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New Semaphore director leads fall show

Judith Howard began at Carleton this fall as a full-time professor of dance, co-director of Semaphore Repertory Dance Company, and incoming director of the dance program. Judith has formerly taught dance at Macalester College and at the University of Minnesota, as well as working professionally in dance and choreography. She has worked for such organizations as the Southern Theater and the Walker Art Center, and has received a McKnight Choreographic Fellowship along with several other grants in dance. Howard was selected “Twin Cities Best Choreographer” in 2005 by the City Pages, in addition to many other awards for choreography and dance.

Howard is taking over leadership of the dance program from Mary Easter over the next year, as Easter prepares to retire. She is hesitant to suggest that she will bring change with her new role, because of how impressed she has been with the current program.

“I have only been here a few [months], but I have been watching and learning, and I’ve observed a high standard of excellence which I would like to see continue,” she said.

Howard commented on the range of dance programs at Carleton. She credited the incredible commitment of the dancers as well as the leadership of Mary Easter and Jane Shockley for the success of Semaphore. In addition, she loved the concept of Ebony.

“I come from a lot of inclusiveness,” she said of her dance background, “I love that [an opportunity like Ebony] exists here.”

Howard does intend to make changes that place furhter emphasis on the academic side of dance.

“I wonder where the dance scholarship is, and the people who are interested in dance itself…I would really like to bring some of that.”

She will be teaching Fields of Performance, a choreography class open to students of all experience levels, this winter. Howard intends to bring a scholarly approach to her class, in which students will analyze sports, games, and structures for movement to be used in dance. She hopes to bring in athletic coaches and guest choreographers for this class.

Another area of interest for Howard is the importance of gender, sexuality, and the female body in dance movement. In her past work, she has emphasized this feminist approach, African and African-American influence, and the relationship between disability and dance.

Howard explains that her mission is to broaden the definition of dance, through these themes and other interdisciplinary ventures. “I would like to see more dance-making with a greater amount of students involved,” she said, summing up her ideas for the future of dance at Carleton.

Friday and Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. in Arena theatre, Semaphore will put on their fall dance concert, under the direction of Howard and Shockley. Two pieces are professionally choreographed, one by Wynn Fricke and the other by Morgan Thorson. Fricke is the 2007-08 guest choreographer, and head of the dance program at Shattuck St. Mary’s School in Faribault. Thorson is a choreographer, teacher and DJ from Minneapolis.

Three of the pieces were created by members of Semaphore. The pieces of Lily Sasse ’08, Jenny Oyallon-Koloski ’08, and Taylor Young ’08 are set to a wide variety of music, from Johnny Cash to electronica. The dances themselves are very diverse. Young’s piece, which he and Oyallon-Koloski perform, traces a relationship between two people—dancing separately and together, and ending in an embrace. Sasse’s is characterized by jerky, anxious movements, and Oyallon-Koloski’s is the peak energy of the whole show, with spotlights and excited motion.

The second to last piece is Howard’s introductory solo, a theatrical piece which highlights her background in theater. The piece is entitled “Ophelia,” and it follows the love interest of Hamlet through her death. Howard shows her interest in the relationship of dance with the female body and sexuality in this piece.

The members of Semaphore, along with Howard and Shockley, have worked hard to bring together an impressive fall concert.

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