CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to graduate student Samuel Dickey ’14, and seniors Daniel Light ’14 and Emmie Finckel ‘14 about their capstone projects.
Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts offers undergraduate programs in Art & Art History, Dance, Music, and Theater, and graduate programs in Music. In every department, students have the opportunity to create a capstone project in their final year. These projects take myriad forms, each one a reflection of the student’s unique interests and creative voice.
On Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 9pm in Crowell Concert Hall, graduate student in music Samuel Dickey ’14 will present his thesis concert. After graduating from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mr. Dickey came to Wesleyan in pursuit of a Master of Arts degree in Ethnomusicology.
The two-year program does not require that students produce a concert, as not all ethnomusicologists play an instrument. Mr. Dickey, however, picked up his first guitar at the age of ten and hasn’t stopped playing since. In 2010 he learned to play the Jeli Ngoni, a string instrument from West Africa.
His thesis concert brings together musicians from the Wesleyan community and beyond, including a couple of his bandmates from New York City. Half of the performers are Wesleyan students.
In addition to the recital, Mr. Dickey’s thesis includes a written component of 75 pages. His essay examines the role of the guitar in West African music, and how this once foreign instrument became integrated into the performance of traditional songs. He is looking specifically at music produced on either side of the border between Mali and Guinea.
“Guitars have become a vehicle for translating traditional music into a more popular sphere,” he explains. “But more than the music being westernized by the guitar; the guitar has been Africanized by the music.”
Together, the essay and his recital mark the culmination of his studies at Wesleyan.
“The master’s program has been great,” says Mr. Dickey. “I think it will allow me to pursue the sort of foothold I’ve been after in the music world.”
After graduation Mr. Dickey hopes to attain an ensemble coaching position or become an artist-in-residence.
In addition to graduate students, many undergraduates in the Music Department produce recitals as their senior capstone projects. One such undergraduate is Daniel Light ’14, whose senior recital Resonance took place on Friday, April 18, 2014 in World Music Hall.
The Music Department grants its undergraduate majors a lot of flexibility in designing their senior projects. One student may choose to record an album, while another opts for making a musical.
Mr. Light began with a couple of songs that he had written and ultimately developed a set list of seven original numbers. He performed four of the songs with a full band, one with a string trio, one with a choral group, and one as a solo.
“It felt like a launching point,” reflects Mr. Light. “I remember thinking that I would like to do this again at some point, to use my own material to fuel a concert.”
Much like students in the Music Department, those majoring in Theater have the leeway to design a senior capstone project tailored to their interests. This past November, as part of her thesis, Emmie Finckel ‘14 designed the set for the Theater Department’s production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull.
Envisioned as a theater prop house gone to ruin, the set filled the enormous stage in the CFA Theater with furniture and other objects. The audience watched the performance from the stage, immersed in the set alongside the actors.
The hands-on work that Ms. Finckel did for The Seagull comprised the first part of her thesis. The second part is an essay of 30 to 40 pages, in which she examines audience agency in immersive theater design.
Ms. Finckel’s thesis gave her the opportunity to work closely with faculty members, including Associate Professor of Theater Yuri Kordonsky, who directed the production, and Assistant Professor of Theater Marcela Oteíza, who has become a mentor to Ms. Finckel in her time at Wesleyan.
“It was wonderful to feel like they respected me enough to want me to be involved [in The Seagull] as their collaborator,” recalls Ms. Finckel.
Dramatically different in approach and content, these three examples of capstone projects speak to the wide-reaching interests of Wesleyan students and their impulse to innovate and create. The capstone programs provide students an opportunity to synthesize the experiences that they’ve had at Wesleyan, reflecting both on where they’ve been and where they can go.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton about her commissioned work “Threshold Sites: Feast.” This Spring Faculty Dance Event will take place on Friday, April 25 at 7pm, and Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 2pm and 7pm in the new Cross Street Dance Studio, located at 160 Cross Street in Middletown.
Social media such as YouTube and Facebook have all but eliminated formerly unbridgeable distances between people and communities across the world. We are more connected today than ever before.
Coupled with growing concern for the environment, our increased connectivity demands that we reconsider our understanding of community. What does it mean to be part of a community? How can we foster local communities in an increasingly globalized world? How can human communities exist in harmony with nature?
