Tag Archive for dance department

Students Perform West African, Hip-Hop, South Indian Dances


On May 11, the West African Dance and West African Music and Culture classes performed at the Center for the Arts Courtyard. The invigorating performances featured Wesleyan Artist-in-Residence and choreographer Iddi Saaka, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music and master drummer John Dankwa, and master drummer Mohammed Alidu. Throughout the semester, students learned the fundamental principles and aesthetics of West African dance through learning to embody basic movement vocabulary and selected traditional dances from Ghana. Photos of the performance are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Improvisational Forms Class Offers Roving Performance on Campus

On May 7, the DANC 354 course, Improvisational Forms, performed a roving improvisational performance on campus as part of their final assignment. The group started at Exley Science Center, traveled to Olin Library and the Public Affairs Center, and finished at Usdan University Center. During the performance, the students explored campus architecture with their bodies and movements. They traveled in interconnected clumps, and also as individuals, and interacted with objects and passersby.

Throughout the semester, students explored various approaches to dance improvisation and studied movement vocabulary; increased compositional awareness; developed their creative thinking and observational skills; and sharpened their performance presence. Students learned about improvisation exercises, structured improvisational forms, development and performance of scores, and exploration of the relationship between movement, sound, and music.

This class is taught by Susan Lourie, adjunct professor of dance, who is retiring this year after teaching for 40 years at Wesleyan.

“Roving improvisational dances bring the unexpected to everyday spaces,” Lourie said. “When people come upon dancers in the middle of a busy walkway, on a staircase, or in a doorway, it interrupts/disrupts the normal flow of life and challenges everyone’s assumptions.”

Photos of the performance are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake and Cynthia Rockwell)

“Facing Disasters” Explored in Multidisciplinary Performance

Eiko Otake, Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment, performs during “Facing Disasters” March 2 in Memorial Chapel.

On March 2, the College of the Environment Think Tank presented a multidisciplinary performance titled, “Facing Disasters: Disturbing the Human-Environment Relationship” in Memorial Chapel and Zelnick Pavillion.

COE fellows and members of the Wesleyan community explored ideas of facing disasters and motivating action by presenting multiple works that engaged with the 2017–18 Think Tank theme “From Disruptions to Disasters.”

Presenters included Vaishvi Jhaveri ’18; Paula Tartell ’18, Shingo Umehara ’18 Nora Thompson ’15 and Ostin Pham ’17.

Other participants were Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, associate professor of environmental studies and associate professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies; William Johnston, professor of history, professor of East Asian studies, professor of science in society, and professor of environmental studies; Ronald Ebrecht, artist-in-residence, music; Ishita Mukerji, Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, professor of integrative sciences; Marguerite Nguyen, assistant professor of English, assistant professor of East Asian studies; Eiko Otake, Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment; and Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies.

Ukrainian Social Reform, Current Events Discussed through Panel, Concert

During "This Side of the Curtain: Ukrainian Resistance in Uncertain Times," held Feb. 20 in Memorial Chapel, speakers, musicians and dancers expressed current events in Ukraine, social reform, non-violent resistance, civic engagement, and social-environmental health through a panel discussion, keynote address and concert performance. 

During “This Side of the Curtain: Ukrainian Resistance in Uncertain Times,” held Feb. 20 in Memorial Chapel, speakers, musicians and dancers from Wesleyan and the local community — discussed current events in Ukraine, social reform, non-violent resistance, civic engagement, and social-environmental health through a panel discussion, keynote address and concert performance.

West African Drumming, Dance Concert Honors Ghana’s Independence


The West African Drumming and Dance Concert was held May 12 in the Center for the Arts Green. The event featured master drummer and visiting artist in residence Attah Poku and choreographer and artist in residence Iddi Saaka, joined by their 72 students, guest artists and 16 student drummers. This annual performance showcases the vibrancy of West African cultures through music and dance forms.

On March 6, 2017, Ghana celebrated its 60th independence anniversary from British colonial rule. This spring’s West African Drumming and Dance concert was held in honor of the anniversary. Apart from the usual traditional dances, students also dressed as Ghanaian chiefs and queen mothers. In addition, a Wesleyan band performed live Ghanaian highlife music and a Ghanaian church based in Worcester, Mass. provided live choral music.

