Katherine Clifford reviews the annual West African Drumming and Dance Concert, held on Friday, May 11, 2012.
The West African Drumming and Dance Concert was held on Friday, May 11, 2012 in the CFA Courtyard. West African Dance classes I, II, and III, taught by Artist in Residence Iddi Saaka, performed traditional West African dances with the accompaniment of the West African drumming class, taught by Adjunct Professor Abraham Adzenyah. The CFA Courtyard was filled with Wesleyan students supporting their friends, as well as professors and their families, on this warm Friday afternoon, the first day of reading period before finals. The upbeat music and dancing was the perfect anecdote for the stress accompanying impending final papers and exams.
The dances performed by the West African Dance classes were traditional dances from different ethnic groups of Ghana. These dances traditionally served different purposes; some were originally performed on special social occasions such as weddings or funerals, at times of war, or as harvest dances. The emphasis on tradition was also revealed through the attention to elaborate and colorful West African costumes.
The dances were composed of series of rhythmic movements set to the beat of the drums. Together, the dancers created a pulsating, collective energy that was contagious. Indeed, the audience cheered on the dancers and drummers, creating a supportive and energetic atmosphere. Although each dance was quite different, the style of West African dance consistently uses a lot of hip movements, stepping, and rhythmic motions. It also engages geometric patterns, in which the dancers moved collectively in circles and lines in series of repeated movements. The dances were largely about group movement to create certain feelings suited for the purpose of the dance. This was accomplished through mutual experience through movement. However, the individual was also showcased through solos and duets. Each dance contained twists and surprises that held the viewer’s attention against the backdrop of the sustained rhythm of the drums.
The ensemble of dancing, drumming, and chanting created a culturally rich and dynamic experience. The performance was a fun and engaging way to end the semester; and both the Music Department and Dance Department’s events, as well as to showcase the hard work of all the students in these classes.
Wesleyan University’s Precision Dance Ensemble presents its annual dance show, “Chaka Pose: Khan Style” in the Memorial Chapel, located at 221 High Street in Middletown, at 8pm on Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21, 2012. Admission is free, tickets are not necessary.
In conjunction with the show, the public is invited to attend a dance workshop and learn some moves from the show. The free workshop will be in the Fayerweather Dance Room on Saturday, April 21, 2012 from 3pm to 4pm.
For more information, please email Precision Dance Ensemble co-director Cynthia Tong ’14 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hannah Cressy ’13 continues her report on the service learning factor of Wesleyan’s inter-disciplinary course Ritual, Health, and Healing.
Our “Ritual, Health, and Healing” class returned to Greenpoint-Williamsburg, Brooklyn this past Saturday to continue our conversations with community members and to do more historical research and neighborhood exploration. We are focused on seeing and collecting (interviews, photo, film, trash, and more) and are planning to give our account to members of the Greenpoint-Williamsburg neighborhood in two weeks. Our projects range from a short film to a waste transfer station walking tour, but all are meant to aid local grassroots organizations with their long-running goals of community awareness, communication, and activism. The past two visits have greatly expanded our concepts of health and healing; both are intertwined with environmental conditions, politics, neighbor dynamics, educational equality, and simply feeling seen and heard in a city of 8 million.
David and Pat Dobosz, two local public school teachers, met with us again to have breakfast and taught us much more about educational reform in New York. They spoke of the influx of charter schools and its effect on the economic, academic and emotional lives of local families. Having met and married as public school teachers in their youth, they have been active for over forty years in the struggle for inclusive and equal public education for Brooklyn’s children. Both David and Pat teach in buildings recently invaded by charter schools; they described the plunge in self-worth experienced by their students when charter school students receive better facilities and supplies than their public school. Furthermore, we were surprised and upset to learn that charter schools generally do not accept students with Individual Education Plans, learning disabilities, and developmental disabilities, effectively reversing disability activists’ endless struggle for integrated classrooms. David and Pat are active in the Grassroots Education Movement of New York and showed us much of their film, “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman”.
