Hettie Barnhill in Residence

Still image from the film “A Love Letter to Brian, Lesley, and Michelle”

Year: 2022-2023
DanceForce Member: Robin Collen
Artist: Hettie Barnhill
Community Partner: SUNY Potsdam
Audience: 200
County: St. Lawrence

On Thursday September 1, 2022, DanceForce member Robin Collen is bringing Hettie Barnhill to the SUNY Potsdam campus for a teaching, choreographing, and film-screening residency.

The activities for this residency are as follows:
1. Thursday September 1 @ 6:00 p.m. Ms. Barnhill will audition for a 15-student-dancer cast.
2. Friday September 2 @ 9:00-10:45 a.m. Ms. Barnhill will teach Afro-Modern to students in Modern Dance I-IV.
3. Friday September 2 @ 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Ms. Barnhill will rehearse.
4. Saturday September 3 @ 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. Ms. Barnhill will rehearse.
5. Saturday September 3 @ 7:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Ms. Barnhill will screen her film “A Love Letter to Brian, Lesley, and Michelle” which will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
6. Sunday September 4 @ 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. Ms. Barnhill will rehearse.
7. Monday September 5 @ 9:00-10:45 a.m. Ms. Barnhill will teach Hip-Hop Dance to students in Modern Dance I-IV.
8. Monday September 5 @ 4:00-5:15 p.m. Ms. Barnhill will teach Broadway Dance to students in Musical Theatre Dance.
9. Monday September 5 @ 6:00-7:00 p.m. Ms. Barnhill will rehearse.
10. Monday September 5 @ 7:30-8:30 p.m. Ms. Barnhill’s choreography (with student performers) will be performed for the public in an informal setting, which will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
11. Tuesday September 6 @ 9:30 a.m. Ms. Barnhill will teach Broadway Dance to students in Intermediate Ballet.

The SUNY Potsdam Department of Theatre and Dance will support this residency by supplying studio and theatre space as well as technical expertise for the film showing. SUNY Potsdam’s Community Performance Series will support this residency through publicity.

The communities served through this residency will be SUNY Potsdam students and the broader Potsdam-area and North Country residents. Also, BIPOC students and community members may feel particularly well-served. The film, “A Love Letter to Brian, Lesley, and Michelle” in the words of Ms. Barnhill “holds a mirror to the audience and challenges viewers through dance, theatre, and text to reflect upon themselves and their presence within the everyday narratives they encounter via social media, television, newspapers, politics, family and first-hand encounters . . . [the film covers] topics such as White fragility, diversity & inclusion, anti-Blackness, anti-queerness, and racial fear. It forces viewers to step outside of their own bodies and into bodies that continue to be brutalized, objectified, and minimized in America.” The choreographic work which Ms. Barnhill will set on students will engage the dancers in reflective practices and movement experiences around similar themes.

The estimated size of the audience for all events is 200.

This is a significant event on several levels. First, dance students will work with a professional teacher, choreographer, and filmmaker who brings much to their experiences including appearances on Broadway in “Spider-Man Turn off the Dark,” “Fela!” and “Leap of Faith” and performances at the Metropolitan Opera, Dallas Theater Center, and the La Jolla Playhouse. Ms. Barnhill will set a work that, in her words, “dives into the concepts of shared responsibility of crises, and reset, and will look closely at the present social climate as a place of ignition.” The movement will be a fusion of African, Modern, and Hip-Hop styles and techniques. Visual media and text may also be involved. Second, Ms. Barnhill’s requiring performers in her choreography to reflect on their place in the broader society, while also learning challenging movement will offer students an expanded understanding of the choreographic process. Third, students will work with an artist of color, which, at SUNY Potsdam, is an infrequent occurrence. Fourth, this is significant for residents of the North Country; Ms. Barnhill’s film, as noted above, revolves around themes of racism, White privilege, social justice, body image, and gender. These themes are important for all audience members. Fifth, this project is significant for Ms. Barnhill because it increases her audience for both her film and choreographic work.