Thesis Theater This Week: Spotlight on Samantha Joy Pearlman ’11

An interview with Samantha Joy Pearlman ’11 by Sarah Wolfe ‘12.

Devotedly Sincerely Yours
Devotedly Sincerely Yours

This Thursday, April 7 and Friday, April 8, the Center for the Arts will travel back to World War II to experience the life of an American woman who participated in the USO Camp Shows. The solo performance, titled Devotedly, Sincerely Yours: The Story of the USO, counts as the creative component for Samantha Pearlman’s senior thesis in the Theater Department. Sitting down with Pearlman last week, we discussed how she came to this topic, the history of the United Service Organizations (USO) Camp Shows, Inc., and the process involved in putting on a show at Wesleyan.

The story follows the style of the USO’s radio broadcasts, which featured Hollywood stars like Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Lena Horne and Bob Hope singing to American soldiers all over the world, as well as telling jokes and humorous anecdotes. Pearlman’s character and the host for Devotedly, Sincerely Yours is based on the career of Louise Buckley as a USO entertainer.   Pearlman came across the character through a letter Buckley wrote describing her experience as an entertainer.  Pearlman describes the find as, “an 8 page, single spaced letter, one of the most beautiful letters I’ve ever read, and she just poured her heart out about her experience overseas and what it was like living there. A lot of the text of my show is taken from the letter.”

Pearlman also draws on a variety of sources for the text of the performance, inspired by the work of playwright Charles Mee, who wrote Big Love, which Pearlman acted in her freshman year.  She comments that, “he works in collage and assemblage… I always kind of wanted to do something like that, and so this project for me was my chance to get my feet wet in creating some kind of piece of musical theater, and then also taking all the tools I’ve learned as an actress here.” Pearlman took Professor Ron Jenkin’s “Solo Performance” theater class which granted her the skills to create and star in this one-woman theatrical event.

Due to Pearlman’s strong musical background, she was able to challenge herself through this performance by utilizing her voice and musical theater abilities to express the broad range of emotions needed for a powerful show. The songs chosen come from wartime periods between 1915 and 1945.  She found these after long searches through the Music Division of the New York Public Library, Olin Library, and eBay purchases from “people who are auctioning off what’s in grandma’s attic, and have no idea what they have.”  Sorting through approximately 300 songs, she managed to narrow the numbers down to eight that will be performed as a part of Louise’s story.

It was easy to see Pearlman’s enthusiasm and love for the project while she spoke about the process. She spoke with exceptional ardor about the music, stating that it was the part of the performance she most looks forward to. She’s been working with senior Ian Coss, a banjo player, who Pearlman describes as an “amazingly talented, unbelievably dedicated music student”, and they have met together since last semester to compile and arrange the music for the performance. The show includes an eight piece, all-male band.  Each of the men in the ensemble play a soldier who might be watching and experiencing the performance. “I remember, the first band rehearsal [when] they played the opening fanfare of the show . . . I literally was just beaming, I couldn’t believe that this was happening.”

Pearlman, eager to share her work states, “I’m excited to have the opportunity to present my work and have a lot of fun with it, and hopefully make people think about American identity, American wars, and especially about being an American woman.” The show presents American culture and history through an artistic form that will present enthusiastic Wesleyan students.  Not to be missed, Devotedly, Sincerely Yours represents the end of Pearlman’s career at Wesleyan, but a stunning ode to what the time at Wesleyan can allow a student to create.

“Devotedly, Sincerely Yours” plays April 7 and 8 in the CFA Theater at 8pm. Admission is free, but tickets are required. There is a two ticket limit per person. Tickets are available on the day of each performance at the box office, located in the Usdan University Center, 45 Wyllys Avenue, or by calling (860) 685-3355.

