Margaret Jenkins Dance Company Joins the CFA to Celebrate 40 Years (Feb. 14 & 15)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Wesleyan DanceLink Fellow Cynthia Tong ’14 about Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, who will be performing the New England premiere of “Times Bones” on Friday, February 14 and Saturday, February 15, 2014. 

In 1970, a young Margaret Jenkins returned home to San Francisco where her family had lived for generations.  She had been studying with dance legend Merce Cunningham in New York and brought back with her the new and exciting ideas emerging in the field of modern dance.

The founding of the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company in 1973 was a milestone for the city of San Francisco, signaling the spread of the American avant-garde movement that had begun on the east coast with Mr. Cunningham and his contemporaries.

Although the company has for decades been at the heart of the local arts scene in San Francisco, the company has also gained international acclaim.  In the late 1970s, the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company began touring the United States on a regular basis, and has since then traveled throughout Europe and Asia to perform.

Kelly Del Rosario and the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company in "Times Bones" (Preview 2012); photo by Margo Moritz.
Kelly Del Rosario and the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company in “Times Bones” (Preview 2012); photo by Margo Moritz.

This weekend their journey brings them back to Wesleyan University for the New England premiere of Times Bones, a fitting venue given that this season is the 40th anniversary for both Margaret Jenkins Dance Company and the Center for the Arts. [Margaret Jenkins Dance Company previously performed at Wesleyan in April 1990.  This weekend is also the first performance by Margaret Jenkins Dance Company in New England since 1998.]

In thinking about a way to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the company, Ms. Jenkins began revisiting past works.  She reread journals and notes, mined her extensive archives, and examined all 68 works recorded on videotape, all the while asking, “What were the stories in those pieces that were still untold?”

To use the language of the ancient Egyptian myth of Osiris that partly inspired her process, she was gathering the “bones” of her repertory.  From these fragments, she has choreographed a new whole: the evening-length piece titled Times Bones.

But the work is not as simple as a dance down Memory Lane.  The hope in returning to previous choreography was never to go back in time, but rather to push forward.

“The piece as a whole is aiming to find a new beginning,” says Wesleyan DanceLink Fellow Cynthia Tong ’14, who worked closely with Ms. Jenkins and the members of the company as an intern in San Francisco this past summer.  “It’s a look toward the future.”

Ms. Tong describes the studio where the company rehearses as a safe space with a positive atmosphere, a place where experimentation and productivity go hand in hand. “Work was getting done while ideas were being thrown around,” she recalls.

Like many of her former works, Times Bones is the product of a deeply collaborative process.  As Ms. Jenkins explains, “The role of the dancers in making my work is absolutely substantive and primary to my process.”

The aura of collaboration in the studio invites the dancers to speak up and share their opinions and ideas.  “She’s very open to hearing what other people have to say,” Ms. Tong remarks.

The role of the interpreter is crucial to her work.  While choreographing she asks her dancers to interpret various prompts and experiments, and in performance she invites the interpretations of the audience, never declaring one right or another wrong.

“She believes that when audiences go see her work there are a hundred different possible interpretations and that is part of her goal,” says Ms. Tong.  “The audience is the final collaborator.”

Cynthia Tong will give a pre-performance talk on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 7:30pm in the CFA Hall, 287 Washington Terrace, Middletown. Margaret Jenkins will teach a free master class on Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 11am in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio, 247 Pine Street, Middletown.

Margaret Jenkins Dance Company: Times Bones
New England Premiere
Friday, February 14 and Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 8pm
CFA Theater, 271 Washington Terrace, Middletown
$25 general public; $21 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

Spend Valentine’s Day at the CFA – click to view special “prix fixe” menus that will be available at five Middletown restaurants for dinner on Friday, February 14, 2014.

