Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | October 25, 2009
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Trinity College celebrates Clive Thompson

From left: John Simone, Trinity College president James F. Jones Jr, Judy Dworin, Liz Thompson and Clive Thompson at a recent function in Hartford, Connecticut. They were celebrating 40 years of Trinity College's theatre and dance programme. - Contributed

Dance and co-education walked hand in hand into Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in the fall of 1969 with the arrival of Clive and Liz Thompson. As resident guest artistes from 1969 to 1971, they introduced dance into the curriculum at this venerable liberal arts college, which was founded in 1823.

To celebrate four decades of dance and co-education, Trinity's department of theatre and dance presented 40 Forward!, a series of events for past and present faculty, alumni, students and the public on September 25 and 26.

As James F. Jones Jr, president of Trinity College, stated at a reunion dinner, with both humour and seriousness, "Serendipity rules the universe." Chief among the serendipitous delights was the arrival of Clive Thompson for the historic occasion, which celebrated both his foothold in the academy and the achievements wrought by his former pupil and successor, Judy Dworin, and her colleagues.

Dworin came to Trinity in 1969 as a 20-year-old senior from the all-women Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts because she wanted to study with Thompson, a major figure in American modern dance. At the time, Thompson was a soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company and a principal with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Upon Thompson's departure for his time-demanding career as a performer two years later, Dworin guided and developed Trinity's dance programme, which resulted in the establishment of the department of theatre and dance, of which she is co-chair. Additionally, she is the artistic director of the Judy Dworin Performance Ensemble and executive director of the Judy Dworin Performance Project, Inc, based in Hartford.

Retired and current faculty members in attendance who had supported the Thompsons' novel dance curriculum in 1969 recalled that co-education was not a controversy on campus, but that dance was viewed with scepticism.

Noting how attitudes have changed dramatically over 40 years, the current dean of faculty, Rena Fraden, said, "I can't imagine coming to a college that didn't have theatre and dance."

At the dinner, Thompson spoke of "the door being open" at the college and how quickly "the foundation was beginning to be set". He hailed Dworin's work and "that tenacity, that talent, that dedication, that makes the world a better place".

During his two days in Hartford, Thompson addressed a class open to the Trinity community about his career, participated in a dance improvisation jam led by Dworin, and was among the guest speakers in a panel discussion, 'Dance in the Academy: Breaking Ground and Making a Difference'. The discussion also included faculty from Oberlin College, Wesleyan University and Wake Forest University.

Pioneer Dance Award

At the culminating performance showcasing professional work by Trinity Theater and Dance faculty across the years, Thompson was presented with Trinity's Pioneer Dance Award by Dworin.

"For the brief time that the awe-inspiring dance master Clive Thompson was here, he started in motion something extremely special ... ostensibly something for women, but mostly men and some women flocked to the classes. I was one of those first few women," Dworin said. "Many more followed. And the spark that was ignited by those two years of leaps and turns and choreographic journeying was to travel on 40 years hence to this wonderful celebration this evening.

"We are honoured by the unexpected and truly wonderful return of Clive from Jamaica to join us for this event. We are extremely indebted to Clive, and to Liz, for breaking ground for dance at the College - for making something happen that may have never happened otherwise, and that has changed the lives of so many then and through the years - myself included. Clive, we thank you and celebrate you with this award," Dworin concluded.

Thompson returned to Jamaica in 1996 and now serves as a choreographer with the National Dance Theatre Company.

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