New Beginnings and the Beginning of the End: Back to Bates


Robby Haynos/The Bates Student

The first-year dance piece is a way of integrating new dance students with the Bates dance community

Dance is a beautiful thing. There are people moving, on a stage, in a display of personality, artistic breadth, talent and years of hard work.

And I don’t know a damn thing about it. Just being real.

But you know who does? Two very good friends of mine, Isabel Honigman ’22 and Talia Kurlansky ’22. These two very good friends of mine, coincidentally, happen to be the directors/choreographers of the first-year dance piece that went onstage this parent’s weekend at the Back to Bates Concert.

 I got the rare opportunity to interview these prestigious dancers at their dress rehearsal last week, along with Professor of Dance Carol Dilley, who thought I was somebody’s dad when I approached her. (In her defense, I was in sweatpants and a sweatshirt with a backwards baseball hat.)

“The first-year dance piece is something we’ve been doing for 20 years,” said Dilley, who was kind enough to answer a few questions. “Around six years ago, we began having senior dance majors choreograph the piece for the incoming first years. Part of the reason we have a first-year piece is to get the first years on stage. We thought of this as a way to let them know, this is where the doors are, this is who the community is and this is what we do.”

When I asked Professor Dilley about her impending retirement, which has yet to be formally announced, Dilley responded with a bit of emotion and a strong appreciation for the time she has left here.

“I am having more fun this year than I have in years. I’m sentimental about absolutely everything that we do, and I’m proud of what we built. And it’s amazing to say, I built this, and there are 15 first years on that stage, and they’re just on their way to starting this journey that I’ve watched for the last 20 years.”

After that, I went and sat with Honigman and Kurlansky, who take a deeply methodical approach to directing, as they do with everything else in life.  Any issue, tweak or comment is thought of in the moment, communicated, instantly agreed upon and addressed.  They’re deeply experienced in the craft of dance in their own different ways, and use their unique approaches to create the best product they can on stage.

Honigman and Kurlanksy met during their first-year dance piece, and now they find themselves right back where they started. Except now, they’re in charge. When I asked how it felt to work together on the piece they originally met during, Honigman, in her typical fashion, responded, “Aw.”

“It’s really cool,” she continued. “It’s been a full circle process for both of us, and it feels really good to make something that we both really like and reflects the both of us.”

“It feels like a big culmination of our time at Bates,” Kurlanksy chimed in, “because in addition to being in the first-year dance piece, we’ve also taken every dance class Bates has to offer side by side, and done homework side by side and asked each other for advice when we choreograph solo, so getting to work together has been a really special thing.”

As for the piece itself? It’s great. Dancing to the score of “Photo ID” by Remi Wolf — a song chosen because I played it while they were in my car, not that it matters or anything (taking full credit) — we saw a strong cast of 15 first years display all the special talents that brought them to Bates in the first place.

It’s weird, it’s fun, it’s beautiful. Just like the song, just like their dancing, just like their friendship. Everyone’s coming full circle around these first years, but they’re just getting started.