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Reminiscences

Reminiscences from Contemporary Dance Theater’s friends and family

Contemporary Dance Theater has been a grassroots organization since its founding in 1972.

Along the way, the organization has been honored to call many people family and friends.

Below are heartfelt stories about memorable experiences with Contemporary Dance Theater from insiders during its earlier years as a resident company, in association with its role as a supporter of local artists, and its close ties to its founder and Artistic and Executive Director, Ms. Jefferson James, as well as in noting its lasting impact from its most recent life stage as the presenter of modern dance in Cincinnati.

From AMY KATZMAN

A recollection of a special memory from an long-time supporter and audience member.

Since my first contact with Jeff as a marginally coordinated dance student, I have watched CDT accommodate its mission to the ebb and flow of local arts events. I was glad it presented and gave a home to artists who had no other place to have their voices heard, or their ideas see the light. Of my many good memories, one of my fondest exemplifies not only Jeff’s vision, but her determination. About ten years ago, Contemporary Arts Center had booked Arnie Zane/Bill T. Jones for a show and had to cancel the booking. Jeff, knowing that one of the decade’s premier cutting-edge dance companies now had those dates available, promptly booked them herself—racing the clock to get funding—at the intimate Dance Hall. I came down from Columbus for the performance. The incomparable Bill T. Jones finished a piece languidly posed on the floor of The Dance Hall not ten feet from my face. Be still my heart.

Thank you, Jeff, for your resourcefulness and your tenacity.

From CONNIE BERGSTEIN DOW

A remembrance of the rare and meaningful opportunities Contemporary Dance Theater provided to artists.

I danced with Contemporary Dance Theater at two different periods of my life. The first time was in the summer of 1979, right after I returned from living and dancing for a year in Guatemala. The second was a much longer stay, from 1982 to 1987. I had returned to Cincinnati to raise my family, and was in and out of the company having babies and then coming back to dance. Being associated with the company for so many years, I have had many adventures, but two ideas tie all of my memories together, and these are the ones that I would like to share.

The first is the fact that Jefferson James provided me an opportunity to be a working modern dancer in Cincinnati. This in itself was a precious and rare thing — especially because it was provided against monumental odds. As a company, we were able to take a modern or ballet class in the morning, and rehearse for three to four hours, several days a week, all year round. We had the honor of working with many different dancers and choreographers. Many sacrifices were made by everyone involved to enable this company to survive and flourish. The artistic drive won out, and CDT became a thriving company which had a performance season and a school, and had a presenter series for other artists.

The years of working with other dancers left a legacy for me personally which is still meaningful to this day. Sharing a passion for dance and turning that drive into finished works of art brought people together like almost nothing else. Friendships forged in these circumstances were strong and supportive. Most of us who worked together during these years have gone on to have children and find jobs as our dancing years came to an end. However, we still have a bond of friendship from our time together at CDT and share a passion for dance which will never diminish.

From KAREN KILBANE

A humorous recounting of the plight of getting to class or rehearsal on time at Contemporary Dance Theater’s notorious facility, The Dance Hall.

The Dance Hall is a grand old building that has enclosed the power, spirit, and sweat of dancer after dancer, year after year. The power, spirit, and sweat, however, must rely on the dancers’ bodies and the dancers’ prayers to get them there. First comes the dash to class. Usually, you, the dancer, are running late, so pray to find a parking space within three blocks of the grand old building. Generally, you have many bags, one of which you pray has the right dancewear for today’s temperature and today’s weight. While running to the door with all these bags, you pray the door isn’t locked. When it is locked, you pray that while pounding with all your might that somebody can hear you and that the noise is not creating a gross disturbance for the class or rehearsal in progress. Finally, you must muscle your way through the door, throw on your dance clothes, and step onto the dance floor. Within minutes, you are much calmer. A transforming energy enters your previously tired and harried soul, and you dance. As you leave The Dance Hall, walk down the concrete steps, and reenter the real world, you say a prayer of thanks to Jeff. 

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