An Artistic Shelter for Growth and Community: Spotlight on Dartmouth Dance Ensemble
One writer spoke with members of the Dartmouth Dance Ensemble to capture a snapshot of the DDE’s role in the Dartmouth community.
This article is featured in the 2023 Homecoming special issue.
From performance opportunities throughout the academic year to training in choreography techniques for a wide range of dance backgrounds, Dartmouth Dance Ensemble helps preserve the spirit of creativity on campus.
Dartmouth Dance Ensemble, a performance ensemble with professional guidance, is dedicated to exhibiting the artistic prowess of Dartmouth’s students, staff and local community while interpreting the choreography of established artists.
Founded in 1999, the ensemble boasts a diverse mix of dancers, including professionals and those with varying levels of formal dance experience. DDE director John Heginbotham said the group has changed a lot over the years, with a current focus on welcoming people “from all sorts of dance backgrounds,” regardless of experience.
Although DDE is primarily a modern dance group, they often welcome new genres to their repertoire. Their website described it as a “chance to experience a breadth of dance styles and content.” Heginbotham and choreographer-in-residence Rebecca Stenn highlighted tap dance and ballet as genres already performed over the years. DDE member Polly Chesnokova ’24 said they particularly enjoyed learning about tap dance. Heginbotham said this flexibility is “one of the great things about the dance ensemble.”
Chesnokova described the group’s growth throughout the years and their current magnitude on campus as “magical.”
“Every single dance is interesting in itself,” Chesnokova said, adding that the choreographies are “broad” and “open and inviting to all.”
DDE regularly collaborates with other musical and artistic groups on campus, according to Heginbotham. Both Stenn and Heginbotham highlighted the DDE’s partnership with the Dartmouth Symphonic Orchestra to perform a reimagined version of the Russian ballet piece “Petrushka” in 2018 as particularly memorable. Heginbotham said that it was an “ambitious” project, with DDE and DSO performing in two theaters simultaneously, accompanied by technology.
“The entire Hopkins Center was electrified in two theaters,” he said.
As their performances for the 2024 season approach, DDE is preparing to unveil a series of innovative projects on campus.
Due to the renovation at the Hopkins Center, their spring 2024 performance will take place at the Bema. Heginbotham said that they have “gotten creative in fun ways” to perform as a result of the renovations. “This outdoor theater is a magical and enchanted spot. I’m very happy about this opportunity.” he said.
Heginbotham added they will “have a multitude of genres” and believes it will be a year of “more extreme variety” of dance genres than usual.
Stenn has been working with DDE for 10 years and said the “exciting” atmosphere of the group motivates her to continue her work with DDE.
“It is never boring because we’re always working with interesting people who bring unique contributions.” she said.
She added that the style of dance the group produces depends on the preferences and talents of each particular ensemble.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the group persisted and continued weekly rehearsals over Zoom. They also held a video performance in which they choreographed a dance to a Radiohead song.
“They were very adaptive in thinking about how they could merge [the] online era with viídeo performance and top it all off with dance,” Chesnokova said. They also added that this “innovation” is what drove them to keep participating in the virtual shows.
“My connection with the group was built over time,” Chesnokova said.
Heginbotham encourages the campus community to “at the very least, come see the dance showcase” set for Nov. 11 this year. The performance venue is yet to be announced.
Although the dance scene may seem quite daunting to those without experience with performances, Stenn highlighted that DDE is interested in “working with whoever is in the room at any given time,” and having people learn “new genres from each other.”
Their meetings and rehearsals occur on Sundays from 2-4 p.m. in Straus Dance Studio.