Gift Creates New Visiting Artist Position in Dance Department

Colorado College’s Department of Theatre and Dance has received a $530,000 gift to establish the Pamela Battey Mitchell Visiting Artist-in-Residence in Contemporary Dance in honor of Hanya Holm. The gift, from Jere Mitchell, an emeritus academic cardiologist at Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, is made in honor of his late wife, Pamela Battey Mitchell ’58.

Pamela Mitchell was a student of Holm’s for two years with Colorado College’s Summer Dance Festival and was profoundly impacted by her time with Holm. Holm, a visiting artist at the college during the 1950s, was at the cutting edge of dance at her time and is considered one of the founders of modern dance.

The gift will allow the department to create a visiting artist position, which will enable it to bring a variety of artists to campus and create relationships over time, much like the relationship that existed between Holm and Colorado College when Pamela Mitchell was a student.

Pamela Mitchell attended Colorado College for her final two years, also spending two summers on campus. “It was the most exciting, rewarding, and interesting time in her college career,” Jere Mitchell says.

The Artist-in-Residence funding will further the dance department’s goal of decentering the curriculum and instruction in dance. Toward this end, prominent Native choreographer Rosy Simas will conduct a dance production lab in the upcoming Block 6. Simas will work with students to develop a public performance that will be staged at the end of the block. Depending on the interests of participants in the course, which is open to both trained dancers and students new to the stage, the performance could be an installation or involve multimedia elements, especially if there are students with experience in film and video. The creative process will be supplemented with readings and viewings by artists, activists, and scholars working in Indigenous performance, somatic practices, and the politics of cultural appropriation.

“It is impossible to overstate the importance of Rosy’s contributions to the Department of Theatre and Dance — and above all, our work on the antiracism initiative,” says Associate Professor of Performance Studies Ryan Platt, who also is chair of Department of Theatre and Dance.

“Rosy is a Native artist and activist who actively builds new Native audiences and combats the marginalization of Native artists,” he says.“Her teaching always involves astute attention to questions of identity, power, and cultural difference. These issues are particularly needed in dance, which many students regard as inherently neutral and a matter of technical skill.

“Rosy’s cutting-edge choreography asks students to slow down and reflect on how the body and movement are subject to history and systems of social discipline. In short, Rosy is uniquely positioned to advance our current commitment to antiracism and de-essentializing dance. It is crucial that we do this in the academic classroom, but also with students on the stage, which will be the goal of her course and residency in the spring,” says Platt. 

Platt notes that Simas also is contributing to the larger artistic and intellectual discourse on campus and that the Department of Theatre and Dance has been collaborating with the Native American Student Union, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, and faculty in anthropology, English, and Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies during her previous visits. “These interdisciplinary connections are essential to bringing new knowledge and critical perspectives on indigeneity, colonialism, and embodiment to both our department and the larger college,” he says.

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