Spring Events Include New England Premieres and Connecticut Debuts

PrintAs winter sets in, the Center for the Arts heats up with many events and experiences designed to inspire, entertain, provoke and delight. We are welcoming two groups who, like the CFA, are also celebrating their 40th anniversary. The first is Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s premier dance companies that will perform the New England premiere of Times Bones, an enthralling work that features music by Paul Dresher and poetry by Michael Palmer. Jenkins is one of this country’s master choreographers with an astonishing body of work and we are delighted to be bringing her company to Connecticut. We are also bringing members of Sweet Honey in the Rock to Wesleyan. For four decades, this Grammy Award-winning all female African American a cappella group has brought joy to audiences around the world. Three members of Sweet Honey will be teaching workshops that will culminate in a showing on April 17. This is an extraordinary opportunity for both singers and non-singers to enter into their creation and performance practice. Other highlights of the spring include the first major solo exhibition in the U.S. by Paris-based American artist Evan Roth, whose work lives at the intersection of viral media and art, graffiti and technology. You’ll also have the opportunity to hear Ukranian Vadym Kholodenko, winner of the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, play a program that includes Frédéric Chopin, Johannes Brahms, and Nikolai Medtner. Wesleyan’s Music Department will host the 28th conference of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, which will feature a series of concerts where you can immerse yourself in new music by American composers. And Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton will premiere the work Threshold Sites: Feast, which explores how we experience and enact our own corporeality, and how that impacts the way we experience our communities and our environments. At the end of the semester, you’ll have the chance to see the culminating works created by Wesleyan students, and be able to put your finger on the pulse of the current generation of art makers. Highlights include a production of Slawomir Mrozek’s Vatzlav, directed by Lily Whitsitt ’06; thesis performances in music and dance; and three weeks of thesis exhibitions by studio art majors. We have a rich and expansive spring planned for you. Please join us as often as you can.

Pamela Tatge
Center for the Arts

MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham Opens Up a Dialogue Through Dance (Nov. 15-16)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to DanceLink Fellow Stellar Levy ’15 about Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion. Tickets for all three performances by the company this weekend are sold out.

Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion "Pavement." Photo by Steven Schreiber.
Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion “Pavement.” Photo by Steven Schreiber.

With a basketball hoop in the background and beat-up sneakers on their feet, seven dancers take the stage this weekend in the Patricelli ’92 Theater for the Connecticut premiere of Pavement, an evening length performance by dance ensemble Abraham.In.Motion.  One of these dancers, Kyle Abraham, is the founder and artistic director of Abraham.In.Motion and a 2013 MacArthur Fellow.

Cecilia A. Conrad, Vice President of the MacArthur Fellows Program, said of this year’s Fellows: “They are artists, social innovators, scientists, and humanists who are working to improve the human condition and to preserve and sustain our natural and cultural heritage.”  As an artist concerned with issues of identity and history, both personal and shared, Mr. Abraham certainly fits this description.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1977, Mr. Abraham’s artistic upbringing reflects a diverse range of influences, from classical music to hip hop.  He draws from these influences to create dynamic and deeply personal choreographic works such as Pavement.

Informed by John Singleton’s film “Boyz N The Hood” and the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois, Pavement takes place in Pittsburgh’s historically black neighborhoods, Homewood and the Hill District.

On one hand, the history of these neighborhoods is one of culturally rich moments — Ella Fitzgerald’s performance in one local theater, Duke Ellington’s in another.  On the other, it is about desolate realities, many of which persist today — extreme poverty, gang violence, and drug abuse.  Pavement is an attempt to narrate this past, giving voice to an urban culture faced with a history of discrimination and conflict.

I spoke with DanceLink Fellow Stellar Levy ’15, who worked closely with Mr. Abraham and the members of Abraham.In.Motion as an intern this past summer in New York City where the company is based.

“I think what’s setting him apart right now is his ability to combine dance vocabulary and something that relates to people who don’t necessarily have that vocabulary,” says Ms. Levy.

There’s something approachable, maybe even familiar, about Pavement.  The dancers wear everyday clothes and sneakers and perform with a basketball hoop as their backdrop.  Even the movement plays with this familiarity, much of it derived from interactions that happen on the street and other everyday encounters.  In this way, the stage is transformed into an urban sidewalk, a literal pavement.

Through her internship, Ms. Levy had the opportunity this past summer to see Pavement performed on three different occasions (and countless other times in rehearsals).  While working at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors performance in New York City and the Huntington Arts Festival in Huntington, Ms. Levy was approached by enthusiastic audience members who wanted to express their thoughts, feelings, questions, and excitement about the piece.

“It’s definitely a way for people to start thinking, whether or not they understand the piece or think that they do,” Ms. Levy says.  “It opens up dance as a way to communicate. It says, ‘This is a conversation we’re having.’”

