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Lafayette College's Williams Center for the Arts has been recognized as one of the most outstanding performing arts programs in the nation for the presentation of dance.

The honor comes from the New England Foundation for the Arts, which has selected the Williams Center as one of 12 venues around the country that serve as “hub sites” for the National Dance Project (NDP). Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in addition to the New England Foundation, NDP provides grants for the production and touring of contemporary dance work by regionally and nationally known U.S. artists.

Ellis Finger, the director of the Williams Center, will play an important role as an adviser to the NDP, helping identify projects for production support and funding, among other responsibilities. Lafayette has been actively involved in NDP since its founding in 1996, as a pivotal partner in national tours by such dance companies as Eiko and Koma, Meredith Monk, and Sean Curran. This involvement will now increase, as Lafayette moves into the policy-making area of leadership within this national touring network.

“This is a great honor for the Williams Center that will benefit Lafayette College in significant ways,” Finger says. “Our selection acknowledges the significant history we have compiled in bringing world-class modern dance tours to our community and engaging Lafayette's educational mission, in broad and innovative ways, with the residency work these dance artists bring to their tours. It also confirms our role as a regional leader, within the LVAIC campus system and within the greater Mid Atlantic area, in galvanizing consortia support for the touring of dance.”

Within NDP Lafayette is unique in its ambitious presentation of touring dance companies in partnership with faculty throughout the College's curriculum – including theater, music, the visual arts and art history, engineering, and the social sciences — rather than through a single dance department.

“The Williams Center has a rich tradition of bringing innovative dance performers to Lafayette,” Finger continued. “Among the many nationally and internationally famous performers that have appeared in recent years are Eiko and Koma, the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, the Trisha Brown Dance Company, and Donald Byrd's Dance Company, among many others.”

As an NDP hub site, the Williams Center joins such prestigious venues as Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts, Brooklyn's 651 Arts, and the Portland (Ore.) Institute for Contemporary Art. The Williams Center is the only site based at a private college or university. There are five other college-based hub sites, all at public institutions that are much larger than Lafayette, including the universities of Arizona, Kansas, and Texas; Ohio State University, and Miami-Dade Community College, Miami, Fla.

Samuel A. Miller, executive director of the New England Foundation for the Arts said, “We are impressed with your organization's commitment to the creation and presentation of new dance work, the strength of its partnerships and alliances, and its continuing dedication to the art form. Additionally, we recognize your capacity as a leader in the field, and value the knowledge and experience that you will contribute to the project's efforts.”

This season's slate of Williams Center dance performances began with acclaimed flamenco artist Pilar Rioja on Sept. 15. To come are appearances by Meredith Monk (Nov. 16), the Caribbean Dance Co. (March 8), and the Sean Curran Dance Co. (March 25). For information call (610) 330-5009.

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