The notion of community is central to this year’s Spring Faculty Dance Event. Created and directed by Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton, Threshold Sites: Feast explores the relationships between bodies, communities, and environments through the lens of food.
“Something about the way you live in and experience your body is related to the way you live in and relate to your community and your environment,” says Ms. Stanton.
Food relates to it all. We eat to nourish our bodies, come together to break bread, and depend on the earth for our food. Food sustains every life, family, and community.
In recent years, food has become a hot topic of debate and conversation.
“There is so much controversy surrounding food production and food security right now,” says Stanton. “So much talk about what diet is good for you and for the planet.”
Threshold Sites: Feast is the culmination of Ms. Stanton’s engagement in the College of the Environment’s 2013-2014 Think Tank: Re-Envisioning the Commons. Over the course of this school year, the Think Tank has made efforts to expand discourse between economists, scientists, ecologists, and ethicists by bringing the humanities and performing arts into the conversation.
Ms. Stanton will perform in the work alongside Rachel Boggia, Deborah Goffe, Nik Owens ’12, and Wesleyan Artist in Residence in West African Dance Iddi Saaka. They are a diverse group, with backgrounds in myriad dance forms and roots across the globe.
“It was an extremely collaborative process,” says Ms. Stanton. “The question being how do all these different bodies come together in a process that feels full and rich and challenging to everyone.”
As part of the rehearsal process, Ms. Stanton prompted all of her dancers to reflect on their personal and shared experiences with food. They collected stories about memorable meals and songs about feasting — weaving many voices together into one rich sound score that backgrounds the event.
Some of the foods discussed in the sound score, many of them cherished family recipes, will be served to the audience. Yes, there will be literal feasting.
Ms. Stanton intends to source some of the food from Wesleyan’s own Long Lane Farm. Greg Foley ’16 has been collaborating with Ms. Stanton on a documentary, which parallels the rehearsal process for Threshold Sites: Feast with the process of getting the farm up and running.
Threshold Sites: Feast will be the first performance to take place in the Wesleyan Dance Department’s new studio on Cross Street. Formerly the A.M.E. Zion Church, the building has been remodeled into a beautiful dance studio that can also be converted into a black box theater.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Claire Marshall ’17, Trouve Ivo ’15, Alma Sanchez-Eppler ’14, and CFA Programming Intern Francesca Miller ’14 about the “Living in Song” residency workshops. Participants from the workshops will perform song, movement, and sign language in a free celebratory concert on Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 7pm in Crowell Concert Hall.
Three members of the Grammy Award-winning African American female a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock® [currently celebrating their 40th anniversary season] have been in residence at Wesleyan over the past month. They’ve been teaching three different workshops for 65 Wesleyan students and Connecticut residents. The workshops have been held at the Cross Street A.M.E. Zion Church, the Green Street Arts Center, and in the Fayerweather Dance Studio on campus.
In “The Vocal Movement Experience” workshops, Dr. Nitanju Bolade Casel shows participants how movement and breath can serve as a catalyst for sound. Dr. M. Louise Robinson leads “The Rhythm Ring,” workshops designed to spark musical conversation in the oral tradition of call and response. Those in Dr. Shirley Mary Childress’ “Songs in the Way of Hand” workshops learn to understand and communicate songs visually using the vocabulary of American Sign Language.
Although each of the “Living in Song” workshops has a unique focus, they all center on ideas of community. Part of the mission of Sweet Honey in the Rock® is to engage with and empower its diverse audience. Dr. Casel, Dr. Robinson, and Dr. Childress have achieved just that with their “Living in Song” workshops.
“Looking around the room and recognizing our different backgrounds has been really empowering to me,” says Claire Marshall ’17. “It’s been a chance to drop into a world where people don’t all come from the same place.”
The workshops provide a unique opportunity for Wesleyan students to learn alongside Middletown residents. There are participants commuting from other parts of Connecticut as well, including a few women who sing in a choir in Hartford.
“It’s a lot more about the community than about us Wesleyan students,” says Trouve Ivo ’15.
“The group is incredibly diverse and it has been wonderful to play in this way,” comments Alma Sanchez-Eppler ’14.
A couple adults are participating alongside their home-schooled children, further broadening the age range of the workshops. “The children are super enthusiastic,” says CFA Programming Intern Francesca Miller ’14.
Playful and enthusiastic seem to describe the general mood of the workshops. “Everyone is always super excited to be there,” describes Mr. Ivo.
