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Dancer and choreographer David Parsons described his March 2003 choreography residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts as "dancing in the sun." It is an apt description since sunlight is everywhere here. The dance studio has continuous skylights high on all four walls, and there's a window along the entire lower wall that reveals lush tropical foliage dappled with sunlight just a few feet away. And some dance classes, choreography, and experimental movement sessions were held right on the hard-packed-sand beach of the Atlantic Ocean.


The center is on sixty-nine acres of tidal estuary within an ecological preserve located on Florida's east coast in the historic and arts-oriented town of New Smyrna Beach. The organization, which opened in 1982, focuses on developing the process of artistic creation. It offers three-week residencies, most often headed by three master artists, each accomplished in the creation of one of the visual arts, or poetry, writing, music composition, theater, or dance choreography. The mix can vary. Each master artist selects five to fifteen applicants to the program with whom he or she will work. These "associates," the term used instead of students, are mid-career artists, not beginners. The residency program is free to the associates, including private housing and meals. It is subsidized by grants, inventive fund-raising, and a generous board of trustees. Dance/choreography master artists previously at the Atlantic Center include Eiko & Koma, Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Tina Ramirez, Buglisi/Foreman, Ulysses Dove, Molissa Fenley, Bebe Miller, Doug Elkins, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Talley Beatty, and Deborah Hay. The 102nd residency included choreographer David Parsons, writer Dave Hickey, and visual artist Steven Pippin. Parsons selected six choreography associates, who spent the first week taking classes and choreographing their own solo dances under his guidance. Parsons also shared his experience on how to run a dance company. ACA residencies vary greatly, depending on the discipline and temperament of the master artist, who usually spends half or more of the day advising and working with associates. The balance of the day is spent working on a project of his or her own, sometimes alone, sometimes with other associates, as with Parsons.

Aspiring choreographer lan Bell of New York City commented, "I can think of no more positive creative environment than ACA. It is what I dreamed higher arts education would be."

The associates later worked with Parsons on preliminary choreographic planning for the dances he is creating for a musical theater production of Daddy Long Legs. Theirs were the bodies on which the show's choreography was started.

Seven dancers from The Parsons Dance Company arrived for the second and third weeks, thus enlarging the number of performers on whom Parsons could choreograph three songs from the musical. The associates also worked on their own pieces and took daily ballet class from Elizabeth Koeppen, who is associate artistic director of The Parsons Dance Company.

Near the end of the third and final week of the residency, John Caird, writer and director of the adaptation of Daddy Long Legs, arrived at the Atlantic Center to participate in a black-box theater presentation of the show. The Parsons associates also performed their solo dances and the writing associates read some of their work. The program was performed the final evening of the residency for an audience of supporters and friends of the Atlantic Center (

Parsons associate Kate Teuchtler, a member of the dance faculty at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, said, "I feel that ACA is a haven that fosters self-reflection and experimentation. As a result of my experience there I learned more about myself and was able to channel this insight into the creation of a new work that is vastly different from any of my other choreography."

Veteran dance photographer Jack Mitchell, whose photos have graced the cover of DANCE MAGAZINE 167 times, retired to New Smyrna Beach, Florida, in 1996 after a forty-five-year career in New York. He continues to make exhibition prints and shoot the occasional portrait. His latest book is Icons & Idols: A Photographer's Chronicle of the Arts 1960-1995.
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Title Annotation:the Atlantic Center for the Arts
Author:Mitchell, Jack
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2003
Previous Article:Transitions.
Next Article:Attitudes.

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