Sarasvati Named First Jane Willson Professor in the Arts

Bala Sarasvati, a professor of dance in the University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, has been named to the first Jane Willson Professorship in Arts.

The new professorship was endowed by Willson, of Albany, Ga., who with her late husband Harry developed strong ties with the University of Georgia. The Willsons have been among UGA’s most generous benefactors, and they also have supported educational and civic activities across the state. The Willson Center for the Humanities and Arts at UGA received major support from them and bears their name.

The new professorship is funded through a grant to the Willson Center. As Willson Professor in Arts, Sarasvati will receive a support account that she may use to support her scholarship. The appointment is pending approval of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.

Sarasvati has been a faculty member at UGA since 1991, is artistic director of the CORE Concert Dance Company and was director of the department of dance’s Concert Dance Company from 1992 to 2000. She has choreographed more than 30 full-length pieces, and her work has been selected and performed at venues across the United States and internationally.

“I am very grateful and honored to be appointed the first Jane Willson Professor in Arts,” said Sarasvati. “This award provides me the ability to continue developing and pursuing new possibilities in performance training, interdisciplinary collaboration and multimedia dance production and to serve the creative inquiry that our young dance artists are currently investigating.”

Sarasvati has presented her work as a teacher, performer and choreographer throughout major cities across the country. She holds a bachelor of fine arts dance degree from the University of Utah and a master of fine arts dance degree from The Ohio State University.

“We’re so pleased that Bala Sarasvati is the first recipient of this professorship,” said Garnett S. Stokes, dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “She is an outstanding faculty member and a superb choice for this honor.”

A certified movement analyst since 1982, Sarasvati specializes in Laban Movement Analysis and Bartenieff Fundamentals and their application to dance training. She has taught LMA/BF for 25 years including seven years at the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies in New York City and is currently a member of the LIMS board of directors.

“Bala Sarasvati, an innovative modern dancer, choreographer and teacher, is a stellar artist in many media, including computer technology, which she uses to create visual and audio effects for her dances,” said Betty Jean Craige, director of the Willson Center. “Bala’s choreography, including more than 40 dance pieces, encompasses traditional modern, post-modern, experimental and interdisciplinary works, which she has presented, often with her students, throughout the United States and in Argentina, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, England, France and Taiwan.”

Sarasvati’s work was recently selected for National ACDF Conference held at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and the ACDFA Regional Gala Concerts in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions. She is currently preparing a performance, workshop and film presentation for Global Laban 2008, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she is a special guest artist.

Sarasvati teaches dance composition, improvisation, modern technique, Laban Movement Analysis and the science of dance training. She served as head of the department of dance from 1999 to 2006.

The Willsons have given generously to the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts and to other units of the University of Georgia. While neither Jane nor Harry Willson attended UGA, their oldest son, Bill, attended the university’s law school, and two grandchildren are Georgia alumni. A third, Justin, will graduate May 2008.

Writer: Philip Lee Williams, UGA News Bureau