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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Considering the legacy of Tufts Dance for their 40th-anniversary fall dance concert

Past and present faculty and students will come together for the dance concert this weekend.


Aidekman Arts Center is pictured on Feb. 27.

This weekend, Tufts’ Department of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies will be putting on their 40th anniversary dance concert. The concert, which will feature the work of students, alumni and faculty, is a showcase of the meaning of dance, and the guidance dance can offer to every individual throughout their lives. At Tufts, dance is an expression of legacy, connection and collaboration.

For current students, dance offers access to a large community and endless relationships. Noah Tervalon, a senior studying computer science with a minor in dance, spoke to the Daily about their connection with Tufts Dance. Tervalon, who was not a trained dancer before coming to Tufts, fell in love with dance after taking a course their first-year spring. With encouragement from senior lecturer Renata Celichowska, Tervalon decided to pursue a dance minor with a passion for ballet in particular.

“I feel like it’s a little bit cliche, but [dance taught me] how to be in a relationship to other people in a space,” Tervalon said.

Whether you’ve been a dancer since before you could walk or you start at the ripe age of 18, Tervalon encourages everyone to take part in dance at Tufts and emphasizes the many life-long lessons to be learned in the studios and classrooms. Through dance at Tufts, Tervalon has found a community that isn’t afraid to dance in the Campus Center and find their places in every space they move through. Current and incoming Tufts students can find an encouraging community among the Jackson classrooms and dance courses. 

For former students, dance remains a critical part of their lives, shaped by their experiences from their school years. Molly Schwartz (LA’11) spoke to the Daily about her involvement in the concert 12 years after graduating. Schwartz was invited by the department to perform a piece choreographed by senior lecturer Daniel McCusker. Schwartz reflected on working with McCusker and his style of movement.

“[The dance] doesn’t seem necessarily thematic; … it’s more about the movement itself and the process of creating the movement.” Schwartz said.

Both now and in the past, dance at Tufts has had strong roots in the process of movement. While McCusker has taken the lead on the production of the alumni performance, he also pushes the performers themselves to create movement for the performance.

“It feels like chaos with all these different pieces of movement, and then [Daniel] brings in the … pieces and fits them together,” Schwartz said.

For Tufts faculty, dance is an opportunity to expose students to stories and cultures they may otherwise have never learned about. Lecturer Shefali Jain is choreographing a Kathak number for the fall concert. Kathak, a classical Indian dance form, has been taught at Tufts for more than 20 years and will be joining the list of performances for the first time in Tufts Dance concert history. The art of Kathak lies in its storytelling of Indian epics. Jain, for this concert, has chosen the story of the Indian god, Krishna, and his ties to the origins of the dance itself. Jain has created choreography that brings its performers into a world they may not have otherwise explored, equipped with traditional Indian Kathak dancewear.

Jain, who has taken over teaching Kathak at Tufts after Gretchen Hayden-Ruckert retired last spring, believes this dance concert and Tufts Dance gives students the tools to tell their own stories and share their cultures and traditions. Dance, for Jain, is a “philosophical, spiritual and organic math” that allows for the passing down of traditions and stories. Whether from faculty to faculty, alumni to current students, or performers to an audience, dance is a storytelling device that contains all the colors of those who were, who are and who have yet to be.

The connection between current students, former students and faculty is the thread that holds the dance department together. From current students like Tervalon to former ones like Schwartz to new and old faculty like McCusker and Jain, Tufts Dance stresses legacy and its role in art. The knowledge learned in the dance rooms continues to be passed along generations of the department. As it embarks on its 40th-anniversary concert, Tufts Dance celebrates all it has been and all it continues to be.

From contemporary ballet to Indian classical dance to movement itself, the fall dance concert has an experience to lend to every performer and audience member.