At Dartmouth, Med Students Make Time For Serious Dance

May 14, 2015

Next weekend, Dartmouth College’s dance ensemble will present a program featuring 16 dancers from within the Dartmouth community, including four from the Geisel School of Medicine.

Nationally renowned choreographer John Heginbotham, who co-directed the dances, joined VPR to talk about the pieces, his choreography style and how med students find the time to be in a rigorous dance group.

They are presenting six dance pieces that were choreographed by Heginbotham and Rebecca Stenn, as well as one piece choreographed by med student Phillip Montana.

“Scheduling is sometimes a challenge for rehearsals,” says Heginbotham. “But all of the students, including the students from Geisel, have been so wonderful about fitting dance into their lives.” The choreographer says that all of the students are committed and passionate about dance. “They are definitely sacrificing either study time or personal time to make this happen. Which, I have to say, is inspiring and very gratifying as well for me,” he says.

Four of the pieces in the performance are based on the seasons, but Heginbotham says they aren’t literal representations. “In other words, for winter, the dancers aren’t wearing parkas, the lighting isn’t all white and we don’t have confetti falling from the ceiling. It is more abstract, it’s a little more impressionistic than that,” he explains.

"Scheduling is sometimes a challenge for rehearsals. But all of the students, including the students from Geisel [Medical School], have been so wonderful about fitting dance into their lives." - John Heginbotham, choreographer

Heginbotham says that the piece representing winter, which is a duet, reminds him of the winters he has experienced in Hanover, New Hampshire. “Cold and crisp, kind of full of possibility, which is something I feel while on the campus there,” he says.

As for his choreography style, Heginbotham describes it as athletic. “The dance vocabulary that I make tends to be detailed and intricate, but then as it evolves, there is sort of a question and an answer that it requires to make the piece kind of work out by its conclusion,” he says.

"The dance vocabulary that I make tends to be detailed and intricate, but then as it evolves, there is sort of a question and an answer."

Philip Montana is one of the med students who choreographed his own piece for the program. “I will say that he has wisely not [created] a literal representation of his experience becoming a doctor,” describes Heginbotham. “His piece feels very physical and very from his body, as opposed to maybe from his mind … when I watch him dance, what I’m seeing is his beautiful form creating all of these great shapes and movement sequences.”

The choreographer says that the music Montana chose is moving and sensitive. “I wouldn’t look at his piece and say to myself, ‘Oh, that’s clearly about his second year of medical school,’ but what I would say is, “Here is such an intelligent mover and a gentlemen with an excellent, excellent imagination.’”

The performance will be on Friday, May 22, and Saturday, May 23 at The Hopkins Center For The Arts.