Union College’s 2019 Villella Fellows

Marie Lindsey, Staff writer

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The Edward Villella Fellowship has been providing for dancers at Union since 1995, endowed by Charles Lothridge ‘44. The fellowship provides for one to two artists a year to expand their technical training in various forms of dance. In the Spring Term of 2019, the Edward Villella Fellowship was awarded to two dancers: China Campagnuolo ’20 and myself ‘21. Campagnuolo used her fellowship to study tap dance and I used the funds to study ballet, adaptive dance instruction, and aerial circus arts.

I focused my training in the aerial silks apparatus with circus artists at Aerial Arts New York and Omfactory, two gymnasiums in Manhattan. Many professional aerial artists train in the same gymnasiums as amateurs such as myself, and it was an incredible opportunity to learn from those training alongside me. The women spiraling from silks, hammocks, straps, hoops and trapeze exhibited impressive grace and strength, even as they were tucked away in the underground training space.

Throughout my time there, I explored trapeze, lyra, silks and hammock, but also continued my technical training in classical ballet and modern dance at Steps on Broadway. Steps offers an infinite selection of dance courses, from Hip Hop to Flamenco. With the funds allocated to me from the Vilella Fellowship, I was able to take advantage of this studio space to train and choreograph under experts. I also tested out my abilities outside the studio, in Central Park, Grand Central and my apartment — wherever I could.

Additionally, I attended a three-day seminar at the Boston Ballet during which I attended lectures and dance classes taught by Boston Ballet’s company members and instructors as well as individuals from Silent Rhythms. The seminar was intended for dance instructors who include classes for individuals with cognitive or physical disabilities or disorders. I began my instruction in adaptive dance for the final month of the summer at Camp Sunshine, in Casco, Maine.

I will be presenting two pieces of my choreography for the winter dance show accompanied by original musical compositions by Nathan Gillespie ’20 and Raphael Sebastian ’20. I will be completing a work with 12 classically trained ballet dancers in a rigorous modern dance piece regarding moments in which the mind is in a state of decay. The second piece of choreography I will be presenting is an aerial silks solo. I am also currently directing and choreographing a short performance that is being considered for presentation at the Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out Summer Festival in 2020. I will be continuing my training in silks and ballet in New York during the Winter, and will be studying with the Sydney Dance Company and the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in Israel within the following year.

There is a fallacy within adolescent American ballet culture that dance and academia must exist on two separate planes. However, the Edward Villella Fellowship heightened and expanded my training in directions I never thought I would be able to explore, but more importantly, allowed me to peek into a world in which I would be allowed to dance and still sustain myself economically and academically. I anticipate many creative endeavors to come and encourage all dancers and performing artists at Union to apply for the fellowship in the Spring Term of 2020.

CORRECTION: The version of this article that was first published misnamed one of the dancers and misattributed writing to Marie Lindsey.