For 100 years, the sounds of dancing feet have echoed across the floors of Case Western Reserve University's Mather Dance Center (formerly the Mather Gymnasium of the former Flora Stone Mather College for Women). The building's centennial anniversary will be celebrated February 4-10 with the return of notable alumni to participate in dance concerts, master classes, workshops, seminars, galas and more.
The dance centennial is being co-chaired by Karen Potter, director of the dance program, and Gary Galbraith, the dance program's artistic director.
"From the building's beginning, dance was an integral part of the education on campus," said Potter. Over the years, dance evolved into its own program and now offers a robust graduate curriculum to train dancers for their Master of Fine Arts degree. Currently, the program's seven graduate students and eight undergraduate majors come from the United States, Turkey, China and Taiwan.
Among the notable dancers returning for the centennial program are Kathy Cornett Heekin, the first MA degree recipient in dance at Case; Eddie Glickman, the first MFA degree recipient in dance ; Karen Allgire, co-owner and director of Green Tara Yoga and Healing Arts, Carisa Armstrong, lecturer of dance at Texas A&M University; Nick Carlisle, instructor of dance at University of Akron; Chris DiCello, director of dance at Lake Erie College; Richard Dickinson, part-time lecturer at Case and artistic director of Western Reserve Ballet in Youngstown; Gina Gibney of Gina Gibney Dance of New York City; Sarah Morrison of MorrisonDance of Cleveland; Joan Meggitt, founder and artistic director of Anteaus Dance of Cleveland; Keith Michael, production manager at the Juilliard School in New York, and Katri Shaller, professional dancer currently working in Sweden.
These dancers and other alumni will be featured in a number of concerts. One free concert will take place on Friday, February 8 at 12:30 p.m. at the Mather Dance Center. Two ticketed events will follow on Friday, February 8, at 8 p.m., and another concert, followed by a gala, on Saturday, February 9, at 7:30 p.m. Call the box office at 216-368-6262 for tickets or Potter at 216-368-1491 for information.
Two dance works will be performed at each concert: Martha Graham's Panorama, a work for 25 women that will include a cast of undergraduate and graduate student and community dancers; and MDC, choreographed by Galbraith as a tribute for the celebration. In collaboration with Jared Bendis, director of new media at Case, Galbraith captured 19,000 images to create a virtual tour of three dance studios. The choreography from MDC builds upon the repertoire created by Galbraith that combines an interaction of technology and live dancers.
The public is invited to attend free 90-minute master classes on dance topics from ballet, creative movement from children, gyrotonics, Hawkins-based techniques, Horton technique, improvisation, pilates, yoga, gender neutral partnering to lighting and design. Classes, taught by alumni, will be offered three times a day, February 4-9, at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Throughout the week, archival photos over the past century will be on display to highlight dance then and now, as well as the many other physical activities that took place in 'the gym'.
Designed by architects Benjamin Hubbell W. Dominick Benes (designers of Wade Chapel in Lakeview Cemetery and the revival style portion of the Cleveland Museum of Art), construction for the gymnasium began in 1906 and was completed in 1907.
Folk and square dancing courses were among the classes students could take to fulfill their physical education requirements.
In 1956, the presence of dance was elevated when Kathryn Karipides, the Samuel B. and Virginia C Knight Professor Emeritus of Humanities, joined the faculty and began teaching formal classes in modern dance. Guest instructors taught ballet and jazz classes. Danish gymnastics (a form of rhythmic gymnastics) and body mechanics were the keystone to the physical education curriculum, according to Karipides.
In the early years of women's physical education programs, sound anatomical movement principles and the aesthetics of movement were highly regarded and incorporated in the physical education curriculum among women's colleges across the country. These programs supported and nurtured the pioneers of modern dance and played a large part in its development and future.
"Mather Dance Center is a skillfully designed structure whose beauty has been enhanced by the radiance of its inhabitants. For 100 years, it has sheltered and fed the mind, body and creative spirit of all who have been engaged by the life in the space. The legacy of MDC resides in the spirit of its interior and reflects out," said Karipides.
In 1972, the program merged with the department of drama. Kelly Holt, the first male dancer with the Erick Hawkins Dance Company in New York City, was asked to design a dance curriculum for a Master of Fine Arts degree program and in 1975, joined the dance faculty.
From 1969-79, the Mather Gym was home to the Case Western Reserve University Modern Dance Company. The performance group was comprised of area professionals and university students and performed on the stage of Eldred Theater as "Dance Theater of Kathryn Karipides and Henry Kurth."
Mather Gym underwent some changes during the early 1970s. Henry Kurth designed a portable structure to transform the studio space into a performance space when needed. He proposed some technical changes to the structure that would include a full cyclorama, theatrical lighting equipment and moveable bleachers for an audience and renamed the Mather Dance Center.
Since the mid 1970s, the dance center has featured concerts and the works of its faculty, students, renowned artists and guest choreographers including Martha Graham, Erick Hawkins, Lucinda Childs and Pascal Rioult. Many heralded dance pioneers, contemporary artists and members of world class companies have also taught at Mather Dance Center including Mary Anthony, Trisha Brown, Sean Curran, Murray Louis Clay Taliaferro and Charles Weidman and the companies of Batsheva and Paul Taylor.
Today the program has become internationally recognized for its Dance Wellness Program, founded by Potter. It utilizes the world's only Web-based screening program. Also, Galbraith designed the screening program that is now used by major U.S. ballet companies to prevent dance injuries and prolong the professional lives of dancers.
Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.