As 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.
• 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 Hungryby 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 http://www.wesleyan.edu/boxoffice; 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.
Director of the Center for the Arts Pamela Tatge discusses the three dance companies that will be performing as part of the 14th annual DanceMasters Weekend Showcase Performance on Saturday, March 9, 2013.
It’s amazing to me that this weekend we will celebrate the 14th annual DanceMasters Weekend at Wesleyan, an annual feast of dance that goes on for two days, with thirteen Master Classes by leading American dance-makers (names you’ll recognize from past seasons at the Center for the Arts: Brian Brooks, Ronald K. Brown, Camille A. Brown, to name a few). Dianne Walker is arguably the grande dame of tap, and she will be teaching a Master Class as well [see below for full list of Master Class teachers].
And on Saturday night, we will showcase the work of three companies that have shaped the landscape of contemporary dance in America: Armitage Gone! Dance, Ballet Hispanico and ODC/Dance. Because this is a showcase, companies often bring us duets or dances for a small group of dancers. This year, however, both Armitage Gone! Dance and Ballet Hispanico are presenting full company works! There is simply nowhere else in New England where you can see such a breadth of work in a single evening.
Karole Armitage has been pushing the boundaries of ballet and movement research since she danced works by George Balanchine and Merce Cunningham. Christened the “punk ballerina,” she worked in Europe as the Artistic Director of companies in France and Italy and made works for companies around the world before returning to the U.S. in 2004 to form Armitage Gone! Dance. She explains:
“Historically ballet has been thought of primarily as a narrative art, and many great story ballets survive in the repertoire today. There is another great tradition in ballet, however, descending from Balanchine and innovators in modern dance, which eschews narrative and works directly through metaphor, symbol and abstraction. In this tradition, dance is a poetic language of the body. Rather than serving as a vehicle for conventional dramas with plots and named characters, this tradition of dance seeks to express the deepest emotional, existential and even spiritual realities through pure movement.” (armitagegonedance.org)
Wesleyan audiences will see excerpts from her newest work, Mechanics of the Dance Machine (2013), that alternates between electrically fierce dance and metaphors of intimacy: the work blends powerful partnering, pointe work and non-pointe work with fractal geometry in a hybrid performance with music by Gabriel Prokofiev, a hip hop producer trained in classical music, and Craig Leon.
This will be the third time that the Center for the Arts welcomes ODC/Dance to Middletown.The Oberlin Dance Collective (named for Oberlin College in Ohio, where the founders met), was founded in 1971 and proved a major American company could grow up outside of New York. “ODC was one of the first American companies to return, after a decade of pedestrian exploration, to virtuosic technique and narrative content in avant-garde dance and to commit major resources to interdisciplinary collaboration and musical commissions for the repertory.” (odcdance.org) On Saturday, we will have a sneak preview of their newest work, Triangulating Euclid (2013), which will have its official premiere at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts March 15-23, 2013. According to their program notes, ODC’s Artistic Directors Brenda Way and KT Nelson have teamed up with New York-based choreographer Kate Weare in this “unprecedented collaboration designed to shake up their creative process and explore new artistic territory. Inspired by a rare original edition of Euclid’s Elements, perhaps the most influential work in the history of mathematics, this highly physical and emotive piece moves from the formal elegance of geometry to its human implication: from triangles to threesomes, from lines to connections, from the page to the heart.”
Ballet Hispanico is recognized as this country’s premiere Latino dance organization. Their work emanates from the legacy of Tina Ramirez who founded the company over 42 years ago, who was interested in “exploring the diversity of Latino culture through a fusion of classical, Latin, and contemporary dance powered by theatricality and passion.” Since August 2009, the company has been led by Cuban-American Eduardo Vilaro, a former dancer with the company who has commissioned a host of contemporary choreographers to create new works for the company, including A vueltas con los ochenta (2012), choreographed by Meritxell Barberá and Inma García, who studied together in Valencia, Spain. The company introduces the work in their program notes as follows: “A vueltas con los ochenta uses contemporary dance to evoke the sights and sounds of the cultural revolution, known as ‘La Movida,’ in 1980s Madrid. Drawing upon that time’s need for creative expression and individuality, the work recreates the memory of one night of freedom, exploration, and invention lived by a young group of friends.”
The exuberance and virtuosity of these dancers will be thrilling to see this weekend!
Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 8pm in the CFA Theater $28 for the general public; $23 for senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $8 for Wesleyan students.
The thirteen Master Classes on Saturday, March 9 and Sunday, March 10 provide an opportunity for intermediate to advanced dance students, and also dance professionals, to explore diverse dance techniques. Asterisks (*) denote the five teachers who will be teaching their first DanceMasters Weekend Master Class at Wesleyan in 2013.
