Barbara Fenig ’11 reviews Dewey Dell’s “Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta Stridenti”

Barbara Fenig ’11 reviews Dewey Dell’s “Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta Stridenti”.

Dewey Dell: Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta Stridenti. (Left to right): Sara Angelini, Agata Castellucci, and Teodora Castellucci. Teatro Palladium, Rome, Italy. October 2010. Photo by Demetrio Castellucci.

The final performance in Dewey Dell’s two-week residency at Wesleyan University concluded with the American debut of Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta Stridenti. The title, which translates to “Roaring Forties, Furious Fifties, and Shrieking Sixties”, evokes the names of three westerly winds that haunt the Antarctic seas. The piece charts the story of a ship as it becomes cloaked by the winds. Against the silver and black backdrop of the set, which depicts the depths of the ocean, the ship grows into an enormous organism whose borders are blurring, corresponding with the winds, the sea, and the world as prescribed by Dewey Dell’s trio of dancers.

Dewey Dell’s creativity was well received by the packed audience at the sold out show. Siblings Teodora, Demetrio, and Agata Castellucci along with Eugenio Resta formed Dewey Dell in 2007. Teodora serves as the group’s choreographer, Demetrio as the composer, Eugenio as the light and set designer, and Agata as a leading dancer. As the performance progressed, Teodora, Agata and guest performer and friend Sara Angelini became representations of the boat, enveloped by their environment: their bodies synonymous with the elements as they danced around the Center for the Arts Theater stage.

Sponsored by the Center for the Arts and the Theater Department as an Outside the Box Theater Series event, Dewey Dell’s performance created a striking portrait of the world of the sea. The dancers wore costumes, which affirmed them as ethereal beings—a mirage of black costumes and white face paint, framed with black squares on the core of their faces—hiding their identities. The trio wore padded voluptuous hips, a confirmation of their feminine connection with nature, and thus the cinquanta urlanti quaranta ruggenti sessanta stridenti. In the question and answer following the performance, the trio also remarked that their authoritative hips remind them of the form of the boat and the temptation of sea sirens.

The performance’s electronic music was symbiotic with its commentary about nature as it replicated waves crashing, reacting to the boat, and the overall power of nature. The music’s aggressive vibrations mimicked the deadliest of waves, which were followed by the shrieking crew, cracking wood, and the buzzing hum of the moments between each dramatic wave, which provided melodic reprieves for the audience. Each time a wave would strike, it ripped the dancers back into the swirl of nature’s power.  The performance maintained a constant comparison between the bellowing of the crew and the murmur of the ocean.

During Dewey Dell’s residency, I heard about the brilliance of the group: how they were interacting with Wesleyan students, generously cooking Italian meals in Juniors’ LoRise apartments, roaming around campus, and teaching bits of Italian. This intriguing contrast is evidenced in Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta Stridenti as Dewey Dell is at once burgeoning talent and prophetic genius.

Sarah Wolfe ’12 previews “The Last Five Years”

Sarah Wolfe ’12 interviews Sara Schineller ’12 about Second Stage’s “The Last Five Years”.

This weekend Second Stage presents its first full production of the season, The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown. In a semester with a high quantity of musicals, Brown’s piece offers us a different take on musicals. The story follows two people, a man and a woman, traveling in reverse directions through the course of their relationship. The woman, Cathy, played by Sara Schineller ‘12, starts at the end of the relationship and the man, Jamie, played by Spencer Hattendorf ’12, starts at the beginning. They only meet once in the show, at the midpoint. Instead of glitz, glamour, or high kicks, Brown simply tells story of a relationship, using his wonderfully courageous music to illustrate the emotional ups and downs.

I spoke with Schineller last week about the show and the process so far. The senior, a double Theater and Psychology major, has dreamed of doing this show the entire time she’s been at Wesleyan.

