Dance in Translation: A Spotlight on Hamilton, NY


Sasha Balasanov, Maroon-News Staff

A group of talented Colgate students performed a lovely piece by visiting assistant professor of French Amanda Lee on Thursday, October 18. The performance, “Danced Translations of Hamilton,” took place in front of an intimate audience at the Palace Theater.

Lee has a rich history of dance, and has performed with a number of ensembles and performance artists. Though she is a professor of both French and Women’s Studies, her capabilities as an artist as well as a creative thinker were evident during this striking performance.

The piece Lee created featured audio recordings of interviews with three generations of local women from Hamilton, N.Y. Each woman was asked to reflect upon her experience as a woman in Upstate New York, surrounded by a rural community and an elite university. Lee’s intention was to build a connection with the Hamilton community, and this insider look into the lives of these three women accomplished just that. Being able to see the trends apparent in the lives of the women of Hamilton was incredibly interesting, and although they all grew up in very different times, all three felt something special about this community.

“I’ll have people coming in and telling me stories about my dad and my grandpa, and I’ve never had that anywhere else I’ve lived,” Good Nature Brewery co-owner Carrie Blackmore said in an audio recording.

All three women reflected on the joys of living in such a close-knit community, where everyone knows your name and genuinely cares about you and your family. However, while this aspect of Hamilton is truly wonderful, Lee made sure to cover some other relevant features of Hamilton that could be viewed as less positive.

In a striking introduction, one of the performing students came on stage and compared the socioeconomic status of an average Hamilton resident to the socioeconomic status of the family of the average Colgate student. The median income for a Hamilton family is about $68,000 (according to the 2000 census), while the median income for a Colgate student’s family is about $270,000. Twenty-three percent of Colgate students are in the top one percent, while Hamilton has a poverty rate of 17.6 percent. These figures are startling, and not something many Colgate students have had to think about. Because of these differences, it is important to foster a positive relationship with the citizens of Hamilton and gain some perspective.

Between audio clips of the interviews, students performed many fascinating dance pieces in a variety of different styles. Lee included these pieces to serve as translations of the spoken words in the interviews. Choreographing dance to accurately reflect word is incredibly difficult, and Lee acknowledged that.

“There were moments when it was difficult to know how to translate certain words to movement and if the translation was successful,” Lee said when asked if she experienced any points of impasse.

Lee was not the only one putting in hard work, however. The small cast of students involved had the task of recreating the emotions and thoughts of the women of Hamilton.

However, regardless of these difficulties, the translation and emotion was projected perfectly and left everyone in the audience with some new perspectives. Lee hopes to continue this project in different communities and compare the experiences of different women in their hometowns.

Contact Sasha Balasanov at [email protected].