Steinhardt welcomes tango couple, disability studies writer as scholars-in-residence

Writer Georgina Kleege and dancers Leonardo and Olga Suarez Paz joined the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development’s scholars-in-residence program, which invites artists, academics and other thinkers to share their expertise with the community.

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Leonardo and Olga Suarez Paz (left) and Georgina Kleege, the new scholars-in-residence at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. (Courtesy of NYU)

Lihi Shoshani, Contributing Writer

Tango artists Leonardo and Olga Suarez Paz and author Georgina Kleege were chosen as this year’s Dean’s Scholars-in-Residence at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development on Sept. 20. The program welcomes academics, artists and other leaders to serve as mentors to students and faculty, participate in research and community programming, and host master classes, workshops and other events.

“I am delighted to bring these distinguished scholars and artists to NYU Steinhardt this year, and look forward to their interactions with our students and faculty as well as the larger NYU community,” Steinhardt dean Jack H. Knott wrote in a press release.

The two dancers, Leonardo and Olga Suarez Paz, will work with Steinhardt’s Music and Performing Arts Professions department to produce tango performances and workshops. The two married in 2009 and have since produced works together that have been showcased at the Lincoln Center, the Teatro Colón Opera House in Buenos Aires and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Olga Suarez Paz is the director and choreographer of Nuevo Tango Ballet. (Leonardo is the organization’s artistic director.) The dance group explores modern applications of tango, as well as how gender and the concepts of freedom and love overlap within the field of dance.

“As we take our first steps towards this residency, we do it not just to share our skills and our knowledge, but also our passion and our firm belief that generosity and solidarity is what makes us richer,” Olga Suarez Paz said. “We’re creating a little bit of that environment that is so crucial to passing down information you can’t find, you can’t search for.”

Kleege, a disability studies writer, will work with the Department of Media, Culture and Communication and the Center for Disability Studies to explore the intersections between art and accessibility. She has written many works on disability studies and blindness, including a number of essays about her experience with blindness and others’ perceptions of the disability.

Kleege returned to her hometown of New York City after retiring from her position as an English professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in the summer of 2022. As a Dean’s Scholar-in-Residence, she hopes to expand accessibility to the arts for blind and visually impaired audiences.

“I’m interested in the many smaller galleries and performance venues who may well be interested in improving their access programs, but don’t have the staff and the resources of the bigger institutions,” Kleege said. “The Steinhardt school and many departments that are housed there would provide great opportunities for collaborations between these spaces and students who are interested in disability studies, who are interested in performance studies, dance education, or history of these various fields.”

In celebration of the new scholars-in-residence, Steinhardt held an event with a performance by Leonardo and Olga Suarez Paz and remarks from Kleege at the Kimmel Center for University Life on Sept. 29. Since the Steinhardt Dean’s Scholars-in-Residence program, which was established in 2018, is relatively new, all three scholars will be creating their own frameworks for collaborating with students and faculty.

“You have to meet and speak and make personal connections to see where interests lie,” Leonardo said. “You have to understand the rhythm to be able to play. If the university has a rhythm, we need to understand it to be able to create on top of that.”

Contact Lihi Shoshani at [email protected]