Peter Hadley discusses WesWinds (May 8)

Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge talks to Private Lessons Teacher Peter Hadley about directing the Wesleyan Wind Ensemble, who perform a spring concert on May 8, 2012.

In 2000, Angel Gil-Ordóñez was the new Music Director of the Wesleyan University Orchestra and Peter Hadley was a Ph.D. student.  The two were talking and Angel said, “Peter, Wesleyan needs a wind ensemble and you’re the person to lead it.”  They put up a sign for auditions and only one student showed up.

Flash forward, twelve years later (Peter has his Ph.D.):  there are 39 members of WesWinds;  approximately 50% are Wesleyan students and the remaining members come from the Greater Middletown community.  “After that first semester, we decided to be inclusive. We didn’t hold auditions. To this day, we invite people to come to the first rehearsal and they self-select depending on the difficulty of the material.” One of the people he called on for help in the early years was his friend and colleague, Marco Gaylord, head of arts programming for Middletown Public Schools.  “I tell Marco what instrumentation we’re lacking and he sends me wonderful students.”  One was percussionist/pianist Eli Fieldsteel, now an accomplished composer.  “So alongside Wesleyan students and Middletown high school students, we have a doctor, a retired music teacher, and other students whom I’ve taught from CCSU.”

A mother of one of the Middletown students sent me a note last week, and I asked if I might publish an excerpt.  It was one of those rare emails that appear on your screen and for a few moments, you are transported:

“All I know for certain is that when I come to Weswinds, I often sit in the dark and cry.  I can’t help it.  I see my child sitting on that stage and l listen to all the musicians, and feel overcome.” 

“As I prepare to go to another meeting where people struggle with why we must reduce arts funding, or why the arts are more needed today than ever, I find myself thinking about how I grew up in a hard place with little reason to think that anything worth having or doing would ever be mine. But because I attended an urban public high school with a strong arts program, I found theater.  By my junior year, I had worked in a few theaters around the city and won a full scholarship and a way out. Thanks in part to a (very) little talent.  But more importantly, I had access to the building blocks: exposure, context, training and opportunity.” 

“I don’t take for granted the wonderment I feel when I sit in Crowell Concert Hall and watch this assorted community come together to make music. Our kids play instruments.  And I feel we are all one tiny step closer to grace.”

“The humanities are for all of us.  Whatever our kids do in this life, the experience of participating makes them and the world they will encounter the better for it.  We can never let it just be the kids of privilege, however talented.  Let it also be the children and future artists who beat the odds because at some point they, too, stumbled over the building blocks we positioned along their paths.”

“On May 8, family and friends will be attending the next WesWinds concert. Over the years, we have all come to expect to encounter unusual arrangements, moments that highlight superb musicians, and innovative ways to include all the greener musicians who sign on for the season. Last year Jay Hoggard played with them – and they left the hall after that concert on the balls of their feet, practically levitating up the stairs.”

“Thank you to Wesleyan for all their acts of inclusivity. Each Middletown student who purposefully steps onto campus, begins to imagine their future differently.” 

And thank you, Peter, for being gracious, skilled and undaunted.  I’m so pleased that my kids (and the other Middletown musicians) are participating in this wonderful ensemble.”

Here’s hoping you are able to join us tomorrow night!

WesWinds: Sounds In Motion
Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
An exploration of form and emotion by the Wesleyan Wind Ensemble under the direction of Peter Hadley, featuring works by Maurice Ravel, Percy Grainger, Johan de Meij, and others.

JoAnna Bourain ’12 interviews Jay Hoggard (April 28)

On Saturday April 28, the Wesleyan Music Department and the Center for the Arts present the Jay Hoggard Quartet. CFA Intern in Arts Administration JoAnna Bourain ’12 interviewed Wesleyan Adjunct Professor of Music Jay Hoggard about his upcoming performance.

Jay Hoggard. Photo by Santina Aldieri.

On Saturday night,  accomplished vibraphonist and Wesleyan music professor Jay Hoggard will be performing with the Jay Hoggard Quartet in Crowell Concert Hall. He will be joined by pianist and organist James Weidman and drummer Yoron Israel.  His special guests include Wesleyan Professor of Music and saxophonist Anthony Braxton, master percussionist Kwaku Kwaakye Martin Obeng, bassist Santi Debriano, woodwind player Marty Ehrlich, and harpist Brandee Younger.

