Colombian Groove Band: Free Concert in CFA Courtyard Tonight

CFA Courtyard Stage 6/30/11
CFA Courtyard Stage 6/30/11

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day for the annual outdoor summer concert at the Center for the Arts!  We hope that you will come early, bring a picnic and groove with Pablo Mayor’s Folklore Urbano.  The concert begins at 7pm in the CFA Courtyard.

Pablo Mayor is a composer, arranger, pianist, from Cali, Colombia, whose star has risen since he moved to New York in 1999.  While a professor of jazz at the Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, he began his personal investigation of the native music of Colombia, and has combined this knowledge with his extensive knowledge of jazz harmonies and arranging. The Folklore Urbano Orchestra has produced three CD’s and taken the band to both national and international venues.

What you’ll hear tonight is modern Colombian music redefined in fresh, lively, provocative ways. Part groove band, part dance orchestra, the powerhouse ensemble of eight musicians seamlessly fuses the danceable swing of traditional Colombian rhythms with the lush subtleties of contemporary jazz harmonies and unique arrangements.  You’ll feel the beat of a rhythm section deeply grounded in traditional Colombian music.  Like a feisty chef, Pablo Mayor then adds explosive horns and great vocals to produce a tasty, sultry, addictive blend.

Please join us!

Pablo Mayor’s Folklore Urbano
Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 7pm
CFA Courtyard
Wesleyan University
Free parking available in T, E, and G lots

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

Launch of the Science Choreography Website

Many of you know that Wesleyan was the lead commissioner of Liz Lerman’s Ferocious Beauty: Genome, her groundbreaking work about the repercussions of genetic research.  But I’m not sure how many of you know that one of Liz’s Wesleyan collaborators, Professor of Biology Michael Weir, wrote to her after the world premiere with an idea:

“Imagine a biology or genetics course that begins and ends with students experiencing [the Ferocious Beauty: Genome] piece, and imagine during the semester, when issues like Mendel or gene regulation or bioethics are covered, related parts of the piece were shown to the class. I am imagining that this experience would cause many students to build a new kind of framework in their minds causing them to be more inquisitive and thoughtful about the biology and its significance. They would make associations with the choreography and dance, and I wonder whether their thinking would be qualitatively richer?”

Five years later, with the support of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Wesleyan and the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange developed Science Choreography – a website that’s a digital textbook  with a plethora of tools for teachers who are teaching genetics, evolution and other related issues.  The site will be officially launched at a celebratory reception this Thursday, April 21 at 5pm at Beckham Hall on the Wesleyan campus, to which the public is invited. Liz Lerman and scientists who work in Wesleyan’s Hughes Program in the Life Sciences will discuss their findings about using choreography in the classroom and its effects.

We do hope you will join us.

Thursday, April 21, 5pm-6:30pm
Fayerweather Beckham Hall
Wesleyan University
Free admission; please RSVP to Maureen Snow,

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

News about Eiko & Koma, Brian Stewart and KaWa Hula

First, I want to thank everyone for enlivening this blog with your opinions about the work that you’ve seen at the Center for the Arts over the past month.  All of us at the CFA appreciate your comments…keep it up!  There’s nothing better than an engaged audience!

I had a wonderful trip to New York on Saturday to see the latest iteration of the Eiko & Koma Retrospective Project at New York’s Baryshnikov Arts Center.  Sam Miller ’75, the producer of the project, and Program Director of Wesleyan’s new Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance, introduced the work and two members of ICPP’s faculty (Judy Hussie-Taylor, Danspace Project and Doryun Chung, MOMA) gave an introductory talk and then we were ushered into an adjacent studio to view the installation.  If you saw Raven at Zilkha in November of 2009 or at the CFA Theater last summer, you would see how Naked has grown out of that work.  The scorched canvas pressed with rice and salt now surrounds the work and the audience.  Eiko and Koma lie together on another canvas laden with earth and raven feathers.  To me, the work is about life and death, aging bodies, memory, dreams, proximity and distance.  It is visually stunning and completely captivating.  The New York Times thought so too.

I saw Evelyn Israel ’10 and Julia Cheng ’08 in the audience and chatted with them after we saw the piece.  They, too, were moved and excited to see the long line of people waiting to get in.

Those of you who attended the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange’s Time Has Set the Table for Tea in February will remember Brian Stewart, Professor and Chair of Wesleyan’s Physics Department, who hosted of the tea alongside the character of Edith Warner.  You’ll be interested to know that after his highly acclaimed performance, Brian went on tour with the Dance Exchange!  The company performed The Matter of Origins (which includes the stage work as Act I and the tea as Act II) at Montclair State University in New Jersey last week, and Brian reprised his role as host of the tea for three sold-out houses.

