Monica M. Tinyo ’13 on the Fall Senior Thesis Dance Concert (Oct. 26-27)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 talks with Lindsay Kosasa ’13 and Kelsey Siegel ’13 about the Fall Senior Thesis Dance Concert (Oct. 26-27).

Tonight and Saturday, Wesleyan dance majors Lindsay Kosasa ’13 and Kelsey Siegel ’13 present the first installments of their theses at the Fall Senior Thesis Dance Concert. This weekend’s performances are only a part of each student’s thesis project, which will include one choreographed work per semester and an accompanying research paper. I had the opportunity to talk with Kosasa and Siegel about their theses, and will share what I learned from them here.


Lindsay Kosasa and Kelsey Siegel

Both Kosasa and Siegel assembled teams of five “movers”—dance majors and non-majors alike—to perform their works. Both consciously chose to describe the performers as “movers” rather than “dancers”, which fits with their conceptual frame of dance. Both Kosasa’s and Siegel’s projects are interdisciplinary and focus on concept more than technique, reflecting their modern dance backgrounds. While Kosasa’s and Siegel’s projects are different in both concept and process, both were inspired by each student’s second major: Kosasa is a Dance and East Asian Studies double-major and Siegel is a Dance and Math double-major.

Kosasa’s piece is an exploration and expression of trauma through dance, and she utilized different intellectual approaches to movement in post-war (post-atomic bomb) performance art, visual art and literature for inspiration. Although Kosasa is not in her piece (standard practice for Wesleyan dance theses), she will be operating a projector during the performance that will illuminate a screen behind the movers. She will produce “textures” and imagery through live manipulation of materials like water, food coloring and cornstarch in a box that will be captured by a camera above. The imagery and textures are used as a way to extract movement qualities from the movers that evoke Kosasa’s interpretation of trauma. This projection is inspired by Kosasa’s experience at Butoh workshops in Japan in the spring of 2012.

Kosasa wanted the dance to form naturally through collaboration rather than be dictated by specificities in her research. She only shared her topic with the movers later in the process because she didn’t want to have the movement be theatrical or determined by individual movers’ unavoidably and understandably narrow notions of trauma.

Siegel, on the other hand, did give her movers direction, explaining enough about her project to guide the movers. However, like Kosasa, she limited her explanation in order to help the dance manifest organically. She directed the movers with open-ended questions: How do you create order in your own life? What is order? How do you move/orient yourself in different planes? And what does it mean to move horizontally or vertically? When performing, the movers are also directed by a grid created by Siegel as a physical manifestation of an x-y plane; the performers move in, out and through the grid throughout the performance.

In her project, Siegel illuminates and simultaneously questions how we organize ourselves in space. She has been researching concepts and formulas related to the grid, focusing on how we draw lines and curves in space. She explains that although there are no “right” directions in modern dance, certain movement styles move across a certain plane. Her research has led her to understand that many artists, especially modern choreographers, use mathematical perspective in constructing pieces without realizing it.  She is also researching chaos theory and how it applies to improvisation in dance. Siegel explains that much of her research is conducted through the actual process of creating the dance in her own examination of the spatial organization of the movers.

Kosasa and Siegel work to manifest an idea through the body in a way that is relatable to a variety of audience members. You don’t need to understand techniques of dance, chaos theory, or post-war performance art to understand the concepts that the artists are grappling with or to enjoy the performance.

Please join us at the Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio, 247 Pine Street this weekend to celebrate the work of Kosasa, Siegel and their movers. Don’t hesitate; tickets are selling fast!

Navaratri Honors its Founder at 36th Annual Festival (Oct. 17-21)

Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge discusses working with T. Viswanathan, and the events of the 36th annual Navaratri Festival at Wesleyan (October 17-21, 2012).  