And it’s an important conversation, one that asks challenging questions about what it means to grow up in an underserved neighborhood, about gang violence, drugs, and discrimination, about equality and seeking freedom, about sexuality and human relationships, about how we tell history and how we make it, how we identify ourselves and how we are identified, questions about being an individual and a member of society, and perhaps more than anything, questions about the importance of community.

“There is a sense of the whole,” Ms. Levy says.  “You leave feeling like part of things, or at least like part of something.”

Click here to watch a video of Kyle Abraham and company member Matthew Baker discussing Pavement on YouTube. Interviews conducted by Stellar Levy.

Naya Samuel ’14 on Doug Varone and Dancers (Sept. 12 & 13)

Wesleyan Dancelink Fellow Naya Samuel ’14 discusses her experience with Doug Varone and Dancers, who will present “Stripped/Dressed,” featuring “Rise” and the Connecticut premiere of “Carrugi,” on Thursday, September 12 and Friday, September 13, 2013 at 8pm in the CFA Theater.

Through the Center for the Arts Dancelink Fellowship program, I got the opportunity to intern with Doug Varone and Dancers in New York this past summer, and I’ve become a huge fan of their work. The company was founded in 1986, and is the resident company at the 92 Street Y Harkness Dance Center, which has been home to some of the biggest names in modern dance, from Martha Graham to Merce Cunningham to Alvin Ailey. Since its founding, Doug Varone and Dancers has toured extensively across the United State and in Europe, Asia, Canada, and South America. They’ve won 11 New York Dance and Performance Awards, also known as Bessies, and just celebrated their 25th anniversary. The New Yorker noted that “few choreographers can move people around the stage like Varone can. He is able to see overlapping and intertwining groups clearly, and to create movement for them that turns them into breathing organisms.” After spending a summer with the company I agree that Doug’s work is an astonishing blend of touching humanity and complex detail.

One of my favorite nuances of this company is their Stripped/Dressed performance format. This unique method is a beneficial and inventive way to make a specific art vocabulary less foreign to someone who is not immersed in that field. The first half of the program, Stripped, offers a bare version of a performance that focuses on the choreography and the creation of a piece as explained by Doug. This section is performed with the dancers in rehearsal clothes and with minimal lighting. At Wesleyan, the company will start by performing Rise, which premiered in October 1993 and represented a huge choreographic shift for Doug. It’s a high-energy, demanding piece requiring great physicality from its dancers, and it always leaves me excited about the work.  The costumes in the piece have become well known, so it’ll be an interesting reflection on the theatrics of putting a piece on stage to see it without them, and how this change affects the way it is perceived.

Doug Varone and Dancers. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
Doug Varone and Dancers. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

The second half of the program, Dressed, has the company performing Carrugi fully produced, with costumes, lighting and sound. Doug will have walked us through its conception and creation before intermission. It’s pretty exciting for me to watch or rewatch a piece once Doug has walked us through it. He gives us a context that we otherwise lack while watching most dance companies perform. Carrugi premiered in March 2012, and was inspired by the winding pathways in between small towns on the hillside of Italy’s Liguria region. Set to music by Mozart, the piece is intricate and attentive to detail, and ultimately satisfying both in its dynamic musicality and the relationships between dancers.

The focus of my Dancelink Fellowship was marketing and promotion, especially via social media, but during my time with the company I became familiar with almost all of the necessary components of running a non-profit. The internship was completely immersive. The company had been preparing for their summer intensive in Brockport, New York, and when I started interning the workshop was about two weeks away. Along with another intern, Ellyn, and my supervisor  and company member Eddie Taketa, I headed up to Brockport, six hours away, to stay for about a month with 70 dancers and the company.

In addition to running the company’s social media campaign, I also got to participate in classes, which was thrilling. It’s a small company, eight dancers, which made for an intimate class setting. It felt like we really got to know all of the dancers as crucial components of the company as well as as individual artists. Everyone was so open and eager to share their knowledge of the field, which was helpful to the handful of us there who were getting ready to graduate and trying to figure out what we wanted to do in the dance field. It was an incredible experience to switch back and forth between watching rehearsals and performances, which gave me a much deeper insight into what I was watching, as well as the different ways in which choreographers work.

I was able to learn about Doug’s method, and his use of choreographic games and dancer participation. The company members were so passionate about everything they were doing that it was impossible to not feel energized. I can’t think of a better finale to my Dancelink Fellowship than to be in the CFA Theater to welcome Doug Varone and Dancers to Wesleyan.