On Saturday, March 9, Master Classes will be taught by the following seven teachers:
*Karole Armitage (Artistic Director of Armitage Gone! Dance)
*Donald Borror (Company Dancer with Ballet Hispanico) Camille A. Brown (Artistic Director of Camille A. Brown & Dancers, and recipient of the 2012 Mariam McGlone Emerging Choreographer Award) Ronald K. Brown (Artistic Director of Evidence Dance Company) Carolyn Kirsch (Broadway veteran, teaching “Never Stop Moving: A Fosse-Style Jazz Workshop for Older Dancers”)
*KT Nelson (Co-Artistic Director of ODC/Dance) Dianne Walker (Artistic Director of Boston’s TapDanZin, Inc; teaching a Tap Master Class)
And on Sunday, March 10, Master Classes will be taught by the following six teachers:
Brandon “Peace” Albright (Artistic Director of Philadelphia’s Illstyle & Peace Productions, teaching a Hip Hop Master Class) Brian Brooks (Artistic Director of Brian Brooks Moving Company)
*Christal Brown (Artistic Director of New York’s Inspirit, former Principal Performer with Urban Bush Women)
*Dana Moore (Broadway veteran, teaching a Jazz/Broadway Musical Theater Master Class) Troy Powell (Artistic Director of Ailey II) Kate Skarpetowska (Dancer with Lar Lubovitch Dance Company)
To see the full Master Class schedule, please click here.
$19 per Master Class for the general public (plus a $6 registration fee); $17 per Master Class for four or more classes; $13 per Master Class for Wesleyan students. A Weekend Pass includes five Master Classes and one ticket to the Showcase Performance, and costs $100 for the general public (plus a $6 registration fee); and $73 for Wesleyan students. To register for Master Classes, please call 860-685-3355 or visit the Wesleyan University Box Office.
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.]
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.
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.
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!
“visible” New England Premiere Choreography by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Nora Chipaumire Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 8pm
$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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-685-3355.
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.”
Pamela Tatge, Director of the Center for the Arts, talks to choreographer Brian Brooks about the works that will be performed by his dance company at Wesleyan (July 12 & 13).
Center for the Arts staff members and I sat down recently with Brian Brooks, choreographer for Brian Brooks Moving Company, to hear him talk about his upcoming performances in the CFA Theater on Thursday, July 12 and Friday, July 13.
The Brian Brooks Moving Company will perform four pieces at Wesleyan as part of a ten-city tour that will take them straight from Middletown to the American Dance Festival in Durham, North Carolina. We are thrilled to invite Brian back to Wesleyan; he has been a dear friend of the CFA for many years. We gave the Brian Brooks Moving Company their first engagement outside of New York City as a part of the Breaking Ground Dance Series back in November 2002, and since then, Brian has made special trips to Wesleyan in March to teach Master Classes during DanceMasters Weekend.
As Brian explained to us, the four works he will present at Wesleyan are his most recent works – all created in the last three or four years. The collection will give audiences a strong sense of where Brian Brooks as an artist is in 2012. A common theme among the pieces is endurance – of the mind, of the body, of the artist.
The evening will start with I’m Going to Explode (2007), Mr. Brooks’ signature solo piece. Mr. Brooks has performed this piece — which he describes as “an entry point to who [Brian Brooks] might be” — more often than any other piece he has created.
Mr. Brooks describes the next piece, a group piece titled Descent (2011), as “otherworldly,” “off balance,” “water-like” and “dense.” As the name suggests, the piece deals with a state of perpetual fall. Although the dancers constantly fall, they also support one another. This particular piece is designed, too, to showcase the partnering of the dancers in the piece. The dancers move in pairs and navigate the watery, dreamlike world together.
Next, we’ll be treated to the duet from Motor (2010), which was inspired by Mr. Brooks’ experience as a runner and racer. This work premiered in August 2010 at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival in New York City, and is a testament to the endurance and athleticism of dancers.
And finally, after intermission, we’ll see the New England premiere of the company’s newest piece, Big City (2012), a 44 minute work for seven dancers. Mr. Brooks describes this last piece as “overwhelming” and “lavish – but not frivolous.” The scale is large and the audience will watch as hundreds of pieces of metal literally unfold throughout the piece, altering the landscape of the theater and the way the dancers interact with it and within it. But the piece is also cyclical and as we watch the construction of a “big city,” we marvel at our resilience and at our capacity to rebuild against all odds. We hope you’ll join us!
Brian Brooks Moving Company Thursday, July 12 & Friday, July 13, 2012 at 8pm CFA Theater $22 general public; $19 seniors, Wesleyan faculty & staff; $10 students
Nik Owens ‘12: How did you get started in the dance world?
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).
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: 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?
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
$27 general public; $20 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $8 Wesleyan students