The other ensemble members include Ian Coss ’11, Jack Gallagher ’12, William Frakner ‘14, Jacob Hiss ‘13, Myles Potters ‘12, Owen Callahan ‘12, Issac Silk ‘14, Daniel Moakley ‘13, and Zachary Rosen ‘11. “Devotedly, Sincerely Yours” is also inspired by, or takes texts from, Louise Buckley, Grace Drysdale, Maxine Andrews, Ann Miller, Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Arch Oboler, Robert B. Westbrook, Tampax Incorporated, Woman Power Campaigns, the National Center for PTSD, Four Jills and a Jeep, the USO Camp Show Inc. “Guide to the Foxhole Circuit,” Command Performance, Mail Call, BBC Radio Broadcasts, and the USO Camp Show Inc. Publicity Records (1941-1945), among others.

Thesis Dance This Weekend: Spotlight on Sarah Ashkin ‘11

Spring Senior Thesis Dance Concert
Photo by Lindsay Keys

Center for the Arts Intern Lucy Strother ’11 interviews dance thesis choreographer Sarah Ashkin ’11 in anticipation of this weekend’s Spring Senior Thesis Dance Concert performances.

This Thursday through Saturday, senior dance majors will showcase their choreography at the Spring Senior Thesis Dance Concert performances. I asked senior dance major Sarah Ashkin for some more information about the concerts and her featured work, Dismantle.

LS: Have the dance majors been giving and receiving feedback from each other all semester, or will this be the first time you see each other’s work?

SA: There is one thesis showing before the performance, where all the senior majors and faculty offer feedback for the works in progress.  By the time we get to the show, the pieces have usually changed drastically, sometimes based on the feedback and other times because the process of making art takes us on many detours. It’s tough to have spring break interrupting the process, so a lot of extra finesse goes into these last weeks.

LS: What themes have influenced and inspired your dance, Dismantle?

SA: Dismantle has been a dance research into the body of the capitalist worker, an investigation of how all of our bodies are greatly affected by the work environment of “produce, produce, produce.”   The body is literally maimed and forgotten in this process of “mind over matter” to meet the deadline.  My dancers and I have explored how to create the “factory body” and how to dismantle it.  However, this is just one narrative that can be read from the piece, and I am open and interested to hear any others from witnesses.

LS: How does Dismantle relate to your piece from fall semester and to the research component of your thesis?

SA: Last semester my piece Soft Catapult was interested in the different ways tension and release play out in public and private spaces.  It was a much more open and abstract collage of images than Dismantle, which I consider to be my most linear work.

Both pieces were spawned from my thesis research in what I am calling Somatic Cultural Praxis; in other words, those places and times in our lives where the connection between mind, body, and spirit is cultivated and expressed.  I see my dances as embodied research into how somatic praxis can be uniquely crafted in each group of dancers that I work with, and how we can present our inner findings in a public art setting.

LS: Why are you looking forward to the performances this weekend?

SA: I am most excited to have my little sister come see the show.  She hasn’t seen any of my work since I have been in college, and to finally show her what it is that I do, and hopefully impart to her why I believe dance is so important, will be really special.  But it is going to be a very bittersweet weekend.   The support that Wesleyan shows for student dance is really incredible. I am going to have to look long and hard to find anything as nurturing and challenging.

Spring Senior Thesis Dance Concert
Thursday, March 31 – Saturday, April 2, 8pm
Patricelli ’92 Theater
$4 Wesleyan students, $5 all others

Viver Brasil performances to feature sacred and secular Brazilian dance, capoeira, and percussion

An interview with Eric Galm (Ph.D.’04)  by Center for the Arts Intern and Music Major Lucia Strother ’11

In anticipation of this weekend’s upcoming performances by Viver Brasil, I spoke with Eric Galm, Wesleyan graduate and professor of music and ethnomusicology at Trinity College. Galm is an expert in Brazilian music, and provided some valuable background information for Friday and Saturday’s performances.

Viver Brasil
Photo by Jorge Vismara

A large portion of Brazilian music and dance has emerged from the music and dance of the African diaspora, and in Brazil, music and dance are virtually inseparable. Eric highlighted two categories of Brazilian tradition that illustrate this connection and will be represented in this weekend’s performances. Sacred music and dancing, known as candomblé, expresses African-derived religion that is still found in Brazil. There is also a lot of African-derived social dancing, generally known as batuque (the generic label applied by the Portuguese during early years in Brazil).

