Q&A with Alison Bory: A Multi-Space Medium

by Eliza Patterson ‘22

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background in dance?

“Dance for me was an extracurricular activity for most of my life. It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized that I could also be a maker. Dance wasn’t just about training my body in particular ways, but about what the interests I had were. 

I conceived of myself in a different way and I had a different relationship to the form. Eventually, I found that I was really interested in thinking about what dance does in the world. That affected my making and allowed for new possibilities.” 

Dr. Alison Bory in performance. Photo by Andy Moon. 

Why did you choose to teach at Davidson versus at a conservatory setting or a school with a larger dance program?

“When I came to Davidson there was no dance program. That was both daunting and exciting. It was appealing to create a program that would satisfy my belief system. 

There are a lot of dance programs across the country, who are far bigger than ours, but are antiquated in some of their thinking. For example, everybody has to take ballet as the formal structure upon which we believe everything else is based, which is actually a really white supremacist notion. 

Ballet is amazing, but it’s not the basis of every style. So, to come to Davidson at a time when the institution was also rethinking what was possible was exciting.”

What do you think the arts offer to Davidson students? Why are they important to have on campus? 

“I would take that on as a bigger question of why are they important in the world. I would hope that Davidson is a place for us to reckon with the issues that are present in the world. It’s a place for us to experiment with, to be in, and bump up against those issues. 

For me, that turns into the question of what can I learn about my areas of interest through my body, because my body is my medium. Within performance, I can’t guarantee that anybody is going to take something specific or fixed from my performance. 

But it has the possibility to have multiple perspectives at once and asks people to question themselves. There are lots of disciplines that talk about bodies, but there’s a difference between talking about your body and experiencing your body.”

Does dance take this role on Davidson’s campus?

“I hope so! This is where dance becomes amazing and yet very complicated. Dance lives in a lot of spaces. Performance structures are very particular, sticky beasts that require a particular commitment to training or to putting something together. However, there is also beauty in having an audience clap for you. 

Dance also lives in parties down the hill. So here you see that dance can be this really heady, complex thing, but also, sometimes being sweaty and allowing yourself that sense of abandon is also intensely needed. 

Depending on which entity or institution may be guiding dance, changes our experience around it and informs our knowledge in different ways. It’s okay for all of these spaces to exist.”

How do you explain to your colleagues, especially those that are unfamiliar with dance, that it is an academic discipline and requires you to use both your brain and your body?

“First, encourage them to come take a class. I get a lot of, from students and faculty, ‘Well, I just don’t really understand dance’ or ‘I don’t know enough to approach it.’ I get that, because on some level your exposure is limited, although actually I think most people have more exposure to dance than they realize. 

We have a disposition towards saying ‘I don’t get it.’ I just ask people to remain open-minded and embrace whatever it is they may take from dance.”

Is there anything important that students should be doing in order to integrate dance more deeply on this campus?

“I think it is a willingness to experiment. One of the things that dance asks is that we develop practices over time, which means we won’t be good at something the first time we try it. 

I think that is really hard for Davidson students, to make a huge generalization. Additionally, dancers need to be exploring how they can put themselves in a space that provokes deep thought and pushes themselves and their art one step further.”

Any final thoughts?

“I always tell prospective students that on one hand, this is a young and small department, and on the other hand, I’m here because students wanted someone to be here. With that, dance has been on this campus in various forms for much longer than me.” 

Alison Bory is the Dance Department Chair and an assistant professor of Dance. She can be reached for comment at albory@davidson.edu.

Eliza Patterson ‘22, is an undeclared major from San Francisco, CA. She can be reached for comment at elpatterson@davidson.edu 

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