A group of students especially interested in education equality continued the conversation with David and Pat while the rest of the class split into working groups to address other areas of interest, including garbage equity and environmental justice, neighborhood women’s histories, and archival research of the Greenpoint Hospital site which now houses St. Nick’s Alliance. The trash group, who is working with OUTRAGE, went on a tour of the neighborhood; they learned that many of the mini-dumps, plastic factories, and piles of trash they saw aren’t officially classified as waste transfer stations by the city, and thereby go unrecognized by outside environmental protection organizations. In class on Monday, students recalled a baseball field above the Exxon Mobil oil spill, sandwiched between piles of street salt, discarded sheet metal, and plastic. The group is collecting video and photos, and is working on a brochure to direct the public in a similar walking tour.
My group returned to the Brooklyn Public Library in the afternoon to continue poring over newspaper articles up to 100 years old detailing the long-running struggle to keep the Greenpoint Hospital open and in the hands of the community. The area has a history of healthcare turmoil: we saw that current activism against insufficient and inequitable healthcare started long ago in Greenpoint-Williamsburg. We hope that by presenting and recording our findings, we may provide further historical insight into the resilience and devotedness of the citizen-activists of the neighborhood. In two weeks, we’ll return for a final weekend, where we will gather with many community members to celebrate the history of ideas, people, and place in Greenpoint-Williamsburg. On that day, our professor Jill Sigman will also officially begin The Hut Project at St. Nick’s, in which she will build a hut out of found materials to serve “as a catalyst for local activities such as performance, video, artistic collaboration, and community dialogue”, as she has done in several other sites around the world. We are all busily working on transcriptions, videos, posters, brochures, and websites, and are eager to share what we’ve learned with neighborhood residents on April 22, 2012. We hope this gathering of community members will be a step in healing a place that has faced years of struggle for health, education, unity and equality.
A personal account by Shira Engel ’14 of “Ritual, Health, and Healing”, a course which is part of the Creative Campus initiative of the Center for the Arts.
“Ritual, Health, and Healing” is an interdisciplinary class that transcends disciplinary boundaries. It is cross-listed in Anthropology, Science in Society, and Dance. It is co-taught by Anthropology professor Gillian Goslinga and Artist in Residence Jill Sigman. Gillian Goslinga has an academic background in ethnographic research on ritual practices. Jill Sigman comes to Wesleyan from New York City, where she is a choreographer working in performance and installation, and directing her company jill sigman/thinkdance. She is currently engaged in her Hut Project. She also has a background in philosophy. The course is a true blend of the disciplines it is cross-listed in as well as the disciplines of the professors. As a student in the course, I find my mind being constantly expanded to think not in terms of a singular discipline, but to creatively combine them in ways that allows the material to sink in.
The course is divided into two segments. The first quarter of the semester, we learned about ritual, health, and healing and what these broad terms means to different cultures. This comprised the necessary theoretical component of the course that feeds into the service learning we are currently doing in Williamsburg-Greenpoint, Brooklyn (but I will let my lovely classmate Hannah elaborate on that in posts to come).
The course is also comprised of a three-hour seminar on Mondays and a movement lab on Tuesday evenings. On Monday, we discuss readings on the cultural and theoretical significance of ritual, health, and healing and on Tuesdays, we embody those readings and theories in movements that transcend the definition of dance.
Because we are constantly encouraged in this course to be self-reflexive, I will come out and say that I was attracted to this course in large part because on WesMaps, the description said that people without any dance experience are encouraged to apply. I do not consider myself a dancer and this course allows for a lack of labels. It allows for a blurring of the lines between disciplines, as well as a blurring of the lines between self-identified labels of artistic identity. After class, I talked to Jill Sigman about what makes this course creatively unique and she said, “This isn’t strictly a dance class. We may be using dance in the context of learning about other things, but there are people who are totally not here to learn to point their foot and that’s what makes it fascinating to me.”
This course shifts disciplinary boundaries in ways that make us – the students – uncomfortable, thrilled, challenged, self-reflexive, and on our toes. It challenges preconceptions of academic work, teaching us that it is inherently creative. Jill Sigman’s studio in Brooklyn is called “The Border.” In many ways, we exist on the border between disciplines, definitions of art, activism, and service in this course as we grapple with definitions of ritual, health, and healing. I am excited to see how these definitions will continue to unfold as we progress into the service learning, creatively translating the work we have done in the seminar and movement lab into practice, while realizing that all is part of the same process.
