CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton about Dance Theatre of Harlem, Souleymane Badolo, and Ronald K. Brown, who will be featured as part of the 15th annual DanceMasters Weekend Showcase Performance on Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 8pm in the CFA Theater.
Mr. Badolo is the 2014 recipient of the Mariam McGlone Emerging Choreographer Award. Born in Burkina Faso, Mr. Badolo’s choreography is steeped in personal heritage and infused with worldly style. He began his career dancing with traditional African dance company the DAMA. In 1993, Mr. Badolo co-founded Kongo Ba Téria, a contemporary dance company based in the capital, Ouagadougou. After relocating to the United States in 2009, Mr. Badolo won the second annual Juried Bessie Award in 2012.
Wesleyan Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton says of Mr. Badolo, “He has his own take on how to weave together different forms and find personal expression in them. He represents a growing contemporary dance movement taking place in continental Africa, one that is blossoming in a really interesting way.”
[On Saturday, Mr. Badolo will be performing the New England premiere of an excerpt from Benon (2014), conceived and choreographed by Meritxell Barberá and Inma García, and set to traditional songs from Burkina Faso recorded by Victor Deme, Mahamad Billa, and Dankan Faso. Benonpremiered in February 2014 at Danspace Project in New York City. Roughly translated to “harvest,” Benon is inspired by the Burkinabé tradition of dancing to celebrate the harvest.]
A second artist with a rich history of performing at Wesleyan, Ronald K. Brown returns to campus this weekend with his company, Evidence. Founded by Mr. Brown in 1985, the Brooklyn-based contemporary dance ensemble honors the human experience in the African diaspora through dance and storytelling. Their work fuses traditional African dance with contemporary choreography and often incorporates spoken word.
“There’s this sense of seamless flow in how he weaves together different movements,” says Ms. Stanton, who’s been following their work since the mid-1990s. “There’s something transcendent about him and his dancers.”
On Saturday, Evidence will perform Come Ye (2002), an original work by Mr. Brown set to the music of Nina Simone and Fela Kuti, which had been commissioned by the Center for the Arts in honor of the 30th anniversary of the CFA during the 2003-2004 season [the work received its New England premiere on the Breaking Ground Dance Series in February 2004.]
Mr. Brown has been a strong advocate for the growth of an African-American dance community throughout his career, a community to which the Dance Theatre of Harlem has made invaluable contributions.
Co-founded in 1969 by acclaimed ballet instructor Karel Shook and the New York City Ballet’s first African-American principal dancer Arthur Mitchell, Dance Theatre of Harlem became the first ballet company in America comprised entirely of black dancers. The company has since toured to over 40 countries on 6 continents. Dance Theatre of Harlem encompasses a leading arts education center, founded shortly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a mission to make dance accessible to all children in New York City, and specifically in Harlem, where Mr. Mitchell grew up.
[Dance Theatre of Harlem will be performing the Connecticut premieres of both New Bach (1999) a witty confection of urban post-modern neoclassicism choreographed by Robert Garland and set to music by Johann Sebastian Bach; and choreographer Helen Pickett’s passionate duet When Love (2012), a journey of discovery as a man and a woman open themselves to the tenderness and wonder of the human embrace, set to music by Philip Glass. This performance at Wesleyan will be the first appearance by Dance Theatre of Harlem in Connecticut since December 2003 at Foxwoods Resort Casino.]
Currently under the artistic directorship of Virginia Johnson, a founding member of Dance Theatre of Harlem and former principal dancer, the company continues to expand its community and education outreach efforts both nationally and internationally with their program Dancing Through Barriers.
And dancing through barriers is precisely what the work of Mr. Badolo, Mr. Brown, and the Dance Theatre of Harlem does. It is their ability to gracefully meld dance forms from disparate places, traditions, and eras that unites their work.
As Ms. Stanton phrased it, “There’s a fusion of techniques from across the African diaspora.”
They dance across borders and choreograph in the space between past and present, drawing from history and tradition to propel contemporary dance forward.
“The performance makes you ask a question about tradition,” says Ms. Stanton. “What do we mean when we say something is ‘traditional’ or not? What does it mean to be ‘contemporary’?”
Thirteen Master Classes will provide an opportunity for intermediate to advanced dance students and dance professionals to explore diverse dance techniques. Asterisks (*) denote the four teachers who will be teaching their first DanceMasters Weekend Master Class at Wesleyan in 2014.
