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Week of November 7, 2011


Dance professor finds inspiration in risks

Photo by Daryl Marshke, U-M Photo Services.

Jessica Fogel’s desire to pursue dance blossomed in New York City, where artists traditionally have found a wealth of inspiration to guide fresh contributions.

“So much is going on in the arts there. It’s not just the big people who’ve made it but all the cutting edge artists out there who are discovering new territories and taking new risks,” says Fogel, professor of dance in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

Observing those artists also affected her choice of a college career. “I wanted freedom as a dancer. I wanted a liberal arts education, not just the conservatory training,” says Fogel, who opted to attend Barnard College over The Juilliard School.

The full range of experience she gained from Barnard, coupled with her desire to be self-sufficient, inspired Fogel to begin her own company. Soon she began producing around New York.

After years living in NYC, Fogel, who calls herself a small town girl from Ithaca, N.Y., decided to take a risk. “I thought I’d try the university teaching circuit,” says Fogel, who accepted a job at U-M in 1985. She quickly became accustomed to the atmosphere Ann Arbor dance offered. “I had to accommodate the very different venues that I was performing at, and I tried to offer new perspectives,” she says.

A key focus in recent years has been site-specific performances. “I’ve been really excited by physical sites and in the past decade I’ve been doing works in the Matthaei Conservatory, on outdoor trails, in the Arboretum and in a Japanese temple garden,” she says.

One site work celebrated 100 years of dance at U-M. “Dances occurred at the chem building to represent our past, the current dance building as our present, and North Campus as the future, since we’re hoping for a new building there. We also had dances on the buses that took the audience to North Campus,” she says.

Now Fogel is researching the possibility of site performances in downtown Ann Arbor. “I’m exploring working on sites on Main Street with different choreographers,” Fogel says.

Although Fogel says monetary rewards usually aren’t associated with dancing, dancers who nurture their passion find satisfaction. “If you are willful about it and find the way to embrace the uncertainties and go with it, you’ll find your way,” she says.

The weekly Spotlight features faculty and staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at



Jessica Fogel, professor of dance in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, on what inspires her: "It could be a gesture on the street, the collision of particles, a painting, a word, a landscape, a conversation."


Recent Acquisitions: Curator’s Choice, Part I, Nov. 12-March 18, U-M Museum of Art.

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