T. Viswanathan

I had the great fortune of working with T. Viswanathan soon after I arrived at Wesleyan to plan the annual Navaratri Festival. And in the two years I worked with him before he died in 2002, I learned so much.  I learned about the number of contacts Viswa had around the world, and how so many of them were interested in performing at Wesleyan because of our reputation as a place that honors and celebrates Indian music and dance.  I learned about Viswa’s family lineage and about his sister, the astonishing Balasaraswati, a bharata natyam dancer of the highest distinction, and his brother Ranganathan, a spectacular mridangam player.  And I learned about his talented students, from Jon B. Higgins, former Center for the Arts Director, who was one of the most renowned Carnatic singers in the world, to David Nelson, a mridangam player who is an Artist in Residence in the Music Department.

Viswa taught at Wesleyan from 1975 to 2002, and he founded the Navaratri Festival at Wesleyan 36 years ago. A panel of his students will open the festival on Wednesday at 4:15pm in CFA Hall and discuss aspects of his profound legacy to commemorate the tenth anniversary of his passing. Wesleyan Music Department faculty members B. Balasubrahmaniyan and David Nelson will be joined by Josepha Cormack Viswanathan Ph.D. ’92 and Douglas Knight ’70.

The festival continues with a concert of South Indian vocal music on Friday at 8pm by B. Balasubrahmaniyan, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music, joined by David Nelson on mridangam [and violinist L. Ramakrishnan] in Crowell Concert Hall. On Saturday, T.V. Sankaranarayanan, one of the most widely sought after Carnatic vocalists in the world, comes to Wesleyan from India to perform at 7pm in Crowell Concert Hall [along with Vittal Ramamurthy on violin and Thiruvarur Bakthavathsalam on mridangam]. The festival closes on Sunday with a puja (Hindu worship service) at 11am in World Music Hall, and a bharata natyam dance concert by Rama Vaidyanathan in Crowell Concert Hall. Ms. Vaidyanathan was scheduled to perform at last year’s Navaratri Festival, which had to be cut short due to a rare October snow storm.

We invited Hari Krishnan, Assistant Professor of Dance, to write to us about Sunday’s performance by Rama Vaidyanathan.  Here’s what he said:

Rama is a leading Bharatanatyam dancer from her generation in India today. Through sheer hard work and constantly creating new innovative dances, Rama has transformed the traditional solo dance of Bharatanatyam into a vibrant, dynamic and engaging solo dance style—current and relevant for a 21st century global audience. This is why she is much sought after by the most avant-garde theaters/festivals in Europe to the most conservative classical arts-friendly venues in India. Rama’s Bharatanatyam cuts across linguistic, social, political and cultural boundaries.

Rama is also a dear friend and I remember in the summer of 2010 when we were on the teaching faculty for a dance residency in the U.K., the students had insisted that we perform together. Not having prepared any piece, we improvised right there and performed a nouveau-Bharatanatyam duet to the delight of all present.

Being a contemporary dance and Bharatanatyam dance artist myself, I wasn’t too sure if Rama would be game to improvising a duet with me involving close physical touch. I was struck at Rama’s versatility—not only does she collaborate passionately  but she also boldly brings her art into new experimental terrains while still maintaining her identity of that of a classical Bharatanatyam dancer. She is able to bring out the inherent beauty of the Bharatanatyam form with her creativity and genuine love for the dance.

I am delighted Rama is performing at Wesleyan with her team of stellar musicians [vocalist Indu Sivankutty Nair, violinist Vikram Raghukumar, K. Sivakumar on nattuvangam, and Kalapurakkal Arun Kumar on mridangam], offering her dazzling, highly individual brand of Bharatanatyam.  Wesleyan is truly in for a treat of innovation, grace and pure joy—a Bharatanataym 21st century gazelle will be strutting her stuff on the Crowell Concert Hall stage this Sunday afternoon.

36th annual Navaratri Festival

Colloquium: The Wesleyan Legacy of T. Viswanathan (1927-2002)
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 4:15pm

CFA Hall 


Henna and Chaat hosted by Shakti
Thursday, October 18, 2012 from 7pm to 8:30pm
Olin Library Lobby

B. Balasubrahmaniyan: Vocal Music of South India
Friday, October 19, 2012 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$12 general public; $10 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students
Pre-concert talk on the music of T. Viswanathan at 7:15pm by Wesleyan Ph.D. Candidate Joseph Getter

T.V. Sankaranarayanan Concert
Saturday, October 20, 2012 at 7pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$15 general public; $12 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

Saraswati Puja (Hindu Ceremony)
Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 11am
World Music Hall

Rama Vaidyanathan: Bharata Natyam Dance
Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 3pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$15 general public; $12 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

Monica M. Tinyo ’13 on MiddletownRemix

CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 talks about “MiddletownRemix”, which is part of “Music & Public Life”, a year-long campus and community-wide exploration celebrating and studying the sounds, words, and spirit of music.

Are we not formed, as notes of music are,
For one another, though dissimilar?

—Percy Bysshe Shelley

Technology can foster insularity and just as easily foster limitless synthesis. MiddletownRemix utilizes the synthetic faculty of technology and the internet, inviting all members of the Middletown community to share and remix the sounds of Middletown in an open, online forum. The program, part of Wesleyan’s year-long campus and community-wide exploration Music & Public Life, lets all residents express and share their experiences living in greater Middletown through one minute sound recordings that are organized by theme or location. The website brings together a perspectival spectrum of Middletown sounds to form a cohesive and collaborative record of Middletown as a place and as a creatively-charged community.

Sound bites can be posted and remixed by anyone—high school students or retirees, new residents or residents who have been in Middletown all their lives. MiddletownRemix, a subset of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s UrbanRemix program, “geo-tags,” organizes and presents every sound visually by the location of the recording as points on a map online. The creators of MiddletownRemix have made certain their website is easy to use and accessible: there is a step-by-step guide to recording and downloading sounds, a smartphone app, and by the end of this month, anyone will be able to check out an iPhone or iTouch for recording purposes from Green Street Arts Center.

I had the opportunity to talk with Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts Program Manager Erinn Roos-Brown about MiddletownRemix. Erinn explained that Music & Public Life, and specifically MiddletownRemix, was created as a celebration of music in Middletown and music as activism. MiddletownRemix acts as a creative solution that allows the Wesleyan campus and greater community to engage their surrounding environment through music in a more interactive way.

Erinn explained further that all participants of MiddletownRemix can become composers in their own right, either by documenting sound or creating new acoustic identities in mash-ups. The sound recordings and remixes ask the questions: what is music, what is Middletown, and how do the sounds and remixes reinforce or redefine communal and personal perspectives on Middletown?

Participants are challenged to think not only about the sounds around them, but also about four Middletown locations: Main Street, Middlesex Hospital, the North End neighborhood, and the Connecticut River. There are also monthly themes like “Elections” or “Emotions” that can be taken as literally or abstractly as one would like. While participants can be guided by these themes and locations, they have the flexibility to record whatever sounds they believe represent their city.

Music and Public Life has partnered with Middletown Public Schools, Green Street Arts Center, and Middletown’s arts stakeholders group to create the broader range of participants for MiddletownRemix. The DJs of Wesleyan radio station WESU 88.1 FM will air the sounds and remixes that they find the most interesting every month. At Wesleyan University specifically, MiddletownRemix is incorporated into the Music Department‘s curricula by Professor Ronald Kuivila and Assistant Professor Paula Matthusen. More broadly, Music and Public Life is incorporated into every aspect of campus life at Wesleyan, from classes to performances to colloquia.

MiddletownRemix’s year-long exploration will culminate with a community-wide celebration on Saturday, May 11, 2013, featuring the world premiere of a composition for laptop orchestra by Jason Freeman of UrbanRemix.
Listen to this week’s featured sounds and remixes, then start gathering your own sounds: sign-up, download the free app for your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Android phone, and start recording!

Music & Public Life
A year long campus and community-wide exploration, including concerts, lectures and discussions, symposia and colloquia.

