By Susan Petry
On May 12, 2015, at the Faculty Club, we celebrated Melanie Bales and Candace Feck as they step into their retirements. Brief summaries of their work at The Ohio State University follow, with excerpts from the remarks given at the reception, as they were encircled with our reflections and love.
Melanie Bales has been at Ohio State for 26 years—one year as a lecturer in 1989, then assistant professor in 1990, moving up to associate professor in 1997 and full professor in 2007.
Before coming to Ohio State, she established her rich and diverse palate as both an artist/dancer and as an academic scholar. After receiving a BA from Carleton College she moved to her professional dancing life in Germany, then earned her MFA at the University of Illinois and on to her years of dancing with Doug Nielsen and others.
Here at Ohio State, she was hired to teach contemporary, then ballet, then delved into somatics and Laban Movement Analysis, then choreography, then directing, then graduate seminar, then writing, publishing and teaching PhDs the history of Balanchine and Robbins. She was instrumental in the development of the PhD program, and managed to continue teaching ballet and choreographing even while developing significant new curriculum for the graduate program in history, theory and literature.
During her tenure, she performed in numerous artists’ work, including baroque ballet, such as The Rape of the Lock, and contemporary works by Tere O’Connor, Susan Hadley, Ann Carlson and Vicki Uris, to name a few.
She choreographed 22 dances during her time here, almost one a year (that and having two kids!), including works for Dance Downtown, Drums Downtown, opera and works for graduate students.
“As a faculty member, I gained a new appreciation for Melanie’s intimate knowledge and realistic attitude toward how the university runs, and what are small and large potatoes.”
Her conference presentations are too numerous to list, but most notably was her invitation just last year to Emory University’s Friends of Dance Lecture Series joining a roster of speakers over the years like Lynn Garafola, Janice Ross and Brenda Dixon Gottschild.
Significantly, she co-edited with Karen Eliot the recent Dance on its Own Terms: Histories and Methodologies, helping to put our program on the dance studies map, and co-authored with Rebecca Nettl-Fiol The Body Eclectic: Evolving Practices in Dance Training, which has become a well-used resource for history and pedagogy courses.
The service that Melanie provided this university is extraordinary: five department search committees, chaired four standing committees, served on others, and coordinated the massive semester conversion work three years ago, and also served on approximately 20 college and university committees and work groups.
“Melanie Bales: All things beautiful, smart, classic, designed, tasteful, deep, funny, brilliant, ironic, intellectual, complex, right and loving.”
Candace Feck has been giving her all at Ohio State for 24 continuous years (25.25 if you count her teaching years in the ‘80s as a graduate student and a one quarter stint as a lecturer in 1986).
Candace was a lecturer with continuous service from 1991 to 2000, then the department managed to up that to visiting assistant professor, and finally got it right in 2003 hiring her into her rightful tenure track line, where we have benefited from her superb teaching, curriculum development, writing and service since.
In 2002 Candace completed her doctoral studies in art education, with her dissertation “Understandings about Dance: An Analysis of Student Critical Writings and Pedagogical Implications.” The essence of that work has propelled her teaching and her scholarship before, during and since.
“She taught me and countless others of the power of language. But, the greatest gift Candace offered her students was visibility. She simply expected students to shine, to be their best and to use their own voice. She demanded this tall task in the kindest, most generous way.”
During her years here, she has created and taught significant general education courses, including the former Dance and Theatre, 1945 to the Present, and our first honors course, Writing for Dance. A major contribution was Candace’s design and shepherding of the department’s dance minor, setting in motion a whole new level of engagement and visibility for dance at Ohio State. She is known and loved for the seminal and core graduate course Aesthetics and Criticism, and just recently began the development of teaching Oral Histories, to name just a few critical curricular contributions.
Candace has been a frequent consultant, guest scholar and scholar in residence over the years at places including SUNY Brockport, University of Colorado, University of Georgia, to name a few.
Her list of publications ranges from chapters in recent books to essays for catalogues, book reviews, journal articles, conference publications and two early award-winning CD ROM dance documentation works, one of which received funding from a Pew Trust grant, the National Initiative to Preserve American Dance.
She has been asked to give keynote lectures, moderate panels, perform (her “Against On Project”) and significantly was a member of the research team that developed early online National Endowment for the Arts funded course materials: “Accelerated Motion: Towards a New Dance Literacy In America”.
“Candace leaves with us as a legacy of her mentorship and guidance. I could not have had a more thoughtful and encouraging mentor in my first years here. I have benefited from Candace’s perspectives, her considered deliberations and thoughtful reflections. I cannot imagine this department without her calming presence.”
Close to her heart is the extensive research she has conducted and published about Elizabeth Streb, working towards a book, and she is known for her 2005 article “Inverse Contextualization: Writing about Dance from the Inside Out” as a brilliant piece that is a marker of our department’s commitment to good writing, as well as her chapter in the aforementioned Dance on Its Own Terms.
Candace has been a leader in the department, the university and the field. She served for five years on the Congress on Research in Dance (CORD) executive board, in addition to chairing many conference panels. The department has benefited from her years of leadership on many committees: graduate studies, search, Dance Preservation Fund, PhD development, to name a few, in addition to frequent service on the Graduate School’s Presidential Fellowship committee.