KaWa Hula: Hula Through Time
KaWa Hula: Hula Through Time

Finally, please don’t miss KaWa Hula: Hula Through Time on Friday night.  This is the first time we have featured traditional Hawaiian music and dance in Crowell Concert Hall.  The group of glorious dancers and their jovial master Kawika Alfiche are from San Francisco and received a wonderful write up in the Times for their performance at Symphony Space last week.

Our own Kehaulani Kauanui, Associate Professor of Anthropology and American Studies, gives the pre-show talk at 7:15pm.

Click here for more information or to purchase tickets online.

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

Three in One: A Celebration of Dance at Wesleyan

Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, A Dance Company
Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, A Dance Company

This Saturday, we welcome three exceptional dance companies to the Center for the Arts Theater. For those who have been coming to the Breaking Ground Dance Series, you’ll remember that in 2004, we commissioned Ronald K. Brown/Evidence’s Come Ye, set to and inspired by the music of Nina Simone. In 2007, we presented the world premiere of One Shot, an evening-length work inspired by photographs of Pittsburgh native Charles “Teenie” Harris.  He was known as “One Shot” because whenever he was given a photo assignment, it only took him one shot to get “the” picture. This Saturday, Brown returns to teach a master class in the afternoon and that evening, his company will perform excerpts of One Shot, as well as Ife/My Heart.  Ife/My Heart was created in 2005 for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and draws on themes of faith and inspiration.

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet
The Suzanne Farrell Ballet

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet will follow, presenting a program of duets choreographed by George Balanchine. The Suzanne Farrell Ballet has been the Kennedy Center‘s own ballet company, housed in Washington, D.C. since 2001. The company exists to realize the vision of Artistic Director Suzanne Farrell, with over 30 ballets by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Maurice Béjart in its repertoire.

Gallim Dance
Gallim Dance

Finally, the Center for the Arts is delighted to be awarding the Mariam McGlone Emerging Choreographer Award to Andrea Miller, artistic director of Gallim Dance. Wesleyan has a long history with Miller: when Andrea was a student at Juilliard (and home for the weekend in Branford where her mother lives), she took classes at DanceMasters. Little did we know then that she would grow up to be an acclaimed choreographer!  After Andrea graduated from Juilliard, she went to Israel to dance with Ohad Naharin’s Ensemble Batsheva, and a few years later returned to New York to develop her choreographic work and to found Gallim. In just four years, the company has distinguished itself for its innovation and virtuosity. On Saturday, the company will present excerpts from I Can See Myself In Your Pupil, the work they presented to rave reviews this past June at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina.

Please join us to celebrate the breadth and wonder of dance at the twelfth annual DanceMasters Weekend!

DanceMasters Showcase Performance
Saturday, March 5, 8pm
CFA Theater

Tickets: $25 general public; $19 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $8 Wesleyan students

Click here for more information about the DanceMasters master classes

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

An Art/Science Experiment with Tea, Chocolate Cake and iPads

The Center for the Arts has had a deeply creative relationship with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange for the past eight years.  This Thursday, we partner with the company on an experiment that explores these questions:  What happens when you take the theatrical experience and place it at the heart of the campus in a non-traditional setting?  What happens when you employ the arts as a means of entering into scientific questions?  What’s it like to sit at a table with tea and chocolate cake and have a facilitated conversation about where we come from? (And you aid this exchange with iPads, projections, dancers, and yes, Wesleyan faculty, too!) We’ll see this Thursday when Time Has Set the Table for Tea: A Matter of Origins Project is presented at Beckham Hall at 7pm and 9:30pm.

Liz Lerman talks about the origins of this project:

It happened that the summer before meeting Gordy [Gordon Kane, Director of the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics] I’d read a wonderful book, Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’ s American Prometheus, about J. Robert Oppenheimer, who directed the atomic weapons research activities at Los Alamos during World War II. In it, one sentence in particular caught my eye and my inner ear: the mention of Edith Warner, whom Oppenheimer had hired to feed some of his fellow physicists on the secret project a few nights a week at her desert tea house. In an instant I imagined these people in her little space, eating, talking, questioning, wondering, and I mused on the possibility of the same for an audience.

[Time Has Set the Table for Tea] is inspired by tea house gatherings of Edith Warner, and the question of what could happen if we combined the active minds of you in a convivial atmosphere with a few stimulants: tea, cake, a team of table hosts (we call them provocateurs) from diverse backgrounds … along with a few surprises. It is a laboratory of its own, so find your table setting and join us for this experiment, a chance to converse, react, muse, or just observe, listen and enjoy Edith’s own chocolate cake recipe.