The energy cultivated in the workshops is radiant, and participants are bringing what they’ve learned into the community. Two Wesleyan students are taking the “Songs in the Way of Hand” workshops as a way to become familiar with deaf culture in anticipation of living in Sign House next year.
The “Living in Song” workshops speak to the power of song to foster community, all the while honoring the voice of the individual.
“I’ve grown to be more comfortable with using my own voice and using song to bring a group together,” reflects Mr. Ivo. “Vocal expression should be more present in creative communities because it’s a really incredible, uniting thing.”
Living in Song Showing
Thursday April 17, 2014 at 7pm
Crowell Concert Hall, 50 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown FREE!
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Lily Whitsitt ’06 about directing the Theater Department production of Slawomir Mrozek’s “Vatzlav” on Thursday, April 10 and Friday, April 11, 2014 at 8pm; and Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 2pm and 8pm, in the CFA Theater.
Written by Slawomir Mrozek and directed by Lily Whitsitt ’06, Vatzlav tells the story of a shipwrecked slave’s encounter with an unfamiliar island and its wildly eccentric inhabitants. Among others, Vatzlav meets a blind Oedipus, a bloodsucking couple, and a revolutionary disguised as a bear.
The set takes its inspiration from circus design and transforms the stage into a jungle gym of raised wooden platforms. Audience members sit on stage with the actors, an invitation to join in the play’s 77 quick and episodic scenes.
Vatzlav draws from 18th-century French philosophical tales such as Voltaire’s Candide and the Marquis de Sade’s Justine to tell a story that is both profoundly political and positively hilarious. It’s a farcical, fall-out-of-your-chair-laughing kind of funny.
The work itself has a political history. Mr. Mrozek wrote Vatzlav in 1968, shortly after he fled Poland and sought political asylum in France. Due to strict censorship laws, the play did not appear in Poland until nearly a decade later.
Vatzlav reflects the life of its exiled playwright, a man writing far from home and in the midst of great political turmoil. “It’s complete satire,” says Ms. Whitsitt. “He takes an axe to every political ideology.”
With a cast of seven Wesleyan students, each character in the play embodies a different political ideology. Together they run the whole gamut of political philosophy and bring myriad perspectives into a witty and engaging dialogue.
The play delves into global questions related to power and authority, belief and hypocrisy, progress and modernity. It also considers deeply personal dilemmas.
“It’s about those moments of choice that we all face,” explains Ms. Whitsitt. “Those moments when you have to confront your own ideals and beliefs.”
It’s a story about growing up — Vatzlav arrives on the remote island shipwrecked and in search of himself, looking for a new life and identity. The zany inhabitants of the island and the trials he faces there incite him to question and come to terms with his own beliefs.
Ms. Whitsitt recalls grappling with many of her own beliefs as a student at Wesleyan, giving her reason to believe that the play would resonate with the students involved in the production and those in the audience.
“I wanted the students to be engaging with these types of questions,” explains Ms. Whitsitt. “For me, as a director, it’s such a personal process for each performer.”
Operating on both a global and a personal level, Vatzlav is a politically charged play about the choices we make as individuals. “At its base it’s about investigating humanity,” reflects Ms. Whitsitt.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Sierra Livious ’14 and Emily Weitzman ’14 about the Spring Senior Thesis Dance Concert (Thursday, April 3 through Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 8pm). All performances are sold out.
Tickets are sold out for this week’s Spring Senior Thesis Dance Concert. Featuring original works by six graduating seniors, the performances mark the culmination of their time in the Wesleyan Dance Department.
For those completing a thesis, this concert has been a year in the making. The dance thesis requires approximately twenty minutes of choreography, divided between a fall and spring concert, as well as a research paper between 60 and 100 pages. Others are doing senior projects, which entail a semester-long research engagement and an abbreviated number of choreographed minutes and written pages.
The performances will be held in the Patricelli ’92 Theater [located at 213 High Street], followed by a site-specific work at Alpha Delta Phi [located at 185 High Street]. The concerts will cover a lot of ground — the dances are a reflection of the unique and varied interests of the choreographers.
The concert opens with a piece by Sally Williams ’14. Also majoring in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, her thesis examines the intersection between the dancing body and the diseased body with a focus on Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
In the dimly lit theater, while dancers wait in the wings, a glowing MRI scan of a deteriorating human brain is projected onto the floor of the stage. What follows is an arresting display of dancing bodies, caught in the act of remembering and forgetting. Their movement is gestural and disoriented, ethereal and detached.