Later, the samba emerged through a mix of European dance styles and variants of these African dances, and is now the most popular form of music and dance in Brazil. Samba and its accompanying music was popularized in the 1930s, when dictator Getúlio Vargas made it the “official dance” of Brazil in an attempt to unify the regionally segmented nation.

Viver Brasil’s performance this weekend will extract motifs, phrases and elements from these traditional forms, and transpose them to the stage using the choreography and storytelling of modern dance. Eric previewed the program of Viver Brasil’s performance and identified that the first half will be based on sacred dance forms, while the second half will feature several types of secular dance.

In the first half, dances will invoke specific deities from Afro-Brazilian religious tradition. Eric elaborated on the way the religious storytelling is incorporated in Brazilian music and dance:

“Each of the spirits have their own set of songs and musical rhythms. For example, Xango is the god of thunder and guardian of the drums. He’s represented by the colors red and white, and dances with a double-headed hatchet or axe. There are a certain set of markers that identify him, and a strict set of songs and rhythms that make up his music.”

Therefore, anyone steeped in these religious expressions would be able to identify a particular deity and follow the storyline.

Each of the secular traditions that will be featured in the performance’s second half has its own extensive body of work with songs to choose from and adapt to the stage. One piece, In Motion, will feature capoeira, an “Afro-Brazilian martial arts dance game.” Eric mentioned that he has seen other modern dance representations of capoeira and been disappointed by the decision of those companies to eliminate the one-on-one, combat element that is so central to the art.

Audiences should expect a lot of percussion, much of it improvised. Sometimes, as in the case of the berimbau, a one-stringed percussion instrument, the percussion will actually inform the dancers’ movement. The music will also feature female vocalists and melodic instruments like flute or saxophone. I’m excited to see the variety these performances will offer, and happy to have the opportunity to experience a category of world music that is under-represented at Wesleyan.

Friday, March 25 & Saturday, March 26, 8pm
Pre-performance talk by Debra Cash in the CFA Hall at 7:15pm before the Friday performance
CFA Theater
$23 general public, $19 seniors, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students, $8 Wesleyan students

Who’s Who in the Creation of “The Matter of Origins”

Liz Lerman (Founding Artistic Director) is a choreographer, performer,
writer, educator and speaker. Described by the Washington Post as “the
source of an epochal revolution in the scope and purposes of dance art,”
her dance/theater works have been seen throughout the United States and
abroad. Her aesthetic approach spans the range from abstract to personal
to political, while her working process emphasizes research, translation
between artistic media and intensive collaboration with dancers,
communities and thinkers from diverse disciplines. She founded Liz Lerman
Dance Exchange in 1976 and has cultivated the company’s unique
multi-generational ensemble into a leading force in contemporary dance.
Liz has been the recipient of numerous honors, including the American
Choreographer Award, Washingtonian magazine’s 1988 Washingtonian of the
Year and a 2002 MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship. Liz’s work has been
commissioned by Lincoln Center, American Dance Festival, BalletMet, the
Kennedy Center and Harvard Law School, among many others. From 1994 to
1996, in collaboration with the Music Hall of Portsmouth, New Hampshire,
Liz directed the Shipyard Project, which has been widely noted as an
example of the power of art to enhance such values as social capital and
civic dialogue. From 1999 to 2002 she led Hallelujah, which engaged people
in 15 cities throughout the United States in the creation of a series of
dances “in praise of” topics vital to their communities. She created
Ferocious Beauty: Genome, premiered in 2006, with the participation of
more than 30 scientists and has toured it to sites throughout North
America, including the Mayo Clinic and the Ontario Genomics Institute. Liz
addresses arts, community and business organizations both nationally and
internationally. Sites of recent speaking engagements include the Abbey
Theatre in Dublin, the Big Intensive at Sadler’s Wells in London, and
Harvard University. She is the author of Teaching Dance to Senior Adults
(1983) and Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process (2003), and has written
articles and reviews for such publications as Faith and Form, Movement
Research and Washington Post Book World. Co-commissioned by the University
of Maryland and Montclair State University, her newest work, The Matter of
Origins, examines the question of beginnings through dance, media and
innovative formats for conversation. Her collection of essays, titled
Hiking the Horizontal: Field Notes from a Choreographer, is due out from
Wesleyan University Press in spring of 2011. Born in Los Angeles and
raised in Milwaukee, Liz attended Bennington College and Brandeis
University, received her B.A. in dance from the University of Maryland,
and an M.A. in dance from George Washington University. She is married to
storyteller Jon Spelman. Their daughter Anna recently graduated from