Last Saturday, our Ritual, Health, and Healing class took our first trip into Brooklyn to begin the service learning aspect of the course. The class is cross-listed in Anthropology, Dance, and Service Learning, and during the month of April, we meet three times per week: once for a classroom seminar, once in a dance studio, and once in St. Nick’s community center in the heart of Williamsburg. We have been invited to participate in a project with the citizen-activists of Greenpoint-Williamsburg that mixes community building, archival, art, and oral history, and found on Saturday that these three weeks will undoubtedly be more influential for our own ideas of community, activism, citizenship, art and democracy than we’d thought possible.
We arrived very early Saturday morning to St. Nick’s Alliance, and entered a former hospital basement and homeless men’s shelter that is now filled with the brilliant paintings of local children. We were introduced to community members who’d lived in Greenpoint-Williamsburg their entire lives, and a few who’d just moved into the area. Much like many post-graduate Wesleyan students, they were just beginning to learn what it means to live in the neighborhood.
We went around the circle to introduce ourselves; even in these first moments, we heard everyday people begin to tell their stories, naming lists of organizations they’ve been involved in for ten, twenty, or thirty years. Issues faced by the community seemed endless, but so did the people and grassroots organizations that have long worked to better the area’s social and environmental climate. Personal histories arose of unfair housing situations, families plagued by the same disease, identification with toxic sites—but never a hint that anyone wanted to leave. This is their home, and they will stay and fight to make it safe. Other community issues that came up in open-circle discussion included environmental justice, in reaction to a high density of waste stations in the area, fairness in education, the struggle to unify across ethnic, racial and income boundaries, gentrification and rising housing costs, and the loss of a community feel due to modernization.
Smaller groups formed to address more specific issues with organizations such as GREC (Greenpoint Renaissance Enterprise Corporation) and OUTRAGE (Organization United for Trash Reduction and Garbage Equity), while others took the opportunity to hold one-on-one conversations with community elders and longstanding citizen-activists from Greenpoint. Three students, including Haley Perkins ’13, Val Pucilowski ’13, and myself, will be conducting further archival research at the Brooklyn Library on the history of the Greenpoint Hospital complex that now houses St. Nick’s, affordable housing, and a smaller homeless shelter. The use of the remaining unoccupied space is highly contested, and neighborhood activists are currently battling real estate developers to reclaim a building to be used for a much-needed affordable senior home.
In class on Monday, we discussed the most striking idea we’d heard on Saturday: we agreed, nearly unanimously, that Jan Peterson summarized the day’s most personal and influential message: wherever you live, you must be involved. “You can’t just have brunch.” Because we are in a community, we must give to it. We should know our neighbors. We are lucky to have the opportunity to join this community for the next few weeks in helping to preserve its spirit and connect its population while ourselves learning what it means to be a neighbor.
The Spring Senior Thesis Dance Concert will be on Thursday, April 5 through Saturday, April 7, 2012*, and will include new works by the senior dance majors. Come support the seniors and the culmination of all the incredible work that went into their theses. Katherine Clifford ’14 asks each performer about their individual theses.
Choreography by Naadu Bentsi-Enchill ’12, James Gardella ’12, Nik Owens ’12, and Hsiao-Tung Huang ’12 will be performed Thursday, April 5 through Saturday, April 7, 2012 at 8pm in the Patricelli ’92 Theater.
*Elena Georgieva’s Interactive Presentation Bridging Science and Dance will be on Friday, April 20, 2012 at 6pm in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio, 247 Pine Street.
Here’s what the seniors had to say about their theses:
“My piece explores the different levels of existence as a person, body, and mover in space. It’s a very internal dance that concludes my movement research on audience perception and choreographer relationships.”
“My thesis addresses the Yoga Sutras, which is the foundational text of the philosophy of yoga, one of six major schools of thought in Indian philosophy. I critique the Sutras’ assertion that mental stillness is a prerequisite to self-realization and freedom. In the fall I created still mystery, a site specific work performed by an ensemble of five dancers in the CFA lawn. Once the performance ended, viewers were left unexpectedly with a resounding quiet, the very thing my research rejected. My upcoming spring piece embraces the unknown and accepts stillness as a valid, and potential, state of being. I return to the theater to perform a deeply personal and also highly conceptual solo titled Indelible. Indelible may be viewed as a dance of reclamation, and/or a metaphor for the philosophy of yoga itself, as I yearn for freedom through movement.”