Another choreographer, Sierra Livious ’14, designed her own University major, which brings together Neuroscience, Biology, and Dance to study movement analysis or kinesiology. Influenced by artists such as Irene Dowd and Andrea Olsen, her research focuses on the efficiency of goal-oriented movement through the lens of dance.
“Thinking of the body as a machine,” Ms. Livious elaborates, “I wanted my dance to explore the relationships between elements of the body.”
Ms. Livious hopes to further develop her research after graduation, focusing on real world applications of the ideas she’s exploring in her senior project. Interested in injury prevention, she intends to pursue a career in physical therapy.
Also majoring in English, Emily Weitzman ’14 is writing a non-fiction thesis about her experience at a medical clinic in Mombasa. She became fascinated with the waiting room in the clinic, as a site of both movement—people passing through and strolling by—and stillness, waiting.
Her interest in the waiting room prompted her to choreograph a piece about place, or rather “non-place.” A non-place is somewhere that exists only for one to leave it — an airport, for example, or a bus stop.
“It’s about the non-place as it relates to home,” explains Ms. Weitzman. “It’s about how people can be home, places can be home, objects can be home.”
At once playful and profound, the piece features three dancers and two wooden benches. The trio moves and manipulates the benches in the most inventive ways—climbing on them, crawling under them, flying off them—so that the benches seem to also dance. It’s as if the benches become the dancers and the dancers become the benches.
Another piece [by Elle Bayles ’14] draws inspiration from Merce Cunningham and Pina Bausch to explore how modern dance and psychology both offer opportunities for self-reflection and ways of understanding the human experience. Another [by Naya Samuel ’14] poses current yet timeless questions about socially constructed identity, personal history, and perspective.
For the final piece [by Emily Jones ’14], the audience is ushered from the Patricelli ’92 Theater to the nearby Alpha Delta Phi house for a site-specific work influenced by Punchdrunk’s production of Sleep No More. The dance takes place throughout the house and viewers are free to roam, so that it’s the steps each audience member takes that determine what they see and where.
Together these six stand-alone pieces make for a diverse concert rich with movement and meaning.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to University Professor of Music and Director of the Electronic Music and Recording Studios Ronald Kuivila and Assistant Professor of Music Paula Matthusen about the conference of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, taking place at Wesleyan University from Thursday, March 27 through Saturday, March 29, 2014.
Experimental music composer Alvin Lucier first performed at Wesleyan in 1968, just one year before the release of his groundbreaking and world-famous sound installation, I Am Sitting in a Room. He was teaching at Brandeis University at the time, but came to Wesleyan after a group of students requested to take a class in electronic music. The class was a roaring success, and Mr. Lucier was hired to launch an electronic music program at Wesleyan.
More than four decades later, the electronic music scene on campus is alive and well, and this year Wesleyan hosts the 29th National Conference for the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS), co-hosted by University Professor of Music and Director of the Electronic Music and Recording Studios Ronald Kuivila and Assistant Professor of Music Paula Matthusen. Over 130 people are expected to gather from the U.S. and abroad and join the Wesleyan and regional community for this important series of performances, installations, talks, and workshops. [The SEAMUS conference is being held in New England for the first time since 1998.]
The term “electro-acoustic” refers to music that depends on electronic technology for its creation and/or performance. “Electronic technology” encompasses everything from hemispherical speakers to 3D video projection, custom software to the average laptop.
That’s not to say electro-acoustic music is all high-tech. Ordinary objects frequently make their way into the musical compositions, concerts, and sound installations. Case in point: one installation work featured at this year’s SEAMUS conference, Urban Legend [by Jenny Johnson, as part of David Tudor’s Rainforest in Zelnick Pavilion], invites visitors to combine Pop Rocks candy with carbonated soda water, and then captures the sounds of the resulting chemical reaction with a small hydrophone. Rainforest will create a chorus of loudspeakers out of found objects in an immersive sound installation that melds the ordinary with the extraordinary. [Other contributors to Rainforest include Paula Matthusen, Nestor Prieto MA’14, Phil Edelstein, John Driscoll, Nayla Mehdi, Stephan Moore, Jim Moses, Doug Repetto, Jeff Snyder, and Suzanne Thorpe.]
