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Faye Miller, Bill Young and More to Celebrate Barnard Women Through Dance at Miller Theatre, 4/12-13

Brains, spirited beauty and dancing feet, that's what Barnard women are made of. And the choreographers commissioned to create new works for them - Faye Driscoll, Bill Young, Francesca Harper and Heidi Henderson - for two days of performances at the Miller Theatre, April 12 and 13, take full advantage of their gifts. Mary Cochran heads the Dance Department at Barnard.

The wit and unexpected twists and turns of Faye Driscoll's imagination are front and center in "The Rehearsal," which is set on five dancers. Performed in silence, "The Rehearsal" is described by the choreographer as "the interplay between the practice of group dynamics and that of a dance performance." To show this, Driscoll says she has worked with the students "to create a world with its own physical vocabulary and rules that has its odd and twitchy way of communicating."

Heidi Henderson's work, entitled "Leslie," set to Schubert's "Impromtu No. 3 in G-Flat Major," is comprised of seven dancers. The dance is "quiet and prim," according to the choreographer, who adds that one of the gestures is drawn from her memory of a fellow camper named Leslie. The "Leslie"-derived gesture, one of many in the dance, is made while the dancers are walking backward on their bottoms.

Francesca Harper chose eight dancers for her contributions to the Barnard Dances at Miller program: excerpts from her "Bach Remixed" and "digital#connect." For "Bach Remixed," Harper uses selections of a recording of "Goldberg Variations" performed by Glenn Gould. The costumes are by Liz Prince. For "digital#connect," an exploration of who we are and what we become in cyber space, Harper uses music by the young contemporary jazz composer Ari Bragi Kárason.

The Barnard dance students have been integral to the making of Bill Young's new dance (title to come), which is set to a commissioned score by singer/percussionist/composer Philip Hamilton. The collaboratively created work is described by the choreographer as "sparking, lurching, and exploding with surprises" inspired by the dancers' different perspectives and singular ways of thinking and moving.

Barnard College has long been a force in the dance world, the four-year home to firebrand graduates such as Twyla Tharp and Sara Rudner, as well as much younger dancers including Jamie Scott and Emma Desjardins, both of whom were recent members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company; Michael Novak, who currently dances with the Paul Taylor Dance Company; Rebecca Warner, who performs with Sarah Michelson; Anna Schon of Reggie Wilson's Fist and Heel; Renuka Hines, who performs with David Dorfman Dance; plus June Omura and Marjorie Folkman, both former members of the Mark Morris Dance Group. And that's only the tip of the iceberg.

*While the dancers are comprised of Columbia University and Barnard College students, their dance training is under the auspices of the Barnard College Dance Department.

The evening curtains for the April 12 and 13 performances of "Barnard Dances at Miller" are at 7pm. There is a 2pm matinee on April 13. Tickets, which are $20 a piece and $12 with a Columbia University ID, can be purchased by calling 212-854-7799. The Miller Theatre is located at 2960 Broadway (at 116th Street).

FAYE DRISCOLL, a Bessie-award winning choreographer and director, has choreographed four evening-length works with commissions from The Kitchen, the Wexner Center for the Arts, Dance Theater Workshop, American Dance Festival and HERE Arts Center. Her work has been supported by a National Dance Project NEFA production and touring award, a Jerome Foundation grant, multi-year support from the Greenwall Foundation and a LMCC Fund for Creative Communities grant. Driscoll has received commissions from the Zenon Dance Company and Barnard College, and was a 2011 Choreographic Fellow at the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, and a recent Artist-in-Residence at the Baryshnikov Arts Center and Headlands Center for the Arts. She has collaborated extensively with theater artists including Young Jean Lee, Cynthia Hopkins, Taylor Mac, Jennifer Miller and NTUSA. Her video work was exhibited in "Younger than Jesus," the first of several signature triennials at the New Museum. Driscoll has been an adjunct professor at Bard College and Playwrights Horizons Theater School. Her work has toured to the Wexner Center for the Arts, the Fusebox Festival, and UCLA, and has upcoming tours to the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, CounterPULSE, the Wexner Center for the Arts, the American Dance Festival and The Yard.

Francesca Harper was raised in New York City where she studied at the School of American Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet School, The Ailey School, and under Madame Darvash and Barbara Walczak. After performing with the Dance Theater of Harlem, she danced as a principal in William Forsythe's Ballet Frankfurt from 1994-1999. Since returning to the States in 2000, Harper has performed in several Broadway productions including "Fosse," "The Producers," "The Frogs," and "The Color Purple." She played the role of Helene opposite Molly Ringwald in a national tour of "Sweet Charity," and the role of Judith originated by Judith Jamison in a revival of "Sophisticated Ladies." As a singer and lyricist Harper has released singles in Europe and Japan. In November 2003, her single "Would I?" was released on Powerhouse Records. In 2006, she released her debut solo album "Modo Fusion" with 10 original tracks of soul-inspired R&B and electronica. Francesca also recently worked as a ballet consultant for the feature film, "BLACK SWAN," by Oscar Nominated Director Darren Aronofsky, starring Natalie Portman.