Professor Hoggard explained that he has performed with the Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra both officially and unofficially for the past 20 years.  Saturday’s performance is different because the Jay Hoggard Quartet will be playing his original compositions. His excitement about the performance is infectious:  “Performing in Crowell Concert Hall is like performing in my living room – I feel at home there.” He explained to me, “Teaching is my day job – I am also a professional musician who performs and tours.” Jay Hoggard’s performance will be an occasion for his students, both past and present, to hear him play his own work. Mr. Hoggard is also well known in town as the charismatic band leader who takes the Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra to give free performances in Middletown schools.  Local families now have the chance to hear Mr. Hoggard’s music played as it should be played: in a major concert hall alongside his talented musician-friends.

Concerts like Professor Hoggard’s and other faculty productions are important because we (students) get to see how the faculty that have shaped us as artists work and perform. We are given the chance to understand how the skills and theory they have shared with us are called into practice in their own creative process. Faculty productions give us the opportunity to witness the necessary diligence and skill it takes to be a professional artist.

Perhaps, most importantly, these productions are the time in which we come to understand how impressive our faculty is and to reflect on how much knowledge we have gained from these substantial professors. Maybe I am feeling sentimental because graduation is just around the corner but faculty productions remind me of the inevitable transition from a student to a creative peer of our teachers. My confidence in making this transition is a testament to the arts faculty’s ability to share skills and information and their ability to cultivate creative students.

11th annual Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend
Jay Hoggard Quartet

Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 8pm

Crowell Concert Hall

Tickets: $15 general public; $12 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

As a part of the 11th annual Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend, the Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra, directed by Jay Hoggard, and the Wesleyan Jazz Ensemble, directed by Jazz Ensemble Coach Noah Baerman, will perform an exciting free concert of classic jazz compositions on Friday, April 27, 2012 at 8pm
 in Crowell Concert Hall

Neely Bruce discusses Fernando Otero (April 14)

CFA Intern in Arts Administration JoAnna Bourain ’12 interviewed Wesleyan Professor Neely Bruce about the importance of the Fernando Otero Quartet (Apr. 14).

Fernando Otero

The Fernando Otero Quartet mixes the sounds of classical music, improvisational jazz and tango. The result of this mixture produces music that is quite impressive—the lofty instrumentation creates the illusion of a vibrant narrative playing out. The Fernando Otero Quartet plays the work of the Argentine composer and pianist Fernando Otero, winner of the 2010 Latin Grammy for “Best Classical Album” for his album Vital. The performance will feature Pablo Aslan on acoustic bass, violinist Gabrielle Fink, and cellist Adam Fisher.

Neely Bruce, Professor of Music at Wesleyan, spoke to me about the music of the Fernando Otero Quartet. He explained that, “It’s exciting, it’s full of variety, it’s very dramatic, very rhythmically complex; it sounds like tango on steroids.” The music clearly conveys the sense of a narrative, a narrative that could really be anything — as Professor Bruce put it, “It could be a car chase or even two lovers.” When I asked Professor Bruce why people should see the concert, he explained to me that, “I think people should attend the concert because it’s dramatic music that has sudden shifts in moods that not everyone can cultivate these days — I think that he has a fresh voice that’s very distinctive. He’s also a virtuoso performer which in itself is a great thing to see.”

I deeply appreciate music that can appeal to both the trained ear and to the everyday person. It became evident to me after my conversation with Professor Bruce that Fernando Otero’s music manages to appeal to both my untrained sensibilities and Professor Bruce’s qualified ear. This inclusive quality mixed with a unique and interesting sound is surely to result in a very enjoyable concert.

Fernando Otero Quartet
Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 8pm

Crowell Concert Hall

Pre-concert talk by Professor of Music Neely Bruce at 7:15pm

Lecture/demonstration with quartet at 3:30pm in the Daltry Room (Music Rehearsal Hall 003) 

Tickets: $22 general public; $18 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

A Busy Week

Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge reflects on the many events that have taken place this week.