Following the performance, guests were treated to a reception with an assortment of Ghanaian dishes.

Photos of the performance are below. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

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Dance Department’s Krishnan ‘Slaughters’ Stereotypes

(photo c/o Michael Slobodian)

Hari Krishna (Photo by Michael Slobodian)

In the March 21 issue, the Toronto Star profiles Associate Professor of Dance Hari Krishnan in connection with his latest full-length work, “Holy Cow(s)!”

Krishnan discusses the ways in which he often endures “ridiculous if non-malevolent cultural prejudices,” such as assumptions that he practices yoga or doesn’t eat beef due to his Indian heritage.

Krishnan would prefer people to look beyond the stereotypes, beyond what he calls such false binaries as East/West, white/coloured, masculine/feminine, tradition/modernity.

Says Krishnan: “I’m brown. I’m a beef-eating Hindu from Singapore and I’m proudly gay. I’m not a tourism poster.”

Krishnan, an award-winning dancer/choreographer, is founder of the performing company inDANCE. The writer describes his style: “Krishnan’s dances, whether full-on Bharatanatyam — he’s won a coveted Bessie award in New York for his own performance of this Indian classical form — or a contemporary hybrid of styles is consistently exuberant, physically dynamic and often more than a little bit naughty.”

Of the latest performance, he writes:

Holy Cow(s)!, with a cast of two women and five men, is unusual in that while most of the choreography is Krishnan’s it also includes three solos, each made for him by an outside choreographer and expressing very different movement esthetics. The original intent was for Krishnan to perform these himself but a knee injury put paid to that. With the concurrence of American choreographers Sean Curry and David Brick and Vancouver’s Jay Hirabayashi, Krishnan has now distributed these among three of the cast’s men.

Watching a studio run-through of Holy Cow(s)!, it is clear Krishnan relishes the opportunity to explode any number of assumptions audiences might make about a choreographer of South Asian descent. The movement vocabulary at times references, even parodies, classical Indian dance but it also embraces a whole range of cultural forms. It pokes fun at the stereotypes of beguiling female and chest-thumping machismo. It is sensual to the point of overt eroticism. Krishnan even manages to work in some thinly veiled political criticism, alerting us to the dangerous bigotry that the current climate has unlocked.

Says Krishnan: “My mission is to slaughter every one of these holy cows.”

5 Classes Perform at Worlds of Dance Concert

The Worlds of Dance Concert, held Dec. 4 at Crowell Concert Hall, featured the works of five different dance courses in their semester-end culminating performance. Beginning and intermediate dance students performed works in various styles including Bharata Natyam (South Indian classical dance). The classes were taught by Pedro Alejandro, associate professor of dance; Susan Lourie, adjunct professor of dance; Hari Krishnan, associate professor of dance; and Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance.

(Photos by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)

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More than 90 Students Perform in West African Drumming and Dance Concert

The Center for the Arts hosted a West African Drumming and Dance Concert Dec. 2 at Crowell Concert Hall. The performance featured master drummer Emmanuel Attah Poku; choreographer and artist-in-residence Iddi Saaka; and more than 90 Wesleyan students. In addition, the Kiniwe African Dance Ensemble from Tufts University also performed at the concert. The event showcased the vibrancy of West African cultures through their music and dance forms. (Photos by Will Barr ’18)

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Kolcio, Stanton Create, Perform “Steppe Lands” as Freedom Dance Ukraine

Associate Professor of Dance Katja Kolcio, left, and Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton, right, perform with Freedom Dance Ukraine this summer. The project was based on Kolcio's recent work in Ukraine. (Photo by Lucy Guiliano)

Associate Professor of Dance Katja Kolcio, bottom left, and Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton, bottom right, perform with Freedom Dance Ukraine this summer. The project was based on Kolcio’s recent work in Ukraine. Other members of the ensemble: (above, left to right): Elvira Demerdzhy Julian Kytasty, Alina Kuzma.  (Photo by Lucy Guiliano)

A Connecticut dance event offered Associate Professor of Dance Katja Kolcio an additional way to explore her ongoing dance/movement project highlighting the effect of political forces at work in Ukraine.