Click here to watch an interview with Doug Varone and company members Xan Burley and Alex Springer, conducted by Wesleyan DanceLink Fellow Naya Samuel ’14.

Doug Varone and Dancers: “Stripped/Dressed” featuring “Rise” and “Carrugi”
Thursday, September 12 & Friday, September 13, 2013 at 8pm
CFA Theater
$25 general public; $21 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students
Pre-performance talk by Wesleyan DanceLink Fellow Naya Samuel ’14 on Thursday, September 12 at 7:30pm in the CFA Hall.
Free master class with Doug Varone and Dancers Company Member Eddie Taketa on Friday, September 13 at 2:45pm in Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio, 247 Pine Street, Middletown. Please call 860-685-3355 to register in advance.
Only one spot left for Dine/Dance/Discover on Friday, September 13 at 5:30pm—add $15 to your regular ticket price above. Please call 860-685-3355 to purchase.

Celebrating 40 Years in 2013-2014; Tickets On Sale July 1

Doug Varone and Dancers will be performing on Thursday, September 12 & Friday, September 13, 2013.
Doug Varone and Dancers will be performing on Thursday, September 12 & Friday, September 13, 2013.

Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts announces the highlights of their 40th anniversary season in 2013-2014, including two world premieres, four New England premieres, and six Connecticut premieres:

September 6 – December 8, 2013: The Alumni Show II exhibition in Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, featuring painting, sculpture, drawing, installation art, video art, performance, and films
September 12 & 13, 2013: Stripped/Dressed featuring Rise and the Connecticut premiere of Carrugi by Doug Varone and Dancers
September 13, 2013; November 16, 2013; and February 15, 2014: Dine/Dance/Discover, a new event designed to bring audiences closer to the work on stage before and after all three 2013–2014 Breaking Ground Dance Series performances
September 27 & 28, 2013: the Connecticut premiere of Who’s Hungry by Dan Froot and Dan Hurlin
September 29, 2013: the first of twelve recitals featuring the complete piano works of Wesleyan John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Neely Bruce, including two world premieres
October 9–13, 2013: the 37th annual Navaratri Festival, including the Connecticut debut of dancer Aparna Ramaswamy
October 15, 2013: the New England debut of Netherlands-based pianist Reinier van Houdt
October 25, 2013: Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré, the “Hendrix of the Sahara”
November 9, 2013: the Connecticut debut of London-based a cappella trio Juice Vocal Ensemble
November 11, 2013: Blood, Muscle, Bone, a performative “teach-in” by choreographers Liz Lerman and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar
November 13–16, 2013: Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull directed by Wesleyan Associate Professor of Theater Yuri Kordonsky
November 15 & 16, 2013: the Connecticut premiere of the dance work Pavement by Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion
January 30 & 31, 2014: the New England premiere of the theater work HOME/SICK by The Assembly
February 1, 2014: the Connecticut debut of the Ignacio Berroa Trio
February 14, 2014: the first concert in New England by Ukrainian pianist Vadym Kholodenko after winning the Gold Medal in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition
February 14 & 15, 2014: the New England premiere of Times Bones by San Francisco’s Margaret Jenkins Dance Company
March 8 & 9, 2014: the 15th annual DanceMasters Weekend, featuring a Showcase Performance by three dance companies, and twelve Master Classes over two days
March 27—29, 2014: the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States conference, to be held in New England for the first time since 1998

Tickets for the 2013-2014 season at the Center for the Arts go on sale on Monday, July 1, 2013. Tickets will be available online at; and starting at Noon by phone at (860) 685-3355, or in person at the Wesleyan University Box Office, located in the Usdan University Center, 45 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown.

Programs, artists, and dates are subject to change without notice.

Wesleyan’s Laura Grabel and Choreographer Elizabeth Johnson Team Up to Create the Pluripotency Dance

Director of the Center for the Arts Pamela Tatge discusses the intersection of art and science being explored at Wesleyan and as part of the Reintegrate New Haven project.

Many of you will remember the groundbreaking work by the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange commissioned by the Center for the Arts that premiered in February 2006, Ferocious Beauty: Genome. It was a movingly beautiful work that looked at the repercussions of genetic research raising prospects that previous generations may scarcely have imagined: of prolonging life and maintaining youth indefinitely, of replicating an individual, of choosing the bodies and brains of our children, and of creating new species to feed and serve us. The work toured for five years following its Wesleyan debut bringing audiences to their feet, and bringing many people in contact with scientific subject matter they might not otherwise have considered.

