Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Ailey Ascending; Photo by Serena SY Hsu
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Ailey Ascending; Photo by Serena SY Hsu

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Artistic Director Stephen Pier on the 25th Anniversary of Hartt Dance at University of Hartford

Artistic Director Stephen Pier on the 25th Anniversary of Hartt Dance at University of Hartford

Published on January 27, 2020
Photo by Eduardo Patino

While The Hartt School gets set to embark on its centennial celebration this spring, the Dance Division has already begun to mark its significant milestone — 25 years as a nationally prominent dance conservatory at the University of Hartford. We are celebrating with Lar Lubovitch's Something about Night, Martha Graham's Chronicle, José Limón's The Winged, the "Tarantella" from Act III from August Bournonville's Napoli, excerpts from George Balanchine's Who Cares?, a work by Francesca Harper, and other new commissions.

A man lying on the ground partners a woman in pointe shoes to leap over him
Photo by John Long

The Dance Division was founded in 1994 by Larry Alan Smith, Dean of The Hartt School. His purpose was to enlarge the scope of what was then The Hartt School of Music into a fully-fledged performing arts conservatory. Since its inception, the program has attracted national and international attention, including being named "Best College Dance Program" by Dance US for 2019-2020.

Shirtless male dancers are in a grounded stag pose, one arms extendedarm
Photo by John Long

Although dance training had been part of the music school's since 1937 when Alwin Nikolais began giving classes, it was not until Smith brought together Enid Lynn, founder of the Hartford Ballet; Peggy Lyman Hayes, renowned Martha Graham dancer; and Michael Yaffe, the Director of Hartt's Community Division, that dance became a permanent constituent of the conservatory.

Peggy Lyman Hayes teaches class
Peggy Lyman Hayes; Photo by John Long

2008 signaled a new era began for Hartt Dance. The Dance Division moved out of the former Hartford Ballet studios and into a new arts center. On the heels of the move, Stephen Pier, known for his work at the Juilliard School, Royal Danish Ballet, Hamburg Ballet, and Limón, was recruited as director of dance after a storied tenure by Peggy Lyman Hayes.

A pas de deux class in which men partner women in first arabesque
Photo by Eduardo Patino

With an equally strong commitment to modern and ballet, Hartt Dance maintains a relationship to both past masters and contemporary virtuosos. Faculty is comprised of former artists from world-famous companies such as American Ballet Theatre to the Royal Danish Ballet. Students study the repertory of George Balanchine, August Bournonville, Marius Petipa, and Antony Tudor, to name just a few. Performing modern classics by Martha Graham, José Limón, and Doris Humphrey is a source of pride as is working with notable names in the contemporary field such as Bryan Arias, Claudia Schreier, Gregory Dolbashian, and Gemma Bond, among others.

Miki Orihara adjusts a student who is in a seated V position
Photo by Eduardo Patino

Hartt Dance is proud of its students' success. Graduates dance professionally with Paul Taylor American Dance Company, Limón Dance Company, Graham 2, Charlotte Ballet II, Maryland Ballet Theatre, Charlottesville Ballet, Repertory Dance Theatre, Whim W'him, Madboots Dance, and many more. 

For a list of performances at The Hartt School, please visit this page.

Artistic Director Stephen Pier directs rehearsal
Artistic Director Stephen Pier directs rehearsal; Photo by Eduardo Patino

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