KENT, Ohio--At the apex of the demonstrations against the Vietnam War during the late 1960s, college students nationwide protested violently against the draft and the Southeast Asian conflict. In 1970 President Richard Nixon's decision to escalate fighting into Cambodia incited several thousand people to riot on the campus of Kent State University. The resulting military occupation of Kent, Ohio, culminated on May 4, 1970, when National Guardsmen shot thirteen students, four of whom (Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder) died.
Marking the massacre's twenty-fifth anniversary this year, the university has expanded its annual commemorative service on May 3 by scheduling guest speakers and artistic presentations throughout the semester. The commemoration's organizers selected Mark Taylor, director of Dance Alloy in Pittsburgh, to conduct two ten-day residencies at Kent State in February and April and to produce a new piece about the massacre, slated to have its premiere on April 29 at the E. Turner Stump Theatre.
Working with the nine-member Kent Dance Ensemble, with university faculty, and with the Kent community, Taylor and the Alloy developed Witness a forty-minute collaborative work that unites movement and extemporaneous text with archival materials including faculty letters, student telegrams, and radio reports.
Preliminary movement workshops taught the dancers "how the body responds to rioting" and how "to explore inner emotional reactions," says Taylor. Other sessions encouraged participants to share their experiences. …