D&E assistant professor debuts dance work at Kennedy Center

Davis & Elkins College Assistant Professor of Dance Emily Oleson directed one of two works selected by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ 13th Annual Local Dance Commissioning Project. The world premiere performance of Oleson’s “The Meaning of Buck Dance,” choreographed by Baakari Wilder and performed by Urban Artistry with Good Foot Dance Company was presented Sept. 19-20 on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and streamed live online and archived for future viewing on the Kennedy Center’s website.

Each year, choreographers are chosen from a pool of more than 30 applicants. Judging is based on written and visual submissions that express the choreographer’s vision for a new work.

The “Meaning of Buck Dance,” directed by Oleson, investigates the origins behind the term “buck dance,” which is used to describe an early American percussive dance style. This piece takes the choreography from a short video taken by Thomas Edison in 1894, considered by some to be the first recorded clip of buck dance, and uses it as a springboard for new choreographic directions.

The dancers create micro-choreographies in real time on stage, using the technique of freestyling in their respective forms to compare different dance styles in conversation.

Collaborating artists include Junious Brickhouse, the executive director of Urban Artistry; Matthew Olwell, co-director of Good Foot Dance Company; Russell Campbell, an artistic director for Urban Artistry; and Baakari Wilder, assistant director for Capitol Tap.

Urban Artistry, Inc. is an internationally recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation and preservation of art forms inspired by the urban experience. The group will perform at Davis & Elkins College on Nov. 9 and present dance workshops on Nov. 10. Both will take place in Myles Center for the Arts Harper-McNeeley Auditorium.

Davis & Elkins launched a new dance program this fall with Oleson serving as program coordinator and instructor. In addition to her work with Urban Artistry and Good Foot Dance Company, she was assistant coordinator for D&E’s Augusta Heritage Center’s Dance Week for the past seven years.

The mission of the D&E Dance Program is to support students in developing and nurturing a sustainable, socially responsible and lifelong dance practice for their own holistic well-being and for the health of their community. Students will engage in rigorous technical training and theoretical inquiry, and have the opportunity to perform, choreograph, compete, produce and teach dance.

Three emphases will be offered for dance majors – Sustainable Dance, American Vernacular Dance and Contemporary/Postmodern Dance. Students selecting a minor in dance must complete 18 credit hours of dance curriculum.

Now in its 13th year, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Local Dance Commissioning Project was created to foster new dance works by local artists, and to present these artists to the widest possible audience via the Millennium Stage and its Internet webcasts and archives.

The project provides funds for each artist to create a new piece, a venue to premiere the work, as well as rehearsal space and technical assistance.