The usually cold and dark air of Lisser Theatre was stripped away last Friday Feb 3 as several familiar faces graced the stage with their quick, light and invigorating dance solos and duets.
The performance marked the very first Mills Dance Alumni Concert: Ebb + Flow. Ebb + Flow, as well as its content, was thought up and curated by two very recent Mills MFA graduates, Ashley Trottier and Jochelle Pereña.
Both Trottier and Pereña decided it would be a great idea to gather artists who studied and honed their craft at Mills, and naturally, the Mills Dance Department was happy and extremely supportive from the beginning.
There are very high hopes within the Dance department to make this concert an annual event.
It is common for MFA Dance graduates to stay within the Bay Area after they’ve graduated, creating an amazing consortium of artists. Because of this, it was easy for Trottier and Pereña to get in contact with the artists involved with the concert. The artists featured at the concert were Alyce Finwall, Bianca Brzezinski, José Navarrete, Leyya Mona Tawil, Molissa Fenley, Peiling Kao, Nora Chipaumire and Sheena Johnson.
In addition to the performances, the first unveiling of the upper area of Lisser Theatre transformed into an interactive installation that allowed the guests to walk through it.
As the first Annual Mills Dance Alumni concert, the Mills College Dance Department and Mills College Alumnae Relations both co-sponsored the event, seeing it as a great opportunity to continue to showcase such a versatile group of artists, who strive to make continuous contributions to the Bay Area dance community, as well as dance communities all over the world. One of the main components of the concert is Molissa Fenley, who has acted as a mentor for each of these artists at different degrees.
Fenley is an Associate Dance Professor at Mills and has been with the department since 1999. Before that, Fenley studied dance at Mills.
“I originally didn’t intend to study dance. Or, rather, I didn’t know how,” Fenley said. “I used to want to be a social worker,” laughs Fenley, “which, obviously isn’t what ended up happening.”
Fenley was raised in Nigeria, where her father worked with the United States Agency for International Development. At 16, she came to Mills with the desire to combine studies in dance and social work, but had no ideas how to conceive her dreams.
Mills allowed her to start studying in the Dance Department and within a year, Fenley realized she wanted to become a choreographer.
Once Fenley graduated in 1975, she was intrigued by the combination of arts that came together in New York, including dance, music and mixed medias. She later moved there, started her own company and has been with it ever since.
“Mills facilitates a really strong loyalty within their students. I know I’ve certainly felt it,” Fenley said, accrediting her loyalty to Mills as the reason behind her part-time teaching position here, as well as the importance to stay involved with what’s going on now to help realize the legacy of what has gone on before and keep adding on.