This fall, members of the dance faculty at Kansas University and their students will get to pick the brain of a certified "genius.''
That's because Jacques d'Amboise, a former soloist with the New York City Ballet and a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, will be teaching a master class at KU. He'll also be delivering a lecture sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities and teaching a class for sixth-grade students in the Lawrence public schools.
"We're looking forward to working with him to extract his experience," said Janet Hamburg, an associate professor of dance and head of the dance faculty. "Of course he will work with KU students in advanced ballet. The students are always interested in working with strong professionals.''
THE D'AMBOISE visit is one of several dance projects coming up this year in the department of music and dance in the School of Fine Arts. Hamburg said the dance department has about 20 majors and teaches more than 265 students each semester.
The department also supervises the University Dance Company, a group of dancers selected from inside and sometimes outside the KU community to perform twice a year under the direction of faculty, student and visiting choreographers.
One of the major projects this year is a grant from the Kansas Arts Commission for six dance artists and the University Dance Company to conduct residencies in the Lawrence public schools. In addition to d'Amboise, the dance artists will include faculty members Muriel Cohan, Patrick Suzeau, Jerel Hilding, Willie Lenoir and visitor Rosalind Newmark from the Virginia Tanner School in Salt Lake City.
"THIS WAS a way for people in the public schools to experience dance at all levels," Hamburg said. "In previous years we had people go in and perform limited residencies in the elementary or the high schools, and that was very successful. So we decided to apply for a grant to do a full program.''
For example, Hilding, an assistant professor of dance who was formerly with the Joffrey Ballet in New York, will teach for a week at Lawrence High School. Hamburg said getting professionals like Hilding into a school environment helps demystify the world of dance for people with limited exposure to the art.
"Jerel played sports in high school and then began studying dance in college," Hamburg said. "Part of the reason he's interested in working with the schools is to open dance as a possibility to people who don't think about dance as a lifetime pursuit. Yes, you can make a living in dance.''
THE DEPARTMENT also plans to revive a program of offering a day of master classes for junior and senior high students. That will be held Oct. 12.
This year the University Dance Company will be performing in December at the Crafton-Preyer Theatre and in April at Liberty Hall in downtown Lawrence. The company usually features work taught by visiting artists, new work by faculty members and advanced students and performances by Cohan and Suzeau, who together form the Cohan-Suzeau Dance Company. The company also plans two April performances at the Johnson County Cultural Education Center's Yardley Hall.
"We're interested in increasing our exposure," Hamburg said. "Usually the company performs as a guest. It's very difficult to find dance venues and then you don't perform more than two or three pieces in an evening. We'd like to get more people to see us so we can build an audience in Kansas City.''
IN ADDITION to d'Amboise, the department will be holding two residencies with artists performing in the KU Concert or New Directions series. Liz Lerman, artistic director of the Dance Exchange in Washington, D.C., will hold a residence in the fall when she will perform "The Good Jew?" at Liberty Hall as part of the New Directions Series. In the spring, the Garth Fagen Dance Company will hold a residency at the time of its performance in the Concert Series.
The department will also be sponsoring a Dalcroze Eurhythmics Workshop led by Robert Abramson, a faculty member of the Juilliard School of Music in New York. The department's schedule is as follows:
Sept. 4: University Dance Company audition, 7 p.m., 242 Robinson Center.
Sept. 28: Dalcroze Eurhythmics Workshop.
Oct. 12: KU Dance Day for junior and senior high school students.
Oct. 21-22: Jacques d'Amboise residency.
Oct. 30-Nov. 2: Liz Lerman residency.
Dec. 6-7: University Dance Company performance at the Crafton-Preyer Theatre. Performances are at 8 p.m. Dec. 6 and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Dec. 7.
Jan. 22: University Dance Company audition, 7 p.m., 242 Robinson Center.
Jan. 27-Feb. 14: Rosalind Newmark dance residency at KU and Lawrence junior high schools.
Feb. 1: Tom Maupin Dance Scholarship Audition for incoming dance majors, 242 Robinson Center.
April 6-8 Garth Fagen Dance Company residency.
April 10-11: University Dance Company performance at the Johnson County Cultural Education Center. Performances are at 8 p.m.
April 24-25: University Dance Company performances at Liberty Hall. Performances are at 8 p.m. April 24 and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. April 25.