Photo by Stephanie Mitchell
It may be the oldest of the arts. No materials required, only the body. Oh, yes, and something to get it moving – a song, a rhythm, the sound of wind in the trees or water over rocks, a feeling of joy, fear, sadness, anger, triumph, love, tenderness, desire, or the excitement of being alive. We all know these sensations. Sometimes they come over us when we’re alone listening to oldies on the radio, or they lift us from our chairs to prance before the mirror to a Mozart scherzo. Or the spell may descend en masse, say, at a cousin’s wedding, as the band segues from “I Will Survive” to “Disco Inferno,” and sitting it out is just no longer an option.
But for Maggie Husak, dance is more than an occasional impulse. It is a commitment, a necessity.
“It really does keep me sane. I’m calmer when I’ve been dancing. When I haven’t, there’s something missing.”
Husak works as a staff assistant in the Office of Work and Family, advising Harvard employees about child and elder care options. But in her extracurricular life she performs with the Nicola Hawkins Dance Company.
The group is small, six women in addition to Hawkins, the founder and choreographer. And three of them work at Harvard. In addition to Husak, there’s Erin Gottwald, a Dance Program assistant at the Office for the Arts, and Carey McKinley, coordinator of the Harvard Green Campus Initiative.
The group performed Jan. 25 and 26 at Boston University’s Tsai Center to favorable reviews in the Globe and Herald. In November, they danced at New York’s St. Mark’s Church, and The New York Times reviewer mentioned Husak and Gottwald’s “passionate solos.”
Husak, who grew up in Houston and went to school at Brown, wonders sometimes if she ought to move to New York. “After all, that’s really the place to be. I think, where would I be if I could dedicate all my time to dance? If I really pushed myself, how good could I become?”
It’s the artist’s perpetual quandary – life or art? Husak hasn’t resolved it yet, but she knows that what she has found here in this city – the one that’s not New York – is worth hanging onto.
“I know I have interests outside of dance that I wouldn’t want to give up.”
There are courses at the Extension School. Husak has a keen interest in environmental studies and thinks about earning a degree in the subject some day. And there are her office colleagues, who attend her performances and don’t mind when she comes in with wet hair after morning classes at the Dance Complex in Central Square.
“There’s so much that informs dancing. If you just dance, you lose a lot,” she says. “I think right now Harvard is the ideal place for me to be.”
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