Thursday, February 24, 7pm & 9:30pm
Fayerweather Beckham Hall
$4 Wesleyan students,
$5 all others

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

Sarah Ruhl: The Interplay Between the Actual and the Magical

This Thursday, playwright Sarah Ruhl will pay her first visit to campus for this year’s Outside the Box playwright’s residency. (Past playwrights have included Tony Kushner, Charles Mee, Moises Kaufman and David Henry Hwang.)  As a part of her residency, Ruhl will give a lecture on Thursday evening, visit classes and meet with the cast of the Theater Department’s upcoming performance of her Melancholy Play.

Ruhl, who grew up in Illinois, started her career as a poet and published her first book by the age of 20. Now she writes imaginative and unusual plays that often feature unlikely, dreamlike occurrences. In a 2008 article in The New Yorker, Ruhl said that her characters exist in both “…the real world and also a suspended state.”

Routine activities continue amidst strange developments—in Melancholy Play, for example, one character turns into an almond!—and highlight “the interplay between the actual and the magical.” Amidst its elements of fantasy, Ruhl’s work raises serious questions about human experience and psychology. Melancholy Play presents moments of genuine sorrow. But Ruhl creates these moments while maintaining a witty humor that keeps the tone of the play lighthearted; she explains: “Lightness isn’t stupidity. It’s actually a philosophical and aesthetic viewpoint, deeply serious, and has a kind of wisdom—stepping back to be able to laugh at horrible things even as you’re experiencing them.”

Ken Prestininzi, the director of a 2007 production of Melancholy Play at Brown University (where Ruhl received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in 1997 and 2001) suggests that Ruhl’s upbringing could be responsible for the distinctive tone of her work, pointing out that Ruhl “grew up in the Midwest, where there’s this assumption that you’re supposed to smile, mow your lawn and get on with things. You’re not supposed to stare out the window and think of a line from a poem for a week.”

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

Paris-based Compagnie Vincent Mantsoe to Celebrate Story of Khoi-San People at Dance Performances This Weekend

This Saturday and Sunday, legendary choreographer Vincent Mantsoe will bring his Paris-based company to the CFA Theater to present two performances of his newest work, SAN. Known for its fusion of traditional South African movement and street dance forms, the company has been praised by the New York Times for a “…sophistication and beauty in the way traditional African dance motifs…are woven together with more sinuous abstract movements.”

SAN celebrates and tells the story of the Khoi-San people, hunter-gatherers and aboriginal inhabitants of the Southern African plains, commonly referred to as Bushmen. Mantsoe writes:

“Restricted from the open land, which has slowly but consistently been converted to farmland or taken into possession for mining, the San have been silenced, fenced out, subjected to hangings intended to break their spirit, and endured the terrors of genocide… SAN asks how, in the face of change, which spreads like wild roots, we can sustain the freedom to express our sense of beauty, emotions and attitudes without shame or guilt of who we are.”

Interestingly, this past Thursday marked a major victory in the Khoi-San’s defense of their rights, when Botswana’s Court of Appeal revoked a 2010 ruling that had denied the Kalahari Bushmen access to water on their own lands. (More information on this legislation is available online here). 

The themes of SAN take on new meaning with this hopeful news, and this weekend’s performances by Compagnie Vincent Mantsoe should be especially moving in light of this important milestone.

Saturday, February 5, 8pm & Sunday, February 6, 3pm
Pre-performance talk by Debra Cash in the CFA Hall at 7:15pm before the Saturday performance
CFA Theater
$21, $18 seniors, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students, $8 Wesleyan students

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

A Talk with Jazz Legend Charles LLoyd

William Carbone, Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, connected with Charles Lloyd prior to his upcoming tour of New England made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts. Lloyd and his quartet will play at the CFA on January 28th. What follows is a summary of their conversation:

There is a sundry collection of compositions and sounds on the Charles Lloyd Quartet’s latest CD Mirror, yet one sound rings constantly throughout: peace.  Lloyd, a veteran saxophonist, and his much younger band mates—pianist Jason Moran, drummer Eric Harland, bassist Reuben Rogers—waste no notes, uniting their songs and improvisations with an endlessly persevering focus on melody.  In those moments one might expect a burst of fiery showmanship and the thrusting forth of an individual identity, Lloyd and company sink in more deeply, creating space and allowing eighth notes to become quarters, halves, then whole; clearly, their relationship is one of absolute trust.

Hence Lloyd’s reaction when I inquired about who would accompany him on his upcoming Northeast tour: “Is this a trick question?” Unlike many, or even most veteran jazz musicians, Lloyd’s band is a band, and Moran, Harland and Reed are those who we should expect to see.