“I had been waiting, hoping, fingers crossed that someone would do this show before I graduated. Senior year comes around, and there is no show yet.” So she decided to take matters into her own hands. She has been passionate about the show for eight years, claiming that the incredible soundtrack has served as her music of choice through almost any period of her life. Realizing that it would be difficult to make the production work as a Senior Thesis project for either major, she decided to take advantage of Second Stage and the amazing student talent on campus.

“I was talking to Dylan Zwickel [‘14], and she was looking to direct a small cast musical for the fall.” Zwickel, a member of Second Stage, is a first time director, and Schineller says her enthusiasm and dedication to the piece has been inspiring. With Zwickel on board, they quickly assembled a team including Hattendorf, Brianna Van Kan ’12 as the Stage Manager, Brian Lee ’13 as the Music Director, Evan DelGaudio ’12 as the Set Designer and Ross Firestone ’12 as the Lighting Designer.

The singers, Hattendorf and Schineller, spent the summer learning the music so that they could immediately jump into rehearsals. With only four weeks between the first rehearsal and opening night, Schineller says that the process has been intense, but incredibly rewarding. With a small cast and crew, the rehearsals have been collaborative and open to feedback from all parties, while still relying on the crucial outside eye of the director.

Schineller views this show as something of a capstone project for her time at Wesleyan, and has been able to use her experiences at Wesleyan to help her character, and the show, come to life.

“I feel like for a Theater and Psych major this show is sort of a gold mine,” she quipped. Though her acting classes are obvious contributors, the senior also credited her ability to analyze aspects of the marriage and how each character holds fault in different ways to her various classes in the Psychology department.

At the end of our interview I asked Schineller if there was one thing she would say to Jason Robert Brown, given the opportunity. She responded, “I would probably tell him (aside from being a God among men) how much something that he wrote has meant to me. It’s got heart. I think that’s the thing, is that it’s very real. So I would tell him thank you.”

“The Last Five Years” by Jason Robert Brown goes up at the ’92 Theater on Thursday, September 29 and runs through Saturday, October 1 at 8pm. Tickets are FREE and available the day of the show at the Wesleyan University Box Office.

WesHEAL: A Creative Twist on Healing & Self-Care

Shira Engel ’14 interviews Sonya Freeman ’12, co-founder of WesHEAL.

At Creative Campus, we define creativity in a broad sense. Creativity is not limited to a narrow definition of “the arts.” It is, rather, a way of going about life. At Wesleyan where students use innovative means to express themselves through student groups, it is important to acknowledge the creativity that goes behind student organizing. So, to kick off the post-Student Activities Fair year, I interviewed Sonya Freeman, co-founder of WesHEAL (Helping Envision Alternative Lifestyles) on how she views creative ways to go about healing.

Why did you decide to start WesHEAL?

I came back from Ecuador feeling particularly passionate about healing – using herbal remedies, accupuncture, ayurveda, and natural medicine in general. My experience working in a water birth clinic in Ecuador and my job as a research assistant at Cornell Medical College have taught me about working with different kinds of healing methods, specifically targeted towards women. At the birth clinic, I danced with women to relax their bodies before beginning contractions and watched as they gave birth in bathtubs. At Cornell, I worked in reproductive psychiatry, where they focus on treating illness with medication. I felt inspired by both methods of healing. When I returned to Wes, I did some research and learned about integrative/complementary medicine. When I started talking to students about the topic, they tended to show interest. Hannah Cressy ’13 teamed up to create and lead an official student group based on raising awareness of integrative medicine through education and activism. We worked with Lisa Sy ’13 to make a logo and spread the word about the group using posters, Facebook, Wesleying, and the student groups fair. We have covered a wide range of opinions on a wide range of topics, including the most effective ways to address different illnesses, the placebo effect, the dynamics of the doctor-patient relationship, and many more!

How did you create an image for the club that reflected its ideals?

The more opinions we have, the more effective the group will be. We want the group to be viewed as an exciting new initiative that will grow on account of its accessibility to the student body. We aim to provide an open space where people can talk freely about healing, which can be a very personal topic.

