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L'Ana Burton, founder of the CDC, will direct the June 14 performance

While many of her college friends used Saturday mornings as an opportunity to sleep in, Elizabeth Johnson '98 was teaching young dancers through the Creative Dance Continuum (CDC). Though the hours were sometimes a struggle, the experience was life changing.

"The foundation of the work that I do started at CDC," said Johnson, who teaches dance at Arizona State University and works as an associate artistic director of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in Takoma Park, Md. "I learned so many of the practical tools I use today while I was at Connecticut College."

On June 14, seven alumni, all of whom worked with the CDC, will return to campus to perform or work behind the scenes of "Gifts," an annual concert that marks its 20th anniversary this year.

The performance will take place at 4 p.m. in Palmer Auditorium. The program features a wide spectrum of performers – from young students to seasoned professionals, ages 4-35.

"It will truly be a continuum of dance – where it starts, where it can go and how it grows and develops through the years," said L'Ana Burton, founder of the CDC and director of the concert.

The CDC began in the dance department at Connecticut College in 1983 and was originally known as the Children's Dance Center. Though it separated from the College in 2003, current students still work closely with Burton, getting firsthand teaching experience by working with her students.

Burton said that the quality of this year's performers is "top notch" and that they're returning out of the goodness of their hearts. But ask any of the alumni why they're coming back, and they'll give you a slightly different answer.

"Because L'Ana asked me," said Johnson. "She is amazing."

"We love L'Ana, we love the work she does, and it is a pleasure to return to an environment that fed us so much, to give back some of what we've taken and used," said Clare Byrne '93, who is also coming back to perform.

Byrne first taught dance as a Connecticut College student, working with Burton as part of a teaching of dance course. She now teaches at the University of Vermont.

As part of "Gifts," Byrne will give a solo performance, Johnson's students from D.C. will take the stage, and Nile Russell '04 will bring his students from the modern dance group, CaN Dance, in New York City.

Like his fellow alumni, Russell worked at the CDC while attending Connecticut College and said that the experience furthered his desire to become a teacher.

"The students were amazing and really taught me a lot about myself as a teacher, dancer and artist, and L'Ana was a great guide through that journey," said Russell, who also dances with the Pilobolus Company.

In addition to Byrne, Johnson and Russell, Sarah Carlson '94, Nicholas Leichter '94 and Sharon Mansur '91 will all perform. Cathy Eliot '91 will also be there, working as the lighting designer.

Tickets for "Gifts" are $10. To reserve seats or find out more information, please call 860-439-2831.

May 20, 2009