Hobart and William Smith Colleges have hosted multiple dance workshops since last week. Around 150 educators and artists have been exchanging ideas and practices, collaborating and working together. Among the visitors to the Geneva campus is Bill Evans. The celebrated choreographer and dancer has offered a summer institute since 1977.
“I discovered, it came to my consciousness when I was about 28 years old, that if I really wanted to learn something, I should try to teach it. In wrapping words around my physical, emotional, cognitive experiences, wrapping words around them and trying to convey my experiences to younger people, I really began to understand them much more deeply, much more clearly than I had before.”
A 40th anniversary is notable in any profession. But, Evans is marking that same milestone with his own dance company. In addition to teaching, his work as a performer and choreographer has taken him to all 50 states and dozens of countries. For Evans, the choice between practitioner and educator was never a choice at all.
“I was born to be a teacher. I was born to be a dancer. I really didn’t ever make a choice to be a dancer, I simply was a dancer from a very, very young age. That’s what I was and what I wanted to do. Long before I realized that one could do anything else I found myself dancing. Shortly after, as soon as I started learning dance steps, I found myself gathering the neighborhood children into my bedroom and teaching them what I knew.”
Evans says it has not always been easy to keep his summer institute going. In the beginning the concept alone wasn’t widely accepted.
“At the time I started this program in 1977, the integration of science and dance and movement theories and dance, it wasn’t a popular idea. There were scientists over hear and there were theorists over here and there were the hard core practitioners in the middle and they kind of invalidated people who talked about dancing. Let’s do it. We don’t talk about it. We do it. And, so in the beginning it’s quite revolutionary.”
But Evans persevered. That perseverance was one of the earliest lessons he learned from his teachers growing up in Utah. And Evans has enjoyed the support of like-minded collaborators including a Hobart and William Smith dance faculty member he met during her first year as an undergraduate at the University of Utah.
“They’ve kept going because people like Cynthia Williams, who is smart and generous and determined and loving, are willing to help.”
In addition to working with Evans on the summer institute, Williams is co-director of the Somatic Dance Conference and Performance Festival, which came to the Hobart and William Smith Colleges campus for the first time this year and is happening this week.
The educators and artists who have attended these workshops will bring their work to the public in the new Gearan Center for the Performing Arts beginning Thursday night with first of four concerts. Thursday’s concert will feature participants from the Evans summer institute including a solo performance from Evans. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday’s concerts will feature participants in the Somatic Dance Conference and Performance Festival. All concerts are open to the public.