Dance and Movement Studies at Stony Brook University began with a series of courses in the Department of Physical Education in 1986, when Amy Yopp Sullivan was hired and became Coordinator of Dance. During the program’s tenure in Physical Education, a new dance and movement curriculum was developed, including courses in 20th Century Dance theory, Modern Technique and History, Ballet, Jazz, Improvisation, Tap Technique and History, Composition, Choreography, and Performance. During this time, Sullivan developed a new cross-listed course, Movement Awareness and Analysis, which became the basic curricular movement course in the Theatre Department until 2009. In addition, she received a Faculty Creative and Performance Arts Research Grant for a collaboration with Theatre Arts Faculty Member and Director Bill Bruehl for a dance drama, “The Wolf is a Dog Who Won’t Come to the Fire”. The production was performed at the T. Schrieber Theatre New York City; and the film of the performance won First Prize in a National Contest from the Institute for Creative Research. Students and professionals performed the work.
The program in dance developed through support such as an Eli Lilly Foundation Teaching Fellowship in 1988-89 for various explorations into the interdisciplinary nature of dance, a Curriculum Development Award from the Office of the Provost in 1988, and numerous opportunities for the performance of the creative work developed at Stony Brook at the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the US Festival at Dartmouth College, and various other community and university concerts. Sullivan also joined others to develop curricular intersections with music, theatre and visual art, like the FISPE grant in 1994 with Heidleberg College on Music and the Liberal Arts. In addition to her supportive colleagues in Physical Education, Sullivan was joined by two talented and dedicated dance professionals, Joan Frosch who taught from 1987-88; and Randy Thomas who began his tenure at the university in 1988.
From 1990-2009 the dance program moved to the Department of Theatre Arts in the Staller Center for the Arts. Faculty who taught courses and/or choreographed for the program during this time included Alison Russell, Robin Gee, Randy Thomas, Jackie Raven, Aurora Reyes, Maria Loreta Celitan, Lynn Marie Ruse, Lyn Brown, Adesola Akinleye, Christopher Scott, Marsha Parillo, Catherine Lawrence, Erin Dudley, Laura Shapiro, and Joya Powell. During this decade the program worked in conjunction with the goals of theatre, continuing to develop interdisciplinary focus, while at the same time holding a strong advocacy for the significance of the particulars of dance. The dance minor was formalized and expanded during this time. New interdisciplinary courses “Decoding the Language of Dance” and “Body Narratives” were developed for the Honors College. Several Honors College students chose to develop their senior theses in interdisciplinary work. Some included investigations partnering dance with mathematics, cellular biology, anthropology, sociology and Africana Studies. Courses were developed in collaborative work and performances were created in dance styles and vocabularies as well as dance/theatre and physical performance. Collaborations with text, such as “Waiting for Godot”, were developed through the process of first breaking down the beats and actions of a script, then developing movement phrases that evolved out of the actions of the beat. Such work became a model for lively interactions with texts, theatrical lighting, design, music and character study.
A full performance company, produced at the Staller Center for the Arts, was developed as the Performance Dance Ensemble, founded and directed by Randy Thomas in 1994 and 1995. In 1996, SpareChange Dance Theatre was developed, welcoming over 100 students to audition for a place in the company during the second year of its run. Students across disciplines and in dance and theatre studies joined together to investigate how the body speaks, embodies knowledge and challenges ideas for heightened performance. Students were selected through adjudication to perform at the Gala Performance of the American College Dance Festival at Connecticut College in 1995. In 1996 and 1997 SpareChange Dance Theatre was created and performed at the Staller Center. In the summer of 1998 Spare Change was produced at Guild Hall in East Hampton at the John Drew Theatre. This performance included undergraduate and graduate students as well as seasoned dance performers. From 1998-2002, Stony Brook dance students worked with artists and professionals presenting work in various venues. The Sullivan Dance Project performed throughout Long Island, at American College Dance Festivals, at the Dance Festival of the Americas in Mexico City, and at the Dance and Community Festival Conference in Almada, Portugal. Sullivan's theories of Physical Intelligence (1996) and Body Narratives (2001) were also developed throughout this decade.
The Center for Dance, Movement and Somatic Learning began in January of 2009, founded and directed by Amy Yopp Sullivan. The Center held its first classes and events in September of 2009. Faculty at the Center have included Randy Thomas, Joya Powell, Alison Russell, Erin Dudley, Maria Loreta Celitan, Elizabeth Trimm, Emily Beattie and Amy Yopp Sullivan. The Center stands on the shoulders of strong connective work in dance, movement, performance and interdisciplinary efforts throughout years of development at Stony Brook University. These efforts are grounded through innovative and traditional training that builds new knowledge and practice in the areas of technique, artistry, performance and creative potential. We welcome opportunities to test and demonstrate how dance and movement arts contribute to the future of a global culture and society.
We are most grateful to all who have been supportive of the on-going work in this area at the university since 1986. We are grateful for the excellence represented by a host of professional and academic fields both within the university and without. The array of influence has inspired our direction and vision at every turn. We look forward to welcoming new students, collaborators, researchers, interdisciplinary artists, scholars, performers and visionaries to join our efforts for the future.
In January of 2017, the undergraduate dance minor was suspended by the university; however, the Center for Dance, Movement and Somatic Learning remained as the venue for the continuation of the teaching, research, creative work and community outreach of Professor Yopp Sullivan. Students may continue to take courses in dance at the center, which is now part of the Department of Theatre Arts, at the Staller Center. In addition, Sullivan will continue creative work through her direction of Ironworks on the Edge, a Dance Theatre Company. The outreach work continues with community workshops. The research continues with collaborations with colleagues, with the most recent in Electrical Engineering and Neurobiology.