The Shanghai Quartet—violinists Weigang Li and Yi-Wen Jiang, violist Honggang Li, and cellist Nicholas Tzavaras—returned to Wesleyan for their Connecticut debut with pipa (Chinese lute) virtuosa Wu Man to perform “A Night in Ancient and New China,” featuring Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 11, Op. 95; traditional folk songs; and the Connecticut premiere of the new quintet "Red Lantern" by eminent Chinese film composer Zhao Jiping (Raise the Red Lantern, To Live, and Farewell My Concubine) in collaboration with his son Zhao Lin. The concert was held on Friday April 1st in the Crowell Concert Hall. Click here to view the full album on Flickr. Photos by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography.
Performing Arts Series
Fall Photos: Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill
Violinist Martin Hayes and guitarist Dennis Cahill performed adventurous interpretations of traditional Irish tunes with irresistible rhythm in the Crowell Concert Hall on Saturday, October 17, 2015.
Click here to view the full album on Flickr. Photos by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography.
Spring Events Include New England Premiere and Connecticut Debuts
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.
The CFA is also the home of countless premieres. In April, you’ll be the first to hear Harlem Heiroglyphs, a new album by composer, vibraphonist, and Adjunct Professor of Music Jay Hoggard, both in concert and as the music for Storied Places, directed and choreographed by Dance Department Chair Nicole Stanton with text by Center for African American Studies Professor Lois Brown.
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.
I look forward to seeing you soon.
Director, Center for the Arts
Fall Photos: Dorrance Dance
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.
Fall Photos: Nicholas Payton Trio
Grammy Award-winning trumpet virtuoso and multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Payton was born into a musical family in New Orleans. After touring with Elvin Jones, Mr. Payton made his major-label recording debut as a leader in 1994. Since then, Mr. Payton has consistently committed himself to developing his distinct voice and forging new musical frontiers. At Wesleyan, Mr. Payton performed on trumpet, piano, and Fender Rhodes with his Trio featuring bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Herlin Riley on September 17, 2015 in Crowell Concert Hall.
Click Here to view the full album on Flickr. Photos by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography.
2015-16 Season Now On Sale! World, U.S., New England, CT Premieres
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.
Michelle Dorrance, described by the Chicago Tribune as “edgy, seductive and smart,” brings Dorrance Dance to the CFA Theater September 25 and 26. You’ll have the chance to see tap dancers push the boundaries of what tap dance looks and feels like: her company will dazzle you as they transform the stage into one sonic instrument.
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.
Dancer/choreographer Eiko Otake returns with a series of intimate performances in unlikely places, including a commissioned work in honor of the 100th-anniversary of Wesleyan’s Van Vleck Observatory.
This year’s Navaratri Festival of Indian music and dance features one of the world’s greatest veena players, Sri Rajhesh Vaidya, on October 10, and Bharatanatyam dancer Alarmél Valli on October 11.
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.
Center for the Arts
Spring Photos: Noah Baerman Resonance Ensemble
A pianist, composer, educator, author, and Artistic Director of Resonant Motion, “Noah Baerman is no stranger to aiming high” (David Adler, Village Voice). With a cast of instrumentalists and vocalists including alto saxophonist/flutist Kris Allen, vibraphonist Chris Dingman ’02, cellist and vocalist Melanie Hsu ’13, bassist Henry Lugo, Private Lessons Teacher and drummer Bill Carbone MA ’07, Ph.D. candidate, and vocalists Latanya Farrell, Claire Randall ’12, and Garth Taylor ’12, Mr. Baerman (on piano, synthesizer, and slide guitar) and his group presented the world premiere of his extended work The Rock and the Redemption on April 25, 2015 in Crowell Concert Hall.
Click here to view the full album on flickr. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography.
Spring Photos: The Nile Project
The Connecticut premiere of The Nile Project featured a dozen musicians performing collaboratively composed songs drawn from the diverse styles and instruments of the countries along the Nile Basin—including Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, and Uganda—intertwining these traditions into a unified sound that is “joyous and even raucous” (NPR Music) on April 10, 2015 in Crowell Concert Hall. Click here to view the full album on flickr. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography.
Dancers from Aceh, Indonesia arrive at Wesleyan (Feb. 25-27)
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.
At Wesleyan, the group will be making their Connecticut premiere as part of the fifteenth annual Breaking Ground Dance Series as well as Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan.
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.”
Panel Discussion: Expressing and Contesting Indonesia-Islam Encounters in Performing Arts – Dance and Music in Aceh
Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 4:15pm
Workshop: Dance from Northern Sumatra
Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 6:30pm
Fayerweather Beckham Hall
Tari Aceh! Music and Dance from Northern Sumatra
Friday, February 27, 2015 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$22 general public; $19 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students
Pre-performance talk by Wesleyan graduate student Maho Ishiguro and Ari Palawi, Program Coordinator, Syiah Kuala University’s Center for the Arts, at 7:15pm.
Montréal’s world famous Compagnie Marie Chouinard returns to Wesleyan (Feb. 6 & 7)
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.
Compagnie Marie Chouinard
Friday, February 6 and Saturday, February 7, 2015 at 8pm
$25 general public; $22 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students
Pre-performance talk by DanceLink Fellow Chloe Jones ’15 on Friday, February 6, 2015 at 7:30pm in CFA Hall.
Dine/Dance/Discover on Saturday, February 7, 2015 at 5:30pm in Fayerweather Dance and Theater Studios—add $15 to your regular ticket price. Click here to purchase Dine/Dance/Discover online.