Five College Dance Department

TIS (The Indomitable Spirit)

Hello, I am Dr. Shirley Jackson Whitaker and because of my experience as a physician and artist I was inspired to create a sketch called TIS (“The Indomitable Spirit”). This portrays the pain and despair of women which I witnessed in my over 20 years of practice. My plan is to take that sketch to another level and to bring to
you the film “TIS” dedicated to violence against women. This film will be a choreo-poem to present the lives of women who have been abused.

In this film, You will meet Maria, a 24 year old mother awakening to the smell of skin burning. In this film, you will see Tameka whose celebration of her plan to finally leave the arms of her abusive lover ends with her plans being cut short. In this film, you will see Sandie whose wedding dress becomes her burial robe. This film will allow the merging of dance, music and visual art to bring TIS to us. “Emotion in Motion” will be captured in a film-featuring dance, music and visual art. This is my artistic healing through creative expression. But, it can be your healing too. I am seeking three dance students to do the choreography and perform this project.

If you are interested in this project email Marilyn Sylla at

Biography of Dr. Shirley Jackson Whitaker, Creator of The Indomitable Spirit (TIS)

      She was the art protégé of one of American’s leading artists, the late Leonard Baskin. She was the first African American female in the Yale Glee Club and the only African American female in her medical school graduation class. She was one of the subjects in Carrie Weems most famous installment “The Kitchen Table”. She was taught early on, growing up in South Georgia the importance of being sensitive and caring towards others. She took all of her experiences from her love of medicine, art and people and in 1998 wrote the “Declaration Against Violence to Women” and accompanied that declaration with a powerful pen and ink sketch depicting a woman immersed in distress. Since writing the declaration and drawing the sketch sixteen years ago, Dr.
Whitaker has continued to make contributions to the community of western Massachusetts. She has done several community building and enrichment programs (AIMS, In Celebration of Black Women Program-
meetings and business showcase, African American Achievement Night for Amherst Public schools, etc.). She is a long term resident of Amherst who was trained as an internist and Nephrologist. As a part of her desire to continue to give back to her community, she weekly shares her medical knowledge with the western New England community on a Sunday morning radio show. She recently recommitted to her project to increase awareness about domestic violence by working to take her declaration and sketch that is now known as “TIS” to another level. Her goal is to make a film that will combine dance, music and visual art. Thus, taking something that has been a part of her for over sixteen years and making it a part of us all.

In the Marrow is a performance of choreographed works by Rachel Blair, Mariam Dingilian, and Paul Matteson. Join us March 28 & 29 at 8:00 p.m. in the Mount Holyoke Kendall Studio Theatre. Reception following the Friday night performance features live music by Eljebel.

Rachel Blair’s Witness takes the audience through a series of jolts, capturing moments when unlikely friendships result in trying acts. The division of the self is addressed with jarring clarity, adhering self-sacrifice and liberation. The audience takes a front seat journey of self-division into the point of no return. What is left of you when the daily mask has been absolved, removed, and transcended?

Curtain Call, the interior quest of one on the cusp of performing. Curtain Call by Mariam Dingilian follows the inner dialogue of a conflicted heroine exploring the nature and meaning of performance and the will to create. Inspired by the writings of Tennessee Williams, the piece examines the performer’s public and private world, while probing the boundaries of self-doubt, sensitivity and sanity, and her search for the richness and joy of the possibilities beyond. Curtain call…curtains up!

Show Stoppers is a physically epic duet originally created performed by Paul Matteson and Raja Feather Kelly and now restaged and tenderly improved upon by Molly McBride and Madison Palffy. A tale of sisters, or lovers, or friends; no, strangers who happen to share the same questions, fears and secrets. A dance that grows over and over and over with age, the two banter and attempt one-upmanship or maybe they are just trying to keep up. 

Reservations are recommended and may be made by calling (413) 538-2848 or e-mailing  Ticket prices are $5.00 for general admission and $3.00 for students and seniors.

Check out the event on Facebook!

Sociology Study: Body Perspective in the FCDD

The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship modern/contemporary undergraduate dancers within the Five College Dance Department have with their bodies, and how the FCDD environment shapes this relationship. Four volunteers are needed to participate in a 45-60 minute long interview. There is no obligation to participate. If interested, please contact Jessica Goudreault at or at 603-793-8309.

stitch // unraveling

An evening of contemporary dance works by Ailey Picasso and Madison Palffy, stitch // unraveling April 3rd-5th at 8pm in the Dance Studio Theater at Hampshire College in Amherst, combines mutual investigations of distinct and dissolving gestures; fragments and scores.

Ailey Picasso’s experiments in movement generation bring to light inner dialogues and development of personal and shared space. In her group work, individual movement vocabularies are stitched together forming a tapestry of motion in space and time. Her solo work undigested logic examines a personal movement language in conversation with self and environment.

Madison Palffy’s too bad it’s nothing sits on the edge of disaster, in a void full of aliens, a group of people stitching themselves back together haunted by the past. Palffy’s work lies in the intersection of dance making and queer thinking.

Reservations are recommended and may be made by calling (413) 559- 5889 or emailing Ticket prices are $5 for general admission and $3 for students and seniors.

Spirit of Uganda Workshop

Join performers from the Spirit of Uganda in an East African Dance workshop!
Tuesday, March 4, 6-7:30pm, on the Concert Hall stage at the UMass Fine Arts Center. $10 general public, students and youth free, max 2 youth per adult. PDP certificates will be available to participating teachers.
This is a participatory workshop open to all levels and ages and taught by the performers you will see the next day! Thoughtful and full of energy, each of the performers speak English fluently and are eager to share stories and experiences with Americans. Come learn expressive and powerful East African dances directly from these professional youth from across the globe.
Teachers, learn about these dances and then learn to teach them to your students while including cultural contexts for the different types of dance. Dance students, add vocabulary to your movement repertoire and fine tune the movements you may already know.
In the words of Artistic Director Peter Kasule: “Dance and music in Africa are the Breath of Life. The deeper we breathe, the longer we live, and the more diverse and culturally rich we become.”  Do take advantage of this opportunity and join us in breathing a little deeper with this extraordinary company.
Anyone may partake in this workshop, but pre-registration is required – please call 545-4160 to register or send email to by Thursday, Feb. 27.

Classical Indian Dance Concert

Ranjanaa Devi cordially invites you to a free concert of classical Indian dances on Saturday February 22 at 4PM at Studio Theater, Kendall Hall, Mt. Holyoke College.  Titled, Devotion, the concert will feature a comparative look at two classical styles – Mohini Attam from the south and Odissi from the east of India. The three performers are part of the Nataraj Dance company and include two Five College Dance department alums who have been studying with Ranjanaa since the 1990s and a talented dancer studying at Brown University.

While this concert is a presentation for students enrolled in Devi’s class Dan 143, all are welcome to attend and get a deeper insight of these two vibrant dance forms so popular in the world today. 


MDF Meeting Saturday Feb. 22, 2014 1-3pm Jones Library Downtown Amherst

Hampshire College Winter Dance Concert

Thursday thru Saturday, February 20-22, 2014 at 8pm
Hampshire College Main Dance Studio, Amherst, MA

Tickets: $10 general, $5 student & senior

413-559-5889 or beginning Feb.10, 2014
Performance Handicapped Accessible

(Amherst, MA) Hampshire College Dance Program presents its annual Winter Dance Concert, which promises to be an evening of engaging and unconventional performance, February 20-22, 2014 at 8pm in the Main Dance Studio, Music & Dance Building.

Guest artist and Hampshire Alumnus Chris McMillian presents, Let there be… a collaborative creation with his repertory class that features flowing partnerships and captivating ensemble work. Ailey Picasso’s beautifully improvised solo considers the effects of habitual movement; first time contributor, Allison Gorbach offers a lyrical trio and Leah Valtin-Erwin debuts Occupied Trains, an energetic and clever exploration of Ukranian life.

Ellen Oliver’s, An Evening of Enchanted Alliance, examines the creation of and participation in collective identity. Miriam King’s duet focuses on boundaries of space and movement. Sabina Smith-Moreland submits two compositions; an improvised kinetic solo and a whimsical trio that employs quick-witted and humorous movement it its exploration of innocence and nostalgia. Nikko Koetsch’s solo Reasonable Doubt moves through the conflicts of self-confidence and doubt.

Don’t miss this thought-provoking evening of dance. Reservations are recommended and may be made by calling (413) 559-5889 or emailing beginning February 10. Ticket prices are $10.00 for general admission and $5.00 for students and seniors. Handicapped Accessible.

About Hampshire College:

As a liberal arts college, Hampshire helps students develop confidence in their intellect, creativity, and values. It encourages their desire to be lifelong learners and their capacity to advance the cause of social justice and the well-being of others.

Photo of Ailey Picasso by Jim Coleman