Monday, April 2, 2012: 

I had some wonderful conversations, emails and phone calls from students and community members who attended Chunky Move over the weekend.  I will say that I thought it was one of the most successful integrations of visual art and dance that I’ve ever witnessed, and I was particularly pleased that Gideon Obarzanek said he’s never seen Connected look better than it did in the CFA Theater.  For those of you who were there, thank you for supporting this important performance.

We sent out letters of acceptance to the Class of 2013’s Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance the same day we found out that the program will be receiving its first grant from the National Endowment for the Arts!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012:

I had lunch with Gillian Goslinga in Anthropology and Jill Sigman, Center for Creative Research Visiting Artist to hear about “Ritual, Health, and Healing”, the course they are co-teaching in Dance and Anthropology as a part of the Creative Campus Initiative.  It’s also a Service Learning Course and so they are taking their students to St. Nicks Alliance in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn on three Saturdays to conduct research with residents. It will culminate on Sunday, April 22, 2012 as a series of student performance works are presented alongside Sigman’s Thinkdance installation at St. Nicks.  See a reflection by one of the students in the class, Hannah Cressy ’13, here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012:

I attended the opening of the beautiful exhibition, Provincial Elegance: Chinese Antiques Donated in Honor of Houghton “Buck” Freeman, a collection of objects donated by Anna Lee ’84, that’s at the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies Gallery through Sunday, May 27, 2012. I was so moved by Patrick Dowdey’s story of how Anna made the contribution to Wesleyan in honor of the great spirit that was Buck Freeman, whose family made, and continues to make, so many great things possible at Wesleyan. Jean Shaw, former director of the Center for the Arts, told me that not only did Anna graduate the same year I did, but that Anna worked at the CFA when she was a student!

Reception for Senior Thesis Exhibition Week One (3/28/12). Photo by Nam Anh Ta '12.

I also attended the second week of the Senior Thesis Exhibitions in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. If you’ve never taken the time to attend one of the Wednesday receptions from 4pm to 6pm, then you are missing one of the great “scenes” at Wesleyan. Hundreds of students flock to Zilkha to see their fellow students’ capstone project.  All of us have the great opportunity to feel the pulse of contemporary art on our campus in all of its many manifestations, from JoAnna Bourain’s video animation installation [sometimes its hard 2 b a woman (i c u looking at me!!)] to Alex Chaves’ vibrant paintings [casual desire] in South Gallery. Exhibitions continue for the next two weeks, with receptions on Wednesday, April 11 and Wednesday, April 18, 2012.

Thursday, April 5, 2012:

Today I’m on a plane headed to Cleveland to do a site visit of Cuyahoga Community College’s Creative Campus project on behalf of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.  The project features the prolific and generous violin virtuoso, Daniel Bernard Roumain (you may remember him downstage left playing solo violin for Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s performance in the CFA Theater in 2006). He’s written an opera based on Gilgamesh and the composition has been offered on the web to anyone who wants to create their own work using his composition. He has truly democratized the creation process and tonight I’ll have the chance to see his ensemble perform alongside faculty, students and community members.

And I want to wish our senior thesis students in dance the best of luck on their thesis presentations in the Patricelli ’92 Theater, tonight through Saturday, April 7, 2012 at 8pm.  Click here for more information about the concerts.

It’s been a busy week.

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

Kinetic Sculpture Meets Dance: Chunky Move (Mar. 30 & 31)

Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge discusses Australian dance company Chunky Move, who present the Connecticut premiere of their hour-long work “Connected” on March 30 and 31.

The Center for the Arts has never hosted a dance company from Australia before, and it’s high time that we do, considering the strength of contemporary dance that is touring the world from down under.  And I can guarantee you’ve never seen anything like it.

Chunky Move: Connected. Pictured: Alisdair Macindoe and Marnie Palomares. Photo: Jeff Busby

Beginning with simple movements and hundreds of tiny pieces, the dancers build their performance while they construct a kinetic sculpture in real time. During the performance, these basic elements and simple physical connections quickly evolve into complex structures and relationships.  The work, Connected, is the brainchild of Chunky Move’s Artistic Director Gideon Obarzanek and California artist Reuben Margolin.  The two met at PopTech, the renowned conference that brings great minds together to focus on social change through current innovations in science, art and economics. The result is thrilling: athletic and agile dancers’ bodies twisting and hurtling through space, alongside movements from everyday life.  As Aldous Huxley wrote:  “All gods are homemade, and it is we who pull their strings, and so, give them the power to pull ours.”

Suzanne Sadler, the CFA’s Assistant Technical Director, said they’ve created two line sets that work in tandem, each with a truss, and the sculpture is attached with a circular pipe.  220 strings are suspended from there:  “I can’t wait to see it in the space. It’s going to look really beautiful.”

Chunky Move, along with Australian Dance Theater and Lucy Guerin’s company, have garnered great acclaim as they have toured the world.  The Dance Department and CFA were interested in bringing Connected because of its interdisciplinary nature.  When I was speaking with Kristy Edmunds, a faculty member in Wesleyan’s Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance, and the Director of UCLA Live (formerly the director of the Melbourne Festival), she said: “What is particularly intriguing about Gideon is his fascination and willingness to explore and collaborate with design and technologies. Increasingly, he is able to forge unique collaborations with artists from other fields, and orchestrate that discourse into a work of art where dance is the central vehicle.”

So we invite you to experience Chunky Move at the CFA this weekend – and if you come at 7:15pm on Friday in the CFA Hall, you’ll have a chance to hear dance scholar Debra Cash contextualize their work, and give you some things to look out for. Join us!

Chunky Move: Connected
Connecticut Premiere
Friday, March 30 and Saturday, March 31, 2012 at 8pm
CFA Theater
Pre-performance talk by dance scholar Debra Cash on Friday at 7:15pm in CFA Hall
Tickets: $21 general public; $18 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students, $6 Wesleyan students

Nik Owens ’12 interviews choreographer Garth Fagan about performance at DanceMasters Weekend (Mar. 10)

On Saturday March 10, the 13th annual DanceMasters Weekend Showcase Performance will feature the work of Garth Fagan Dance.  Nik Owens ’12 interviewed Garth Fagan about the upcoming performance.

Nik Owens ‘12: How did you get started in the dance world?

Vitolio Jeune of Garth Fagan Dance performing "Talking Drums" (an excerpt from the work "Senku", 2006). Photo by Brandan Bannon.

Garth Fagan: Well, way back in high school in Jamaica, someone got injured for a Christmas show that was being put up, and my gymnastics coach suggested that I fill in. I did – and everyone said I was the best thing since ‘sliced bread’; I was just doing what my partner for the show was telling me to do.  Afterwards, this same partner said I should take dancing lessons.

Next thing I knew I was dancing with a company in Jamaica. They were able to travel to places that I couldn’t go and they had access to resources that I didn’t have at the time and, as a result, I moved to the States and attended college at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.  Pat Wellings, a professor at Wayne State at the time, helped me choreograph my first piece called Contemplation. This piece was done in silence, which in the ’60s was quite daring and bold.  The daring and boldness that I had was characteristic of many young people in the ’60s. It was a great piece.

Later on, I joined Dance Theater of Detroit and was a principal soloist and choreographer with them.  I had a junior high school boys’ dance company at the time as well.  All of these things helped to establish the foundation for Garth Fagan Dance.  Since then, I’ve choreographed for New York City Ballet, Limón Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and other companies as well.

NO: Your website mentions that some of your greatest influences as an artist are Pearl Primus and Lavinia Williams.  What about their work most influences you during your choreographic process?

GF: I danced with Lavinia Williams (who was Sara Yarborough’s [a highly esteemed dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater] mother). She gave me a truly strong sense of the movement of the back as well the use of polyrhythms.  Pearl Primus taught me about learning things QUICKLY and at a very fast pace.  She would have a rehearsal in the morning, run it again in the afternoon, and then have the performance at night. Both Lavinia Williams and Pearl Primus were Caribbean women, which helped to make my learning experience and my relations with them even stronger. Other teachers included Martha Graham, who taught me about discipline; José Limón, who taught me about the importance of looking at your roots and heritage; and Alvin Ailey, who was one of the most important people I’ve ever met.  He helped me with my confidence as an artist as well as giving me money to get started in the world of dance in America.

NO: What aspects of the Caribbean tradition do you covet most in your works?

GF: Mostly the polyrhythms, polyrhythms with ease. In Jamaica it’s usually pretty hot (86 degrees underneath a tree) so we always do things with ease. You see polyrhythms oozing all over the place. But I’m really and truly a diehard modern choreographer.  However, I do have a lot of ballet in my work, but even then I stretch from it.

NO: What made you decide to start you own dance school?

GF: I wanted to see certain things on stage that I wasn’t seeing anywhere else.  I love the speed of ballet but wasn’t going to be in dances about swans and princesses.  I love the polyrhythms from the Caribbean.  I love the weight of modern dance. And I love the issues that postmodern dance deals with.  I wanted to see all of that combined on stage.

NO: Which works will you be presenting during DanceMasters Weekend at Wesleyan University on Saturday, March 10, 2012?

GF: I will be featuring two works at Wesleyan: Talking Drums by Vitolio Jeune, and Thanks Forty, which celebrates Garth Fagan Dance’s 40th anniversary. This work features Steve Humphrey, Lindsay Renée, Shannon Castle, and Norwood Pennywell (who is the rehearsal director for Garth Fagan Dance as well a Bessie Award recipient).

13th annual DanceMasters Weekend Showcase Performance
Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 8pm

CFA Theater
$27 general public; $20 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $8 Wesleyan students

The DanceMasters Showcase will feature performances by Pilobolus, Camille A. Brown & Dancers, and Garth Fagan DanceNatalie Rogers-Cropper of Garth Fagan Dance will be teaching a Master Class at 11am on Saturday in the CFA Dance Studio.

JoAnna Bourain ’12 interviews choreographer Camille A. Brown (Mar. 10)

On Saturday March 10, the 13th annual DanceMasters Weekend Showcase Performance will feature the work of Camille A. Brown & Dancers. Center for the Arts Intern JoAnna Bourain ’12 interviewed Camille A. Brown about her creative process and her upcoming performance.

JoAnna Bourain ’12: How does your creative process work? Why are you drawn to certain subject matters? Do you derive your creativity from your own everyday experiences or is it more abstracted and observational?

Camille A. Brown. Photo by Matt Karas.

Camille A. Brown: My process is different for every piece that I create. I believe that the space is a living organism, so it’s important to have some sort of spontaneity when creating a new work. Sometimes I’m immediately drawn to music, a singer/composer/musician, or something that I’ve heard or was suggested that I research. From there, the music inspires the movement. Other times I have an idea in my head that I decide to explore in space. To be honest, the latter is harder because, now that I have the ‘perfect’ image in my head, the task is to marry the movement and concept with music. It must align perfectly! Since I love injecting aspects of theater in my work, I bring in an actor and dramaturge with whom I have close relationships to work with the company to fully portray characters with integrity. We have acting classes, group discussions; we allow these things to inform where the piece goes. It also challenges me to look at the work objectively. Having those extra sets of eyes from a different perspective is a jewel.

The dancers give the work breath. I am greatly influenced by their choices in space, their approach to the movement, how they grow within the work, making it their own. Their connection to space, the earth, their spirit. It all helps to show individuality within the ensemble works that I create.

As a choreographer, I am interested in that space between dance and theater where interdisciplinary work defies category and takes flight. Music is one of the main driving forces of my work. As an artist, it is imperative that I “drink” the music and move in a way that is the music. For me, there is no separation in my understanding of choreography; I move seamlessly between music, theater and dance. Informed by my music background as a clarinetist, I create choreography that utilizes musical composition as storytelling. I love investigating the silent space within the measure. Singers also influence me — how they each use their vocal tone and modulation informs me in how to use my body in creating multiple levels of expression.

I am interested in telling stories beyond just dance. I have always been fascinated with history — the past, the everyday lives of my ancestors. I love exploring an “understanding” of their lives, tying history to my personal experiences and bringing those things to life. I build dance vocabulary from a very personal place. Characters are facets of my life; my experience is a lens into the past and the present. The work of the company is strongly character based, expressing whatever the topic is by building from little moments, modeling a filmic sensibility.

