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Haverford College

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When Alison D’Amato ’02 decided she wanted to attend graduate school for dance, she knew it would be difficult to find funding for such “non-traditional” goals, as she puts it. Now, she wants everyone with similar artistic aims to know this: “It can be done.”

Pittsburgh native D’Amato is the recipient of a Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, which will enable her to spend next year in London pursuing a master’s degree in European dance theater practice from the prestigious Laban Conservatory. Along with studying the theoretical and historical components of major dance theater works from the 20th century, she’ll collaborate with other theater artists to create her own pieces.

This won’t be new territory for D’Amato; here in Philadelphia, she’s been creating works with fellow Haverford alumni Christian Ducomb ’01 (an actor/dramaturg), Alena Smith ’02 (a playwright), and Matt Sharp ’02 (a light and sound designer). Under the name Dead Genius Productions, they develop innovative pieces of theater in which dance plays a major part. They cull from a variety of sources—images, stories, articles—to devise characters and a narrative, and explore non-traditional means of storytelling. “If a character needs to get someplace physically or emotionally, she does so through dance,” explains D’Amato, who also works part-time with a teen outreach program at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Their most recent work was inspired by an article that appeared in The New York Times Magazine. D’Amato portrayed a sales associate for the gravel industry, facing a professional crisis at a gravel convention: “She arrives at the convention believing she’s completely satisfied with her life, and by the end she figures out that she can’t do this anymore.” D’Amato and her group have performed this and other works at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival and with the Workshop for Potential Movement at Philadelphia’s Spiritwind Performing Arts Center. Before she leaves for London, D’Amato will also be performing in this year’s Fringe Festival with local choreographer Nicole Canuso, in a clown piece titled "We Spar Down the Lane."

D’Amato has been involved with modern dance and ballet all her life. When visiting colleges, she says, “I knew I was interested in dance, but I also wanted the experience of a liberal arts education.” A philosophy major at Haverford, she participated in dance classes at Bryn Mawr and made connections with many area choreographers, including Headlong Dance Theater’s David Brick, who introduced her to the Philadelphia dance community. “Dance theater is so vibrant in this city,” she says. “As I became more engaged in the community, I got different perspectives on how dance and theater work together.”

When she returns from London, D’Amato plans to stay in Philadelphia and continue what she loves best: creating and performing her own dance theater works. “I want this to be the focus of my career for a long time,” she says. In the meantime, she’s looking forward to her year abroad as a time to “completely focus on my art,” and will forever be grateful to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for giving her the chance to do so. “I’m so impressed with them as a foundation,” she says, “and I’m so lucky to have this opportunity.”

The intersection of College Lane and Coursey Road in front of the Cricket Pitch.

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