How would you consider WesHEAL a creative endeavor?

It’s a relatively new idea that is being developed all over the United States. Integrative medicine is an approach to healing that requires an open mind to all types of medicine in the world. Combining the approaches to healing used in different parts of the world, including the Westernized medicine we’ve been raised on, is special and creative.

What’s your vision for WesHEAL?

This year, we aim to create a healing section at Weshop, which will include natural remedies and directions on how to use them effectively, and install a meditation room in the library to be utilized during midterms and finals (the times when students tend to treat their bodies the worst!).  We also want to bring in a guest speaker from the Osher Institute at Harvard (an organization that specializes in integrative medicine), and screen a movie about integrative methods of healing. In the long term, we hope WesHEAL will grow into a strong presence on the Wesleyan campus. Integrative medicine is constantly developing and changing.  We hope to keep students and faculty informed about and involved in the advances in this growing field.

Katherine Clifford ’14 reviews Dewey Dell’s “Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanti Stridenti”

Katherine Clifford ’14 reviews Dewey Dell’s “Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanti Stridenti”

Dewey Dell's "Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanti Stridenti"

Dewey Dell’s performance, Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanti Stridenti, or Roaring Forties Furious Fifties Shrieking Sixties, was a fascinating mélange of movement, sound, and conceptual complexity.

Dewey Dell is an Italian theater troupe, which was founded in 2007. They spent two weeks at Wesleyan, gave two performances, and engaged with students in the Italian, theater, and dance departments during their stay.

Their performance last Friday night, September 16, fell somewhere in the spectrum between dance and theater, encompassing and overlapping with both performing art forms. Indeed, while the Wesleyan Theater Department sponsored this event, I felt like I was watching a dance performance, yet a very theatrical one. Their movements were not for the sake of pure aesthetic appeal, but they were symbolic and representative of the themes throughout the piece.

The idea of the piece was to portray the storms and seas in a region in the Antarctic defined by the latitudes known as The Roaring Forties, Furious Fifties, and Shrieking Sixties. In the piece, three dancers are on a ship in these tumultuous seas; yet as the piece progresses, they are no longer characters, but they become representations of their environment. They become the ship, the ocean, and the winds, until everything merges into one blurred and entwined vision.

The dancers were dressed identically in black, each with a black circle painted on their face, effectively erasing their identities. The white outline around the blackened features of their faces and their exposed lower arms provided a contrast to their black enrobed bodies and the bleak, black and grey backdrop. Although the three dancers were sans identity so that they could merge into the intricacies of their surroundings, their hips were padded in order to accentuate their femininity, perhaps to show the feminine power of Earth’s natural elements. The bleakness of the color palette reflected the music, which was jarring, loud, and at times, terrifying. Sounds such as the creaking of wood, the wind and waves, and screaming voices realistically depicted the nautical setting. In sum, the music in conjunction with angular and geometric movements encapsulated a visceral feeling of inner turmoil and commotion.

At the end of the performance, I was left slightly dazed, asking myself questions, such as “What does it mean? Who are these people? What are they trying to depict?” Fortunately, a question and answer session with the troupe after the performance helped answer these questions, shedding light onto their artistic vision in addition to providing insight into the process of collaboration within their troupe. This avant-garde form of theater-dance was unlike anything I had seen before. As I tried to make sense of what I had seen through discussions with friends, my friends’ insightful comments and interpretations made me appreciate the great power of art in its ability to resonate differently and evoke different meanings for each person.

Creative Campus at the Student Activities Fair

Want to know what arts events are happening on campus? Are you involved in arts events and want to get the word out about them? Are you creative and want an outlet for that awesome expression? Or maybe you want to offer up your fresh take on what’s happening on this very creative campus.

