Hettie Barnhill in Residence

Poster for film screening of “A Love Letter for Brian, Lesley, and Michelle”

Year: 2022-2023
DanceForce Member: Robin Collen
Artist: Hettie Barnhill
Community Partner: SUNY Potsdam
Audience: 290
County: St. Lawrence


1. Give Hettie Barnhill the opportunity to (a) screen, in-person, A Love Letter to Brian, Lesley, and Michelle, created with DanceForce funds in 2020 and screened on Zoom in 2021 to North Country audiences and (b) screen it in the context she believes is important and inseparable from watching the film: audience members share a common space to watch and then engage in a talk-back. Also, I wanted local audiences to have this experience.

2. Offer student dancers the opportunity to study with Ms. Barnhill: Afro-Modern, Hip-Hop, and Broadway Dance.

3. Give student dancers the opportunity to learn/perform Ms. Barnhill’s choreography.

Artists involved: Hettie Barnhill and 2 dancers who assisted in staging the choreography: Zoe Walders and Justine Bolling.

• Communicated closely with Ms. Barnhill on a schedule that worked within the intricacies of her graduate school and full-time faculty member responsibilities.
• Coordinated Ms. Barnhill’s teaching with SUNY Potsdam dance colleagues.
• Invited SUNY Potsdam Chief Diversity Officer and the Department of Theatre and Dance Chairperson to participate in the talk-back. In a meeting with Ms. Barnhill, we prepared for the talk-back.
• Worked with a technical director to prepare for the film screening and choreographic showing.
• Developed marketing with College Communications and North Country Public Radio (NCPR).

1. September 1 @ 6:00-9:00 Audition, casting, rehearsal.
2. September 2 @ 1:00-2:45 Teach Afro-Modern.
3. September 2 @ 6:00-9:00 Rehearsal
4. September 3 @ 1:00-4:00 Rehearsal
5. September 3 @ 7:30-9:30 Screening of “A Love Letter to Brian, Lesley, and Michelle” followed by a talk-back with a panel of the following people: Hettie Barnhill, Robert Gertler (co-filmmaker), Jacqueline Richardson-Melecio (SUNY Potsdam Chief Diversity Officer), Jay Pecora (Chair, Department of Theatre and Dance), and Zoe Walders (performer in the film).
6. September 4 1:00 – 4:00 Rehearsal
7. September 5 1:00-2:45 Teach Hip-Hop
8. September 5 6:00-7:00 Rehearse
9. September 5 7:30-8:30 Performance
10. September 6 9:30-10:45 Teach Broadway Dance

1. Wrote/distributed press release.
2. Underwrote programs on NCPR (20 advertisement spots).
3. Secured interview for Ms. Barnhill on NCPR.
4. Distributed 50 posters around campus.

I partnered with colleagues in the Department of Theatre and Dance to: (a) facilitate audition and classes, (b) provide technical assistance, and (c) work front of house.

Communities Served:
Most gratifying was the way the film talk-back actively engaged students of color. An on-duty campus police officer watched the film—much of which was about fear of police. His engagement in the talk-back brought another meaningful perspective to the context of the film.

Student comment:
“I really thank you for being able to bring Hettie here and giving me the opportunity to work with her and network as well. Even from what I remember from the film 2 years ago, rewatching it now made it so impactful. I felt like I was a part of the process. I hope you bring her back so that other classes can experience what she has to offer.”