Brian Brooks Endures at the CFA (July 12 & 13)

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).

Brian Brooks Moving Company performs "Big City" (2012). Photo by David Bazemore.

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

Updates on “SPILL”, Hari Krishnan, and Brad Roth’s “Shared Ability” Program

This is just a note to thank you for attending our events and exhibitions this past year.  I hope you have enjoyed and been challenged by the work of our faculty, students and visiting artists! After Reunion/Commencement this weekend, we will be switching gears to prepare for another beautiful summer in Middletown and the CFA’s summer series. I’ll be posting various CFA news items as I hear about what our students and faculty are up to, as well as our alumni and visiting artists.  Feel free to email me with any news you think I should know about at

First, I want to let those of you who saw Leigh Fondakowski’s work-in-progress SPILL at Beckham Hall in February know that she and her artistic collaborator for the project, Reeva Wortel, have been awarded two 3-week residencies in New Orleans this fall. Fondakowski and Wortel will live and work at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and at Louisiana State University to further develop the play. Fondakowski’s hope is to premier the completed work in New Orleans on the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2013. We’re so excited to see this important work travel home, completing the circle begun last summer as seven Wesleyan students journeyed with Fondakowski and Wesleyan’s own Barry Chernoff, Director of the College of the Environment, to conduct the interviews and research that became the seeds of this project.

inDANCE rehearse "Quicksand" at Wesleyan on March 1, 2012. Photo by Nam Anh Ta '12.

In faculty news, Hari Krishnan was invited by the Canada Dance Festival to perform Quicksand in Ottawa on June 11, 2012.  Later in the summer, Hari is one of only twenty choreographers from around the world invited to create a solo for Jacobs Pillow’s celebration The Men Dancers: From the Horse’s Mouth, an homage to the Pillow’s 80th Anniversary and pioneering founder Ted Shawn and his company of Men Dancers.

And in local news, in last Sunday’s New Haven Register, I read about a terrific program facilitated by Brad Roth MALS ’97, who runs an organization called Dancing Day, Inc. based in Milford and has taught dance across Connecticut. Now in its third year, the Shared Ability Program, under the auspices of Young Audiences of CT and in partnership with the New Haven Ballet, continues to provide a supportive environment for ballet students and children with disabilities to meet, interact, and share their different experiences and interests. Students learn to accept touch, to communicate through movement, and to express themselves creatively and interactively – skills they’ll develop and draw upon throughout their lives.

For Roth, the “challenge is to create interesting choreography where the attention is not to the disability, but to the choreography. The magic is when restricted movement looks like designed movement or art, rather than the perception of limitation. They’re beautiful little moments that happen regularly – magic little moments where movement turns into dance.”

You can see Brad (and others) talk about the program in this video.

We congratulate Brad and his students on their work so far, and wish them the best of luck in the future.

Be sure to check back soon for more updates!

Until then, I send you my best wishes,

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

“Summer at the CFA” to include New England Premiere of “Big City” by Brian Brooks Moving Company (July 12 & 13)

Tickets for Brian Brooks Moving Company, David Liebman Quartet, and Steve Scionti’s Hear What’s In The Heart: A Shoemaker’s Tale are now on sale online! Click here to buy your tickets.



Ballet from Boise, July 21 & 22

Trey McIntyre Project dancer Brett Perry. Photograph by David Harry Stewart. Copyright Trey McIntyre Project. All rights reserved.

It’s not often that the CFA features ballet, but when we do, we focus on companies who are contemporary, whose vibe and energy is of today.  Trey McIntyre Project is that company – they burst onto the scene only four years ago, and since then have become a touring sensation, traveling the country, and now the world, at least 22 weeks of the year.  And when they are not on the road, they are at their home in Boise, Idaho.

McIntyre is a choreographer who came out of the Houston Ballet and then became a free-lance choreographer working with many of this country’s leading ballet companies.  When it was time for him to start his own company, he didn’t decide to base it in New York or San Francisco – he decided instead to intentionally become engaged with a Western city who needed an arts infusion:  Boise, Idaho.  As we work with our students here at Wesleyan on how to use the arts as a vehicle for community engagement and social change, we welcome a company that is doing just that: dancing in hospital cafeterias, factory lounges and schools, demystifying ballet and growing an audience that now considers the Trey McIntyre Project to be their own.

Trey McIntyre Project is not only engaging with their home community, they are also engaging with the world.  The company was chosen by the U.S. Department of State and Brooklyn Academy of Music as one of four American dance companies to participate in DanceMotion USA and will tour to China, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam in spring 2012 serving as a U.S. Cultural Ambassador.

Tonight and tomorrow night at Wesleyan, they’ll dance to music by Roy Orbison and the New Orleans Preservation Hall Jazz Band – they are an intensely physical, joyous company in which each dancer is allowed to bring their personality onto the stage. Come and join us!   And P.S., the CFA Theater is air conditioned.

Trey McIntyre Project
Thursday, July 21 & Friday, July 22, 2011 at 8pm

CFA Theater
Center for the Arts

Wesleyan University
$22 general public; $19 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff; $10 students

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

Marc Bamuthi Joseph at the CFA: “If You Surrender to the Air, You Can Ride It”

Marc Bamuthi JosephWhen I first saw Marc Bamuthi Joseph at New York’s Under the Radar Festival in 2005, I was struck by the fact that Marc is a spoken word artist who uses his whole body, his whole being to speak.  He is one of the few spoken word artists whose poetry is matched by his capacity as a dancer and mover, so that his body can serve as either a metaphor for his words, punctuate his words or even fight his words.

