Alumni Stories: Dance Tour

By Ellery Schiller '21

With Contributions from Kathryn Posin '65 and David John Krohn '66

 From marthahilldance.org

From marthahilldance.org

January 3:

“The tour began at 5 a.m. this morning with a sensational bang. The bus from New York to Bennington on which Linda Tolbert, Diane Sherer and I were riding nearly collided with the car in which Anna Coffey and David Krohn were driving from Chicago. What a delightful surprise!”

This is the opening of a diary entry written by Kathryn Posin about a dance tour done by Bennington students in 1964. This was not the only time a dance tour was done; in fact, it was an option to do every other year for one’s Field Work Term (then called Non-Resident Term). The dance tour consisted of 47 shows in just 49 days. Not only was the dancing intensive, but every dancer was required to take on an additional job, “So in addition to dancing maybe three or four of the dances (maybe the program had ten dances or so), and you maybe choreograph one or two [of the dances on the program], then you also had another job. So you might be the cook. Moss Cohen was the transportation chairman,” said David Jon Krohn, ‘66, who did the dance tour twice, his first and third year. Transportation chairman was a particularly grueling job because one had to plan a route get the team everywhere on time using only paper bus schedules. “There was no internet then,” Krohn reminds.

If you are familiar with Bennington history, you might be surprised to hear that David Jon Krohn was a part of the tour, since in those days Bennington was an entirely female school. Yet, the college gave some men fellowships in order to make sure that school productions, plays, and dances weren’t all female. “They usually had four men in dance and four men in drama,” Krohn remembers, and they all lived in Jennings. They dancers were affectionately called “The Dance Boys” by the female students.  (Side note: Bennington needs to come up with more creative names; Claude’s Boys, Dance Boys, come on.)

Though the days leading up to the tour were full of all day rehearsals with the only breaks being for meals, Posin writes about the fun evenings filled with laughing, dancing, and camaraderie.

“After the final rehearsal and brief business meeting, we dragged out a record player and loud [...] rock and roll records. At this sign, a few people departed to their rooms with earplugs and [...] books to read. But the rest of us stayed to dance in fire-lit, cozy, dowdy Woolley livingroom. Moss did the lindy with low, mean hip action, David and I performed our regular, indescribable, flappy, floppy improvisation. Rim usual danced non­stop, with or without a partner.”[January 4]

There were beach visits (in January?!) and knee injuries and stages with exits that no one could figure out and shows that went great and shows that went awfully but after which there were receptions “at which they served only liqueur. In a tired and starved condition, we all immediately got plowed. Moss, David and I dashed out into the night and lurched down the middle of the snowy street, asking directions for a restaurant. [...] At the restaurant we found Linda and Diane and drunkenly split banana splits with them.” [January 30]. It was true show business.

Much of Posin’s diary is filled with positivity and recounting of shows that went “very, very well,” and bus times and comments about how rushed but how great it all was. Krohn, in his interview for the Bennington College Alumni Memory Project, spoke about how amazing the experience was because it was real. “Every one of those people because of that dance tour had great professional experience, and that’s even more important than the dancing. Everybody had some other production element and that’s really what I think contributed to their success.” Most, if not all, of the students in those dance tours were able to continue what they loved after graduating. Kathryn Posin is now a well-known choreographer (she has her own Wikipedia page and everything!) and David Jon Krohn is a choreographer and dancer.

I’ll close with a lovely quote from Posin’s diary:

“I think, sitting in the middle of the night on this filthy grey train, that we all feel the same unearthly hysterical abandon, an abandon that comes only with sleeplessness, homelessness, a successful performance and a champagne and orange peel punch served by alumni husbands.”