Reintegrate: Enhancing Collaborations in the Arts and Sciences. Photo by Kike Calvo.
Reintegrate: Enhancing Collaborations in the Arts and Sciences. Photo by Kike Calvo.

Fast forward to today: one of the Wesleyan scientists who began her partnership with Liz Lerman and the Dance Exchange over eight years ago has teamed up with one of the dancers/choreographers in the company to create a new work funded by Reintegrate New Haven, a project of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. Dr. Laura Grabel is the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science in Society and Professor of Biology at Wesleyan; and Elizabeth Johnson is now a dancer/choreographer/educator at Arizona State University. (If you’re not sure who Elizabeth is, she danced the role of Miss Tata in Genome, and in September 2005, for Middletown Dances, she choreographed the waiter dance in downtown Middletown, and the famous dog dance for owners and their dogs that was staged on Andrus Field).

The two submitted a proposal which was funded by Reintegrate to create the Plurpotency Dance, an interactive, multi-media performance piece, exploring stem cells and the ethical implications of stem cell research. The piece addresses the fact that many non-scientists have opinions about stem cell research, and that their opinions may not be based upon a full understanding of the relevant science and ethics. Particular focus will be placed on how individuals will bring their full thoughtful and emotional selves to both scientific exploration and artistic creation. In science classrooms at Wesleyan, Grabel, Johnson and the Wesleyan Science Choreography team have been experimenting with allowing students to bring emotion to their biology subject matter. According to Grabel:

“This may be a jarring concept for the traditional scientist or science students, but there is a long tradition of scientists expressing affection for their work and recognizing its inherent beauty. Making an emotional connection to the science can help to increase the level of commitment and provide a new perspective that uses regions of the brain not typically activated in designing, executing, and interpreting experiments. This approach may lead to unexpected insights.”

All of the seven Reintegrate teams will give a free, 90-minute TED-type talk at New Haven’s International Festival of Arts & Ideas on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 5:30pm at the Yale Center for British Art, located at 1080 Chapel Street. [Click here for more information about the Reintegrate: Enhancing Collaborations in the Arts and Sciences talk.] I encourage you to go and hear Grabel and Johnson speak about their work, along with others who are exploring the potential of art/science collaboration.

Fearless Physicality at the CFA Theater (Feb. 9)

Director of the Center for the Arts Pamela Tatge discusses choreographer Andrea Miller, and her company Gallim Dance.

[The performance by Gallim Dance on Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 8pm has been canceled due to the snow storm. Ticket holders have the following options:  receive a gift certificate to be used for a Breaking Ground Dance Series performance during the 2013-2014 season; return tickets for a tax deductible donation to the Center for the Arts; or receive a refund. Please call the Wesleyan University Box Office at 860-685-3355 for more information. Click here to read the text of the talk about Gallim Dance prepared by dance scholar Debra Cash.]

[The Master Class with Andrea Miller on Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 2pm has also been canceled.]

Choreographer Andrea Miller, Artistic Director of Gallim Dance

It’s hard to fathom all that choreographer Andrea Miller has accomplished in the past six years. She has created a highly acclaimed company, Gallim Dance, that this year alone will tour to the Guggenheim Museum, Sadler’s Wells (London), Brooklyn Academy of MusicThéâtre National de Chaillot (Paris), and festivals in Germany and Austria. She’s won awards from the Princess Grace Foundation and USA Artists. She’s been commissioned by Nederlands Dans Theater 2 (The Hague),  Noord Nederlandse Danse, Phantom Limb and Bern Ballet (Switzerland). And a year ago, she established a permanent home in Brooklyn that hosts year-round education and performance programs.

But this week, she comes home to Connecticut, a state where she spent her formative years, attending the Foote School in New Haven and Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford. Andrea’s mother Irena Tocino was a great friend of Mariam McGlone, who together with Center for the Arts staff founded DanceMasters Weekend at Wesleyan. Mariam was an important mentor to Andrea, and the young dancer came to take Master Classes at DanceMasters while she was studying at Juilliard. Mariam always knew she would end up a choreographer! In 2011, Wesleyan awarded her the Mariam McGlone Emerging Choreographer Award, and her company brought the audience literally to their feet.