In the upper lobby of Fayerweather Beckham Hall, the audio installation SC Tweet [by Charles Hutchins MA’05] draws information from incoming tweets [tagged with #sc140 and that contain executable code] to program elaborate musical scores.
It’s this fusion of high-tech and low-tech that makes the field of electro-acoustic music so compelling and innovative. “There’s a fine tradition of doing things like circuit building and hacking, in which you take found objects and reconfigure them,” explains Mr. Kuivila. “It’s an approach to electro-acoustic music that dovetails with our daily experience, in that you take something familiar and redefine it so that it becomes new.”
Electro-acoustic music transforms an empty film canister into a loudspeaker, or a cigar box into the body of a new instrument. It can also transform space, an idea that has greatly influenced Mr. Kuivila and Ms. Matthusen’s vision for this year’s SEAMUS conference.
In addition to the five daily concerts [for a total of fifteen concerts across the three days], the ongoing installations, four workshops, three paper sessions, and two listening rooms, there are a number of special events revolving around issues of space.
“We wanted to come up with ways to engage with the social dimension of spatiality,” says Mr. Kuivila.
One event that poses questions about space is Rock’s Role (After Ryoanji), which draws its inspiration from a series of pieces composed by John Cage. Rock’s Role (After Ryoanji) is comprised of soundworks that embrace sound leakage and overlap – the inescapable infiltration of sound into space. Each soundwork is intended to coexist with the other soundworks in the space [the lower level of World Music Hall; soundworks for Rock’s Role (After Ryoanji) contributed by Mara Helmuth, Jason Malli, Maggi Payne, A. Campbell Payne, and Adam Vidiksis.]
From the Memorial Chapel to the underground tunnels of the Center for the Arts, SEAMUS is taking the campus by storm and by sound. “You will hear a lot of different things,” says Mr. Kuivila. “It’s a smorgasbord of sorts.”
The SEAMUS conference represents an exciting moment for the Wesleyan Music Department and the regional community, bringing to campus many world leaders in the field of electro-acoustic music. For more information, as well as a detailed listing of events, please visit the conference website.
SEAMUS Concert #9 Friday, March 28, 2014 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall, 50 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown Tickets: $8 general public; $6 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $5 Wesleyan students
Concert #9 will feature Meditation on Pattern and Noise, a multi-modal exploration of communication and disruption, with music and language by vocalist Jonathan Zorn ’02 MA ’07. This concert will also include guitarist Bryan Jacobs performing his Syncro-Vox and Other Cheap Animation Techniques with Natacha Diels on alto flute (reading the music off a scrolling score on a computer display); pianist Kari Johnson performing time, forward by Chin Ting Chan (with fixed sample playbacks and live processing techniques), as well as Leander’s Swim by Sam Wells (with live electronics, inspired by Cy Twombley‘s painting Hero and Leandro, Part I); pianist Shiau-uen Ding performing Composition for S#!++\/ Piano with Drum Samples, Concrete Sounds, and Processing by Christopher Bailey (a percussive piece full of funky rhythms, joyous chaos, and cacophony); Motions of Maria Makiling for four-channel fixed media by Deovides Reyes III (depicting the bodily movements of the mythical Filipino character); and cellist Jason Calloway performing Vanished into the Clouds by Jacob David Sudol (with live electronics, titled from a chapter in the Japanese novel The Tale of Genji).
SEAMUS Concert #14 Saturday, March 29, 2014 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall, 50 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown Tickets: $8 general public; $6 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $5 Wesleyan students
Concert #14 will feature pianist Kathleen Supové (pictured above) performing Sonata for Piano and Tape by Todd Kitchen (based on the melody from the chorale Christ lag in Todesbanden), as well as two movements from Metal Works for piano and electronics by Nina Young (a suite of pieces inspired by scientific, poetic, and historic concepts of metal). Ms. Young is the first prize 2013 ASCAP/SEAMUS Commission Winner.
The concert will also feature the final movement of The Chamber of False Things,from The Barnum Museum (2009–2012) for fixed media by Barry Schrader (an electronic tone poem based on a short story by Steven Millhauser). The winner of the 2014 SEAMUS Award, Mr. Schrader is a founder and the first president of SEAMUS, described by Gramophone as a composer of “approachable electronic music with a distinctive individual voice to reward the adventurous.”
This concert will also include Hephaestus’ Fire: Music for Anvil and Electronics by Paul Leary (named after the Greek god of blacksmithing, metallurgy, and volcanoes, and performed with keyboards, foot pedals, a gaming joystick, an anvil, various hammers, and industrial metals); Z-77 for paper and computer by Jennifer Hill (an interpretation of Richard Wagner’s “gesamtkunstwerk” performed along with Ryan Fellhauer); and N’air sur le lit, a collaboration by pianist Jon Appleton and vocalist Paul J. Botelho with fixed media.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton about Dance Theatre of Harlem, Souleymane Badolo, and Ronald K. Brown, who will be featured as part of the 15th annual DanceMasters Weekend Showcase Performance on Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 8pm in the CFA Theater.
Mr. Badolo is the 2014 recipient of the Mariam McGlone Emerging Choreographer Award. Born in Burkina Faso, Mr. Badolo’s choreography is steeped in personal heritage and infused with worldly style. He began his career dancing with traditional African dance company the DAMA. In 1993, Mr. Badolo co-founded Kongo Ba Téria, a contemporary dance company based in the capital, Ouagadougou. After relocating to the United States in 2009, Mr. Badolo won the second annual Juried Bessie Award in 2012.
Wesleyan Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton says of Mr. Badolo, “He has his own take on how to weave together different forms and find personal expression in them. He represents a growing contemporary dance movement taking place in continental Africa, one that is blossoming in a really interesting way.”
[On Saturday, Mr. Badolo will be performing the New England premiere of an excerpt from Benon (2014), conceived and choreographed by Meritxell Barberá and Inma García, and set to traditional songs from Burkina Faso recorded by Victor Deme, Mahamad Billa, and Dankan Faso. Benonpremiered in February 2014 at Danspace Project in New York City. Roughly translated to “harvest,” Benon is inspired by the Burkinabé tradition of dancing to celebrate the harvest.]
A second artist with a rich history of performing at Wesleyan, Ronald K. Brown returns to campus this weekend with his company, Evidence. Founded by Mr. Brown in 1985, the Brooklyn-based contemporary dance ensemble honors the human experience in the African diaspora through dance and storytelling. Their work fuses traditional African dance with contemporary choreography and often incorporates spoken word.
“There’s this sense of seamless flow in how he weaves together different movements,” says Ms. Stanton, who’s been following their work since the mid-1990s. “There’s something transcendent about him and his dancers.”
On Saturday, Evidence will perform Come Ye (2002), an original work by Mr. Brown set to the music of Nina Simone and Fela Kuti, which had been commissioned by the Center for the Arts in honor of the 30th anniversary of the CFA during the 2003-2004 season [the work received its New England premiere on the Breaking Ground Dance Series in February 2004.]
Mr. Brown has been a strong advocate for the growth of an African-American dance community throughout his career, a community to which the Dance Theatre of Harlem has made invaluable contributions.
Co-founded in 1969 by acclaimed ballet instructor Karel Shook and the New York City Ballet’s first African-American principal dancer Arthur Mitchell, Dance Theatre of Harlem became the first ballet company in America comprised entirely of black dancers. The company has since toured to over 40 countries on 6 continents. Dance Theatre of Harlem encompasses a leading arts education center, founded shortly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a mission to make dance accessible to all children in New York City, and specifically in Harlem, where Mr. Mitchell grew up.
[Dance Theatre of Harlem will be performing the Connecticut premieres of both New Bach (1999) a witty confection of urban post-modern neoclassicism choreographed by Robert Garland and set to music by Johann Sebastian Bach; and choreographer Helen Pickett’s passionate duet When Love (2012), a journey of discovery as a man and a woman open themselves to the tenderness and wonder of the human embrace, set to music by Philip Glass. This performance at Wesleyan will be the first appearance by Dance Theatre of Harlem in Connecticut since December 2003 at Foxwoods Resort Casino.]
Currently under the artistic directorship of Virginia Johnson, a founding member of Dance Theatre of Harlem and former principal dancer, the company continues to expand its community and education outreach efforts both nationally and internationally with their program Dancing Through Barriers.
And dancing through barriers is precisely what the work of Mr. Badolo, Mr. Brown, and the Dance Theatre of Harlem does. It is their ability to gracefully meld dance forms from disparate places, traditions, and eras that unites their work.
As Ms. Stanton phrased it, “There’s a fusion of techniques from across the African diaspora.”
They dance across borders and choreograph in the space between past and present, drawing from history and tradition to propel contemporary dance forward.
“The performance makes you ask a question about tradition,” says Ms. Stanton. “What do we mean when we say something is ‘traditional’ or not? What does it mean to be ‘contemporary’?”
Thirteen Master Classes will provide an opportunity for intermediate to advanced dance students and dance professionals to explore diverse dance techniques. Asterisks (*) denote the four teachers who will be teaching their first DanceMasters Weekend Master Class at Wesleyan in 2014.
On Saturday, March 8, Master Classes will be taught by the following six teachers:
To see the full Master Class schedule, please click here. DanceMasters Weekend Master Classes are $19 per class for the general public (plus a $6 registration fee), and $13 per class for Wesleyan students. A Weekend Pass, which includes five Master Classes and one ticket to the Showcase Performance, is $100 for the general public (plus a $6 registration fee), and $73 for Wesleyan students. To register for Master Classes, or to purchase a Weekend Pass, please call or visit the Wesleyan University Box Office at 860-685-3355.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Virgil Taylor ’15, Sewon Kang ’14, and Stratton Coffman ’14 about the exhibition “Evan Roth//Intellectual Property Donor,” on display in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery through Sunday, March 2, 2014. Admission to the gallery is free.
On display now in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery is the exhibition Evan Roth//Intellectual Property Donor. This is the largest one-man show to take place in the United States for the Paris-based American artist.
Blurring the line between artist and hacker, the exhibition asks gallery visitors to consider how everyday life intersects with virtual reality and how viral media can become high art.
Beautiful, curving, white sculptures are suspended from the gallery ceiling, each one algorithmically produced from motion-tracked graffiti data. Across the gallery, an interactive installation invites visitors to create their own TED talks on a stage that looks startlingly identical to the TED stage. Covering one wall is a series of 1,540 smartphone screen-sized ink prints depicting the gestures required to beat all 300 levels of the popular game “Angry Birds.”
With an interest in the overlap between free culture and popular culture, Roth transforms existing systems into public, often political, statements. As part of the exhibition, visitors can obtain a small sticker that reads: “In the event of death please donate all intellectual property to the public domain.” Perfect for the back of your driver’s license, he wryly suggests.
Roth was on campus for a week leading up to the opening reception on the evening of Wednesday, February 5, 2014. I spoke with three Wesleyan students who had the opportunity to work directly with him during that time.
Studio Art major Virgil Taylor ‘15 first met Roth when the artist visited Wesleyan last year. Intrigued by his work, Taylor signed up to help with the Evan Roth//Intellectual Property Donor exhibition and returned to campus early from winter break in order to begin preparing for the show’s opening.
One work in the exhibition, Propulsion Painting, consists of a variety of mixed-media sculptures that use the pressure within spray paint cans to perform tasks such as the one in this video.
Roth needed 70 empty spray paint cans! Taylor emptied what cans he could by repainting all the stools in two classrooms, and spent the rest making a series of paintings. Done on canvases typically used in the installation of exhibitions, the series was titled In Conjunction and displayed in South Gallery next door to the Evan Roth//Intellectual Property Donor exhibition on opening night.
“It ended up being a really productive experience and a really great exercise for me,” says Taylor, who had never worked with spray paint before. Taylor also attended a daylong workshop held by Roth on the topic of hacking culture, in which students made mini projects based on systems they observed in their surroundings. “It was a really fast process: talk about it, identify a system, do something,” Taylor describes.
Here is an artist interested in talking about ideas, observing the world, and then acting. The internet, Roth argues, is not only a means of communication but also a rich artistic medium and a potent vehicle for activism.
Creative Campus Intern Sewon Kang ’14 also attended the workshop. According to her, “Evan works with infrastructure that is already there for him to subvert, so when he talks about activism he talks about how activists don’t necessarily need to go in and build from the ground up.”
Roth’s activism takes place through creativity and innovation, always seeking to make small interventions that will attract worldwide attention.
“There are already systems in place that you can change to work to your advantage,” explains Kang. “Roth sees everything in the world as an opportunity. Where I see a room full of tables and chairs, he sees the tables and chairs as a system for some sort of intervention.”
Zilkha Intern Stratton Coffman ’14 also spoke about the activist impulse running through Roth’s work. “He’s asking, in what ways can we exploit the technological and social systems that are already there to change not only our environments, but also what it means to be an agent in the world.”
Coffman was first introduced to Roth’s work last year when the proposal to bring Evan Roth//Intellectual Property Donor to Wesleyan came before the Zilkha Planning Committee.
“I was intrigued,” Coffman remembers. “What’s alluring about his work is its interconnectedness. It’s part of a larger practice, each individual work, which makes them all more complex.”
Having followed Roth’s journey to Wesleyan and interacted with him and his work on numerous different occasions, Coffman says, “There are still interesting questions to think about, which is partly why I think it’s such a fruitful show. There are these questions in the works that are not resolved.”
Evan Roth//Intellectual Property Donor is more than an art exhibition, it is a catalyst for creative thinking and a commentary on our world, a call to action and an interactive sensory feast.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Wesleyan DanceLink Fellow Cynthia Tong ’14 about Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, who will be performing the New England premiere of “Times Bones” on Friday, February 14 and Saturday, February 15, 2014.
In 1970, a young Margaret Jenkins returned home to San Francisco where her family had lived for generations. She had been studying with dance legend Merce Cunningham in New York and brought back with her the new and exciting ideas emerging in the field of modern dance.
The founding of the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company in 1973 was a milestone for the city of San Francisco, signaling the spread of the American avant-garde movement that had begun on the east coast with Mr. Cunningham and his contemporaries.
Although the company has for decades been at the heart of the local arts scene in San Francisco, the company has also gained international acclaim. In the late 1970s, the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company began touring the United States on a regular basis, and has since then traveled throughout Europe and Asia to perform.
This weekend their journey brings them back to Wesleyan University for the New England premiere of Times Bones, a fitting venue given that this season is the 40th anniversary for both Margaret Jenkins Dance Company and the Center for the Arts. [Margaret Jenkins Dance Company previously performed at Wesleyan in April 1990. This weekend is also the first performance by Margaret Jenkins Dance Company in New England since 1998.]
In thinking about a way to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the company, Ms. Jenkins began revisiting past works. She reread journals and notes, mined her extensive archives, and examined all 68 works recorded on videotape, all the while asking, “What were the stories in those pieces that were still untold?”
To use the language of the ancient Egyptian myth of Osiris that partly inspired her process, she was gathering the “bones” of her repertory. From these fragments, she has choreographed a new whole: the evening-length piece titled Times Bones.
But the work is not as simple as a dance down Memory Lane. The hope in returning to previous choreography was never to go back in time, but rather to push forward.
“The piece as a whole is aiming to find a new beginning,” says Wesleyan DanceLink Fellow Cynthia Tong ’14, who worked closely with Ms. Jenkins and the members of the company as an intern in San Francisco this past summer. “It’s a look toward the future.”
Ms. Tong describes the studio where the company rehearses as a safe space with a positive atmosphere, a place where experimentation and productivity go hand in hand. “Work was getting done while ideas were being thrown around,” she recalls.
Like many of her former works, Times Bones is the product of a deeply collaborative process. As Ms. Jenkins explains, “The role of the dancers in making my work is absolutely substantive and primary to my process.”
The aura of collaboration in the studio invites the dancers to speak up and share their opinions and ideas. “She’s very open to hearing what other people have to say,” Ms. Tong remarks.
The role of the interpreter is crucial to her work. While choreographing she asks her dancers to interpret various prompts and experiments, and in performance she invites the interpretations of the audience, never declaring one right or another wrong.
“She believes that when audiences go see her work there are a hundred different possible interpretations and that is part of her goal,” says Ms. Tong. “The audience is the final collaborator.”
Cynthia Tong will give a pre-performance talk on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 7:30pm in the CFA Hall, 287 Washington Terrace, Middletown. Margaret Jenkins will teach a free master class on Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 11am in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio, 247 Pine Street, Middletown.
Margaret Jenkins Dance Company: Times Bones New England Premiere Friday, February 14 and Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 8pm
CFA Theater, 271 Washington Terrace, Middletown
$25 general public; $21 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students
Spend Valentine’s Day at the CFA – click to view special “prix fixe” menus that will be available at five Middletown restaurants for dinner on Friday, February 14, 2014.