This past spring, the Creative Campus website started in conjunction with the Center for the Arts. It was created collaboratively with Wesleyan students, artists, and staff. It is intended for anyone who wants to know what is going on with creative life on this vibrant and inspirational campus. It is a way of aggregating and collecting the creative life on campus, across disciplines, passions, departments, and student groups.

And speaking of student groups, Creative Campus will have a table at the Student Activities Fair! Come check us out to find out how you can get involved, to promote your student group through Creative Campus, or just to say hi. Hope to see you there!

Shira Engel ’14 reviews “Mixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports”

Shira Engel ’14 reviews “Mixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports”.

Catherine Opie: Josh (2007). Chromogenic print, 30 x 22 1/4 in. (76.2 x 56.5 cm). Courtesy the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles.

In the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, a plethora of departments, interests, and values intersect in the Mixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports exhibit. This is a must-see exhibit for Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Sociology, African American Studies, and Anthropology majors, as well as all athletes and Friday Night Lights fans at this university. Basically, if you go to Wesleyan and engage in conversations concerning self and social expression, this exhibit can offer a new and intimate perspective on the age-old institution of American athletics.

The exhibit first takes the viewer through the stereotypes of the male athlete. It uses the art of exposure and reinterpretation as a socially subversive and critical agent of change. Adorning the walls of Zilka, you will find football jerseys, gym equipment, football helmets dangling from the ceiling, photography, paintings, and silent film. In both form and content, intersectionality is heavily present in Mixed Signals. It is, after all, the necessary by-product of a liberal arts education, which is known for interdisciplinary studies.

The multimedia approach creates a multisensory experience, allowing the viewer to experience the social stigma and expectations of masculinity in sports. This is art that is hyper-relevant to the Wesleyan student, as all aspects of the Mixed Signals exhibit have the power and potential to affect campus life.

Mixed Signals is on display through Sunday, October 23, 2011. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Sunday from Noon to 4pm, and on Friday from Noon to 8pm. Gallery admission is free.

Sarah Wolfe ’12 reviews Dewey Dell’s “à elle vide”

Sarah Wolfe ’12 reviews Dewey Dell’s “à elle vide”

Dewey Dell: à elle vide. Teodora Castellucci (left) and Agata Castellucci. Cesena, Italy. 2008.

Dewey Dell’s performance of à elle vide left the audience in silence for a full thirty seconds before the applause began. Though the performance had only been twenty minutes long, it had filled the theater with its energy, through the pulsing electronic beats, at times frenzied and at times eerie, and through the beautiful and extraordinary movements of the two dancers.

Dewey Dell was formed by four young Italian artists, three siblings, Teodora (23), Agata (20), and Demetrio (21) Castellucci along with Eugenio Resta (29). But watching the performance, one would never be able to guess their youth in the maturity of the work.

à elle vide is the story of two figures, the red Rooster and the white Scorpion, each depicted by the elaborate headdress and the color of their entire body and costume, which are designed by Teodora.

“[T]he characters,” said Dewey Dell in our correspondence about their work, “come from two drawings. These drawings, once finished, shouted their desire to live. How many times, in your childhood, have you had the desire that the drawing becomes a reality?”

Rather than focusing on these two figures’ relationship, the piece instead focuses on the “void that is created between the two figures, the vacuum mentioned by the title. à elle vide. to her empty.” Teodora, as the Rooster, began the piece with a ten-minute solo in which her precisely controlled movements coupled with Demetrio’s electronic score call to mind the Rooster’s short, hyperactive motions.

Eugenio lit the piece beautifully, using dim lighting to create elusive shadows, hiding then revealing the dancers’ bodies and movements. Moving quickly through the dim light, often with her head down, we rarely saw Teodora’s face, but when we did it was shocking and constantly in tune with the rest of her frenzied motions.

On one notable occasion, Teodora turned so that she was silhouetted in profile and we saw for a brief glimpse that her chin was shaking, vibrating along to her harried internal rhythm. In another, her hands moved so fast and fluidly that it seemed as though she could actually be sprouting wings, long silken feathers growing from her fingertips.

The fury of the Rooster was entirely contrasted by the cunning and curious Scorpion, played by Agata, content to be still and silent. Agata, wearing slender white heels, processed slowly to the front of the stage, where she remained for the duration of the performance, her face a mask of innocence, almost calling to mind a young girl wearing her favorite party outfit, putting on a show of shyness and timidity. But beneath lay a sea of cunning, revealed in each curl of her slender fingers as she waits.

Though the piece culminates in what appears to be a confrontation, the artists view the animals as honoring each other rather than attacking each other, dedicating their movements to their opposite.

“It looks like dance,” says Theater Department Chair Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, “but there is something essentially theatrical about it.”

The members of Dewey Dell responded to this question about the boundaries between theater and dance in their work, saying that it was not a simple question for them. “When we go to see dance performances we get bored, and we say to each other that we don’t like the dance, but, for us, what we do – our work, we mean – is dance…Then, we could define dance also [as] the leaves of a tree in the wind and we wouldn’t be wrong.”

The difference seems to lie in the connection between execution and intention. For Dewey Dell, execution cannot be all. Intention, the honest and natural movement, must be equally as strong to create a piece that is theatrically as well as physically engaging.

Just as the red Rooster and the white Scorpion emerged out of a drawing that was necessary to bring to life, Dewey Dell begins all of their work with an idea, an image that is demanding to be shared with reality. They begin by capturing the physical characteristics and the look, feeling how this character would move, and how it can be portrayed through elements of design. But they never lose sight of the original image.

“We could never have an idea without being able to realize it.”

“We do everything to bring it to life.”

The four founding members of Dewey Dell are in the middle of a two-week residency with Wesleyan’s Theater Department, which includes a week-long workshop for Theater and Dance students. In the workshop they are developing their new work, Grave: Corpi in Caduta Libera, the first piece they have done with human characters. They will conclude their residency with a performance of Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta Stridenti (“a surreal reflection on how the borders between the sailors, the ship, the wind and the sea are blurred upon leaving the harbor“) at the CFA Theater on Friday, September 16, joined by Sara Angelini. Tickets are available at the Wesleyan University Box Office: $18 general public; $15 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty and staff, and non-Wesleyan students; and $6 Wesleyan students.

Ronald Ebrecht to play music by César Franck, Sept. 9

Shira Engel ’14 interviews Artist in Residence and University Organist Ronald Ebrecht before his free, all-Franck concert, “Bach to School”, taking place Friday, September 9, 2011 at 8pm in Memorial Chapel.

Tell me about the concert.

The composer was born in Eastern Belgium, an area that belonged to everybody. There is a BU program to increase cross-border cultural things in those regions where the borders have moved a lot. This is one of César Franck’s anniversary years (1822-1890). My specialty is music from the 1950s so this stuff – from the 1850s – is a little early for it. This guy was very important to the history of symphony. He became a model for a lot of other composers, such as Charles Ives. It is a major piece in orchestra. Musical scenes from one movement were re-introduced in other movements. Franck was the first person to repeat scenes. He was important in chamber music, the most important 19th-century French composer. The ability to write melodies creates memory, which makes him very popular.

What do you hope students will get out of the concert?

I always like to be first because then I get a really good audience. I always have a mystique around campus. We have the largest undergraduate organ program. All the schools are jealous of our Organ Romp. I like to be first and kick the series off to a good start. In a few weeks, there’s another concert composed by students (“The Musical Singularity”, Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 8pm in 
Memorial Chapel). There will be a newness to this concert because it’s the first of the season. I don’t have to put together an ensemble; it’s just me so there’s no major rehearsal.

If you like music that will lay you out on the floor, Franck does that.

What was the inspiration? Tell me about the festival.

I was supposed to have played in Germany for another thing, an all-American program, but I wasn’t able to go. The students always want to know what’s going on in the studio. My studio downstairs has posters from a bunch of places in the world and students can sit there and practice and think, “If I work really hard, I can go to all these places.”

What pieces are you most excited for?

The d minor symphony became a piece that all other composers of symphonies are interested in, and Franck was so pleased with how much attention that piece got that he decided to write a piece for other organs. That became a genre of its own. It’s a cyclical organ symphony so he brings back scenes from earlier movements to set the stage for other movements. We have a problem in serious music where people say, “I don’t know how to listen to that,” but when the scenes come back from other movements, it makes it a lot easier.

Request for Proposals: Student Commission 2011-2012

The Center for the Arts is accepting proposals from Wesleyan students for the creation of a visual art work/performance connected to the Feet to the Fire: Fueling the Future theme. The proposal should consist of a project idea and timetable for a project to be created and executed by the end of each semester. One project will be awarded each semester. The Wesleyan University Creative Campus Committee will evaluate the proposals and the selection process will be based on the creativity of the submission, the connection to the Feet to the Fire theme, evidence of cross-disciplinary thinking and the feasibility of the project. Selectees will be awarded up to $250. The Center for the Arts will provide assistance in the realization of the selected projects.

Proposals should include:

  • 1-2 page written description
  • Timetable
  • Visual work should also include a visual representation of the proposed project such as a photograph or sketch (jpeg or pdf preferred)

Proposals for the fall semester are due by midnight on September 25, 2011.

Submit proposals to Program Manager Erinn Roos-Brown by email to or delivered to the Center for the Arts office (located above Zilkha Gallery).

Asphalt Orchestra’s Stephanie Richards on “Trading Futures”

A statement from composer Stephanie Richards of Asphalt Orchestra for the performers and witnesses about her work for the Common Moment, Trading Futures:

Essentially, futures trading can be defined as such: investing in or against the future success of a given commodity.  Last Friday, as a community, we embraced the present moment and began the mission of investing in the success of our futures. We embraced alternative and creative ways to appreciate the very things that fuel our daily lives. A tin can became a musical instrument, a dance partner, an artifact of industrial design: a collective heartbeat.  We examined the place newspapers and the media have in our society and questioned their intentions and reach of power. Embracing the importance of education, statistics, and questioning our sources for information. Becoming a vessel for theatrical emotional expression, we literally roared in frustration from the overwhelming mass of media disinformation, ripping our newspapers in half and in the end moving collectively as a community toward one, same, unified goal: the success of our future.

Earlier that day, you discussed the determinacy of oil, and its limited future.  That we are dependant on a commodity with a limited lifespan foretells a future we very well need to trade. In embracing creative alternatives (through art, education, science), we will find a solution. You discussed the disappearance of wetlands of Southern Louisiana and their inherent loss of culture as a result. And yet we performed a piece of music last Friday with rhythms and homage to the Zydeco musical tradition, encouraging the longevity of a vibrant part of American tradition.

It was important to me that we challenged our ideals of what constitutes a musical instrument and challenged preconceived notions of what could be considered art.  It was also a priority to use recycled and highly recycle-able materials in consideration for the future we owe ourselves and future generations to come.  Tin cans, fabric and newspapers were donated from both the Wesleyan community and Materials For the Arts in New York City.

Each instrument and choreography that you all performed has meaning to me conceptually and compositionally. But I will wrestle my urge to explain the abundant literal and abstract meanings I have envisioned and encourage you to find your own message in each movement and instrument. Ultimately, its significance and beauty exists only in your consideration and embrace.

Lastly, I’d like to thank Pamela Tatge, Barbara Ally and Erinn Roos-Brown at Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts for making the event possible.  I’d like to thank Mark DeChiazza for his creative insight and collaboration in choreographing the event.  And lastly, thank you to Asphalt Orchestra and Wesleyan’s class of 2015 for the privilege of composing for you and performing with you.

A full score complete with aerial images of choreography and directions are posted on my website for you all.