What’s distinctive about Andrea’s choreography is its visceral quality: it is fearless movement that is at times poetic, and at other times, quite mad. Her dancers are all individuals – their personalities, their passions are all accessible and immediate.

We always knew we wanted to bring her back for a full evening program, and we were delighted when her schedule opened up to make that possible. Tonight, Andrea will have dinner with Jewish students on campus and discuss the creative path that led her to Mama Call (2011), the work that will open the program and has roots in Andrea Miller’s Sephardic-American heritage. Ms. Miller adapts the Sephardic story into a contemporary and more universal tale of border-crossing investigating the idea of how those who have been displaced rescue the idea of “home.” The second piece on the program is a Gallim masterpiece, Pupil Suite, created in 2010.

Join us as we welcome this extraordinary choreographer and her company of brilliant dancers to Wesleyan.

See the feature from the Sunday, February 3 edition of the Hartford Courant here.

Spring Events include World, U.S. & New England Premieres

Gallim Dance performs February 8 & 9, 2013 as part of the Performing Arts Series.

This spring at the Center for the Arts we bring you work that is of today: innovative, inquisitive and sure to surprise and engage you. Continuing our exploration of Music & Public Life, we bring you a concert of music from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello–what you might have heard both in the mansion and in the slaves’ quarters–where audiences will have the chance to experience the first glass harmonica on the Crowell Concert Hall stage. The great activist and trumpeter Hugh Masekela will bring his band to Wesleyan, and our own West African Drumming ensemble will have the chance to open for him. In dance, we bring back Andrea Miller’s Gallim Dance after their performance at the DanceMasters Weekend Showcase in 2011 brought audiences to their feet. Her piece Mama Call investigates her Spanish-Sephardic heritage, and the reprise of Pupil features the spirited music of Balkan Beat Box. In theater, we bring the master innovator Lee Breuer to campus with his newest work Glass Guignol, a compilation of texts from Tennessee Williams’ women, performed by the indomitable Maude Mitchell.

In Zilkha Gallery, Lucy and Jorge Orta’s Food-Water-Life will be on view. This is the first-ever solo show in the U.S. of work by these Paris-based artists, who stage performative events to bring attention to some of the world’s most urgent environmental and social issues. The colorful sculptural works, including a large canoe, and three parachutes, will take advantage of Zilkha’s scale, and a series of food events is being staged to more deeply connect you to the themes of the show.

Spring is also when you have the chance to put your finger on the pulse of the next generation of contemporary artists: an evening of work by seniors in dance, three theater thesis productions, four weeks of thesis exhibitions in Zilkha, and two solid months of music recitals will give audiences an overview of the art that is being generated at Wesleyan.

So please join us! We look forward to welcoming you.

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

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.

Fall Events include World, New England & Connecticut Premieres, Navaratri Festival

Rama Vaidyanathan performs on October 21, 2012 as part of the 36th annual Navaratri Festival

Over the course of the next year, a campus-wide steering committee has put together a far-reaching series of global performances, talks and participatory projects, all with the intention of bringing us into an examination of the role of Music & Public Life. We will celebrate and study the sounds, words and spirit of music in public at the local, national and transnational levels, all designed to cross disciplines and to engage the campus and community-at-large. From performances by Middletown’s own Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem to the legendary Hugh Masekela; showcasing student research in the role of music in the current political campaigns; to the creation of MiddletownRemix–there are points of entry for everyone.

In September, we feature dance and theater companies who are exploring the role of the audience as actively engaged in the live creative process of the theatrical event. In ZviDance’s Zoom, patrons use their smartphones to integrate their own photos and text into the work; in Anonymous Ensemble’s Liebe Love Amour!, the audience is engaged in constructing the “performance script.”

October and November bring the return of Jawole Willa Jo Zollar of Urban Bush Women in a stunning work she co-created with Nora Chipaumire (visible) that features an international cast of all-star dancers; as well as the CFA’s commission of a work by the fiercely interdisciplinary writer/director Rinde Eckert (this year’s winner of an inaugural Duke Performing Artist Award). The Last Days of the Old Wild Boy has been developed with students and faculty in Music, Animal Studies and Neuroscience and is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded Creative Campus Initiative.

It’s a robust fall, rich with work that brings us into new conversations with art and its possibilities. We hope you’ll join us!

Best regards,

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts