Emory Report
September 17, 2007
Volume 60, Number 4


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September 17, 2007
Concert offers a choreographic reflection


As she enters into her 50th year and her 30th as a choreographer, Sally Radell, associate professor and director of the dance program at Emory, is preparing a retrospective concert of her choreographic work. “People Like Us: A Choreographic Reflection” will be performed by Atlanta area professionals and Emory faculty members, Sept. 27-29 at 8 p.m. in the Schwartz Center Dance Studio. To purchase tickets ($10; Discount Category $6; Emory students $6) contact the Arts at Emory box office at 404-727-5050 or www.arts.emory.edu.

Radell holds a Master of Arts degree in choreography/labanotation from The Ohio State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Dance from Arizona State University. Radell has been an active choreographer since 1976 with her works produced in various locations including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans, New York and Brazil. In addition to receiving numerous choreographic commissions and artist grants, she is also a published dance critic and does data-based research on body image and dancers.

Her upcoming retrospective concert will focus on the body of work she has created since moving to Atlanta in 1987. For this concert she has carefully chosen five related pieces that explore different aspects of her fascination with everyday ritual and popular American culture. In between preparations for this performance, Radell took some time to reflect on her career, choreography and this concert.

Emory Report: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the Emory Dance Program since you joined the faculty in 1987?
Radell: The first big change happened when we changed the rubric of our courses from P.E. to dance because it automatically brought us into the academic realm, giving us our own identity. From then on there’s been a steady growth of faculty and courses. We got the dance major passed in 1998 and moved into the Schwartz Center in January of 2003, which granted us performance autonomy. Finally, the simultaneous mounting of the “Boundless” exhibit in the library tracing the history of dance at Emory, and the hosting of the American College Dance Festival in 2004 really brought our program into the wider national arena. In our academic league of schools, we’re one of the leading liberal arts B.A. dance programs in this region of the country if not beyond.

What are your goals for the future of dance at Emory?
Radell: My biggest goal is to continue developing our curriculum in ways that meet the needs of the students. Basically I want to do what we do better. I also look forward to continuing to diversify our curriculum, build our faculty in meaningful ways and enhance our performance season.

What is your most exciting moment in dance at Emory?
Radell: I was deeply moved by the mounting of the “Boundless” exhibit because it was so satisfying to see the whole history of dance at Emory laid out beautifully with text, props, photographs and digital technology. I am enormously proud of the program that I’ve guided since 1987. This is a program that can give students challenging experiences and where they can create work that is well crafted and meaningful on a number of levels.

Describe your research interests and any highlights of this research you are particularly excited about.

Radell: In both my choreographic work and research database work I’m interested in what it means to be female and how we view ourselves. I ask questions in my choreography about women, body image, popular culture and how we struggle with living in our country today. In my empirical research, I’m looking at how the use of the mirror in a beginning-level ballet class affects how college-age female students view themselves. I have written several papers on this research and I’ve presented those findings in Spain, Taipei and London, as well as at several national conferences.

Why do a retrospective concert?

Radell: I find it fascinating to pull similar things together to look for a deeper collective meaning. The earliest piece in this concert is from 1989 and follows a formal choreographic structure. After doing that piece I wanted to make my work more accessible. As a result, all the other dances in the concert deal with really tangible things such as parenthood and traffic.

How much of the work being presented was a collaborative effort? What are the advantages/disadvantages of collaboration?
Radell: All choreography is collaborative, which is advantageous because it allows you to build on the strengths of different participants. The trick to a successful collaboration is finding the right connection between yourself and your collaborators. For this particular concert my collaborations were with dancers, lighting and costume designers, composers and a filmmaker. Although collaborations are certainly harder, I find that they heighten my excitement for the whole experience.

After this concert is over, will you put this work behind you and start on a new choreographic path, or will you continue to explore the same themes in your work?
Radell: In pulling all this work together I’m hoping to inspire myself creatively. I’m interested to see what can come of the relationship between my data-based and choreographic work. I think I’ll always be making dances about things that are relevant in our lives. I feel like we’re always evolving as choreographers and I’m excited to see where this process takes me.

Since you and your husband are both artists, what do you enjoy doing that is non-art related in your free time?

Radell: We love to eat Thai food and to travel. We have also been restoring a 1910 Victorian bungalow since 1989. My idea of escape is to work on the house. To me it’s just a tremendous delight. I find it very relaxing to work with my hands doing things like refinishing doors, scraping paint and designing. I love pulling colors and textures together. His idea of escape is reading and making overgrown Adirondack chairs.