The work comes from both personal experiences and observational ones. I am generally a private person, so most of the time you will not be able to pinpoint what is my true story versus the observational one. They’re kind of one-in-the-same. I like moving through concepts — becoming a character, and allowing my personal experiences to give a unique, personalized breath to the voice. I inject the personal in the pockets of storytelling.

JB: I have been watching your work online over and over again trying to pin down what is communicated to me in your choreography and performance. Words that come to mind are:  power, speed, dynamism, narrative, communication, theater, history. If you had to choose words or messages that you try to communicate in your work, what would they be?

Unrestricted storytelling
Earthbound movement
Spatial exploration
Weight shift
Plié- oh how I love the plié!
Celebrating history with a direct connection to the present

JB: Why do you think people should come to the performance?

CAB: This is a hard question because the answer I give will obviously be from a subjective place. Dance is what I live and breathe every day. It’s my movement through space and life as a whole. I would say people should come to the show to get an intimate view of who Camille is — who Camille A. Brown & Dancers are. Hopefully they will see our personal stories and that will provoke them to share their own. This is what sharing your work is about. I am looking forward to introducing my voice to Wesleyan.

13th annual DanceMasters Weekend Showcase Performance
Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 8pm

CFA Theater
$27 general public; $20 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $8 Wesleyan students

The DanceMasters Showcase will feature performances by Pilobolus, Camille A. Brown & Dancers, and Garth Fagan Dance. Ms. Brown is the 2012 winner of the Mariam McGlone Emerging Choreographer Award. Ms. Brown will be teaching a Master Class at 1pm on Saturday in the CFA Dance Studio.

Artist in Residence Hari Krishnan brings his Toronto-based company inDANCE to Wesleyan Mar. 2 & 3

Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge discusses the Spring Faculty Dance Concert with Artist in Residence Hari Krishnan.

inDANCE. Photo by Miles Brokenshire.

If you’ve not encountered Wesleyan’s Artist in Residence, Hari Krishnan, you must.  He came to Wesleyan’s Dance Department in 2001, and since then has developed a real student appetite for bharata natyam (South Indian classical dance) on our campus.  What is less known about Hari is that he is the Artistic Director of one of Canada’s most respected dance companies:  Toronto’s inDANCE.  Wesleyan presented the American debut of this company in 2006 [during the annual Navaratri Festival that October] and since then, inDANCE has made its New York debut and has been presented by performing arts centers around the world.

You’ll have the chance to see inDANCE again this weekend at the CFA Theater when nine male dancers from the company will perform U.S. premiere of Quicksand, hailed by Michael Crabb of The Toronto Star as “rambunctiously provocative work…a techno-hip, strutting declaration of freedom from the constraints of tradition and conventional sexuality.”

“Quicksand” will be followed by the world premiere of “Nine”, which depicts Navarasa, the nine archetypal emotions popular in Indian classical dance, choreographed on dancers from Wesleyan Dance Department‘s repertory and performance course. ”Nine” almost serves as a kind of backstory for “Quicksand.”

When I met with Hari yesterday, he said the evening is an exploration of a single idea from two perspectives, two languages, the classical and the post-modern.  Taken in its totality, the program serves to enmesh two aspects of his choreographic life that have, at times, been at odds with each other.  He’s the Artistic Director of a major contemporary dance company and a professor of classical Indian dance, so respected that he was asked to perform at the prestigious Music Academy in Madras this past January.  “’Quicksand’ is a personal manifesto of sorts….its feeling is free and liberating…it uses the traditional form as a springboard to create a personal dialogue relevant to today, and asks the question, how current can you make the traditional feel?” “Nine” reveals the classical bharata natyam take on these emotions.

Hari’s dancers arrived on Tuesday night and have put our students through their paces by taking over the Modern I-III classes. This weekend, students in Wesleyan’s Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance will also have the opportunity to meet Hari, discuss his work, and see his performance.

