and writing set the bar for future scholarship in our field.”
Professor Katie Glasner, senior associate in Dance and co-chair of the Department of Dance, points out that Garafola not only has carved a unique position at the intersection of dance and literature; she also has shaped a generation of young scholars. “She is a fierce proponent of so many things which are both the foundation of a Barnard education and reflective of that education,” says Glasner, adding that Garafola intimately knows Barnard because she also is an alumna. Her students “have learned that dance is reflective of political activities, economic realities, and shifting cultural determinations of gender, race, and ethnicity. As she has demanded much of her own research, her example of ‘doing’ is often inspirational to her students and colleagues.”
Joanna Dee Das, whom Garafola mentored when Das was an undergraduate Dance concentrator at Columbia College and as a Columbia graduate student in History, and who currently is Assistant Professor of Dance at Washington University, St. Louis, echoes this sentiment. “Lynn Garafola has introduced hundreds of Barnard and Columbia students to dance as a field of scholarly inquiry. Her depth and breadth of knowledge about dance history is unsurpassed in the field, which has meant that she has been able to mentor students with interests ranging from the Argentine tango to postmodern choreography to dance therapy. Her graduate student advisees have found successful careers in academia, bolstered by the rigorous foundation she provided.”
Members of the Barnard community are in luck: Although Garafola is retiring, she remains a central figure in the intellectual community she has created, and we eagerly await her next contributions.