He is truly a hybrid artist and activist: a Broadway veteran, a National Slam Poetry Champion, a featured artist in Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam and founder of The Living Word Project, a company based in Oakland, California that creates verse-based work that is spoken through the body, illustrated by visual and sonic scores, and in communication with the important social issues and movements of the immediate moment.

In Marc’s words:

“I experience God as a verb, not a noun. I experience art in the same way. The music doesn’t live on a flat disc, it lives in the thing it does to your hips. So it is with my writing. I compose for embodiment. I write words with the intent to live it through movement. At the end of Song of Solomon, [Toni] Morrison writes, ‘…if you surrender to the air, you can ride it.’ If words are my air, dance is my surrender. In the intersection of movement and text, the collapsed space for breath to speak is like a different kind of oxygen. I am intellectually piqued by the physical journey it takes to meet the spiritual place I wish to occupy.”

Tonight at the CFA Theater, audiences will have the opportunity to see excerpts of three of his major works, Word Becomes Flesh (2003); the break/s (2008); and his newest work, red, black and GREEN: a blues (2011).  Hope you can join us!

Marc Bamuthi Joseph: The Spoken World
Thursday, July 14, 2011 at 8pm

CFA Theater
Center for the Arts

Wesleyan University
$15 general public; $13 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff; $10 students

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

Jazz Great Kenny Barron’s Trio in Crowell Concert Hall

We are delighted to welcome the magnificent jazz pianist Kenny Barron back to Wesleyan tonight with the Kenny Barron Trio (Barron will be joined by Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass and Lee Pearson on drums). Barron was here in the eighties when his older brother, distinguished jazz saxophonist, Bill Barron was on the Wesleyan faculty.  Bill Barron arrived at Wesleyan in 1975 and started the Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra.  He served as a distinguished member of the music department faculty, as well as its chair, until his death in 1989.

Kenny Barron is quite simply one of those jazz greats you need to make a point of hearing live…just last year, the National Endowment for the Arts inducted him into its prestigious Jazz Masters class of 2010.  In his words:  “I don’t think of myself necessarily as an innovator. . . But what I have contributed to jazz is keeping a commitment to the honesty of the music. I never do anything that’s too slick, and I play what I feel. I believe in having fun, which took a long time to discover—to not take myself so seriously.”  As a composer, arranger and bandleader, the Philadelphia native has spent five decades at the forefront of the jazz piano aristocracy starting out as a member of Dizzy Gillespie’s Quintet from 1962 to 1966.   An in-demand sideman in his early days on the jazz scene playing with, among many others, Chet Baker, Ron Carter, Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard and Bobby Hutcherson, it’s his maturation as a leader that has brought him well-deserved recognition as a true jazz master.

Barron is also known as a transformative teacher (he’s currently on the faculty at Julliard). In fact, those of you who know the work of Middletown’s own Noah Baerman, may not know that his mentor and teacher at Rutgers University was Kenny Barron (look for Noah’s tribute concert to Barron at the Russell House on October 16).

Barron’s visit to Wesleyan is made possible by the Center for the Arts partnership with the Capitol Region Education Council’s Center for Creative Youth, a program for gifted and talented students in the arts.  They’ll be cheering in the audience tonight.

Kenny Barron Trio
Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
Wesleyan University
$20 general public; $18 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff; $10 students

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

Colombian Groove Band: Free Concert in CFA Courtyard Tonight

CFA Courtyard Stage 6/30/11
CFA Courtyard Stage 6/30/11

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day for the annual outdoor summer concert at the Center for the Arts!  We hope that you will come early, bring a picnic and groove with Pablo Mayor’s Folklore Urbano.  The concert begins at 7pm in the CFA Courtyard.

Pablo Mayor is a composer, arranger, pianist, from Cali, Colombia, whose star has risen since he moved to New York in 1999.  While a professor of jazz at the Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, he began his personal investigation of the native music of Colombia, and has combined this knowledge with his extensive knowledge of jazz harmonies and arranging. The Folklore Urbano Orchestra has produced three CD’s and taken the band to both national and international venues.

What you’ll hear tonight is modern Colombian music redefined in fresh, lively, provocative ways. Part groove band, part dance orchestra, the powerhouse ensemble of eight musicians seamlessly fuses the danceable swing of traditional Colombian rhythms with the lush subtleties of contemporary jazz harmonies and unique arrangements.  You’ll feel the beat of a rhythm section deeply grounded in traditional Colombian music.  Like a feisty chef, Pablo Mayor then adds explosive horns and great vocals to produce a tasty, sultry, addictive blend.

Please join us!

Pablo Mayor’s Folklore Urbano
Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 7pm
CFA Courtyard
Wesleyan University
Free parking available in T, E, and G lots

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

Summer at the CFA

Tickets for Kenny Barron Trio, Marc Bamuthi Joseph / The Living Word Project, and Trey McIntyre Project are now on sale! Click here to buy your tickets online.