Katherine Clifford ’14 reviews the Fall Faculty Dance Concert

Katherine Clifford ’14 reviews the Fall Faculty Dance Concert, “Probin’.”

“Probin’,” this years’ Fall Faculty Dance Concert, was an exhibition of dance as a story-telling form and probed into the concept of how environment shapes identity. Iddi Saaka, Artist in Resident and West African Dance instructor, and Clyde Evans, Visiting Instructor of Hip-Hop dance, were the two faculty members whose choreography was featured in the performance. Iddi Saaka performed on Friday and Saturday night along with Wesleyan student, Rachel Fifer ’12 and grad student Menherit Goodwyn. Clyde Evans performed in the Saturday night performance only, but fellow Hip-Hop dancers from his Chosen Dance Company of Philadelphia were featured both nights.

Iddi Saaka’s use of media, props, and costumes in his piece, “Out of Place, was particularly strategic. This led to a rounded piece that was grounded in reality, while layered with metaphor and myth. Saaka used film footage from his village in Ghana to introduce different aspects of his dance and their underlying meanings. His message was a political and economic one; through interviews of people of his village and the manifestation of their ideas through movement, Saaka explored the disparity in wealth between Ghana and the West.

According to Ghanaian myth, at the beginning of civilization, Africans were distributed wealth by God in a hat, whereas Westerners received their allotment of wealth in a large burlap sack. Saaka portrays this myth through dance, demonstrating the large economic disparity, which results in feelings of resentment and competition. It ultimately leads to the exploitation of the Africans by the Westerners who insert themselves into and dominate African commerce and business. Rachel Fifer, who represents Western business, carries an abundance of metaphorical wealth in a huge burlap sack that is too heavy for her to carry. Fifer exploits Saaki and Menherit Goodwyn, who are desperate for money, to carry the bag for her. Fifer’s dance style is more lyrical than the others’; she moves freely in her prosperity while Saaki and Goodwyn move tightly and rhythmically, weighed down by the burden she has created for them until they finally collapse under the weight. This was a fun dance set to upbeat and rhythmic music, but it was similarly laden with heavy meaning. There were two major threads: the exploration of the connections between the West and Ghana economically and politically, and Saaka’s own struggle with identity as he moves from Ghana to America.

Clyde Evans’ pieces were interesting stylistically in conjunction with Saaka’s dance. Although from two different dance backgrounds, the two artists share a similar personal story of immigration to the U.S. (Evans is originally from Trinidad), which shapes their conceptualization of identity, and subsequently, their choreography. Evans’ “Egyptian Ballet” was a fun piece that merged cultures and styles of movements, inserting poses inspired by Egyptian Hieroglyphics into a Hip-Hop number. His work “Bros. Duet” exhibited two friends dancing together, representing the spontaneity, improvisation, and collaboration in Hip-Hop. “Don” ended the show with an explosion of pure, fun movement, showing the athleticism, creativity, and freedom of movement in freestyle dance.


Submit your art to Swerved by October 26

Swerved is an online communal database of Wesleyan creativity, and starting this November 7 they will be hosting an exhibition at the Zilkha Gallery. Students are encouraged to submit any kind of art for the show. All forms of creativity are welcome, such as video and sound, 2D/3D art, photography, prose and poetry. The deadline for submissions is Wednesday October 26. You can enter by submitting your work to the Swerved website, at which point it will be automatically considered for entry.

To submit, email your work to hello@swerved.org or to emailSWERVED@gmail.com. They ask that submissions be under 10MB and that your include your name, class year, the dimensions of the piece, the title and the medium. Submitters whose work is chosen will be informed by email, and a hard copy will be requested for display.


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.

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!

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.

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 eroosbrown@wesleyan.edu or delivered to the Center for the Arts office (located above Zilkha Gallery).

Bridging the Gap between a Summer Internship and the Wesleyan Experience

Shira Engel ’14 interviews Allison Hurd ’11 about how a summer internship was connected to an on-campus production.

Allison Hurd '11
Allison Hurd '11

During the summer of 2009, Allison interned for the Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group while the company was collaborating with Andréya Ouamba’s Compagnie 1er Temps of Dakar, Senegal. They created The Good Dance – dakar/brooklyn, which premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. She spent every day with the artists and attended every rehearsal, discussion, and event. After the festival, she began working in Brooklyn and then, in the spring of 2010, she acted as the student liaison for the company’s performance of The Good Dance at Wesleyan.

Curious as to how to bridge the gap between summer activities and being a Wesleyan student, I asked Allison how her experience as a dance major informed her internship. She said:

“I think that because the Dance major fosters an approach to the art form not only from a physical, but also from a creative and an intellectual perspective, I was able to more fully apprehend how my experience as an intern touched upon all of these areas.  Because The Good Dance is about the metaphoric, historical, and real world parallels of the Mississippi and Congo Rivers and their cultures, the anthropological nature of the work resonated very strongly with me, and was augmented by the artistic partnership of Reggie and Andréya.  I was also able to engage with the piece’s structural and compositional elements, recognizing the choreographic tools used by Reggie and Andréya and implementing aspects of their artistry into my own.  The Dance major (and, really, in its own way, each academic department at Wesleyan) encourages creative curiosity, collaboration, and the acquisition of knowledge through experience.  I feel very strongly that my internship’s alignment with these aspects of my Wesleyan education powerfully contributed to its success.”

Allison provides an excellent example of how to connect the education she received on campus on a practical level off campus. She exemplifies the creative pursuits of Wesleyan students. The key lies in the ability to translate the experiences from a campus community to a larger audience and then back again.

Liz Lerman: Embodied Knowledge

“When excellence comes to excellence, and is sparked, there’s just nothing like that!” In this video, Liz Lerman discusses the innovative convergence of dance and science at Wesleyan University:

Liz Lerman: Embodied Knowledge

Many of you know that Wesleyan was the lead commissioner of Liz Lerman’s Ferocious Beauty: Genome, her groundbreaking work about the repercussions of genetic research.  One of Liz’s Wesleyan collaborators, Professor of Biology Michael Weir, wrote to her after the world premiere with an idea:

“Imagine a biology or genetics course that begins and ends with students experiencing [the Ferocious Beauty: Genome] piece, and imagine during the semester, when issues like Mendel or gene regulation or bioethics are covered, related parts of the piece were shown to the class. I am imagining that this experience would cause many students to build a new kind of framework in their minds causing them to be more inquisitive and thoughtful about the biology and its significance. They would make associations with the choreography and dance, and I wonder whether their thinking would be qualitatively richer?”

Five years later, with the support of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Wesleyan and the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange developed Science Choreography – a website that’s a digital textbook with a plethora of tools for teachers who are teaching genetics, evolution and other related issues.

Liz Lerman and Elizabeth Johnson from the Dance Exchange, and Laura Grabel, Michael Weir, and Laurel Appel from Wesleyan’s Biology Department are discussing Science Choreography as part of the Hughes Program‘s special summer symposium in the Life Sciences.