“I am interested in looking at how behavior is reflected through dance performance and translated to and by an audience. This thesis topic originates from an interest in and hyper-awareness of how I change my behavior to match whatever context I’m placed in. For example, when I’m with my friends I’m very energetic, charismatic, loud and funny, where as when I’m at work I’m more quiet, reserved, mature, and knowledgeable. Now I’m sure this is the case for a lot of people, but the extent to which I shift is considerably more drastic than others in my opinion. So I wanted to investigate this phenomena and I decided to use dance performance as a proxy.
Additionally, since the link between dance performance and behavior can be interpreted in so many different ways, I chose to look at this link through a pedagogical framework; meaning that I’m investigating how social mores and values are established and taught through dance performance and then later translated into behavioral patterns that are context specific. I’ve chosen three (really four) distinct areas of dance performance that vary from each other. The first is looking at Nigerian Yoruba and Cuban Santeria ritual dance performance, particularly their dances that praise their gods. The second is Vogue dance in the ballroom scene of Harlem, New York during the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s and the role that vogue battles play in establishing social framework and hierarchy at the ballrooms. Lastly I will be looking at how Merce Cunningham and his use of chance procedures on the proscenium stage evoke new notions and behavioral relationships with modern dance amongst the audience members that have watched his work.
For the final chapter of my thesis I will investigate my own two-semesters worth of choreography, culminating in two different pieces, and how these choreographic processes have helped to give me insight into answering the question: how is behavior reflected through dance performance and translated to and by an audience?”
“My thesis is on Pina Bausch and Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, her dance theater company in Wuppertal, Germany. I am most interested in how history and culture (she grew up in postwar [West] Germany) influenced her as a person as well as how these influences are reflected in her choreographic works. My piece is a personal experience in developing a deeper knowledge of Bausch’s creative process as well as understanding Bausch as a dancer and choreographer.”
“While historically science and dance have been indelible from our understanding of the world, nowadays they seem to be more dichotomized than ever. To address this misconception, in my thesis I study how dance and science inform each other in the fields of education, research, and performance to make something called science choreography, a novel term describing the embodied connection between the two. In my research process I look mostly at all science-dance intermediary work that has emerged in the last 20 years and I explore some of it through movement. Thus I hope to better understand what science choreography is and how it works, with which I am aiming to define the status quo of the field and lay out a base for future research. In addition, by stressing the importance of developing this emerging field, with my own work I hope to popularize the concept of science choreography among the broader audience.”
Come see the dance performances, Thursday, April 5 through Saturday, April 7, 2012 at 8pm in the Patricelli ’92 Theater; and Friday, April 20 at 6pm in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio, 247 Pine Street.
An interview with choreographer Camille A. Brown by Katherine Clifford ‘14. Camille will be teaching a master class at 1pm on Saturday March 10 in the CFA Dance Studio. She is the 2012 winner of the Mariam McGlone Emerging Choreographer Award, which she will receive that evening. Her company, Camille A. Brown & Dancers, will be performing three pieces at the DanceMasters Showcase Performance on Saturday, March 10 at 8pm in the CFA Theater.
Q: What is your background in dance, and how did you come to be where are you are now?
A: I first started in gymnastics and dance, but I was terrified by the balance beam, so that negated gymnastics. I loved dancing. I also played the clarinet when I was younger. I didn’t love it like I loved dance, but I think it’s one of the reasons why I’m known to be very musical. I got into dance by watching Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson videos, Broadway shows, and musicals. My mom saw that I loved it, and she put me in dance school on the weekends. I didn’t know it was something that I could pursue as a career until I got to high school. I attended LaGuardia H.S. of the Performing Arts and the Alvin Ailey School. Having the opportunity to be around the Ailey dancers helped me to discover that dance could be a career and that I could be paid to do what I love to do. I continued my studies at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. There, I started getting into choreography. At the time, I was heavier than I was now; and when I first got there, wasn’t always chosen to be in the performances. So like any human being, I cried a little, but then I decided I was going to make good use of my time. So I dedicated all my energy into my comp studies, and that’s where I found a love for my choreography.
Q: Can you tell me about the works you will be presenting at the DanceMasters Showcase Performance?
A: City of Rain is about my friend who passed away. He had a debilitating disease that caused him to be paralyzed from the waist down. The piece is his story, his struggles, his obstacles. He was a dancer as well. As dancers, we do this every day because we love it. We never imagine that one day you can’t get out of bed and walk, and do one of the things that you love the most, so I wanted to dedicate the piece to him. It’s not only his struggles and obstacles, but my own too. As a friend, you can be there for him the best that you can, but since you’re not going through it yourself, there’s only so much you can do. So the piece is about the pain on my end, not knowing what to do for my friend.
The Evolution of a Secured Feminine is my signature solo. It’s about a woman evolving into a secured woman, as the title suggests. I don’t want to ruin it.
The Real Cool is from a fairly new solo from a work in development called Mr. TOL E. RAncE. It’s based off a show by two African-American minstrels, Bert Williams and George Walker, called “Two Real Coons.” The solo is talking about the skin underneath the black face, what is really going on with these performers as human beings. They are stepping into these caricatures of themselves, putting on this black face and putting on a role and smiling, but behind that there was a lot of pain, so the solo explores that concept.
Q: How do your supporting dancers contribute to your pieces?
A: The dancers don’t contribute movement, but they contribute choices about how they approach movement. Most of our work is character-based, so I ask them to play around with their characters and make choices within the work and the structure of the movement.
Q: How do you incorporate theater and other art forms into your choreography?
A: In my work, there’s no separation between dance, music, theater; it’s all combined.
Q: What can people expect of your DanceMasters Master Class, which will be held on March 10?
A: I love having a class that’s fun, where people are able to release and leave whatever is going on on the outside and either bring it into the space or leave it out. My movement is a fusion of all styles: Modern, Tap, African, Ballet. I structure the class based on who’s in the room, what the vibe is. It’s kind of like structured improvisation.
Camille A. Brown & Dancers will be performing at the DanceMasters Showcase Performance on Saturday, March 10 at 8pm in the CFA Theater. Tickets can be purchased online.
The Wesleyan dancers performing the world premiere of “Nine” will include Abigail Baker ’12 and Aditi Shivaramakrishnan ’12 (both performances); Arianna Fishman ’13, Allison Greenwald ’14, Christian Lalonde ’13, Francesca Moree ’14, Cristina Ortiz ’15, Sarah La Rue ’12, and Rachel Rosengard ’14 (March 2); and graduate students Taylor Burton and Natalie Plaza, Dawanna Butler ’15, Arin Dineen ’13, Jessica Placzek ’12, Claire Feldman-Reich ’12, and Tess Scriptunas ’14 (March 3).
Q: Tell me about the piece “Quicksand,” which will be performed in the Spring Faculty Dance Concert; what does it explore, and how does your work combine South Indian Classical Dance, or Bharata Natyam, with contemporary influences?
A: Both pieces are about the search for identity, the search for selfhood. This is the overarching theme that binds the pieces together. “Quicksand” is a piece that I choreographed in March 2011 for a high profile dance festival in Canada. The work I do usually challenges dominant discourses about culture. I try to subvert popular culture, and I try to challenge stereotype and cliché. “Quicksand” is a prime example of this prominent theme. The inspiration of the work came from nine archetypal emotions popular in Indian classical dance. These nine emotions are usually hyper-exaggerated and done in a specific way by a classical dancer, usually female. I decided to subvert that popular depiction by using nine contemporary male dancers, and by creating a postmodern interpretation for those nine emotions.
“Quicksand” is like a metaphor for my life; my name is Hari Krishnan, my ethnicity is Indian, I teach Bharata Natyam and contemporary dance at Wesleyan. I have a dance company that does a whole range of work in Toronto, Canada. I choreograph and perform around the world: in Europe, Malaysia, Singapore, and India. Wherever I go and perform my work, some of the comments I get are that my work is not Indian enough, it’s too Western, or that my work is not Western enough, it’s too Indian. All those opposite reactions to my work put me in an interesting location as a dance artist and in terms of my identity. I use “Quicksand” as a metaphor to demonstrate that complexity; it is a personal meditation on identity and selfhood. From a dance point of view, it is an engaging, physical, high-energy work by nine top Canadian male dancers who are going to showcase a new, unique movement vocabulary that blends Indian classical gesture and contemporary dance body movements.
Q: What inspired your other piece “Nine,” and how does it further explore these themes?
A: As a parallel story to “Quicksand,” the Repertory and Performance class at Wesleyan will do the same interpretation as “Quicksand”, but in a “classical” mode, using nine dancers and the same nine emotions. By “classical,” I mean a classical Indian style of movement, but with contemporary presentation in terms of lighting design, spatial dynamics, and the dancers’ relationships with each other.
Q: What is unique about the show and how do the two pieces come together to form one coherent meaning?
A: What’s unique about this show is that it’s one idea, nine emotions, and two interpretations of this idea: one postmodern and one classical, which are displayed through radically different works. It is the culmination of my own artistic, research, and pedagogical practices. It also allows me to blend my two worlds; I’m artistic director of inDANCE, the Toronto-based dance company, and I’ve been at Wesleyan for over ten years now.
Q: What do you hope people will gain from the show? Why should people come see it?
A: This show is for anyone who is interested in dance, design and music. We have a U.K.-based composer who composed the music for “Quicksand.” He has combined electronic and computer-generated music with music from popular culture. “Nine” consists of an amazing Indian classical dance call, which is very lush and rich. Visual design and costume design are also very strong; “Quicksand” is a multimedia work. The lighting design for “Nine” has been specially lit by Theater Professor Jack Carr.
This is for anybody interested in movement and high-energy physicality. It is about celebrating diversity and experiencing humanity in various hues, colors, and tints. It is a bizarre look at life, and a fun, accessible, and engaging evening of dance. The dance department reflects the concert in terms of its openmindedness and the eclectic dance courses we offer in the dance department: from Javanese to Ballet to Modern to Bharata Natyam to West African. This is the kind of concert that can really thrive at Wesleyan, and it’s a testimony to the open-minded, progressive attitude at Wesleyan.
Finally, I tell people that it is a must see for “anyone interested in dangerous liaisons and delicious diversity.” I hope that the audience will come in with an open-minded attitude, and not expect either Indian or contemporary dance; this is “Wesleyan dance.”
Q: How long have you been dancing and what is your background in dance?
A: I’ve been dancing for about 5 years now. I was a gymnast for 14 years before I started dancing. Before I came to Wesleyan, I danced for a year, during my senior year of high school. I started with jazz classes, then I moved to ballet classes, and I started modern when I got here. When I was younger, while I was still doing gymnastics, I did a lot of hip hop and a little tap. Now I do a lot of modern. I still do hip hop and I still take ballet classes when I can.
Q: What is your involvement in student dance groups on campus?
A: I’m co-director of Precision Dance Company, which is both Precision Troupe and Precision Ensemble, both of which I’m in. [Precision Troupe performs hip-hop pieces once a semester, while the other half, Ensemble, puts on a show choreographed by its members which includes a variety of dance styles]. I’m also a Terp [Terpsichore] Core member. [Terp Core is responsible for organizing the student-choreographed Terpsichore show that occurs every semester.]
Q: What is the process of doing a senior thesis for dance?
A: The base requirements for a senior thesis are 60 to 100 pages of writing and two semesters of choreographic work that you produce. I choreographed a piece last semester called “Mirr(or) Reality”. Generally, dance majors aren’t allowed to be in their own pieces, they just choreograph them, but I petitioned to be in mine. This semester, I’m doing a duet with Sally Williams ’14, who is also a dance major. My thesis is looking it audience and performer dynamics and relationships in different dance contexts.
Q: What dance events should the Wesleyan community look out for, besides of course, your Senior Thesis concert?