Last summer, Kolcio invited colleague and Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton to join with two other dancers, both with ties to Ukraine, to create a dance. This event, Dance for Peace, was sponsored by Artists for World Peace, an organization founded and led by Wendy Black-Nasta P’07, with music director Robert Nasta MA ’98, P’07.

Kolcio, who holds a doctorate in somatics, places the dance they created, “Steppe Land,” in the context of her project in Ukraine, where she has familial roots.

Master Drummer Adzenyah Celebrated at Ceremony, Hall Dedication

Wesleyan President Michael Roth, at right, congratulates Abraham Adzenyah for teaching at Wesleyan 46 years and for the naming of the Abraham Adzenyah Rehearsal Hall (formerly the Center for the Arts Rehearsal Hall). A ribbon cutting ceremony took place May 7.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth, at right, congratulates Abraham Adzenyah for teaching at Wesleyan 46 years and for the naming of the Abraham Adzenyah Rehearsal Hall (formerly the Center for the Arts Rehearsal Hall). A ribbon cutting ceremony took place May 7.

On May 7, Master drummer Abraham Adzenyah, adjunct professor of music, emeritus, was honored with a ceremony, farewell concerts, and reunion featuring past and present students (View photo set here). Adzenyah taught West African music, dance and culture at Wesleyan for 46 years and retired in May.

Abraham Adzenyah speaks to the audience.

Abraham Adzenyah speaks to the audience.

During the event, Adzenyah was honored with the naming of the Abraham Adzenyah Rehearsal Hall (formerly the Center for the Arts Rehearsal Hall). This is the first time that a leading U.S. university has named a building after a traditional African musician. In addition, grateful students, alumni and friends have raised more than $225,000 to establish the Abraham Adzenyah Endowed Wesleyan Scholarship.

Stanton, Hoggard, Brown: ‘Storied Places’ Unites Dance, Music, Text of Collaborative Cluster

Professor of Dance and Department Chair Nicole Stanton notes that faculty dance concerts play a crucial role in academic life: "For many of us in the dance department, this is our creative research. This how we explore our ideas and passions and how we engage with the world and with critical, cultural, social and political themes."

Associate Professor Nicole Stanton notes that faculty dance concerts play a crucial role in academic life: “For many of us in the dance department, this is our creative research. This how we explore our ideas and passions and how we engage with the world and with critical, cultural, social and political themes.”

On the weekend of April 15-16, the CFA theater was home to the spring faculty dance concert, Storied Places. In addition to the dance, which was choreographed and directed by Chair and Associate Professor of Dance, Associate Professor of African American Studies, and Environmental Studies Nicole Stanton, the performance also featured original compositions and musical direction by Adjunct Professor of Music and African American Studies Jay Hoggard ’76. Adding a further layer of texture was narrative text, written and performed by Chair and Class of 1958 Distinguished Professor of African American Studies, Professor of English and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Director of the Center for African American Studies Lois Brown.

Additionally, Visiting Assistant Professor of Public Policy L’Merchie Frazier created visual scenography and design—some based on the photographs that grace the cover of Hoggard’s new two-CD set, Harlem Hieroglyphs.

The collaboration, which featured a host of musicians and dancers—including Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Dante Brown ’09 and Rick Manayan ’17—had begun with Hoggard’s compositions, which were inspired under the theme of “Migrations”—as he thought specifically of the migration his own family had made from the rural South to a new home in Harlem, as well as more generally about the movement of peoples throughout history and how that was illustrated in music, particularly jazz.

Nicole Stanton recalls that she had reached out to Hoggard, at the suggestion of Pam Tatge ’84, MALS ’10, P’16, who was then director of the Center for the Arts.

“I enjoy very much the idea of collaboration and collaboration across disciplines,” Stanton explains. “I’m interested in dance and the total art form that engages a lot of different senses and a lot of different modes of expression.”