Tag Archive for dance department

Johnston, Otake Explore Fukushima Disaster in New Book

Body in FukushimaA new book written by two Wesleyan faculty explores the experience of two travelers in the land destroyed by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.

William Johnston, John E. Andrus Professor of History, and Eiko Otake, visiting artist in dance, are the co-authors of A Body in Fukushima, published June 1 by Wesleyan University Press.

Johnston, a historian and photographer, accompanied Japanese-born performer and dancer Otake on five explorations across Fukushima, creating 200 photographs that document the irradiated landscape, accentuated by Eiko’s poses depicting both the sorrow and dignity of the land.

Johnston elaborated on the process of creating the book.

“By witnessing events and places, we actually change them and ourselves in ways that may not always be apparent but are important,” Johnston said. “Through photographing Eiko in many places in Fukushima, we are witnessing not only her and the locales themselves but the people whose lives inhabited these places. I do not consider my photographs as documents of Eiko’s performance. Rather, each photograph becomes a performance of its own when placed in front of a viewer.”

The book also includes essays and commentary reflecting on art, disaster, and grief.

Johnston and Otake were interviewed about their work on the book by the Gagosian Quarterly for the Summer 2021 Issue.

On June 27, 2017 Eiko performed near the wreckage of a home four miles north of the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster. The home, and the surrounding vibrant neighborhood, was destroyed by the tsunami and then inundated with radioactivity from the Daiichi plant.

On June 27, 2017 Eiko performed near the wreckage of a home four miles north of the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster. The home, and the surrounding vibrant neighborhood, was destroyed by the tsunami and then inundated with radioactivity from the Daiichi plant.

Eiko performed at the Tomiko Municipal Sanitation Plant June 26, 2017. The plant is located 4.3 miles south of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors and was damaged by the earthquake. Most Tomioka residents had left the community due to radiation caused by the Daiichi disaster and the plant closed.

Eiko performed at the Tomiko Municipal Sanitation Plant June 26, 2017. The plant is located 4.3 miles south of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors and was damaged by the earthquake. Most Tomioka residents had left the community due to radiation caused by the Daiichi disaster and the plant closed.

Read more:

A Body in Fukushima: Recent Work Exhibition on Display in Zilkha Gallery (February 2018)

Otake, Johnston ‘Fukushima’ Project Culminating Events in NYC on March 11 (March 2017)

Johnston, Otake Exhibit A Body in Fukushima in Manhattan (September 2016)

A Body in Fukushima: Photo, Video Exhibit on Display at 3 CFA Galleries (February 2015)

South Asia’s Caste System Discussed by Scholars, Students

In South Asia, particularly in India, people are born into a caste system that determines their social status, career, and access to resources and opportunities. Under Brahmins (priests, intellectuals), Kshatriyas (military, warriors), Vaishyas (merchants, farmers), and Shudras (laborers, servants) are Dalits, also known as the “untouchables.” Those in the Dalit caste group struggle with oppression and discrimination and are considered “dirty” and spiritually polluting.

On Nov. 21, Wesleyan’s South Asian students’ association Shakti presented a conversation titled “Caste Conundrum and Identity Politics.” Panelists included Hari Krishnan, professor of dance; Indira Karamcheti, associate professor of American studies; Manjula Pradeep, a human rights lawyer and former director of the Navsarjan Trust; and Meena Varma, director of the International Dalit Solidarity Network.

Shakti members Sushraya Jay and Darshana Banka moderated the discussion, which explored gender, privilege and their corresponding impacts on a day to day basis.

Shakti members Sushraya Jay ’21, top left, and Darshana Banka ’22, top right, moderated the discussion, which explored the caste system, gender, and privilege, and their corresponding impacts on a day-to-day basis.

"The caste system is so ingrained into society so people have adjusted life ... It doesn't bother everyone in India. There's millions of people who support this system because they have benefits associated with a caste," Pradeep said. 

“The caste system is so ingrained into society, so people have adjusted life. . . . It doesn’t bother everyone in India. People don’t want to talk about it. There are millions of people who support this system because they have benefits associated with a caste,” Pradeep said. “But the lower you are in the caste, and you’re born in the (Dalit) community, you have to do degrading work. If you’re born an untouchable, you live and die an untouchable.”

"We all need to be hyper-aware of the circulation of caste discrimination, even in daily life. If you see something, say something. Being a silent observer; it's not enough anymore," Krishnan said. Everyone needs to be an activist, everyone needs to be in solidarity ... and be aware of the social political problems that continue to promote and propagate violence."

