TCU Magazine: Staying Young and Present Through Dance


Dance professor Susan Douglas Roberts explores liveliness and defining virtuosity as a performer.

Susan Douglas Roberts once thought virtuosity was about “external achievement, what it looked like.” But the professor of dance spent a 2017 sabbatical exploring “liveliness and the ways in which virtuosity is defined during various eras of a performer’s career.”

Douglas Roberts presented a concert in August that featured dancers older than 40, including herself. “Measuring Time” was inspired by composer Gregory Biss’ tribute to Robert Schumann’s “Scenes From Childhood,” a collection of short piano pieces.

Susan Douglas Roberts

Susan Douglas Roberts worked with composer Gregory Biss to create nine short dance pieces reflecting the effects of time. Photo by Robert W. Hart

In deciding to develop the concert, Douglas Roberts said she thought: “What a great challenge it would be to make a very, very short dance and be able to compose a whole idea in a minute, or just over a minute.”

In 2017, Douglas Roberts worked with Biss to compose nine dances about time, each about a minute long. Seven pieces were performed live, two were recorded on video, and all were performed or shown in Maine, where the professor has a home.

Mercy Sidbury, now 63, hadn’t danced in 15 years, although she does tai chi and Authentic Movement, a practice in self-directed motion done with eyes closed.

Using slow movements, Sidbury and Douglas Roberts, 61, danced a duet in an expression of trust and weight-sharing.

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