Amelia Cox (Creative Producer) has been working in performance since 1989.
For several years post-college she worked nationally and internationally
with Double Edge Theater (MA) and the Gardzienice Center for Theatre
Practices (Poland), making theater happen in spaces from a
nineteenth-century barn in Massachusetts to a hilltop medieval fortress in
Romania. She came to the mid-Atlantic region in 2002 as the technical
director of Baltimore Theatre Project. Since 2005 she has worked at Dance
Exchange, leading production for the premieres of Small Dances About Big
, Ferocious Beauty: Genome, Man/Chair Dances, Funny Uncles, Imprints
on a Landscape: The Mining Project
, 613 Radical Acts of Prayer, The
Farthest Earth from Thee
, Drift and now The Matter of Origins. With Dance
Exchange she has also remounted several other dances, and traveled to
sites from Vancouver, BC, to Burlington, VT, for the company’s animated
keynotes. She holds a B.A. in Theatre from Hope College (MI), and an
M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College (NC).

Born in Richmond, Virginia, Ami Dowden-Fant (Adjunct Artist) began her
dance training at the Richmond Dance Center. She has received numerous
special recognitions including the Outstanding Choreographer and Performer
Award from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a two-year scholarship to
attend the Bates Dance Festival, where she worked with Doug Varone, Robert
Moses, Joanna Mendl Shaw and Bebe Miller. Recently Ami pursued her B.F.A.
in Dance and Choreography at Virginia Commonwealth University where she
studied with Gerri Houlihan, Heidi Weiss, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Tania
Issac and Dr. James Frazier. Ami has danced for Starr Foster Dance
Project, Charles O. Anderson and Gesel Mason with Mason/Rhynes
Performance Projects. Her work has been performed at the National American
College Dance Festival Gala in New York City at Barnard College, Koresh Artist
Showcase and the CEC in Philadelphia. Currently Ami is freelancing in
Philadelphia. She is in the lab with her company hersouldances
( working on new projects. She dedicates her hard work,
love and commitment for dance to her grandfather.

Thomas Dwyer (Company Member) began a dance career with Liz Lerman
Dance Exchange after retiring from the U.S. government service in June 1988.
His choreography, known for employing community-based seniors, has been
presented at Dance Place, the Church Street Theatre in Washington D.C. and
the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland.

Sarah Gubbins (Dramaturg) is a Chicago playwright whose most recent play,
Fair Use, was produced at Actor’s Express in Atlanta after being developed
at the Steppenwolf Theater Company. Her plays have also been read or
developed at the Public Theater, About Face Theatre, Chicago Dramatists,
Next Theatre Company and Collaboraction.

Matt Hubbs (Associate Sound Designer) has recently designed Telephone for
the Foundry Theatre, 1001 at Mixed Blood Theatre, Blueprints of Relentless
and 613 Radical Acts of Prayer for Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, 100
Saints You Should Know
at Playwrights Horizons, and the National
Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. A company
member of the TEAM, he has designed Architecting, Particularly in the
, a Thousand Natural Shocks, and Mission Drift. As an associate
designer, he has recently worked at MTC’s Friedman Theatre, the Ethel
Barrymore Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, Playwrights Horizons, The
Public Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club and La Jolla Playhouse. He has also
toured with SITI Company and the rachel’s band. He received his B.A. in
Philosophy as a University Scholar at Xavier University.

