Saratoga Springs, NY
Jacques Burgering, Artistic Director
By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 19, 2003
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
During my June visit in Saratoga Springs, NY, I toured one of my favorite museums, the National Museum of Dance, about which so few Americans actually have been informed. This museum, which is dedicated to American professional dance, is housed in the old Washington Bath House, built in 1918, at the entrance to the Saratoga Spa State Park, with white marble and spacious halls throughout. I have been immersing myself in this Upstate Museum, ever since its opening, in July, 1986. There are five galleries, with a Hall of Fame that showcases native-born dancers, critics, and choreographers, such as Fred Astaire, and Martha Graham. There are special exhibit rooms and costume and dance artifacts, as well.
My interview with Jacques Burgering, Artistic Director of the National Museum of Dance, follows:
REZ: Tell me about your dance background.
JB: I danced with the Erik Hawkins Company and worked in their administration.
REZ: What brought you to the National Museum of Dance?
JB: I was looking for a college job and found the Museum of Dance. I didn't know it existed. The Artistic Director had just left, and it was two days before 9/11 happened. Everything sorted out.
REZ: What does the Artistic Director do?
JB: I create programs to use the back studios. I organize workshops, residencies, and get more dance companies to come. Two tap companies and two modern dance companies have been involved with the Museum of Dance. I want to have more dance companies here.
Jacques Burgering is looking for dance companies who would like to take advantage of his Lewis Swyer Space Grant, as he has spacious practice studios in the National Museum of Dance, which would be a wonderful retreat for city companies. He even has occasional connections for housing accommodations.
Mr. Burgering gave me a private tour of the new Child Performers in Tap: 1900-1950 Exhibit (See Photos), and then I wandered the galleries at leisure. The Hall of Fame has photographs, videos, text, and costumes of 30 native-born American pioneers of dance, with new awards of inclusion offered annually. I viewed exhibits on Fred Astaire, with his sister and his dance partners, Rita Hayworth and Ginger Rogers.
I saw Lucia Chase, dancer, director, and patron of ABT, Isadora Duncan, who refused to dance with corsets at the turn of the century, Jerome Robbins, Ballet Master and choreographer of NYC Ballet, Martha Graham, dancer, teacher, choreographer, and administrator of her school and company, Leonide Massine, dancer and choreographer of Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo, Bronislava Nijinska, the infamous ballet dancer and choreographer, Alvin Ailey, dancer and choreographer, Jose Limón, dancer and choreographer, and Agnes de Mille, the famed dancer, choreographer, and teacher, who taught her students to fortify themselves to deal with misfortune.
During this walk through the Hall of Fame, I also read about Balanchine, famed impresario, choreographer, and Artistic Director of NYC Ballet, Katherine Dunham, a renowned dancer who held a PhD in anthropology, Lincoln Kirstein, Co-Founder of NYC Ballet and School of American Ballet, John Martin, famed NY Times dance critic, and Ruth St Denis, who danced into her 80's. I stopped to focus on Martha Graham once again to read a description of her profound vitality, which included her definition of the signature "contraction" as "a birth pang and a death throe".
On a lighter note, I watched a video of the dream ballet sequence in Oklahoma, with outstretched arms against the Western landscapes, the image of a passionate duet, with wedding bells and flowers, and the corps in hats, tied with ribbons, and country frocks. I was serenaded with Oh, What a Beautiful Morning and Surrey with a Fringe on Top, as the cowboys danced on the tiny screen.
Child Performers in Tap: 1900-1950 will run through April, 2004, as the Museum of Dance celebrates the Year of Tap. Another exhibit on tap dance in the Capital Region will open this winter. Also in the galleries is Classic Black, about the history of African-American ballet dancers before 1970, with interesting photographs and costumes. This exhibit will also run through April, 2004. In the foyer are enlarged prints by the dance photographer, Steve Caras, which will run through November, 2003.
I recommend a trip to Saratoga Springs, NY, just a few short hours from NYC, by car, train, or bus to see the sights of Saratoga and the National Museum of Dance. Reserve an exquisite room, ahead of the trip, at the relaxing and well appointed, concierge Hotel, Saratoga Arms. This is where I am staying, while visiting Saratoga Springs on several occasions this summer, and I could not be more pleased with the experience.
Jacques Burgering, Artistic Director
Child Performers in Tap Exhibit