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Home » News » Sally Sommer: Check Your Body at the Door

Sally Sommer: Check Your Body at the Door

Published February 12, 2012

Dance historian, dance critic, and academic, Dr. Sally Sommer is widely recognized as a leading expert on dance in American popular culture. As associate professor of the practice of dance at Duke University, she taught courses in history of modern dance, history of African-American dance, and dance criticism. Since the autumn of 2001, she has been a full professor at Florida State University, teaching in the master’s program in dance.

As a historian, she served as dance editor for the Encyclopedia of African-American History and Culture (Macmillan, 1996), and she has served as commentator and artistic consultant on dance performance for national public radio and public television, focusing on social dance, tap dance, dance in music videos, and contemporary club dance.

Sommer’s documentary film Check Your Body at the Door premiered at the 2012 Dance on Camera festival. The New Yorker called the film the “most important” on the festival.

“Check Your Body at the Door” has been an exhaustive 30-year collaborative project. In 1981 Sally Sommer, Ph.D., Executive Director, met her inspiration and muse (and former student), Archie Burnett, who introduced her to The Loft. Through years of observation at clubs all over NYC, dancers were chosen. Production began in 1992, initially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts/Dance Heritage Initiative. Directed by co-conspirator and House dancer/skater, the late Michael Schwartz (d.1994) of “Character Generators,” filming was done in the clubs and at Lincoln Center Clark Studio Theater. An 11-minute trailer was edited by Gary Bradley in 1994. In 1996 Bobbi Tsumagari joined Sommer as co-producer, along with Director Charles Atlas. Important footage was filmed 1996-7 in the clubs, on the jobs and with families by Charles Gelber’s crew of Gelber Television. Director Atlas and Photography Director Paul Brown finished filming in 1998 and Atlas’s edited final rough-cut of “Check Your Body at the Door” was completed, September 1999. In 2007 Marc Ray did additional pickup footage. Then in 2009 Shoko Letton began critical finalizing-editing, color correction with sound finalizing by Alex Davis, website design by Sommer, Alessandra Larson, with Marc Ray, Adam Varn and Keira Heu-Jwyn Chang.

Pictured above: Ina Sotirova, Barbara Tucker, Marjory Smarth, Sally R Sommer, Archie Burnett, Iriena Herrera, Bravo Brahms Lafortune, Deirdre Towers and Conrad Rochester at the Lincoln Center Premiere – Jan. 31, 2012.

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