On Saturday, March 8, Master Classes will be taught by the following six teachers:
To see the full Master Class schedule, please click here. DanceMasters Weekend Master Classes are $19 per class for the general public (plus a $6 registration fee), and $13 per class for Wesleyan students. A Weekend Pass, which includes five Master Classes and one ticket to the Showcase Performance, is $100 for the general public (plus a $6 registration fee), and $73 for Wesleyan students. To register for Master Classes, or to purchase a Weekend Pass, please call or visit the Wesleyan University Box Office at 860-685-3355.
Pamela Tatge, Director of the Center for the Arts, discusses the four new trees planted in honor of the CFA’s 40th anniversary, to be dedicated at the concert by Amy Crawford + STORM and mamarazzi on Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.
If you’ve ever taken a stroll through the Center for the Arts courtyard before a performance, or sat out on the lawn for an outdoor concert, you know how important the trees are to the architecture of the CFA. Architect Kevin Roche designed the buildings around the trees back in the early seventies, making sure that the building equipment would have as little impact on them as possible. Over the past forty years, many of the trees have died from extreme weather conditions and disease. In honor of the CFA’s 40th anniversary, the University has planted four new trees including one right outside the window of my office on the second floor of the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. Here’s a picture of them planting it earlier this month.
This beautiful red maple replaces a willow tree we lost during Hurricane Irene. It’s wonderful to come into work every day and see that little tree blowing in the breeze, knowing that one day it will grow to be every bit as majestic as its older brothers and sisters in the complex.
There is also a new paper bark maple between Art Studio South and the Music Studios, a beech tree near the World Music Hall’s north stairwell, and another paper bark maple between the Skull and Serpent building and Music Studios.
Please join us for the 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert of music alumni this Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 8pm when the trees will be dedicated, or just come by and take a stroll and welcome them to the CFA!
In my years at Wesleyan, the majority of my life was spent lurking behind the scenes around the CFA. I played a role in virtually every theater and dance production and good number of the music performances as well. While I had good relationships with my professors, and I was part of a number of interesting performances, what remains with me is the time I spent working and, well, not working, with Nelson Maurice and Charlie Carroll and their occasional co-conspirator Mark Gawlak. They were, if you can pardon a Star Trek reference, my Boothby. I considered them to be both mentors and friends. I think working with Nelson during a summer program on campus is what convinced me to come to Wesleyan in the first place. They provided the connections that got me first an internship at the Goodspeed Opera House and then later my job with fellow alum John Cini at High Output in Boston. It is even my connection with Charlie that led to my wife and I getting together. I certainly learned a lot about technical theater and practical problem solving working with them—skills that continue to serve me well long after I left the theater. Of course, Nelson would be the first to admit that he didn’t keep up with the technology, and in the end I think I was teaching him things, but the great thing about him was that the reversal never seemed to bother him. He was more like a proud grandfather than a teacher trying to maintain intellectual dominance, and I really respect him for that, especially now that I am a teacher myself.
But for all that, what I remember most is the quiet times, just hanging around the shop listening to them gossip and tell jokes of variable quality, or sitting up in the booth teaching Nelson how to navigate the nascent Internet so he could look up web pages about Panama, Maine, peddle cars and Moxie. I gained from them a certain pragmatism that is lacking in many theatrical environments (and elsewhere). They worked hard, but they never took anything too seriously – nothing is really an emergency, and there is a fix for everything. Of course, this led to one of my fondest memories, watching Nelson emerge onstage and start sweeping the stage in the middle of a curtain call because it had been a long day and he was ready to go home. For all their pragmatism, and the admittedly hard time they gave anyone who came in range, they are some of the Good Guys, dedicated to what they do, and above all dedicated to their students.
Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance Intern Laura Ligon ’14 speaks with performers Dahlak Brathwaite and Daveed Diggs about Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s “Word Becomes Flesh,” which will receive its New England premiere at Wesleyan on Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 8pm.
Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s critically acclaimed Word Becomes Flesh is a refreshingly different approach to theater. The show combines aspects from hip hop, spoken word, dance, and Mr. Joseph’s own personal experiences of maturation to create a deeply moving and intense performance. Recently Word Becomes Flesh has been reworked as an ensemble show from its 2003 debut as a solo work originally performed by Mr. Joseph.
Word Becomes Flesh is presented as letters from a man, Mr. Joseph himself, to his unborn son. I spoke with performers Dahlak Brathwaite and Daveed Diggs about their experience in performing another man’s work. “The one thing that we all experience is a birth story, either about ourselves or others,” commented Mr. Brathwaite. Not only are we all connected through our birth stories, but also our personal maturing experiences. For ensemble member Mr. Diggs, “more globally, it’s about growing up.” Whereas Word Becomes Flesh is the exact story of one man’s personal experience, it is also telling the tale of an entire community, and gives voice to the male perspective of childbirth, a voice that is not often heard.
