Taking a Break

By Hunt, Mary Ellen | Dance Teacher, February 2013 | Go to article overview

Taking a Break


Hunt, Mary Ellen, Dance Teacher


How three associate professors spent their sabbaticals

For full-time university faculty, sabbaticals are a welcome vacation. Deciding how they should be spent though, can be difficult. The possibilities seem infinite - some work on research projects, choreograph or travel. Regardless of plans, the time off can be exhausting, jam-packed and entirely exhilarating.

Applying for a sabbatical can be very involved. The leave is usually reserved for faculty on tenure and is typically offered every 7 to 10 years. Restrictions and requirements - including the trip's length, timing, objectives and funding - will vary depending on the employer. Because of these stipulations, initial planning may begin years ahead, giving professors ample time to create personal goals and find funding to achieve them. DT talked to three associate professors about how their sabbaticals developed and what their experiences did for them.

James Hansen

The College at Brockport,

State University of New York

Choreographed in Chile

"The most important thing, I think, is to define the terms of your sabbatical not by who you are now, but by where you would like to go," says James Hansen, who was invited to choreograph a new work for Chilean dance company Cuerpo Escrito. "I was turning 45 years old and starting to think, 'What's next for me?'"

Applying for his sabbatical was lengthy. Hansen had to submit a proposal a year in advance with several rounds of approvals by the chair, dean, provost, department faculty and president of the college. SUNY paid his full salary during the semester-length leave, while grants helped cover some of his travel expenses. Cuerpo Escrito provided housing and per diem in Santiago, along with a small stipend.

The final 20-minute piece, Lovely, that Hansen created for the 11 dancers and actors of the company allowed him to more intensively investigate his process, and different ways to engage in it. "The biggest revelation was working with the actors," he says. "They embraced risk so easily - it was almost as if that was their driving force, while the dancers embraced their technical skill. The overarching idea that I came back with was the necessity of instilling a love of risk in your students."

Bonnie Brooks

Columbia College Chicago

Documented the Merce Cunningham

Legacy Tour

Bonnie Brooks has been a scholar with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company since 2003, speaking on panels, leading lectures and occasionally joining tours to help with residency activities.

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