In the fall of 1969, the late Gail George, a dance therapist and the wife of Carl George, professor emeritus of biology, taught a weekly class in modern dance in Old Chapel.
Open to the campus community, the free class, which moved to Jackson's Garden for the spring, also attracted engineers and physicists from nearby General Electric and others from the general public.
The non-credit course informally launched modern dance instruction at Union. The Arts Department offered a dance practicum for credit in 1972-73, but it wasn't until 1984 when the College introduced "The Dance Experience," the first regular credit course offering both dancing and classroom work.
Nearly 30 years later, the College's dance program took a major step forward with the addition of the Henle Dance Pavilion. Adjacent to Yulman Theater overlooking Jackson’s Garden, the $3 million, 7,000-square-foot facility is the new home for classes, rehearsals, workshops, performances and other events.
The pavilion was dedicated Saturday as part of ReUnion, the annual celebration of Union's graduates. College officials joined with members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff and students in welcoming the latest addition to Union's historic landscape.
"This building is not just about dance," said President Stephen C. Ainlay. "It's about chemists who want to dance, it's about political scientists who want to dance, it's about engineers who want to dance. This space will help us attract the kind of students that Union thrives on."
Designed by architect Jim McKinney, the pavilion replaces the current 1,200-square foot studio in Visual Arts with a 2,200-square-foot dance studio and 1,000-square-foot lobby that will double as rehearsal space. It also includes a costume shop, faculty offices, meeting rooms and gallery.
Under the direction of Miryam Moutillet, Union’s dance program enrolls nearly 150 students each term, many of whom combine a dance minor with majors in all fields. There are multilevel technique classes in everything from ballet to Broadway dance, as well as classes in choreography, performance and dance history. "The Dance Experience" remains a staple of the curriculum, combining lectures, performances and workshops.
Calling it a breathtaking space, Moutillet said the Henle Dance Pavilion will be a place where passion for the art form can flourish, inspiring students to explore and create.
"Dance can take flight at Union for years to come," Moutillet said in thanking longtime College benefactor David L. Henle ’75 and his wife, Joan, who provided the lead gift for the building. Henle, the head of DLH Capital, a family investment firm, has been a Union Trustee since 2004.
Since he first came to Union 42 years ago as a student, Henle said the College has played a pivotal role in his life's journey. When he became aware of the dance program's need for a modern facility, he wanted to help.
"Steve Jobs said it best," said Henle. "What makes us great as a country is our imagination and our creativity. The arts are our soul."
Emily Lnenicka '12 spoke about the impact the dance program has had on our growth as a person.
The dedication closed with a performance by Jillian Callanan '16, Keilah Creedon '14, Jenna Langhans '13, Allison Minchoff '16, Avery Novitch '16, Jasmine Roth '14, Laura Schad '16 and Mary Suttie '15.
More than 1,500 visitors are expected at ReUnion, which began Friday and continues through Sunday. Besides traditional favorites like the Alumni Parade, a grand fireworks display and the Gala Dinner, visitors helped celebrate the "You are Union” campaign. The largest and most comprehensive fundraising campaign in the College's history, the campaign raised more than $258 million, topping its goal of $250 million.
There were also presentations from notable alumni in a variety of fields.
In addition, Alumni Gold Medals were presented by the Alumni Council to Clifford Mastrangelo ’63, retired senior leader of Bell Atlantic Yellow Pages and PDC; David Breazzano ’78, Union trustee and president of DDJ Capital Management; and George Bain ’73, co-treasurer for the board of directors at Paul Robeson Performing Arts Company. John Garver, professor of geology, received the Faculty Meritorious Service Award.
To learn more about the medal winners, click here.
ReUnion 2014 is scheduled for May 30-June 1.