Ohio University Awards Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts to Gladys Bailin Stern, Director Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of the School of Dance

The Ohio University School of Dance is pleased to announce that Gladys Bailin Stern will be awarded the Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts in recognition of the breadth and depth of her accomplishments in the field of modern dance. .

The public is invited to join the School of Dance for an awards ceremony and the public screening of the short dance documentary, “An Interview with Gladys Bailin”, the Friday, September 9, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Athena Cinema at 20 S. Court St. in Athens, Ohio. This event is free and open to the public.

“Distinguished Professor Gladys Bailin Stern is an internationally acclaimed dancer and visionary leader who changed the lives of students at Ohio University,” said President Hugh Sherman. “She truly deserves this esteemed honor.”

A tireless champion of dance as an art form, Bailin Stern has inspired generations of dancers with her quick wit, gracious humor and insightful eye. In her endeavors as a performer, choreographer, teacher, administrator and mentor, she is always creative, rigorous and energetic.

Bailin Stern has toured nationally and internationally for several decades with the Alwin Nikolais Dance Company, Murray Louis Dance Company, Don Redlich Company and as a freelance soloist. She has presented her original choreography at dance festivals around the world as well as at major theaters and universities. Bailin Stern joined the faculty of The Ohio University School of Dance in 1972, where she profoundly influenced the dance curriculum, giving the school a national reputation for a diverse curriculum centered on composition and a conceptual approach to movement.

“Gladys was, and still is, a true dance pioneer, a fearless visionary who is part of a generation of forward-thinking women who made our beloved modern dance the important art form it is today. today,” said professor David Dorfman. in Connecticut College and artistic director of the internationally acclaimed dance company, David Dorfman Dance.

The dance documentary film produced by Ohio University Libraries is based on archival film clips, photographs, programs and a series of interviews with Bailin Stern made in 2020. A large some of this material comes from the Alwin Nikolais and Murray Louis Dance Collection and the Gladys Bailin Papers. . These are housed in the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections at the University Libraries and document Bailin Stern’s illustrious career as well as his deep ties to Ohio University.

In the documentary, Bailin Stern reflects on his early training in New York with dance legend Alwin Nikolais, his international career as a performer and choreographer, and his impact on the Ohio University School of Dance. .

In 1948, when Nikolais joined the Henry Street Playhouse in New York to lead the dance and theater department on the Lower East Side, it was a turning point for American modern dance – and, for neighborhood youth, like Bailin Stern, whose lives were forever altered. In the early days of dance at the Playhouse, the growth and intimacy between its dancers was unmistakable.

“Gladys was, and still is, a true dance pioneer, a fearless visionary who is part of a generation of forward-thinking women who made our beloved modern dance the important art form it is today. today,” said professor David Dorfman. in Connecticut College and artistic director of the internationally acclaimed dance company, David Dorfman Dance.

In the late 1950s, Nikolais and his company of dancers combined innovative visual effects through lighting and costumes, and experimented with a form of musical composition, the sounds of which were totally modern and unfamiliar, to radically transform modern dance. of his time.

Among the brilliant group of young dancers who brought Nikolais’ innovative ideas to life, Bailin Stern stood out for her impeccable musicality and sense of movement. She lent her own ideas of movement to Nikolais’ creative process, creating roles in all of Nikolais’ groundbreaking works from this period.

“Nik was like, ‘Okay, Gladys, Murray, we have a date. Have a gig together… You’ve got the theatre, I’ll do the lighting, get your work together,’ Bailin Stern laughs. “What a great thing for a teacher to do.”

She brought this approach with her to Ohio University in 1972, when she joined the faculty of the School of Dance. In particular, she emphasized the importance of dance composition as a creative activity.

“There were tons of technical dancers. I mean they are everywhere, and it’s not unique,” ​​says Bailin Stern. “The fact that we had creative work on the program, I thought, was something to be encouraged. It doesn’t mean you’re going to become a choreographer, but you’re going to tap into something within you that’s going to open you up to other doors… If you become a creative thinker, you can use it in all aspects of your life.”

“Gladys is a link with the origins of modern American dance, stemming from the first company of [dancers from] dance legend, Alwin Nikolais. She used this work [by] draw inspiration for dance work from music, from visual design elements [and] props to teach us new ways to approach dance composition. She welcomed radical new ideas and always encouraged us to make works that engaged the audience. She stayed in touch with generations of dance artists coming out of OHIO and remained an influential teacher and community member for decades,” said Lucy Sexton, BAA ’82, executive director of New Yorkers for Culture and Arts and co-choreographer/creator. de DANCENOISE, winner of the BESSIE award and recipient of the Outstanding Alumnae 2003 award from the College of Fine Arts.

Bailin Stern provided key leadership for the academic study of dance in the 1980s and 1990s, a period of tremendous growth for dance in higher education, served as the onsite accreditor of higher education programs for the National Association of Schools of Dance, and her work has been supported by four grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Bailin Stern served as director of the School of Dance from 1983 to 1995, and in 1986 she was the first woman to be named professor emeritus at Ohio University.

“I look back on my life and think about how lucky I was,” says Bailin Stern. “To do what you love is pretty special… Kind of a dream, sort of.”

For more information, contact Tresa Randall at [email protected] or Christi Camper Moore at [email protected]

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