IMG_5461_000NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Smith College awarded a $13,000 grant to new alumna Margaret Piacenza to enable her to bring together American and Cambodian performance artists for an intensive month-long residency in the Southeast Asian nation.

It is the first Helen Gurley Brown Magic Grant, an award program launched in December to help Ada Comstock Scholars or recent graduates reach their highest potential by underwriting expenses associated with internships, independent research and travel, creative and artistic projects.

Piacenza, of Seattle, plans to connect six artists from the two countries to discuss the choreographic process, performance studies and themes pertaining to body and identity in conjunction with traditional and contemporary forms of dance. The exchange will culminate in a performance for the community and a documentary film.

Piacenza enrolled at Smith as an Ada Comstock Scholar – a nontraditional-aged student – after pursuing a professional career in the performing arts. She majored in religion and the study of women and gender and graduated last spring.

“What captivates my interest in collaborating with Cambodian artists is gaining an understanding of what it is for these artists to walk the line between honoring their culture’s traditional forms of classical dance as they also begin to expand their movement vocabulary to be inclusive of more contemporary forms,” said Piacenza.

Piacenza plans to work with Amrita Performing Arts in Phnom Penh, an organization with the mission of reviving the wide spectrum of Cambodia’s traditional performing arts.

Although she never attended Smith, legendary Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown has long expressed an affinity with the college’s commitment to educating women with diverse life experiences. Her papers are part of the college’s Sophia Smith Collection of women’s history manuscripts. Brown was recently made an honorary member of the Smith College Class of 1962, in recognition of the publication that year of her groundbreaking book “Sex and the Single Girl.”

Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,800 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries.

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