A dance piece choreographed by Rachael Lieblein-Jurbala ’19 is heading to one of dance’s biggest stages.
The politically charged “…and I will never, ever let you down,” first created for the 2017 Connecticut College Dance Club performance on campus, has been selected to be performed at the American College Dance Association’s 2018 National College Dance Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in June.
“This is an incredible honor for Rachael, for the student dancers, for the Connecticut College Dance Department and for the entire College community,” said Shani Collins-Achille, associate professor of dance and chair of the Connecticut College Dance Department.
Lieblein-Jurbala says she created the dance, which was selected from more than 30 works performed at the ACDA New England Conference in February, in response to a series of remarks made about women by then-presidential candidate Donald Trump during and before the 2016 campaign.
“I was angry and frustrated that the most powerful person in our country was speaking this way about 50 percent of the population,” she said. “Dance and performance is often a great way to start conversations.”
The piece, performed by five Connecticut College student dancers, Kaya Blumenthal-Rothchild ’20, Grace Bradley ’18, Kelli Carlson ’18, Emily Green ’18 and Sophia McLaughlin ’20, includes prerecorded audio of women reading direct quotes from before and during the campaign. Some quotes are also spoken by the dancers during the performance.
“It’s a reclamation of words spoken about women,” Lieblein-Jurbala said.
Adjudicators for the ACDA New England Conference, who selected the piece for the national festival, called “...and I will never, ever let you down,” “a sophisticated and relevant statement in a charged political moment that utilizes the power of both subtle and not-so-subtle gesture. It immediately and thoroughly immerses the view in the world it creates, revealing its social commentary through masterful layering.”
Collins-Achille said the complex piece is visually vibrant with bright colors that draw the audience into the narrative of the story.
“The cast is extremely talented and the quality of dancing is superb,” she said. “It’s very in-your-face in some parts. A lot of the gestures are pushing the boundaries by using pedestrian movements in modern dance.”
A dance and sociology double major and scholar in the College’s Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy, Lieblein-Jurbala is interested in the ways dance can be used to help those who have experienced trauma, and in the relationship between gender socialization and intimate violence. Last summer, she interned with the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence to develop a movement curriculum for children and teens affected by intimate partner violence.
This semester, Lieblein-Jurbala has partnered with Amy Miller, the senior company director of Gibney Dance, to host a workshop on campus to teach students about Gibney’s model for addressing sexual violence through the arts. Lieblein-Jurbala is also adapting “…and I will never, ever let you down,” for nine student dancers at her former high school in Syracuse, New York.
“Rachael is a great example of how you can come to Connecticut College for a rigorous dance curriculum and also study other things,” said Collins-Achille. “She is enriching our community with her ability to see dance as a tool for healing from domestic violence.”
Collins-Achille adds that she is looking forward to showcasing Conn’s integrative approach to dance education when Lieblein-Jurbala’s piece is performed at the biggest showcase for college dance, alongside pieces choreographed by professors, professional artists and students from other top dance colleges and universities across the country.
“The dance community will get a great sense of who we are with this very powerful, highly political piece,” she said.
“This is what art should do: be used as a platform to speak about inequality and social justice.”