Mr. Joseph directs the five performers, each of whom shares a strong connection with the play. “At an age when I’m stepping into manhood, and adulthood, it was easy for me to relate to the piece,” commented Mr. Brathwaite. “Bamuthi incorporated the performers’ experiences in re-working the show. [The ensemble] didn’t have to try hard to fit our story in, his story was already our story; we just wrote the details. There are so many moments when his truth is so fine and personal that it speaks volumes, there are always multiple access points,” said Mr. Brathwaite.
Word Becomes Flesh is intense, meaningful and expressive. Mr. Brathwaite commented that “the writer, the listener, the audience members find themselves grasping at the elements of the piece—themes of fear, judgment and maturity.” What was a once a solo work demands even more attention as an ensemble piece; the addition of the ensemble adds an intensity that cannot be ignored. “The audience gets more shakes when we dance, more colors in our voices, our youth, our energy, our own kind of charisma,” noted Mr. Brathwaite.
Hartford Steel Symphony
Tuesday, July 2, 2013 at 7pm
Memorial Chapel , 221 High Street, Middletown FREE!
Dance to the island rhythms of the Hartford Steel Symphony! Founded in 1989, this premier Connecticut steel pan group performs calypso, reggae, pop, classical, and jazz tunes under the musical direction of Kelvin Griffith and Curtis Greenidge, and has shared the stage with artists such as the great panist Len “Boogsie” Sharpe of Trinidad.
Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge talks about the commission and research process for Rinde Eckert’s “The Last Days of the Old Wild Boy” (Nov. 15-17).
I met Rinde Eckert for the first time in 2008 at a gathering of universities who had been awarded Creative Campus grants from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. Rinde had just finished creating a work entitled Eye Piece at his alma mater, the University of Iowa. He worked with theater students and faculty to research the effects of macular degeneration and the experiences of people dealing with eye disease, including those who have lost or are losing their vision. A Grammy Award-winning musician, writer, composer, librettist, and director, Rinde is one of this country’s most innovative performance artists whose work spans music genres of all kinds, experimental theater and dance. When he spoke about his work in Iowa, I was struck by his generosity of spirit—how he took students into his production that other faculty members were unable to cast in their productions. I saw how moved he was by the process of making the work and how it was every bit as meaningful to him as the end product. I thought, this person can collaborate with anyone in the world, but he chooses to work with university students—this is a unique and special artist, a perfect fit for Wesleyan.
The Center for the Arts is in year three of the four-year Creative Campus Initiative, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. One of the Initiative’s primary goals is to support generative artists in theater, music and dance (including faculty artists and visiting artists) who work with scholars and materials in both arts and non-arts disciplines to advance the artists’ research and extend the arts into campus curricular and co-curricular life.
Rinde became an ideal candidate for a commission. We invited him to Wesleyan in November 2010 (he remembered his first trip to Wesleyan was when he was attending graduate school at the Yale School of Music). Rinde Eckert has built a dynamic theatrical logic that he describes as “fiercely interdisciplinary.” When Rinde met with the Theater Department and Center for the Arts staff he discussed the idea of writing a play about “otherness.” In the spring of 2011, Eckert was invited by the Theater Department to create a work over the course of 2012 that would result in a Department production in the fall of 2012, devised by Eckert, faculty and visiting designers, and theater students.
During the summer of 2012, Eckert was awarded a Creative Residency by Wesleyan’s Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP). He spent a week working on the piece in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio; discussing his creative process with ICPP students and students at the Center for Creative Youth; working with music collaborator Ned Rothenberg; and meetings with scenic designer and Adjunct Associate Professor Marcela Oteíza to prepare for the fall rehearsal period.
The Last Days of the Old Wild Boy emerged as a work about a man raised by wolves who finds himself toward the end of his life at the top of the food chain. Powerful and erudite, he longs for a return to the wildness of the wolf he was—but how does one recover one’s original, less conditioned or acculturated self?
Marcela became an essential collaborator in the development of the piece. She devised a visual identity for the work anchored in 144 small wooden benches that measure 10.5” x 18” x 8”. The benches are unfinished, in their natural state, but at the same time, they are hand-crafted, “man-made.” The actors arrange them horizontally when they form the camp-fire but as the world of the play becomes more “civilized,” vertical structures emerge. As the play develops, the actors literally sculpt the set before our eyes. The effect is tremendous.
