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Dance chair takes part in Mid. Tenn. Exodus Project


Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 11:02


While diversity comes in many different forms, one form where diversity is heavily present but may not be so obvious is dance.

The chair of the department of dance, Maura Keefe, was on hand to participate in “The Exodus Project: Understanding Diversity Through Dance,” at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). 

“One of the things I do outside of Brockport is a lot of scholarly kinds of lectures on dance in various venues,” Keefe said. “When they put the grant together, they thought rather than having the concert itself [they would] bring in somebody whose work is putting dance in a larger context — history, culture, politics. That’s why I was there.”

The event took place over a two-day period from Thursday, Jan. 24 through Friday, Jan. 25.  

“They brought in artists from the region and national artists as well,” said Keefe. “There was a balance of regional and national companies.”

Among the other noted guests at the Exodus Project were Company Stefanie Batten Bland, which is based out of New York and Paris, as well as Evolving Doors Dance, based out of Denver.

Keefe says she was invited to participate in the Exodus Project by her connections at MTSU. 

“I’m professional colleagues with the director of the dance program there, a man named Kim Neal Nofsinger,” Keefe said. “We’ve worked together in the past on various projects. In addition since I have known Kim, a graduate of the MFA program here at Brockport — Madia Cooper — is a full-time faculty member there now, teaching West African dance.”

Keefe says the attendance at the event was good, mainly because a lot of students were on hand for it.

“A great thing they have there is that student tickets are free,” Keefe said. “The student fees they pay enable them to see all performances on campus for free.”

Keefe was invited to give two lectures, and also moderated two post-performance panel discussions.

“What I started with was kind of thinking ‘what do we think of as diversity,’” said Keefe. “It’s a question we ask here at Brockport every year with the diversity conference.

 “To think about the way dance can make meaning by the people who do it, the content of it, and where it’s performed.”

Also at the concert were a wide variety of dance performances, most of which were not the typical kind. They explored such issues as race, sexuality, gender and even differently abled dancers, which was shown when a woman in a wheelchair (called a seated dancer) danced with a standing dancer. 

“It was provocative subject matter, which is exactly what I think art should be,” said Keefe, who also noted the diversity on the MTSU campus. “The diversity of their student body, in terms of racial diversity, is much more mixed than Brockport’s.  

“Looking over a sea of people in a lecture hall there, it looks different from what it looks like here.”

Keefe discussed the opportunity of getting to travel across the country and getting the chance to participate in an event like the Exodus Project with a different group of faculty.

“To go there and see the differences and similarities in what are some things they’re thinking about at their university, versus what we’re thinking about here, it’s always great to see that,” said Keefe. “It’s also great to see an alum from our department be a full-time faculty member at a program.”

Keefe says she loves having a job in dance, no matter what part of her job that may be.

“I feel like I’m lucky to have a life in dance, that’s what I think all the time,” said Keefe. “Whether I’m working at Brockport, giving a lecture somewhere or teaching a class somewhere.”

Keefe adds that there are lots of different opportunities for somebody in the world of dance.

“It’s something that I say to the students here all the time,” said Keefe. “Who knows what a life in dance is going to look like for you? There are all different kinds of possibilities.”

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