Spring Faculty Dance Concert
Friday, March 2 & Saturday, March 3, 2012 at 8pm

CFA Theater

$6 Wesleyan students, $8 all others

“SPILL”, directed by Leigh Fondakowski, in Beckham Hall (Feb. 25 & 26)

Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge talks to Josh Cohen ’14 and Matthew Krakauer ’14 about what they learned from writer Leigh Fondakowski and scientist Barry Chernoff. “SPILL”, Ms. Fondakowski‘s collaboration with visual artist Reeva Wortel, will be performed in Beckham Hall this weekend (Feb. 25 & 26).

"SPILL" portraits and photos by Reeva Wortel.

I went to Beckham Hall on Tuesday as Leigh Fondakowski and Reeva Wortel were loading in elements for SPILL, a new work that Wesleyan and others have commissioned about the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill.  We’ve seen images of Reeva’s portraits, but finally we were able to see the eight foot tall canvasses unpacked.  They are life-sized representations of the people whom Fondakowski and Wortel interviewed, people whose lives were changed forever.

This weekend, the stories of oyster fishermen, Tea Party Republicans, families of oil riggers and others will be told in a choral reading format by Fondakowski’s New York-based cast.  Wesleyan students also had the chance to meet and interview some of these people when they took a course that Fondakowski and Barry Chernoff, Director of the College of the Environment, co-taught last summer in and around New Orleans.

They learned about the aftermath of the spill through the lens of a scientist and an artist. They toured the beaches and the bayou, understanding the science of what occurred and meeting with scientists about the condition of coastal wildlife. They also learned Fondakowski’s interviewing techniques and how she uses a technique entitled Moment Work to create a piece of theater.  When I saw Josh Cohen ’14, a student in the course at Young Jean Lee’s talk this week, he said: “I have to go back to Louisiana. [Fondakowski and Chernoff] introduced me to a world I’d never experienced before. I learned about making theater from the ground up. As a result, it completely changed the way I look at everything. I can’t wait to see Leigh’s play.” He was with Matthew Krakauer ’14, another student in the course: “I learned a completely new way to think about theater. I had one mindset about how theater is made, but this class changed everything. In fact, Moment Work informed how I experienced my entire time there. I can’t wait to go back.”

Tickets for SPILL are extremely limited: only 50 per performance, so if you are interested in attending, do buy your tickets early.

Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 7pm & 10pm

Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 2pm & 7pm
Fayerweather Beckham Hall
, Wyllys Avenue
$12 general public; $10 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $5 Wesleyan students

Theater’s Rashida Z. Shaw ’99 discusses spoken word artist Javon Johnson (Feb. 23)

Javon Johnson

As a member of the Outside the Box Theater Series planning committee, Assistant Professor of Theater Rashida Z. Shaw ’99 said this campus needs to see Javon Johnson.  She and Dr. Johnson were Ph.D. students together at Northwestern University, he in Performance Studies and she in Theater and Drama. Because these are sister programs, they had a number of classes together and became friends.

Javon, a spoken word artist and scholar, is now based in Los Angeles, where he has a huge following.  He has performed at major venues around the country and has been featured on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, among other television programs. Next week, he’ll be in residence visiting classes and meeting with members of WeSLAM and other poets and theater students on campus.  And on Thursday evening, February 23, he performs in Crowell Concert Hall , as a part of this year’s Theater Department/Center for the Arts “Outside the Box Theater Series”.

“I used to have Javon come and perform in all of my political theater courses and in classes that dealt with solo performance.  He has the ability to integrate popular culture with scholarship and political critique – all in a humorous package. Spoken word artists straddle the line between poetry and theater. What I remember most about Javon is his captivating energy – he has a vocal dexterity and a physical range that make his performances interesting not only on a textual level, but you also get caught up in how he is delivering his poems, and that makes you want to know more about who he is,” said Dr. Shaw. “Not all spoken word artists can hit all of these levels.”  Dr. Shaw and Dr. Johnson were reunited at Northwestern when they both graduated last June, and Dr. Shaw looks forward to welcoming him to Wesleyan and to Middletown next week.

An Evening of Spoken Word with Javon Johnson
Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$15 general public; $12 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students