Visiting professor devotes life to critical dance studies

When the position of a visiting assistant professor opened up in Geneseo’s department of theatre and dance, Mark Broomfield said he couldn’t think of a better place to work than at his alma mater.

“Geneseo was [very] nurturing,” Broomfield said. “[It] gives students a good foundation [in dance]. Here I get the chance to really know students and see perspectives on where dance is, was and is going.”

Broomfield transferred to Geneseo from SUNY Purchase as a dance major in 1991 because he was “attracted to the diversity of dance” that the school had to offer. Instead of studying strictly ballet and modern dancing, Broomfield broadened his range by training in African dance and musical theater.

After graduating in 1994, Broomfield continued his education at the University of Michigan as one of the first Geneseo graduates to receive an M.F.A. in dance. He went on to dance professionally with the renowned Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble of Denver, Colo.

In 2010, Broomfield completed his doctorate in critical dance studies at the University of California at Riverside. He then served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught in the African and African diaspora department.

Broomfield said that while he recognizes tradition, he acknowledges the changes taking place in dance studies. He said that when the subject of dance comes up, it isn’t normally associated with examining the historical, political and social background of the time, but the relevance of dance is expanding and its importance reaches across the study of humanities.

In DANC 100: Introduction to Dance, Broomfield said he encourages his students to think of dance through different perspectives.

“Our bodies possess [the] knowledge that we carry,” Broomfield said. “I always say in class, ‘Doing is knowing. Knowing by doing.’ That doing creates an identity and who we are in the world.”

“When I choreograph, I like to choreograph from a wide range,” he said, adding that today, his focus is on exploring diversification in black masculinities and universalizing the specific black experience by exploring how the dance physically embodies life.

“Black men are always in crisis,” Broomfield said, “How can we think about black men [in a way] that recognizes difference? So much popular culture and black representation is one dimensional.”

Dec. 6-9, the Geneseo Dance Ensemble will perform Broomfield’s new works in its show Rising to New Heights. In the spring, Broomfield will teach a new course, Black Masculinities: The Body and Performance.