Dance Department Remembers Bessie Schonberg

Bessie Schonberg

“Remembering Bessie Schonberg"
Panel Discussion, Dance Demonstration and Open Mic
Monday, November 20
Bessie Schonberg Dance Theatre
3:45 p.m.

Monday November 20
Heimbold Visual Arts Center
5 p.m.

Bessie—A Portrait of Bessie Schonberg
Monday, November 20
Donnelly Film Theater (Heimbold Visual Arts Center)
6:30 p.m.

On November 20, the Sarah Lawrence College dance program will celebrate the 100th birthday of beloved educator and seminal figure in American modern dance, Bessie Schonberg. Beginning with a panel discussion titled “Remembering Bessie Schonberg" at 3:45 p.m. in the Bessie Schonberg Theater, the afternoon will continue with an open mic, followed by a reception in the lobby of Heimbold Visual Arts Center at 5 p.m. and the screening of Bessie—A Portrait of Bessie Schonberg at 6:30 p.m. in the Donnelley Film Theater. For more information, please call 914-395-2433.

After receiving her B.A. from Bennington College and teaching there, Schonberg came to teach at Sarah Lawrence in 1938. “She had a very strong point of view on education,” recalled Rose Anne Thom, a long time dance faculty member and personal friend of Schonberg who conducted her oral history interview – now stored at Esther Raushenbush Library at Sarah Lawrence College and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. “‘Teach to the students' needs,’ she said.” Schonberg felt strongly that dance fit well into the Sarah Lawrence curriculum and designed the dance program as we know it today. “Students don’t just take practice classes– they study dance history, improvisation, composition, and so on,” said Thom. On top of all her educational and professional accomplishments Thom noted, “She was an extraordinary woman."

The “Remembering Bessie Schonberg" panel will include three alumnae from the class of 1965, Beverly Emmons, Carolyn Adams, and Elizabeth Keene, who will share memories of their former professor to be followed by a composition workshop with Elizabeth Keen (wear comfortable clothing if you wish to participate). This will be followed by an open mic allowing students or alumne/i to speak of Bessie as well. Accompanying the celebration is an exhibit produced by Sarah Lawrence College archivist Abby Lester that can be viewed in Westlands lobby or online at

A reception at 5:00 p.m. in the lobby of the Heimbold Visual Arts Center precedes the screening of Bessie-A portrait of Bessie Schonberg, a documentary produced by Pennebaker Hegedus films in 1998. The film will show at 6:30 p.m. in the Donnelley Film Theatre. According to the filmmaker, “For 70 years she inspired and challenged dancemakers; Merce Cunningham, Jerome Robbins, Meredith Monk, Lucinda Childs and Ronald K. Brown are a few who were influenced by her passion for dance. Bessie tells us her own incredible story intercut with her teaching at Julliard, Dance Theater Workshop, and Jacob’s Pillow.”