A: Yes, the Thesis Concert is a big one (the weekend of April 5-7). Also, you should look out for the Terpsichore Performance: April 13-14, the Precision Ensemble show, which is April 20, and the Precision Troupe show on Friday, May 4. Also, Chunky Move, an Australian-based company is coming to Wesleyan on March 30 and 31 to show their piece, “Connected.” That’s not to be missed. DanceMasters Weekend is also something to look out for [March 10-11.]
Q: What is distinctive about dance at Wesleyan, and how has dancing here shaped your experiences?
A: You get a variety of things in terms of dance here. I believe in the philosophy that everyone at Wesleyan should take at least one dance class or be involved in at least one dance-related show or aspect. Being able to explore your body in that sort of format is something that is very intuitive and special. Dance is something that everyone should participate in at least once and then decide if that’s something they like. It’s a better way to know yourself, and to discover how you think of things and how you process things, so I think dance can be really powerful in that sense.
Q: What is it like being a male dancer, a somewhat rare breed?
A: We need more male dancers! Right now, I only know of three male dancers who are really involved in the dance community; including myself, Matt Carney ’13 (also a dance major) and Cole McNamee ’15 (who is involved in the student groups X-Tacy and Precision Troupe). Those are the only other two male dancers that are consistently involved in dance on campus, and I’m graduating in the spring, so we really need more male dancers to get involved. I would say that if you’re interested in a dance major, they love male dance majors and people who’ve never danced before in their lives. It’s a lot of fun; you get to meet some cool people.
Q: Any further thoughts or advice on dancing at Wesleyan?
A: Just get involved in the dance community; either participate yourself or support your friends who are involved. Dance is pretty big on campus; there’s a lot going on. I think to go through your whole Wesleyan career and not participate in dance in any way is a shame.
Katherine Clifford ’14 interviews Bebe Miller, Artistic Director of the Bebe Miller Company. The Bebe Miller Company will present “History” this weekend: Friday, November 18 at 8pm; and Saturday, November 19 at 2pm and 8pm.
Q: What is History about? What does the piece seek to accomplish and what do you hope the audience gains from it?
This piece is a way to look at the history of this particular group of collaborators. Most audiences see the piece that’s created as a record of the research process, ideas and the exchange between collaborators. On the inside, we know that what is lost for the audience is the continuing creative conversation that goes on between pieces. This piece is an attempt to bring our history forward and to show creative interplay, which is something we can all recognize of anyone who is trying to make something with other people. In sum, this piece is about how our dance company functions: the kinds of ideas, the exchange of physicality, and the interactions between our two company dancers, Angie Hauser and Darrell Jones. I hope that the audience walks away with the sense of the complexity of the process of two people trying to figure something out while moving through periods of history over a 10-year span. All in all, this piece is an exchange about a creative process and about friends over time.
Q: How does media play into the dance and the collaborative process?
You’ll see the dancers wearing headphones through a lot of the piece. They are listening to and then retelling conversations and stories that we’ve mined from our archives that give another kind of window into what it is we’re doing. Not only are we seeing them as these two people whose bodies hold the information of dance-making, but we get to share it in another way as well. I’m interested in these levels of interchange, the incoming of technology as a step towards and a step away from something. We’re also working with a video artist who is representing her sense of what we do.
Q: In dance, there seems to be a distinction between representation and meaning versus aesthetics for purely visual appeal. As a choreographer, what do you focus on, and how do you reconcile the two?
As a human condition, we pass in and out of meaning. As a choreographer, I’m not there to demonstrate a meaning, but I want to take it on and live through it and digest it that way. You carry the context with you and that’s the lens through which you start making something. Instead of showing the story of our history, we look at our history and figure out what it is saying to us, what it feels like, what is really happening physically between Darrell and Angie that is both abstract and completely human. We get to understand something about their familiarity as well as look at what their bodies are doing. I feel like the aesthetics of our piece reveal something about how our human condition.
Q: Can you talk about the choreographic process?
This is research. I’m asking questions that I don’t know, rather than trying to show you something that I already understand. On good days, it’s not so much the flow of answers, but some really good questions come up. It’s helpful to think that we’re figuring it out in front of you.
The Bebe Miller Company presents “History” on Friday, November 18 at 8pm, and on Saturday, November 19 at 2pm and 8pm in the Patricelli ’92 Theater as part of the Performing Arts Series at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts.