The Center for the Arts is one of the rare places in the state where you can consistently experience arts from around the world. This semester is no exception. In January and February, the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery hosts the work of ten contemporary Chinese artists born after the Cultural Revolution who are challenging traditional notions of Chinese identity and inventing new ways to shout out in the global arena. In February, Syrian singer Gaida brings her band to Crowell Concert Hall. At a time when her country is under siege, her soulful voice will remind us of the beauty and power of Syrian music and culture. And playwright Guillermo Calderón will discuss his award-winning works about Chile in the aftermath of the dictatorship.
Finally, the Music Department will host a March symposium on the work of the legendary experimental music composer David Tudor and, in April, the Theater Department offers Wes Out-Loud, a site-specific work created by Assistant Professor Marcela Oteíza and her students.
The semester ends on May 7 with Feet to the Fire: Riverfront Encounter, the second annual eco-arts festival featuring world music bands, educational exhibits, and site-specific performance works by area organizations at Middletown’s Harbor Park, located on the bank of the Connecticut River.
After devoting 30 years to studying and performing tap dance, Michelle Dorrance founded Dorrance Dance / New York in 2011, and has become a contemporary tap sensation; pushing the tradition rhythmically, aesthetically, and conceptually. During their Connecticut debut, the company performed selections from three of their acclaimed, percussive works: SOUNDspace, an a cappella segement from ETM: The Initial Approach, and The Blues Project with live music performed by the dancers. Each work is a ringing testament to tap dance as both movement as music. These photos are from a workshop at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.
Click Here to view the full album on Flickr. Photos by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography.
This year, we are looking forward to introducing you to artists who are asking important questions about our world today, questioning why things are the way they are, and helping us to envision how they might be.
At a time when our country is struggling to find its way in terms of race relations, we’ve invited writer/performer Daniel Beaty to campus for a residency that includes the October 9 performance of Mr. Joy, his highly acclaimed tour de force solo show about a community’s efforts to heal in order to dream again.
Composer, visual artist, and new media innovator R. Luke DuBois takes over the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery from September 16 through December 13 with his exhibition In Real Time, creating maps, scores, and videos that use real-time data flows and media footage to raise questions of artistic agency, privacy, and fair use. In time for the election season, the CFA has commissioned him to create a new work using research generated by the Wesleyan Media Project.
All this shares the fall schedule with performances by faculty and students, including the final class performance by students of Adjunct Professor of Music Abraham Adzenyah, who is retiring after teaching Ghanaian drumming at Wesleyan for the past 45 years. You won’t want to miss that concert on December 4.
As always, we hope you will look to the CFA as a place of enlightenment and enjoyment in the months ahead.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to graduate student Maho Ishiguro about the Connecticut premiere of “Tari Aceh! (Dance Aceh!)” Music and Dance from Northern Sumatra, taking place on Friday, February 27, 2015 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.
After many months of planning and overseas communication, the Center for the Arts is delighted to welcome to campus a group of nine female performers from Aceh, Indonesia on their first-ever tour of the United States.
Between the ages of 14 and 24, these young women study dance at Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh, the capital of the Aceh province on the western Indonesian island of Sumatra. The dances they practice were originally performed only by men, and in some districts of Indonesia it remains forbidden for women to perform them.
The dances to be performed have been passed down from generation to generation, and contain a great deal of history and tradition. Accompanied by percussion, the performers add to each dance’s striking musicality with their own rhythmic body percussion, and the singing of both Islamic liturgical and folk texts. These dances are some of the best illustrations of the transcultural blending of Islamic and Indonesian culture.
It has been ten years since a devastating tsunami hit Aceh, killing 200,000 people. The performance of Tari Aceh! celebrates the resilience of the people of Aceh, and a new generation of young women whose performance of these traditional dances are contributing to the recovery efforts in this part of the world.
To learn more about the performing arts in Banda Aceh, click here to watch a video that Wesleyan ethnomusicology graduate student Maho Ishiguro put together while visiting Syiah Kuala University last year. She traveled there after receiving a Fulbright Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship to study the female Saman dance in Indonesia.
While in Banda Aceh, Ms. Ishiguro had the chance to interview all of the dancers. You can get to know some of them here.
Ms. Ishiguro will join Ari Palawi, the Program Coordinator at the Syiah Kuala University’s Center for the Arts, to give a pre-performance talk on Friday, February 27, 2015 at 7:15pm in Crowell Concert Hall.
On Thursday, February 26, 2015 the dancers will lead a free dance workshop, open to all experience levels, at 6:30pm in Fayerweather Beckham Hall. Click here to watch a video for a taste of what you might learn in the workshop.
Ms. Ishiguro told me a little about Saman dance, and the dancers of the Syiah Kuala troupe:
“Saman dance (also known as rateb meuseukat and ratoh duek) is one of the dance forms popularly practiced in Aceh province, the northern tip of Sumatra Island, Indonesia. A number of dancers sit in a row and perform elaborative and fast movements with their hands, heads, and torsos. The dance is highly coordinated, and its complex choreography includes clapping and hitting the body with the hands, resulting in percussive sounds that add to the performance. Dancers also sing while dancing. Texts of songs entail commentaries about nature, love, relationships, politics, and society, as well as religious teachings of Islam. Islamic phrases such as la ilaha illallah (“There is no god but God,” a testimony of Islamic faith) and assalamulaikum (“Peace be upon you”) are often interwoven within the song texts. The origin of the dance form is unknown; however, it is generally understood that Saman dance was practiced historically as dhikr, a religious exercise which Muslims, especially those of Sufi traditions, employ to feel the presence and remembrance of Allah. In Aceh today, Saman dance is a proud cultural heritage. Both female and male dancers practice the form, though separately.”
“In the past decade, Saman dance has become highly popularized in Indonesia, as well as internationally, for its unique choreography and the feeling of camaraderie that the dance generates among the dancers. Most high schools in Jakarta have Saman dance teams as an afterschool extracurricular activity. Furthermore, many regional and national competitions are held, and the winning teams are sometimes sent abroad for a tour. Today, Saman dance is not only a cultural expression of Aceh; the dance has transgressed the ethnic and regional boundaries among Indonesians, as it is practiced widely by those who do not share ethnic or cultural heritages with the Acehnese. In recent years, the dance seems to be on its way towards becoming a cultural expression not just for the Acehnese but for all Indonesians. There have been a number of Saman dance groups formed by Indonesian students abroad. In such cases, Saman dance is performed as an Indonesian cultural expression. In fact, Wesleyan has had a group of students, comprised of both Indonesians and non-Indonesians, who participated in Saman dance practice on campus over the last several years.”
“The University of Syiah Kuala is one of the largest universities in Banda Aceh, the capital city of Aceh Province. The dancers of the Syiah Kuala troupe have studied several forms of Acehnese dance since their childhood. The troupe has performed domestically and internationally. As part of the Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan program, the dancers will be in residency at Wesleyan for several days, hosting workshops and engaging in other activities with students and the Wesleyan community. One of the most exciting aspects of hosting this troupe is that the dancers are relatively close in age with our students. We hope that Wesleyan students and dancers will engage with each other at a personal level, deepening cultural understanding through informal and meaningful interactions.”
CFA Arts Administration Intern and DanceLink Fellow Chloe Jones ’15 talks to dancer Lucy M. May of Compagnie Marie Chouinard about their upcoming performances at Wesleyan on Friday, February 6 and Saturday, February 7, 2015 at 8pm.
I close the heavy door softly behind me and cautiously step forward into the dark theater. On stage a woman rehearses a solo. She is tall and slender and dances with startling grace. Her long limbs slice through the space, she stops suddenly, pirouettes. With each movement she communicates something—her whole body speaking, from her gesturing hands to her quick feet. She is fierce and beautiful, every cell of her body alive and articulate.
I have come to Hanover, New Hampshire as a Wesleyan DanceLink Fellow to see Montréal’s Compagnie Marie Chouinard perform, and I have just walked into dress rehearsal. When the dance finishes, the lights come up in the theater and the company members gather on stage. They go over a few notes with the rehearsal director before heading back to their hotel to prepare for the night’s show. I can hardly wait for them to take the stage again.
Described by The New York Times as “a hurricane of unbridled imaginativeness,” Compagnie Marie Chouinard was founded by choreographer Marie Chouinard in 1990. Today the company tours all over the world.
The company first came to Wesleyan in September 2008 to perform the United States premiere of Orpheus and Eurydice. This weekend, they return to campus with the New England premiere of Gymnopédies (2013) and the Connecticut premiere of Henri Michaux: Mouvements (2005-2011).
Set to music by French composer and pianist Érik Satie, Gymnopédies began as an exploration of the duet form. “She knew she wanted to work with these erotic duets between two dancers,” says company member Lucy M. May. “That was really the first thing we did in the studio: improvise two-by-two, different couples.”
In the process of creating the work, Ms. Chouinard decided she wanted each dancer to learn Mr. Satie’s Gymnopédies and play it on the piano as part of the performance. Many of the dancers had never played the piano, but gradually, with lessons and practice, they all learned. In the finished work, the dancers take turns at the piano bench, their live music adding to the work’s curious sensuality.
Henri Michaux: Mouvements began in 1980 when Ms. Chouinard came upon the book Mouvements (1951) by Belgian writer and artist Henri Michaux (1899-1984). Inspired by the book’s abstract ink drawings and 15-page poem, Ms. Chouinard decided to use it as a choreographic score.
“She brought all of the images into the studio,” says Ms. May. “We had photo copies of all the drawings, and some of them were hanging on clotheslines and others were in big piles of paper all around the place, and we spent a really intensive two weeks making all sorts of different compositions. We were exploring all the possibilities of what we were seeing.”
This literal translation of image into movement is augmented by costumes and set. Clothed head-to-toe in black, the dancers perform on a white floor against a white backdrop so that the stage becomes the book.
Mouvements was one of the works I saw performed at Dartmouth this past September. I was blown away. The dancers’ ability to recreate the ink drawings with their bodies is truly amazing—a dazzling exactitude.
“There’s a balance between a high level of demand—of precision and detail and rigor—and then this amazing amount of freedom,” says Ms. May of Ms. Chouinard’s work.
Indeed Ms. Chouinard’s choreography strikes me as simultaneously precise and reckless, raw, free. The dancers move with extreme clarity—so much of the choreography impossibly intricate, detailed, and fast—yet there is something of abandon in their performance, something intensely wild.
As I watched the performance that evening at Dartmouth, I was riveted by each dancer, each movement, each moment. My eyes did not drift once from the stage. My mind never wandered. I found myself fully immersed in the world of each dance.
They are strange worlds, exciting and new and daring.
Wesleyan University is a center for creativity and innovation, and one of the best places for our community to come together to participate in that energy is at the Center for the Arts. Our year-long exploration of Muslim Women’s Voices in performance continues on February 27 with a rare opportunity to see a dance company coming to Middletown from the northernmost tip of Sumatra, Indonesia. The dances of Tari Aceh! feature quick, highly-coordinated movements of hands, heads, and torsos, punctuated by lively body percussion. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. And on April 17 and 18, you can get a first look at a theatrical work-in-progress by playwright and actress Leila Buck ’99 that was commissioned for Muslim Women’s Voices.
In April and May, we present “The Connecticut Meets the Nile,” a two-part happening that will highlight two great rivers. On April 10, Crowell Concert Hall hosts The Nile Project, an all-star gathering of musicians who live in the countries that border the Nile River and have come together to create music that draws attention to the environmental issues of a historic river that sustains millions of people. Then on May 9, at Middletown’s Harbor Park, Wesleyan and regional partner organizations present Feet to the Fire: Riverfront Encounter, an afternoon of music performances, visual art, and kid’s activities that will engage our community with our own beautiful river.
And throughout the winter and spring, you can put your finger on the pulse of what’s inspiring our newest artists by visiting the Senior Thesis Exhibitions in Zilkha Gallery, or by attending thesis performances by music, dance, and theater students performed throughout the CFA.
“In its emotional nakedness, free-associative logic, and frank sensuality, the work of the Israeli-born couple Lee Sher and Saar Harari is inventive and arresting” (The New Yorker). The New England premiere of LeeSaar The Company’s Princess Crocodile was performed on Friday, September 19, 2014, in the CFA Theater. Images from dress rehearsal by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.
This year, we invite you to join us as we welcome the world to Wesleyan. Artists working in contemporary or traditional forms from 18 different countries will be performing or exhibiting at the CFA over the next nine months.
A centerpiece of this year’s program is Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan, which begins in September. Each of the performers to be featured is Muslim or of Muslim heritage, has a distinct set of personal experiences, and is embedded in a particular place, society, and cultural tradition. It is our way of inviting audiences to celebrate the complexity of Muslim women today, while at the same time exploring the historical and cultural context from which these women have emerged. We are also inviting audiences to participate in the creative process as we give birth to a new play by Leila Buck ’99, based on stories of Muslim and Muslim-American women in our region.
We are also bringing one of the United States’ most innovative theater companies working at the intersection of text and technology, The Builders Association, for two performances in October. Their amazing production Sontag: Reborn is a portrait of the younger years of one of America’s most iconic intellectuals, Susan Sontag. In November, the Theater and Music Departments join forces to mount the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights, directed by Theater’s Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento with music direction by Nadya Potemkina, director of the Wesleyan University Orchestra. The musical was the thesis production of Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Theater major who graduated in ’02, who went on to win the Tony for “Best Original Score.” The book was written by Quiara Alegría Hudes, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, who will be a visiting faculty member at Wesleyan this year. It is sure to be an extraordinary production. And throughout the fall, the epic-scale, haunting landscape paintings of Professor of Art Tula Telfair will be on view in Zilkha Gallery. We invite you to enter into the imaginary worlds that Telfair creates in twelve large-scale paintings that are simultaneously awe-inspiring and intimate.
We launched our new website over the summer, and we hope you’ll visit and return often to find out about all of the faculty, student, and visiting artist events and exhibitions this year. We hope you will look to us as a place of enlightenment and enjoyment in the coming months.
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.