In his program note for The Last Days of the Old Wild Boy, Rinde writes: “I’ve been thinking about nature and culture. I’ve been considering wolves. I’ve been interested in our self-descriptions, the line we draw between ourselves and the rest of everything. We are storytellers. We tell stories around the fire, protected by it, warmed by it, and if we get too distracted, burned by it.”
This is a play with big ideas enacted by Rinde Eckert and eight student actors: Sivan Battat ’15, Solomon Billinkoff ’14, Mikhail Firer ’13, Audrey Kiely ’13, Matthew Krakaur ’14, Jiovani Robles ’13, Alma Sanchez-Eppler ’14, and Christine Treuhold ’13. This is a world premiere, developed by an extraordinary artist with the help of Wesleyan faculty members and undergraduates—don’t miss this, it’s Wesleyan history in the making.
The Last Days of the Old Wild Boy World Premiere Written and directed by Rinde Eckert
Performed by Rinde Eckert and Wesleyan students Thursday, November 15 & Friday, November 16, 2012 at 8pm Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 2pm & 8pm
$8 general public; $5 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $4 Wesleyan students
Click here to watch a preview video of “The Last Days of the Old Wild Boy” which features interviews with Rinde Eckert and Alma Sanchez-Eppler ’14.
As some of you may know, in addition to my work as the Press & Marketing Manager at the Center for the Arts, I am also a drummer/percussionist, composer and bandleader. Several of my projects are improvisational ensembles that feature the crossing of genre borderlines, including jazz, funk/fusion, and rock. I am always excited when Wesleyan features jazz artists—from Charles Lloyd (who was one of David Liebman’s teachers), Kenny Barron, Sherrie Maricle, Anthony Braxton, and Jay Hoggard, to Lionel Loueke, Taylor Ho Bynum and Noah Baerman—so I was happy when I heard that the summer programming committee had selected Mr. Liebman’s group as one of the evening performances this month, at the suggestion of Gene Bozzi. Mr. Liebman’s group has explored a wide variety of contemporary styles, ranging from bebop and free jazz to fusion and Brazilian.
At Wesleyan, Mr. Bozzi is a Private Lessons Teacher for percussion/drums, and the Music Department Chair at the Center for Creative Youth, a summer residential arts program here on campus. He is also the principal timpanist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra (one of my previous employers). Over the weekend, Gene shared with me a bit about his work as a jazz sideman:
“I met Dave Liebman in the late 1970’s, when I was playing drums in a local Hartford group called Jazz Icarus. We were just out of college, and trying to get our ‘jazz chops’ together, but fortunate enough to score one night a week at Mad Murphy’s on Union Place. We would bring Dave in as our guest artist and give him all the money for the gig. It was like on the job training for us, we learned a lot. He would talk about his gigs with Miles Davis and Elvin Jones. I am thrilled that the Center of the Arts is bringing in artists of this caliber to perform and interact with our Center for Creative Youth students.”
I first remember hearing David Liebman’s sax playing during the spring of my junior year of college in 1998. I was studying music at Syracuse University, and graduate student/saxophonist Chris Mannigan put Panthalassa: The Music of Miles Davis 1969–1974 – a Miles Davis remix album by producer/bassist Bill Laswell – on the stereo at a party. I soon sought out the original albums On the Corner (1972) and Get Up With It (1974). Mr. Liebman also appears on Miles’ live album Dark Magus, recorded at Carnegie Hall in 1974.
Writer Alan Bisbort talked to David Liebman this past Saturday morning, following Mr. Liebman’s return from a tour that had stops in Austria, Finland, Switzerland, and Italy:
Liebman thinks what makes a “classic” recording is something of a beautiful mystery.
“Look at [John Coltrane]. He recorded his Giant Steps and then played on Miles’ Kind of Blue within a month of each other. Both are totally different, both are now musical milestones. And yet, if he thought about how they’d be received he probably never would have gotten out of bed in the morning,” says Liebman laughing. “There was a lot of traffic for musicians back then. Each session was a musical challenge, but you are also making a living.”
Liebman promises a “variety of things” at the Wesleyan gig.
“It really depends on the audience, the vibe, the size and even the sound of the room. I don’t really know until I see all this,” said Liebman. “I’ll have my martini, then check out the crowd from backstage and draw up a set list. I can quote from a huge repertoire, everything from Ornette [Coleman] to [Antonio Carlos] Jobim to Cole Porter.”
You can read the rest of Alan’s article in the print edition of the Advocate on July 19 (or online here), and then head to Crowell Concert Hall that night to hear David Liebman’s group, which features guitarist Vic Juris, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Marko Marcinko.