Ted Johnson (Adjunct Artist) is a dancer of long standing with the
company. He was a member of Bebe Miller Company (1995-2003) and Ralph
Lemon Company (1994-95). He has also worked with choreographers Amy Sue
Rosen, David Alan Harris, Sarah Pogostin, Eun Me Ahn, Cheng-Chieh Yu and
more recently, Colleen Thomas and Bill Young, among others. His
improvisational work has been featured in collaborative ventures onstage
with Kirstie Simson, Gabriel Forestieri and Kayoko Nakajima. Ted has a
background in visual arts (drawing, photography, painting and design),
theater and voice. He has been a student of Klein/Mahler Technique with
Barbara Mahler and Susan Klein for over a decade, and continues a practice
in contact improvisation (CI).

Meg Kelly (Production Coordinator and Assistant Stage Manager) joined
Dance Exchange full time in December 2008 after stage managing The
Farthest Earth from Thee
(Capital Fringe 2007) and Muscle and Mortar
(Capital Fringe 2008). She works behind the scenes to keep Dance
Exchange’s productions running smoothly and serves as the stage manager
for Drift, Blueprints of Relentless Nature, Running with the Wind and
numerous keynotes, company concerts and community projects. She has
worked locally at the Shakespeare Theatre Company and Round House Theatre
and holds a B.F.A. in theater design and technology from the University of

Logan Kibens (Projection Design) is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker. Her
work as a video designer includes projects in Chicago for Steppenwolf
Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, Lucky Plush and Lookingglass Theatre, and in
D.C. at The Washington Opera. Her films have screened at venues such as
The Chicago International Film Festival, The Brooklyn Museum of Art and
REDCAT Theater Los Angeles. Currently her film Recessive, a
narrative/documentary hybrid, is touring festivals. She holds an M.F.A. in
Film Directing from CalArts.

Lisa LaCharite-Lostritto (Tea Graphics Designer) is a designer currently
operating in the Boston area. With a professional education in
architecture, Lisa’s research, practice and teaching focuses on harvesting
history, culture and collective human consciousness in the experimental
shaping of visual environments. Lisa is co-founder of 0095b6, a
collaboration providing services in graphic, media and architectural
design. Before relocating to the Boston area in 2010 she was an adjunct
instructor at the Corcoran College of Art + Design. In this role she
revised and evolved the advanced digital graphics courses for interior and
exhibit design students.

Sarah Levitt (Company Member) is a dancer, choreographer, and teacher
based in the Washington, D.C. area. She received her B.A. in Dance from
the University of Maryland, College Park in 2007, where she held a
Creative and Performing Arts Scholarship in Dance and was awarded the
Dorothy Madden Emerging Artist Award upon graduation. Sarah has danced in
the work of Robert Battle, Liz Lerman, Gesel Mason, Cassie Meador, Tzveta
Kassabova, PearsonWidrig DanceTheater, and Keith Thompson. Sarah began
working with the Dance Exchange in 2007, and became a full-time company
member in 2010. She has performed and taught with the company at theatres,
universities, senior centers and in community settings across the U.S. and
abroad. Sarah’s work has been presented by Dance Place, McDonogh School,
and Artomatic, and she is the recipient of Individual Artist Awards from
the Maryland State Arts Council in Choreography (2009) and Solo
Performance (2010). She and company member Benjamin Wegman are 2011
recipients of the Kennedy Center’s Local Dance Commissioning Project for
their new work, Hammock, which will premiere in fall 2011 on the Kennedy
Center’s Millennium Stage.

Michael Mazzola‘s (Scenic and Lighting Designer) critically lauded designs
have been in venues in the U.S. and Europe, ranging from opera houses to
circus tents to outdoor amphitheaters. A three-time BESSIE Award winner,
he has recently designed lighting and scenery for National Ballet of
Finland, Oregon Ballet Theatre, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Bebe Miller
Company, Rumpus Room, Royal Ballet of Flanders and Liz Lerman Dance
Exchange. In the past two years Michael has achieved awards on the West
Coast for his lighting of musical theater and drama.

