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April 26, 1996 - Image 81

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-04-26

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Opposite Page
Above: The Detroit-Windsor Dance Academy
Company (1993) with founders Bruce and Debby
Hunt, center.

Below: Poetry in motion: The Wayne State University
Dance Workshop (1945).

This Page
Pas de deux: Daniel Jackson and Milda Memenas
perform Swan Lake (1953).

As Harriet turned out students — in the early '60s
at the WSU Dance Workshop, for example — the stacks
and mementos also piled up. At that time, Berg lived with
her husband and their children, Leslie and Martin, in
northwest Detroit, where Harriet and Irving remained
until their Park Shelton relocation. They celebrated their
50th wedding anniversary this month.
I In 1966, while teaching at the Jewish Community Cen-
ter, Berg formed the Festival Dancers, which, to this day,
remains the longest-running continuous ensemble in the
Detroit dance community. Composed of "mature women
who had studied dance when they were younger," they
continue to tour, taking modem dance outstate as well
as within the region. For the most part, their choreog-

raphy has been Berg's, though she has recruited na-
tionally known dance makers to bring their dances here.
In 1975, Detroit founder Antoine Cadillac's landing in
Detroit was enacted as part of the Bicentennial. Through
Berg's love of history, she knew of the dances of the French
aristocracy that were brought to this outpost, Fort De-
troit; in particular, she was curious about Madame Cadil-
lac. Subsequently, she wrote a Michigan Council for the
Arts grant to research and reconstruct dances of the
French settlers.
This became a watershed event: the formation of the
Mme. Cadillac Dancers. The Mine. Cadillac Dance Com-
pany came into being in 1981, and many strands came
together for Berg. 'When I realized I was fated to be a di-

rector (of the company) because I loved his-
tory, was an English major, loved poetry,
and had a good humanities education, (then
I knew) you have to have depth and back-
ground for dance. Dance is not just steps and
movements which give it relevance ... I had
thought I was heading off in many direc-
tions." But she found that all roads lead to
The Cadillac Dancers, now in their 15th
year, travel and present fully costumed, mu-
sically authentic 18th-century dances wher-
ever they're invited — to the Lincoln Park
Historical Society or the Father Marquette
Museum in St. Ignace or, for the last 10
years, to Indiana's Feast of the Hunters'
Moon, one of the nation's largest historical
re-creation festivals. And to Paris, France,
the company's eponymous birthplace.
And throughout it all, Berg was still pick-
ing up and stockpiling the documents and
programs. Since 1984, everything, except
for some of the books, has been in the
archives. And, in 1995, Berg formed a com-
mittee to cast an even wider net and track
down additional materials in preparation
for this exhibition. (The Bergs established
an endowment in 1994 to support the Dance
The dance exhibition, opening April 28
and running through mid-September at the
Walter P. Reuther Library, is called "100
Years of Detroit Dance 1896-1996." The ex-
hibit will spotlight more than 100 objects
about social dance and performance dance,
including documents, costumes, dance pro-
grams, posters and dance cards.
Berg's excitement is matched by the
wealth of archive materials — just in pho-
tos alone, from gatherings in the early 1900s
to ballrooms long gone, ethnic dancers and
costumes, too. The history of modern and
classical dance in this area, which has sent
dancers off to great companies like Twyla
Tharp or American Ballet Theater, and
which also launched the career of one pop
icon, Madonna (who studied at the Christo-
pher Ballet School in Rochester), are all doc-
umented, preserved.
"100 Years of Detroit Dance 1896-1996"
is the culmination of many people's efforts;
but Berg is the catalyst (as much as she in-
sists that she wants others credited for
things she has had a hand in). Finally,
though, it is dance which stands tall.
"We are a sports city, but dance is the other side of the
coin; it is the same energy used in a creative way," says
Berg. ❑

VIt Michigan Dance Archives -- "100 Years of Detroit
Dance, 1896-1996" --- will host an opening reception 7.
with guest artists Carolyn Adams, former principal c-i),
dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and
Cholly Atkins, the Motown choreographer, 3-5 p.m.
Sunday, April 28. The exhibit, highlighting artifacts,
costumes, memorabilia and photographs, will run
through Sept. 22. Reuther Library, 5401 Cass, De-
trait. (313) 577-4024.


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