Renée Wadleigh, Professor Emerita, began her tenure at the University of Illinois in 1991 and retired January 1, 2017. She had previously been a New York City-based dancer, choreographer, and teacher for nearly 30 years and danced with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, the companies of Dan Wagoner and Mel Wong among a number of others, and taught at the Taylor School. Renée studied for many years with Merce Cunningham and for many many! years with Viola Farber and ballet with Janet Panetta. She was faculty at Adelphi University and Cornell University, taught her own classes in NYC, and in guest positions throughout the US and abroad. While working in NYC Wadleigh received Choreographers Fellowship Grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1985, 1986, and 1988.
In Illinois Wadleigh received grants from the Illinois Arts Council for choreography in 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, and 2001 and a Finalist Award in 2005. She served as Company Grant panelist on the IAC in 1997, 1998, 1999. Wadleigh has choreographed 50 new works at the U of I since 1992 and set dances on university and professional companies in the US and abroad. She performed Yvonne Rainer’s masterwork, Trio A, at the 2001 Regional ACDF Festival and in concert at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. In February 2010 Wadleigh performed at KCPA in her new work, In Praise of Verisimilitude, and in February 2011 her new Sweetness and Danger.
While in Illinois Wadleigh was invited to present work in NYC by LIT (Loft to Theater) and at the LaMaMa Moves Festival. In Chicago she was invited to present work by Chicago’s Dance Slam project, her work was performed at Chicago’s Athenaeum Theater and the Ruth Page Performing Arts Center. Hedwig Dance Company commissioned and performed her work at the Dance Center Columbia College among other venues. Wadleigh’s work was again performed at the Dance Center Columbia College after a 3 week teaching and choreography residency.
Among other invited residencies Wadleigh’s most recent was for 3 weeks to participate in The 2nd International Festival of Contemporary Dance in Quito, Ecuador. During her residency she created an evening length work for performance in the festival and delivered 3 public lectures on contemporary dance in the US.
Wadleigh created an installation of dance works on video as part of the University of Illinois Krannert Art Museum’s month long OPENSTUDIO. The installation was called Day-Streams and featured the work of 52 world-class choreographers and 60 dance and performance works from Wadleigh’s Digital Library collection. Wadleigh delivered a 90 minute public lecture titled “The Intersection of Dance and the Visual Arts” as part of the KAM events.
Wadleigh has served as juror selecting works for public screening at the Dance for Camera Festival at the University of Utah, and curated the Moving Image Festivals at the U of I and the Dance on Camera Film Festival held at the historic Art Theater in downtown Champaign. Wadleigh presented a paper, “Dance for the Camera in Academe”, at the Screendance Conference at the American Dance Festival.
At the U of I Wadleigh founded and taught required MFA courses Contemporary Directions, MEDIA – in the Department’s first Media Lab she established in her office, Dance for Camera, and Composition Workshop that, for a time, included a Site Specificity course. She established and taught Senior Seminar, Viewing Dance – an undergraduate course open across FAA and,for one semester each, developed and taught undergraduate Contemporary Dance History and The History and Theory of Post Modern Dance, Art in Context – in collaboration with faculty and MFA candidates from Art & Design, Music, and Theater. Wadleigh regularly taught Advanced and Intermediate Contemporary Physical Practice, MFA and BFA composition courses, and for two semesters, a Dance Survey course for non-major students across FAA. She established Video Crew, an undergraduate body trained to document all departmental performances, and established an MFA 50% time Assistantship – Graduate Media Coordinator – now replaced by a full time hire, Fall 2017.
Wadleigh served as Assistant MFA Program Director from early in her hire and as Co-MFA Director from 2001 to 2004 and as Director from 2004 to 2009. She has served as a member of the MFA Committee from her hire. In 2006 Wadleigh co-hosted the first Directors of Graduate Studies (DOGS) Conference with Stephen Koester, Head, of the Department of Dance at the University of Utah.
In April 2012, Wadleigh was honored on stage at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater, NYC, along with the four other original cast members of the Paul Taylor Dance Company’s Aureole, during a special gala evening and performance celebrating the work’s 50th year. In March 2014, Wadleigh performed Taylor’s From Sea to Shining Sea with other alumni as part of the Taylor Company’s 60th year celebration also held at the David H. Koch Theater.
NOTE: YOUR HISTORY IS IN THE WORKS
One of the great pleasures I had living in NYC for 30 years was the opportunity to observe exciting and steady developments in dance and performance. I was witness to the upheaval during the Judson era and the critical changes taking place during the 70’s and 80’s. What I missed most about leaving NY and coming to the University of Illinois was the frequency of opportunity to experience, think about, talk about the works of significant artists performing at the highest levels. It became a passion to provide the students here with something of that opportunity by offering access to a breadth of artists and works to research and study as they prepare to enter the field. I began collecting in 1989/1990 – first works on video from my friends, then their friends and eventually from artists I didn’t know from NY and all over the world. My video scouting and collecting is ongoing and frequently takes me back to NYC and in 2008 to the ImPulsTanz Festival in Vienna, Austria.
RECENT THOUGHTS: When first collecting for the DL it was not at all about preserving the past. My interest was in students being in tune with what was most current in professional arenas. How the form was evolving and where. With the internet, artists can now put works up as they like and are much less fearful of putting even the most current works up full length. Consequently, they are less likely to answer my requests for works. As time has passed, I began to see the DL as not only a resource for more current work but as an opportunity for students to trace the many influences, trends and shifts in dance, as in all contemporary arts, that nudge progression, innovation and change. It is also possible for them to know the ‘look’ of the work of dance artists in recent history as we can in literature, painting and music. Why not!
From Tere O’Connor
Renée Wadleigh has collected video documentation of dance works created by living choreographers for the last 31 years. Her comprehensive scope embraces well-known artists as well as many who work in small-scale experimental contexts. Some of them stand outside the machinery of mainstream documentation, but are nonetheless highly influential. This enviable collection allows us to weave a woefully undocumented sector of dance history back into a larger view of post-modern and contemporary dance. The collection offers us an opportunity to map diverse genealogies of dance and examine the antecedents of the present state of hybridity that characterizes global dance. It is of great value to our department both for scholarly endeavors and as a teaching library from which Professor Wadleigh has launched her important classes, Contemporary Directions and Viewing Dance, that continue to be anchors of our curriculum.