Paloma McGregor (Adjunct Artist) is a New York-based dancer,
choreographer and co-founder of Angela’s Pulse, a collaborative performance company.
Her choreography has been presented throughout New York, including
at The Kitchen, Harlem Stage, EXIT Art, the Brecht Forum, Tribeca Performing Arts
Center and Bronx Academy of Art and Dance, as well as at Yale University,
UCLA, The Dance Place in Washington D.C. and Cleveland Public Theatre. Her
current project, Blood Dazzler, is a dance theater adaptation of poet
Patricia Smith’s award-winning book about Hurricane Katrina; the
evening-length work premiered in September 2010 at Harlem Stage. Paloma
has performed at City Center, the Joyce Theater, the Kennedy Center, BAM
and the United Nations. She toured internationally for five years with the
critically acclaimed Urban Bush Women dance company. Paloma earned her
B.S. in Journalism (Florida A & M University) and her M.F.A. in Dance
(Case Western Reserve University).

Cassie Meador (Company Member) is a choreographer, performer and teacher based
in Washington D.C. Originally from Georgia, she joined the Liz
Lerman Dance Exchange in 2002. She has created dances in communities
throughout the U.S. and internationally in Japan, Canada, London, Ireland
and Guyana. As an educator, she has taught at the Maryland Institute
College of Art, Dance Center — Columbia College in Chicago, Brown
University, Wesleyan University, Kyoto Arts Center, The Place, Sadler’s
Wells, Royal Opera House in London, Bates Dance Festival and American
Dance Festival. Cassie received her B.F.A. in Dance from The Ohio State
University, where she was the recipient of an honor’s research scholarship
in Choreography. Cassie currently serves as a Project Director and
choreographer at the Dance Exchange. In 2006 she co-directed the premiere
of 613 Radical Acts of Prayer: Opening Acts with Liz Lerman at the New
Jersey Performing Arts Center. In 2008, Cassie received a commissioning
grant from John F. Kennedy Center for her work, Drift, which has been
presented at the Kennedy Center, Dance Place and Kohler Arts Center. Her
work has also been presented at the Bealtaine Festival in Ireland, the
Asian Contemporary Art Museum in Fukuoka, Japan, Round House Theatre,
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center and the Camden Opera House. She is
the recipient of the 2009 Metro D.C. Dance Award for emerging
choreographer. In 2009, Cassie was part of the Feet to the Fire project at
Wesleyan University, where she co-taught a course on tropical ecology with
artist Matt Mahaney and Professor Barry Chernoff. The team traveled to
Guyana and worked with science and art students to bring both artistic and
scientific tools to bear on such topics as ecology and global warming. Her
current choreographic project at the Dance Exchange, How To Lose a
, will include a 500-mile journey on foot from Washington, D.C. to
West Virginia to trace the sources of the energy that fuel her home.

Naoko Nagata (Costume Design) started her career as a biochemist in Japan.
In 1998 with no formal training, Nagata created her first costume (for
Jeanine Durning). Since then, she has been creating non-stop for a diverse
group of choreographers and dancers, collaborating with Amanda Loulaki,
Bebe Miller, David Dorfman Dance, Doug Elkins, David Neumann, Ellis Wood,
Gina Gibney, Liz Lerman, Nina Winthrop, Nora Chipaumire, Reggie Wilson,
Tiffany Mills, Urban Bush Women, Zvi Gotheiner and many others. Nagata
helps bring to life what she calls, “the creation of a shared dream.”

Tamara Hurwitz Pullman (Adjunct Artist) has danced with companies
including the Jose Limon Dance Company, Ann Vachon Dance Conduit, Pacific
Dance Ensemble and Rosanna Gamson Worldwide. As a dance educator, she has
taught dance to people of many ages and abilities in different settings
ranging from dance conservatories to YMCAs. She received her B.F.A. from
UMass Amherst and M.F.A. from Temple University. The Matter of Origins is
Tamara’s second project with Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. She and her family
live in Los Angeles.

Shula Strassfeld (Company Member) began dancing “too late” and has been
dancing ever since. After training in New York with members of the Jose
Limon Company and Collete Barry and Susan Klein, Shula lived in the U.S.,
Israel and Canada. She has danced with choreographers Susan Rose, Joy
Kellman, Flora Cushman, Mirali Sharon, Jan Van Dyke and Sandra Neels.
Shula has an M.A. in Dance Education from Columbia University and has
taught at Trinity College (Hartford, CT), Rubin Academy of the Hebrew
University, York University and at the professional schools of Canadian
Ballet Theatre, Ballet Creole and the Kibbutz Dance Company. She joined
Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in 2007.

Keith Thompson (Adjunct Artist and Rehearsal Director) is a choreographer,
performer and educator. He completed his M.F.A. Research Fellowship in
Dance from Bennington College in 2003. He performed with Trisha Brown
Dance Company for ten years, the last three of which he also served as
rehearsal director. Keith continues to represent TBDC in the sharing of
technique and repertory both at the Trisha Brown Studio in New York City
as well as at festivals, schools and workshops around the world. He has
also worked with Bebe Miller Company, Creach/Koeser Company and Danny
Buraczeski. As a choreographer and teacher, Keith has been on the
faculties of American Dance Festival, Shenandoah University, George Mason
University and Temple University. He continues to immerse himself in his
choreographic work with his own company danceTactics performance group,
which was formed in 2005. Keith has been commissioned to create works at
numerous universities including Muhlenberg College, Barnard College, James
Madison University, Duke University, Ursinus College and University of
Maryland College Park. Keith continues new research for new works and has
received support from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation and the
Bossak/Heilbron Charitable Foundation Inc. His company is currently on the
boutique roster of Jodi Kaplan and Associates.

Benjamin Wegman (Company Member) is a performer, choreographer, and
teacher based in the Washington, D.C. area. Originally hailing from a town
called Normal, Benjamin joined the Dance Exchange in 2007.  With the
company he has worked to make dances with communities across the United
States and internationally in Canada, Japan, Ireland, Switzerland, and
France. A respected teacher, he has taught at the American Dance Festival,
University of Maryland, Towson University, Indiana University,
International Festival of Arts & Ideas, and the Japan Contemporary Dance
Network’s Dance Life Festival.  Benjamin had the honor of co-directing the
premiere of Hidden Snow Memory with Keith Thompson in Sapporo, Japan and
Tour Starts Here at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.  In 2010, he
collaboratively choreographed and directed House of Cars, a site-specific
work in a downtown D.C. parking garage, in collaboration with the National
Building Museum.  Currently, Benjamin is working on a new piece, Hammock,
with Sarah Levitt, set to premiere at the Kennedy Center in fall 2011.  As
a performer, he has danced with Jeanne Ruddy Dance, Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers,
Keith Thompson’s danceTactics, Headlong Dance Theater, CityDance Ensemble,
SCRAP Performance Group, The Pillow Project, Troika Ranch, Meyer Chaffaud
Dance and was recently a featured dancer with the Washington National

Broadway and off-Broadway, Darron L. West‘s (Soundscape) work for dance
and theater has been heard in more than 400 productions all over Manhattan
as well as nationally and internationally. Among numerous nominations his
accolades for Sound Design include the 2006 Lortel and AUDELCO Awards,
2004 and 2005 Henry Hewes Design Awards, the Princess Grace, The Village
Voice OBIE Award, and the Entertainment Design magazine EDDY Award. He is
the sound designer and a founding member of Anne Bogart’s SITI Company. As
former Resident Sound Designer for Actors Theater of Louisville, his
directing credits include Kid Simple for the 2004 Humana New Play
Festival, Big Love for Austin’s Rude Mechs (Austin Critics Table Award
Best Director) and SITI’s War of the Worlds Radio Play National Tours and
Radio Macbeth.

