I’m on a plane flying to Washington to meet with the National Endowment for the Arts about its continued support of the CFA, and I’m thinking about the caliber of dance artists we have been able to bring to Middletown thanks to the generous support of that agency and the continued support of our campus community and our Connecticut audiences. For the past five years, the NEA has helped to build DanceMasters Weekend at Wesleyan, an annual immersion in dance that happens every year right at the start of our Spring Break. This Saturday and Sunday, students in dance schools around the state and their teachers will join Wesleyan students for two intense days of modern, jazz, tap, African and hip hop classes. Their bodies are exposed to techniques they may never have experienced before, and their spirits enter into the passion of master artists from companies as diverse as Limón, Alvin Ailey and Brian Brooks. (Some class slots are still available, by the way.)
And on Saturday night, they join the public for a showcase of three masters of American dance…and this year there is real star power. We’ll open with a solo by Carmen deLavallade, a true luminary not only because she is an exquisite choreographer and dancer (she was a original Ailey dancer, founded her own company with her husband, Geoffrey Holder, taught at Yale for many years) but also because she is one of the first interdisciplinary dance makers. Her work has regularly intersected with theater, film and opera. She will be performing a new solo that premiered last July. We’ll then have the opportunity to see a series of duets by dancers of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company that span thirty years of his choreography, performed with live music by John King. The company is currently on a final two-year legacy tour following Cunningham’s death in July of last year, and we are so fortunate that two of the company dancers will be performing on our stage.
And we’ll close with Paul Taylor’s masterpiece, Esplanade, performed by the dancers of Taylor 2. In 1975, Taylor was inspired by the sight of a girl running to catch a bus and decided to create a work based on pedestrian movement set to two Bach violin concertos. If you’ve seen it before then you’ll never forget the joyful exuberance of the opening, the final section with dancers careening fearlessly across the stage, and the celebration of what it is to be human that happens in between. If you haven’t seen it before, then you should; it is truly a masterwork in the dance cannon.
DanceMasters Weekend at Wesleyan University
Saturday & Sunday, March 6 & 7, 2010
Classes on Saturday and Sunday; Showcase performance Saturday at 8pm in the CFA Theater
For more information, visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/dancemasters