Lloyd has a condition that makes lengthy phone conversations uncomfortable, but he agreed to speak with me regarding his upcoming tour via email.  Because his biographical informational is readily available already, I chose to ask Lloyd, who holds a Masters degree in music, more about his thoughts on jazz and education, particularly in university settings. His answers were brief, yet they allowed some insight to the inclusive approach that characterizes his work.

Charles Lloyd exploded onto the U.S. jazz scene in the early 1960s, first in collaborations with drummer Chico Hamilton and saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. Soon after, he shepherded a quartet of newcomers: Jack DeJohnette, Keith Jarrett and Cecil McBee, all of whom are now household names in jazz. They broke boundaries musically with their effortless intermingling of jazz and avant-garde, non-Western and rock music; demographically by engaging the young and spiritually hungry audience of the late ‘60s; economically with the first jazz album to sell one million copies; and geographically when they departed on a non-statesponsored tour of the Soviet Union.

Though Lloyd’s success was nearly unparalleled in jazz, he soon withdrew.  As he told me in our recent dialog: “I performed at Carnegie Hall when I was in my 20s, as well as the Royal Albert Hall in London, and Royce Hall in Los Angeles. Claude Nobs [the founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival] always likes to say that I was the first international ‘star’ to perform at the Montreux Jazz festival in 1967. By the end of the 60s, I was playing in stadiums and sports arenas, but I got off the bus because I did not like where the business of music was trying to direct me. It had nothing to do with music.”

After stepping off “the bus,” Lloyd retreated to the central California region of Big Sur and for a decade recorded and performed in public only sporadically.  The few recordings he released under his own name during this period reflect both an extension of Lloyd’s inclusive view of music and the spiritual search he was undertaking in the mountains: Geeta (1973) features Lloyd on flutes and saxes accompanied by a combination of Western and Indian musicians performing both Hindu-themed material and a Rolling Stones medley; on Big Sur Tapestry (1979), Lloyd performs Chinese oboe and flutes and is accompanied only by harp. Though his time at Big Sur has often been characterized as an escape from the pressures of popularity, Lloyd also performed and recorded with the Beach Boys during this period.

Gradually, Lloyd reemerged in the 1980s, establishing a connection with the ECM record label that is now in its third decade.  Since then, his work as a leader for the label includes ensembles featuring similarly maverick jazz performers—Billy Higgins, Brad Mehldau, Cedar Walton, John Abercrombie, Geri Allen—who glide comfortably into the borderless explorations of music Lloyd says are intrinsic to his being.

“Most of my childhood was spent on my grandfather’s farm in Mississippi,” notes Lloyd, “so I was steeped in the blues. Phineas Newborn was my earliest mentor. He heard me win an amateur show when I was about nine and got me started with lessons with Irvin Reasson. Later, when I was 11 or 12, he had me join his father’s band. I stand on the shoulders of all who came before me—Howlin’ Wolf, Bobbie Blue Bland, Johnny Ace, Willie Mitchell, Bird [Charlie Parker], Prez [Lester Young] and Lady Day [Billie Holiday], Trane [John Coltrane], Mr. [Coleman] Hawkins—they are all a fiber of my expression. Everything that I am today is the sum of my life’s experience.”

Lloyd holds a Master’s degree in music from the University of Southern California but suggests that the musicians of his generation primarily “learned ‘real time’ with on-the-spot training on the bandstand.” He adds: “We had to bake a cake without the advantage of technology.  Today there are so many options that are just a fingertip away.” Other than a brief stint as a middle school teacher in the late ‘50s, Lloyd has not been a formal educator yet he notes, “I give master classes [at colleges and universities] from time to time, and the students seem hungry for information and direct experience.”

Given his stature and experience, Lloyd could easily settle into a role as an “elder statesman” and run a repertory band with a rotating cast of musicians, yet he has continuously surrounded himself with consummate improvisers who challenge him to reach new heights nonetheless. “I am a student everyday; I have a beginner’s mind,” says Lloyd. “Eric and Jason and Reuben are old souls to me. The chronological age does not impede the flow of the ancient and modern.”

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

Spring Season at the CFA Announced

Dear Friends of the CFA,

This spring, when you travel to the CFA, you’ll see the world. Well, some of it, at least. Vincent Mantsoe will bring his Paris-based company to perform a work that features South African dance traditions infused with contemporary street dance forms. California-based companies Viver Brasil and Hālau o Keikiali‘i will bring the music and dance traditions of Bahia and Hawai‘i respectively, and DanceMasters Weekend will feature Guilford’s-own Andrea Miller’s Gallim Dance. The company was a sensation at the Spoleto Festival last June and Miller is the winner of this year’s Emerging Choreographer Award.