Martha Wittman (Company Member) has been teaching, dancing and
choreographing for more than 50 years. As a young performer she danced
with the Juilliard Dance Theatre under the direction of Doris Humphrey and
in the companies of Ruth Currier, Joseph Gifford and Anna Sokolow. For
many years she was an associate choreographer with the Dances We Dance
Company directed by Betty Jones and Fritz Ludin. Her awards include three
National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, the Doris Humphrey Fellowship
from the American Dance Festival, Individual Artist Awards from the
Maryland Council on the Arts and two awards from Dance/USA’s National
College Choreography Initiative. She was a long-term member of the
Bennington College dance faculty in Vermont, and has been a guest artist,
teacher and choreographer in numerous colleges, universities and summer
dance programs around the country. Martha joined the Dance Exchange in
1996 and has been happily working with them ever since.

New Repertoire for the Guitar

A preview by Center for the Arts Intern and Music Major Lucia Strother ’11

When you enter Crowell Concert Hall this Friday, the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet will not be performing traditional guitar repertoire. The vast majority of the pieces the Quartet have chosen to perform were not written for the guitar, much less an ensemble of four guitars.  The only two pieces on the program originally written for guitar were actually written specifically for the Quartet by living composers! The industrious Quartet writes all their own arrangements, and I look forward to hearing their refashioned renditions of beloved pieces written for other instruments.

The Minneapolis Guitar Quartet will play Windy, one of Piazzolla’s beloved Argentinian tangos. Piazzolla was a virtuoso bandoneon player (an accordion-like instrument popular in Argentina) and developed his own style called “Nuevo tango,” which combined the traditional tango with elements from jazz and classical music. His widely popular music has been arranged for all kinds of ensembles and instrumentation, and Yo-Yo Ma’s wildly successful 1997 album Soul of the Tango brought the music of Piazzolla to even wider audiences. It will be interesting to hear such familiar music in an ensemble arrangement that is somewhat unusual and unfamiliar to me.

An equally beloved piece, Debussy’s Petite Suite was written in 1889 for piano, four hands, and rewritten by Henri Busser in 1909 for full orchestra. It was written early in Debussy’s career, and its simple yet expressive melodies contrast much of his other work, which is more impressionistic and harmonically adventurous. The unassuming beauty of the four short movements of this piece appeals to wide audiences, so I look forward to hearing another well-known piece reworked for this unique ensemble.

A thread that runs through Friday’s program is the intersection of folk music and classical tradition. Three Finnish Pieces was written by living composer and accordionist Maria Kalaniemi, who was classically trained but focused her attention on performing and composing music based on Finnish folk music. Three Finnish Pieces will certainly satisfy Wesleyan’s population of world music aficionados.

Additionally, Joaquín Rodrigo’s Cuatro Piezas, originally composed for solo piano, extensively incorporates themes from Spanish folk music. It’s interesting to me that the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet would choose this Rodrigo piece to perform, since he composed so much music for guitar and played such a central role in establishing guitar in classical mainstream repertoire. (Interestingly, his Concierto Andaluz is one of the few pieces actually written for an ensemble of four guitars.)

The program will also feature three Baroque trio sonatas, two by Purcell and one by Corelli, both original arrangements by the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet. I am eager to see the Quartet’s interpretation of these pieces. I assume that they will perform them on their modern classical guitars, the dimensions of which weren’t established until the 19th century, but it will be interesting to see whether their other musical choices, especially with regards to voicing, attempt to preserve Baroque performance practice or create an altogether different effect.

Finally, the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet will also perform two pieces commissioned specifically for them by living composers. A Scottish Fantasy was written in 1996 by David Crittenden, a classical guitarist (formerly a member of the Quartet) and composer based in St. Paul, MN. Additionally, the Quartet will perform Daniel Bernard Roumain’s Ghetto Strings, written in 2001. Roumain is a Haitian-American composer who combines elements of classical music with features from contemporary black popular music. I am excited to hear these two, and I’m sure they’ll be well received since Wesleyan audiences have such a voracious appetite for new music.

Friday, February 18, 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$23 general public; $18 seniors, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students
Pre-concert talk at 7:15pm by Carver Blanchard, Wesleyan Private Lessons Teacher

Master Class with Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, featuring performance by Wesleyan alum Lu Yang ’10
Daltry Room (Rehearsal Studios 003)
Saturday, February 19, noon
Free admission