“We all need to be hyperaware of the circulation of caste discrimination, even in daily life. If you see something, say something. Being a silent observer; it’s not enough anymore,” Krishnan said. “Everyone needs to be an activist, everyone needs to be in solidarity . . . and be aware of the social-political problems that continue to promote and propagate violence.”

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Karamcheti discussed the Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965, which opened up worldwide immigration to the United States. Since the 1917 Immigration Act, also known as the Asiatic Barred Zones Act, immigration from various non-white countries had been restricted to around 100 persons per year. The Hart-Celler Act raised that cap to 20,000 per year, prioritizing highly skilled, highly educated individuals and family reunification. Consequently, those migrants joined the U.S. as members of the upper and middle classes. “They had professions in the public sphere, often highly prestigious, and incorporated into the U.S. into a flattening out of caste. In a sense, that first wave of immigration comes in, not caste-less, but as upper-caste. As those numbers increased into the 2000s, what you get is the community of South Asians, putting caste-ism into practice.”
As long as the South Asian community was small in number, the dominant culture saw them as all belonging to the model minority. “In this sense, ignorance about their internal differences was in a sense protection; people could pass in terms of their caste identity. South Asians, as their numbers increased, put caste-ism into practice against each other. As the dominant culture gained knowledge about South Asians, knowledge in this case led to more caste discrimination,” she said.

"If you have to ask what caste privilege is, you're probably privileged," Varma said. We need to bring caste into the open, bring discrimination out into the open. We need to be caste aware and that's why solidarity networks are so important."

“If you have to ask what caste privilege is, you’re probably privileged,” Varma said. “We need to bring caste into the open, bring discrimination out into the open. We need to be caste aware and that’s why solidarity networks are so important. One thing we can do, as when we talk about COVID, is to stop using the word ‘social distancing.’ Even though this is now global terminology, this is what has happened to Dalits for 3,000 years. We are now being social, and being distant for reasons of health, but it is because we need safe distancing, not social distancing.” Varma also described the work of Dalits. “Dalits are manual scavengers; they are cleaning human [feces] with their hands,” Varma said. “Cleaning of dry latrines is mostly done by women, and sanitation workers, mostly men, die every day because they are lowered into a manhole without protection. Here is a country that can send satellites into space, but can’t automate its sanitation.”

Otake on “An Artist’s Practice in the Year of Pandemic and Political Cries”

As a dancer and choreographer, Wesleyan’s Visiting Dance Artist-in-Residence Eiko Otake spent the past 45-plus years of her career presenting her work in theaters, universities, museums, galleries, outdoor sites, and festivals worldwide. But like other artists navigating through the crisis, Otake was forced to find creative ways to re-focus, re-imagine, and share her work during the ongoing pandemic.

In March 2020, the Center for the Arts invited Otake to begin a Virtual Creative Residency, during which she began shifting her performance-based art to an online venue named Eiko Otake’s Virtual Studio. Here, Otake posts her new creations, dialogues, and reflections.

On Nov. 15, Otake led a virtual tour and conversation titled “An Artist’s Practice in the Year of Pandemic and Political Cries.” She was joined by two of her collaborators, DonChristian Jones ’12 and Iris McCloughan ’10. McCloughan also moderated the discussion.

The group shared works such as Your Morning Is My Night, Fish House, Visit, Attending, A Body in a Cemetery, Saving, and others.

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On Nov. 15, Eiko Otake, DonChristian Jones ’12, and Iris McCloughan ’10 presented a live, virtual conversation titled “An Artist’s Practice in the Year of Pandemic and Political Cries.” McCloughan also moderated the discussion. In 2020, Otake was invited by Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts (CFA) to its first Virtual Creative Residency. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Otake created Virtual Studio, a space to share newly created and newly edited video works, written reflections, the voices of her collaborators, dialogues with artists and writers, and response from viewers.

Kolcio Receives Grant from the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme

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Katja Kolcio, associate professor dance, leads a somatic methods workshop in Lviv, Ukraine, in June 2015.

Katja Kolcio, director of the Allbritton Center, associate professor of dance, received a $64,745 grant from the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP) this month to evaluate the impact of somatic methods on psycho-social wellness in the context of the armed conflict in Donbas, Ukraine.

“Somatic methods, which are the basis of this project, are movement-based methods that hone body-mind connection in the interest of promoting self-awareness and wellness,” Kolcio explained.

The Vitality Donobas Project is a collaboration between Kolcio and the Development Foundation (DF), an NGO dedicated to psycho-social relief, formed in Ukraine during the Maidan Revolution. In the course of six months, this project will directly engage over 1,500 participants in Donbas through a combination of virtual online and safe in-person programming.

Students Explore New Reality through Dance

When the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted in-person classes last spring, several faculty found innovative and creative ways to adapt to online teaching and learning.

In the third of a fall-semester series, we’ll be highlighting ways faculty from various departments are coping with teaching during a pandemic, and showcase individual ways courses are thriving in an in-person, online, or hybridized environment.

In this issue, we spotlight Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance and director of the Allbritton Center. Kolcio also is a core faculty member of the College of the Environment, Environmental Studies, and Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies Programs at Wesleyan. This fall, she’s teaching DANC 216: Contemporary Dance Technique: Dancing During Pandemic; DANC 435: Advanced Dance Practice A; and DANC 445: Advanced Dance Practice B.

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Katja Kolcio, pictured in the background in black clothing, teaches her Dancing During Pandemic class Sept. 4 near the Wesleyan softball field. Students keep a 12-foot distance between themselves. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

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Twenty-five students are enrolled in the Dancing During Pandemic course.

In a standard Wesleyan dance technique course, students corral inside a studio setting and work to develop artistic virtuosity in a particular dance genre: ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, West African, South Indian, and Afro-Brazilian.

But when the pandemic and its effects fundamentally altered the way people interact, communicate, and engage with one another, Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, decided to design a course specifically focusing on bringing attention to the physical experience of our new reality. So she created the practice-based course DANC 216: Dancing During Pandemic, open to all students.

“It’s common to feel too busy to dedicate attention to our physical sensations and experiences, or to the way in which new ideas or realities encountered in the world resonate within us,” Kolcio said. “So with this course, we examine, ‘How do we physically and socially navigate the new environment?’ We need to fully engage in our physical selves and awareness and bring greater attention to the ways humans utilize our physical and creative capacities.”

5 Faculty Conferred Tenure, 4 Promoted

monogramWesleyan’s Board of Trustees recently announced the promotions of nine faculty members, effective July 1, 2020.

Five faculty were conferred tenure with promotion. They join six other faculty members who were awarded tenure earlier this spring.

  • Joslyn Barnhart Trager, associate professor of government
  • Anthony Keats, associate professor of economics
  • Andrew Quintman, associate professor of religion
  • Michael Slowik ’03, associate professor of film studies
  • Takeshi Watanabe, associate professor of East Asian studies

In addition, four faculty members are being promoted. They join one other faculty member who was promoted earlier this spring.

  • Erika Franklin Fowler, professor of government
  • Barbara Juhasz, professor of psychology
  • Hari Krishnan, professor of dance
  • Phillip Resor, professor of earth and environmental sciences

Brief descriptions of their areas of research and teaching appear below:

Joslyn Barnhart Trager is a political scientist whose research focuses on international security and the effects of psychology and biology on international conflict. Her work examines the ways collective emotions shape national identity, how gender and suffrage interact to affect war and peace, and how rhetorical justifications for territory relate to the use of force. In her recent book, The Consequences of Humiliation: Anger and Status in World Politics (Cornell University Press, 2020), she argues that when international events trigger a sense of humiliation among people who identify with a country, those people become more likely to behave aggressively to restore the country’s image. She offers courses on Psychology and International Relations, Introduction to International Politics, and The Nuclear Age in World Politics, and she received Wesleyan’s Carol Baker Memorial Prize for excellence in teaching and research in 2019.

Erika Franklin Fowler’s research focuses on American politics, with a specialty in political communication—examining the ways political information is disseminated and the effects of such dissemination on political attitudes, knowledge, and behavior. Her Wesleyan Media Project, which provides information on spending and the content of political advertising, has received over $2.7 million in external grant funding. She has co-authored a book, Political Advertising in the United States (Westview Press, 2016), along with numerous peer-reviewed articles and invited publications. She received the APSA Political Organization and Parties Section’s Jack Walker Award for the best article in 2017, and Wesleyan’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2019. She teaches courses on American Government and Politics, Media and Politics, and Empirical Methods.

Barbara Juhasz is a cognitive psychologist who studies reading and word recognition in adults. Through her Wesleyan Eye Movement and Reading Laboratory she investigates how words and their meanings are represented in memory and processed during reading as revealed by eye movements. Her work seeks to answer questions such as what variables can predict how, and how quickly, a word is processed. She has published extensively in many peer-reviewed journals, including Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition; Memory and Cognition; and Behavior Research Methods, and her publications have received over 3,000 citations to date. She offers courses on Sensation and Perception, Psychology of Reading, Experimental Investigations into Reading, and Statistics: An Activity-Based Approach.

Anthony Keats’s research in development economics uses a variety of approaches, including randomized control trials conducted in the field and quasi-experimental methods using household survey data, to answer causal questions related to education, early child health, financial access and savings, and occupational choices in developing countries. His highly-cited work has been published in the Journal of Development Economics and the Economic Journal. He has received over $3.3 million in grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund, Omidyar Network, and other funding organizations. He teaches courses on Quantitative Methods in Economics, Econometrics, and Development Economics.

Hari Krishnan is a dance artist and scholar, specializing in bharatanatyam, queer/contemporary dance, and the interface between dance history and film studies. Bridging theory and practice, he interrogates the boundaries between modern and traditional dance forms, engaging critically with questions of gender, sexuality, and race. His choreographies have been featured at esteemed venues including Jacob’s Pillow, La MaMa’s, Asia Society, Canada Dance Festival, HarbourFront Centre (Canada), Maison des Cultures du Monde (France), The Other Festival, and the Music Academy Dance Festival (India). He is a Bessie award nominee in the Outstanding Performance category, and his recent monograph, Celluloid Classicism: Early Tamil Cinema and the Making of Modern Bharatanatyam, was published by Wesleyan University Press. His courses include Bharatanatyam; Contemporary Dance from Global Perspectives; Mobilizing Dance and Cinema; and Queering the Dancing Body.

Andrew Quintman is a scholar of premodern Buddhist traditions in Tibet and the Himalayas. He has special expertise in biographical and autobiographical literature, in particular the analysis of Buddhist hagiography and historiography, religious poetry, and representations of sainthood. His monograph, The Yogin and the Madman: Reading the Biographical Corpus of Tibet’s Great Saint Milarepa (Columbia University Press, 2014), presents a systematic analysis of the entire Himalayan literary tradition about Milarepa, including all 128 biographies written about the 11th-century Tibetan saint. His book received numerous awards, including the American Academy of Religion’s Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion and Yale University’s Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Prize for Outstanding Scholarship. He offers courses on Buddhist Traditions of Mind and Meditation, Tibetan Buddhism, and Who is the Dalai Lama?

Phillip Resor is a structural geologist who studies rock deformation with an emphasis on fault zones. His research, which combines field work and modeling, has important applications in planetary science, energy resources, and present-day hazard assessment related to earthquakes. He has received grants from the National Science Foundation Tectonics Program, NASA’s Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program, and the Southern California Earthquake Center. He has published widely, and in 2019 he received Top Author recognition from NAGT Teach the Earth. In 2016 he received the Joe Webb Peoples Award in recognition of his contributions to promoting the understanding of Connecticut geology. He offers courses on Dynamic Earth, Structural Geology, Field Geology, Modeling the Earth and Environment, and Geologic Field Mapping.

Michael Slowik’s research focuses on the history of film and film aesthetics, with a special emphasis on the uses and evolution of sound and music in cinema. His book, After the Silents: Hollywood Film Music in the Early Sound Era, 1926-1934 (Columbia University Press, 2014), which provides a detailed analysis of the evolution of film music from the start of synchronized sound through 1934, was a top 10 finalist for the 2015 Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Moving Image Book Award. His latest manuscript, Defining Cinema: The Films of Rouben Mamoulian, is under contract with Oxford University Press. He teaches courses on Film Genres: The Western; History of Film Sound; Sex and Violence: American Filmmaking Under Censorship; and Cinema Stylists: Sternberg, Ophuls, Sirk, Fellini. Slowick is a 2003 alumnus of Wesleyan.

Takeshi Watanabe is a scholar of premodern Japanese literature. In his recent book, Flowering Tales: Women Exorcising History in Heian Japan (Harvard Asia Center, 2020), he examines the historical tale A Tale of Flowering Fortunes (c. 1000), and demonstrates how the rise of writing in the vernacular allowed a new type of historical writing that captured court gossip and channeled its divisive energy into stories that brought healing. He has published broadly in both English and Japanese, and his scholarship covers art history, material culture, and the history of food. He teaches courses on Japanese literature and culture and East Asian culture, including From Tea to Connecticut Rolls: Japanese Culture through Food; Samurai: Imagining, Performing Japanese Identity; and In Search of a Good Life in Premodern Japan.

Kolcio, Weiner, Winston to Serve as New Directors

In July, three faculty will begin new appointments at Wesleyan.

Katja Kolcio will succeed Peter Rutland as director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life; Stephanie Weiner will succeed Sean McCann as director of the Shapiro Center for Writing; and Krishna Winston will succeed David Beveridge and Alex Dupuy as director of the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty.

Katja Kolcio

Katja Kolcio

Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, received certificates from Free Ukrainian University and from Kyiv Institute of Art and Culture; and her PhD from The Ohio State University. Her work specializes in the role of creative physical engagement in education, research, and social change. She has received choreographic fellowships from the New England Dance Fund and New York State Council of the Arts. Recent projects include collaborating on Facing Disasters: A Provocation/Invitation, and This Side of the Curtain: Ukrainian Resistance in Uncertain Times, a panel and performance designed around the topic of social action in an uncertain political context. She presented her research in Washington, D.C., at an event hosted by the Congressional and Senate Ukraine Caucuses in March 2020.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Washington Post: “How One College Is Helping Students Get Engaged in Elections—and, No, It’s Not Political”

President Michael Roth writes about Wesleyan’s initiative to engage students meaningfully in work in the public sphere ahead of the 2020 elections, and calls on other colleges and universities to do the same. He writes: “Now is the time for higher education leaders to commit their institutions to find their own paths for promoting student involvement in the 2020 elections. This kind of direct participation in civic life provides an educational benefit that will help students develop skills for lifelong active citizenship; participants will gain organizational skills, learn to engage productively with others with whom they disagree and learn about themselves.”

2. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: “Nicole Stanton Will Be the Next Provost at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut”

Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton will begin her new role as Wesleyan’s 12th provost and vice president for academic affairs on May 15. She joined Wesleyan in 2007 as associate professor of dance, and currently serves as dean of the Arts and Humanities.

Stanton Announced as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

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Nicole Stanton.

Nicole Stanton has been announced as Wesleyan University’s 12th Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, with her tenure beginning on May 15, 2020.

Stanton joined Wesleyan in 2007 as an associate professor of dance, has twice served as chair of the department (2008–2011; 2014–2017) and is currently serving as Dean of the Arts and Humanities. A dance artist and an educator by training, Nicole’s work explores the cultures and histories of the African diaspora, especially the ways in which the arts and dance serve as sites of reclamation and platforms for cultivating community. Nicole earned a BA in dance and foreign civilizations and languages/European studies from Antioch College and an MFA in dance from The Ohio State University, where she was both an assistant and associate professor of dance and undergraduate studies chair from 2004 to 2007.

“At a time of rapid change in our field and country, Nicole’s inclusive leadership style and focus on shared governance will be critical in helping Wesleyan strengthen and hone its distinctive brand of liberal education going forward,” said President Michael S. Roth ’78. “She is the right choice at the right time for Wesleyan. I look forward to working with her.”

Krishnan Speaks on South Indian Cultural Forms at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore

On Dec. 3, Hari Krishnan, associate professor of dance, presented a talk about his new book, Celluloid Classicism: Early Tamil Cinema and the Making of Modern Bharatanatyam, at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore. 

On Dec. 3, Hari Krishnan, associate professor of dance, presented a talk about his new book, Celluloid Classicism: Early Tamil Cinema and the Making of Modern Bharatanatyam, at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.

Celluloid Classicism, published by Wesleyan University Press in August 2019, provides a detailed history of two important modern South Indian cultural forms: Tamil Cinema and Bharatanatyam dance. Krishnan addresses representations of dance in the cinema from an interdisciplinary, critical-historical perspective.

Celluloid Classicism, published by Wesleyan University Press in August 2019, provides a detailed history of two important modern South Indian cultural forms: Tamil cinema and Bharatanatyam dance. Speaking at the event, he observed that Wesleyan is “a primary site of the reinvention of the dance in the 20th century” with noted Bharatanatyam dancer T. Balasaraswati serving as the first artist in residence at Wesleyan University in the 1960s. Additionally, her brothers, T. Viswanathan and T. Ranganathan, taught in the Music Department for several decades. “So this art form is very much embedded into pedagogy into the DNA at Wesleyan,” he said, noting the responsibility he felt in continuing this tradition at Wesleyan, adding “I’m not interested in relegating Bharatanatyam as some kind of museum historical dance style. I’m interested in giving the form a kind of postmodern currency and how the form can live and breathe, mutate, transform in a variety of ways.”

Krishnan is an expert on queer subjectivities in South Asian and global dance performance, colonialism, post-colonialism and Indian dance, and the history of devadasi (courtesan) dance traditions in South India. He's also the artistic director of Toronto-based dance company inDANCE.

Reading from the introduction, he explained, “Much of this project is concerned with intersections—historical, aesthetic, political and social—between new cultural forms as they were circulated the early 20th century in South India.” Krishnan is an expert on queer subjectivities in South Asian and global dance performance, colonialism, post-colonialism and Indian dance, and the history of devadasi (courtesan) dance traditions in South India. He’s also the artistic director of Toronto-based dance company inDANCE. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)