Making the Invisible “visible” (October 6)

Pamela Tatge, Director of the Center for the Arts, shares the highlights from a discussion earlier this week in South College with the choreographers Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Nora Chipaumire about their work and the development of the piece “visible”, which will have its New England premiere in the CFA Theater on Saturday, October 6 at 8pm.

When Nora Chipaumire fled Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) in 2000, she was pursuing a law degree. After moving to New York, she discovered dance and the work of Urban Bush Women.  “In Rhodesia, I was not a person. Part of leaving Zimbabwe for the U.S. was about becoming human. I discovered that what I was most interested in was advocacy.  The idea of advocacy exists in both the law and in dance.  In dance, there is an advocacy that is immediate, human—and not on a piece of paper.”  Nora Chipaumire and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar (founder and Artistic Director of Urban Bush Women) spoke at an informal lunch with Wesleyan faculty and students on Monday. Together, they have created visible, which will have its New England premiere on Saturday night in the CFA Theater. Ms. Chipaumire won Wesleyan’s Emerging Choreographer Award (at the annual DanceMasters Weekend) in 2007;  Ms. Zollar has a history with the Center for the Arts, as a member of the Center for Creative Research and having brought her company to Wesleyan twice in the past six years (including DanceMasters Weekend in 2006).

Ms. Chipaumire met Ms. Zollar when she auditioned for Urban Bush Women. Ms. Zollar talked about how striking Ms. Chipaumire was when she walked into the studio: ”I thought to myself, ‘God I hope she can dance.’”  Ms. Chipaumire shared that Ms. Zollar became “a comrade, a teacher, a guide—a sister.”  Ms. Zollar explained that over the years, Ms. Chipaumire has given her as much as she has taught. Ms. Chipaumire became a leading collaborator when Urban Bush Women (an all female company) embarked on making a piece with the all-male Senegalese company Compagnie Jant-B (presented on the Breaking Ground Dance Series at the Center for the Arts in February 2008).  Ms. Zollar and Ms. Chipaumire described all of the challenges of Urban Bush Women’s residency in Senegal, all of the differences—brought up by gender, culture, and education—that needed to be “unpacked.”

Their collaborative work, visible, grew out of some of these challenges, and the question “how do you really talk across cultural boundaries?” The piece was originally entitled visible/invisible, but Ms. Chipaumire explained they wanted drop the “victim” quality of the word “invisible.” “The fact is, we are visible,” said Ms. Chipaumire. “How can we learn to talk about things that are close to the jugular? Because in the space of difference—that’s where life is happening.”

The dancers chosen by the choreographers to perform in visible are almost all immigrants to the United States. Each is virtuosic in their own right, and each was encouraged to perform dances in their “mother tongue.”  For example, Catherine Denecy from Guadaloupe performs movement based on traditional forms from her country; Marguerite Hemmings from Jamaica performs work that is derived from dance halls; and Judith Jacobs from Holland is a true post-modernist. “The piece is a lot like the idea of jazz—each instrument has its own voice, but they come together as one sound,” said Ms. Zollar.  Two percussionists join the dancers onstage to help bring the piece to life.

Earlier in the day on Saturday (at 11am in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio), Ms. Zollar will give a free masterclass. She will also give a talk before the performance (at 7:30pm in CFA Hall). Then after the performance, the audience will have the chance to discuss the notion of migration/immigration, led by Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton.  Do join us on Saturday!

New England Premiere

Choreography by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Nora Chipaumire
Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 8pm

CFA Theater
$23; $19 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

Pre-performance talk at 7:30pm in CFA Hall by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar.

Ms. Zollar will also teach a masterclass on Saturday, October 6 at 11am in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio, located at 247 Pine Street. The masterclass is free with the purchase of a ticket to Saturday night’s performance. Registration for the masterclass is required. To purchase tickets and register for the masterclass, please contact the Wesleyan University Box office at or 860-685-3355.