Harper's choreographic career began while still in Germany, where she choreographed for the Holland Dance Festival. She has since choreographed for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ailey II, Dallas Black Dance Theater, Oakland Ballet, Hubbard Street II, Tanz Graz, Point Park University, University of Richmond, and her own company The Francesca Harper Project. Her original hybrid work was first seen in 2000 at the Cherry Lane Theatre, as part of 50 minutes with Harriet and Phillis, a collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Margo Jefferson and composer Paul Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky. She premiered her critically-acclaimed one-woman show "The Fragile Stone Theory" at the 2002 Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. Francesca's work, "Documotion: ONE - Rave," was requested to be performed at the 50th Anniversary of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center at the Apollo Theater by Judith Jamison. Her Company was also honored to perform excerpts from William Forsythe's work, "Limb's Theorem," at the Denise Jefferson Celebration at the Apollo Theater in November, 2010.

The Francesca Harper Project debuted in August 2005 with the sold-out premiere performance of MODO FUSION at The Ailey Citigroup Theater, New York City, and went on to perform a week-long run of MODO FUSION during the 92nd St Y Harkness Dance Festival in March 2006. Company members have also been active performers in MODO FUSION LOUNGE (the music-based cabaret version of MODO FUSION), performing alongside Harper at venues such as Makor and Bowery Poetry Club in New York City. The Francesca Harper Project has been featured at The Joyce Theater, Solstice: Dancing at the Crossroads in Times Square, sponsored by Dancers Responding to AIDS, The Apollo Theater, New York City Center, The Ailey Citigroup Theater, the Holland Dance Festival. Harlem Stage, Bloomberg Culture Series, Central Park Summerstage and Venice Biennale.

Heidi Henderson, who is presently an Assistant Professor of Dance at Connecticut College and the Artistic Director of elephant JANE dance, was a 2000 and 2005 recipient of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Choreography Fellowship for excellence in the field. Her work has been performed at the South Bank Centre in London, in New York City, and at many venues in New England including the Jacob's Pillow Inside/Out Festival. Her piece "Skirt" was selected for inclusion in the New England Choreographer's Showcase at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas at Connecticut College. In 1997, she was invited to perform two solos in The International Festival of Dance in Taegu, Korea. Henderson has danced in the companies of Bebe Miller, Nina Wiener, Peter Schmitz, Sondra Loring, and Paula Josa-Jones. She has been on the faculty at the Bates Dance Festival, DanceSpace Inc. in NYC, NYU's Tisch Dance Summer Festival, Amherst College, Colby College, Hampshire College, The University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Roger Williams University. Henderson is a contributing editor at "Contact Quarterly: A Journal of Moving Ideas." She has recently published "Growing Place," a book of interviews with artists from the Bates Dance Festival. Henderson received her B.A. from Colby College and her M.F.A. from Smith College. At Connecticut College, she teaches Modern Technique, Improvisation, Dance Anatomy/Kinesiology and Dance Writing.

Bill Young, who is a recent recipient of Guggenheim and NY Foundation for Arts Awards, discovered dance through contact improvisation while studying music at Oberlin College. He showed early work in San Francisco while dancing with Margaret Jenkins, and later moved to New York City where he danced with Douglas Dunn, Randy Warshaw, and Merce Cunningham (on video).

In 1988 he established Bill Young and Dancers, which has been presented in New York City at The Joyce Theater, DTW, The Kitchen, Danspace Project, PS 122, Movement Research, Symphony Space and the 92nd St. Y (among others), and on repeated international tours, including performances in Austria, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Canada, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Finland, Mexico, Brazil, Peru and Venezuela.

Young has created over 70 works. His commissions include new works for the Estonian National Opera Ballet, the Zenon Dance Company, Bratislava Dance Theater, the Madach Theater (Budapest), DanceArt Hong Kong, the Core Performance Group (Atlanta), the Wildspace Dance Company (Milwaukee), Compagnie de Danse L'Astragale (Montréal), Teória de Gravedad (Mexico), and Pennsylvania Dance Theater. He has taught in universities and festivals in the US, Europe, Latin America and Asia, and has served as a panelist for Artslink, DTW, ACDFA and NYFA.

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