Jazz figures prominently on the schedule with a concert by the legendary Charles Lloyd and his quartet in January and Sherrie Maricle’s DIVA, an all-female concert jazz orchestra, in April. Lloyd is best known for his seminal album Forest Flower, and his quartet will also feature Jason Moran, who recently won a MacArthur, on the piano. The Music Department will bring its Gamelan Orchestra together with the Wesleyan Ensemble Singers and University Orchestra to celebrate the music of legendary 20th-century composer Lou Harrison. In February, the Theater Department brings its alumnus Michael Rau ’05 to direct Sarah Ruhl’s contemporary farce Melancholy Play, and the playwright herself will be in residence early in February to meet with the cast and give a public talk.

The Zilkha Gallery will host a major exhibition of sculpture, photographs and video by Professor of Art Jeffrey Schiff. His exhibition, Double Vision, will explore how unconscious projections from America’s colonial origins shape perceptions of its current reality.

Many of our majors are creating original works for their theses, and we encourage you to attend their performances and exhibitions as well. We invite you to meet the next generation of art-makers and participate in their visions.

It’s all here in the heart of Connecticut.

Pamela Tatge
Director, CFA

For complete details, visit the CFA website.

Navaratri Festival 2010

CFA Intern Lucy Strother talks with Professor B. Balasubrahmaniyan (Balu) about this week’s Navaratri Festival.

Tomorrow kicks off the 34th annual Navaratri Festival, celebrating the music and dance of India here at Wesleyan! Five days of performances (Wednesday, October 27 through Sunday, October 31) will offer audiences a wide range of events: concerts by distinguished musicians, dance showcases, a lecture by Wesleyan professors and a traditional Hindu ceremony. I spoke with Wesleyan professor and Navaratri organizer B. Balasubrahmaniyan (better known as Balu) about some of the upcoming festival highlights.

A unique aspect of Navaratri is its ability to integrate the past and present in its celebration of the rich historical traditions of music and dance in India, along with its promotion of important performers in India’s contemporary arts scene. Thursday night features a concert by sisters Ranjani and Gayatri, both widely acclaimed singers and violinists. Balu expressed his excitement for this concert, saying: “They have reached a very high caliber of musicianship in a short period and they are visiting Wesleyan for the first time.” Their performances are known for vitality and emotion and often incorporate an element of playful sibling rivalry that I am excited to witness in action!

Another highlight of Navaratri is sure to be when internationally renowned tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain performs with sitarist Niladri Kumar Saturday night. Balu emphasized Zakir’s superstar status and his amazing ability to connect Indian music with music of other cultures and genres: “He is a top ranking, international artist and has worked with many Indian and non-Indian performers.” It is so thrilling to get the opportunity to see brilliant, world famous artists like Zakir here on campus.

People interested in taking a more active role in the festivities should attend the Natya Mela Dance Party/Showcase or the Saraswati Puja ceremony. Balu shared with me the meaning of Saraswati Puja, saying that the ceremony is dedicated to “offering our respects to the goddess of knowledge, music, and the arts. Students place their books and musicians place their musical instruments in front of the idol or picture of the goddess and get blessings. Anyone can participate and can bring their instruments and books in order to receive blessings.” This event is recommended for seniors who are writing a thesis…

Not only is Balu a major contributor in organizing and promoting Navaratri, he is also featured as a soloist on the concert line up. David Nelson, mridangam, and K.V.S. Vinay, violin, will join Balu Friday night for a concert that should not be missed!

The Full Lineup:
Colloquium–Weaving Sound and Image: Integrating Bharata Natyam and Carnatic Music,
B. Balasubrahmaniyan and Hari Krishnan
Wednesday, October 27, 4:15pm
CFA Hall 
Free admission
Ranjani and Gayatri: Carnatic Music of South India
Thursday, October 28, 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
Tickets: $15 A, $12 B, $6 C
B. Balasubrahmaniyan: Vocal Music of South India
Friday, October 29, 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
Tickets: $12 A, $10 B, $6 C
Natya Mela
(Indian Dance Party/Showcase)
Saturday, October 30, 2pm
World Music Hall
Free Admission
Zakir Hussain and Niladri Kumar
Saturday, October 30 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
Tickets: $28, $23 B, $8 C

Saraswati Puja (Hindu Ceremony)
Sunday, October 31, 11am
World Music Hall
Free admission

PRICE KEY: $A General; $B Seniors, Wesleyan Faculty & Staff, Non-Wesleyan Students; $C Wesleyan Students