Newcomb Dance Company challenges, expands students’ perception of dance


Melisa Cardona | Contributing Photographer

Members of the Tulane Dance Program perform at An Evening of Dance. The annual concert took place Feb. 10 through 12 in Dixon Hall. The Newcomb Dance Company will be performing at the American College Dance Festival this weekend.

Alice Pascal Escher has been challenging dancers for 33 years by serving as the artistic director of the Newcomb Dance Company, a student dance troupe that performs each semester. Escher founded the company in 1984 when dance was part of Newcomb College’s physical education program. A lot has changed over the years, she said, but the goal of Newcomb Dance Company remains the same.

“Our main goal is to provide a variety of opportunities for students so that we can challenge them to do things they have never done before,” Escher said. “We train students in concert dance and train them in dance as an art form. We aim to challenge their view of what dance is.”

During the second week of school each fall, dancers audition to be a part of the company. From there, choreographers select dancers who will be a part of their pieces. The dancers rehearse with the choreographers every week and create a piece that will be performed and cataloged as part of the company’s repertoire.

Keiko Leong, a senior triple majoring in neuroscience, public health and dance, has been in the Newcomb Dance Company for four years. Despite completing three majors and being on the pre-medical track, Leong has always made dance a priority in her busy schedule.

“I have learned to take the time that I have in the dance studio and really cherish it, as well as be really present in that moment,” Leong said. “I try not to focus on what homework I have to do afterwards but really take the time to be my full creative self when I’m in the studio.”

Leong will be performing with Newcomb Dance Company at the American College Dance Festival this weekend at Auburn University. Leong, like senior Ilana Ruben, junior Lindsay Bergman and freshman Rachel Devine, will be performing a piece choreographed by professor Michaela Cannon.

“The piece that will be performed at the festival is titled ‘Where The Light Enters You’ and comes from a line of a poem by Rumi: ‘The wound is the place where the light enters you.'” Cannon said. “It is the exploration of strength that comes from struggle, the light that comes from darkness. I tried to tap into the strength of the feminine or the ‘goddess warrior,’ both in the individual and the collective.”

This will be Leong’s final performance with Newcomb Dance Company. Even though she is planning on starting medical school next year, she said she will always make time for dance.

“The beauty of dance is that it is the physical form of art, your body is your expression, but I also think there is something really cathartic and peaceful in expressing emotions that you wouldn’t get to otherwise, and for me that has always been a really special part of my life.”

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