In the wake of Donald Trump's election, choreographers are responding to the impact of his presidency and what it means for them as artists. Amherst College Visiting Assistant Professor Dante Brown and other choreographers are using their art as a platform for political awareness and activism. Read more to see how Dante Brown and fellow artists are using dance to spark conversation about this current political climate in an article in this month's issue of Dance Magazine.
Carina Ho (SC '09) has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to promote access to dance for people with disabilities in Uruguay.
After graduating from Smith with a BA in Economics Carina moved out to San Francisco to begin a career in finance. While developing her career over the next few years she continued to explore her lifelong love for dance by performing with local choreographers and companies. In 2014 she was rear-ended by a truck while driving on the highway, which left her paralyzed from the chest down. While she was recovering, a dancer friend introduced her to Judith Smith, the artistic director of AXIS Dance Company, a professional physically integrated dance company based in Oakland, CA. She began as an apprentice in February 2016 and was hired as a full-time company member in January 2017. Carina says, "This is the last job in the world I thought I would have after learning that I would be using a wheelchair for the rest of my life, but I am very grateful and excited to have it".
Carina will be teaching and creating site-specific community works as a guest artist at La Escuela Franklin Roosevelt, a school for disabled youths in Montevideo, Uruguay. Integrated or inclusive dance is dance that includes people both with and without disabilities, and was initially developed by artists at companies including AXIS and CanDoCo in the US and UK. Her project goal is to deepen her understanding of how artists and educators in countries where the introduction of integrated dance was more recent are influencing the discourse surrounding inclusivity of people with disabilities in the arts.
Paul Arslanian, (Accompanist for Dance; Analysis of Music from a Dancer's Perspective; Lecturer at Umass) and Northampton Jazz Workshop received NEPR 2017 Arts and Humanities Award.
Paul is a professional pianist, composer, and dance accompanist. In San Francisco during the 1970s, he led his own jazz and Latin ensembles, was composer and pianist for Bishop Norman Williams, recorded with such notables as Pepper Adams, Pharaoh Sanders, Dave Liebman, Woody Shaw, and Bill Summers, and backed up Freddy Hubbard and Terri Gibbs. In 1979, Paul co-founded the Jazz Tap Ensemble, and as music director, worked with Honi Coles, Foster Johnson, Cookie Cook, Eddie Brown, Harold and Fayard Nicholas, and many other tap greats. Since relocating to the East in 1984, Paul has continued and expanded his musical explorations. He has been pianist for the Archie Shepp Quartet, and released a recording entitled, It's The Feeling That Counts. Paul has toured extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe as music director for numerous productions, including Dance Umbrella's Fascinating Rhythms tour which featured Savion Glover and Jimmy Slyde.
Thanks to the Northampton Jazz Workshop, the Pioneer Valley has been swinging on Tuesday nights for the past seven years. The Workshop provides an important context for fostering community around jazz performance, and has galvanized area fans. Pianist Paul Arslanian and the late bassist Dave Shapiro satisfied a long overdue need in local jazz circles when they established the Workshop in 2010 at Green Street Café. Each week since then, the Green Street Trio, which includes Arslanian, bassist George Kaye, and drummer Jon Fisher, invites a guest soloist to join them for a one-hour set that mixes jazz standards and originals, and then the bandstand opens up for an organized jam session. At night’s end, the featured soloist returns to play with the assembled players on stage. The music is free for all, and the house (since 2015, the City Sports Grille) is packed every week. Scores of college students from the Five Colleges and beyond come to the club throughout the year for a chance to play their instruments or sing. It’s the spirit of this endeavor and its ongoing success that we honor with the Arts & Humanities Award.
Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie, a fall 2016 guest artist with the Smith College Department of Dance, who is choreographing a dance featuring a cast of both Smith and UMass dancers for the Smith Fall Faculty Dance Concert on November 17-19 was awarded a 2016 New York Dance and Performance Award (known as a "Bessie Award") for Outstanding Performer for her body of work.
From the Bessie Awards website about why Ephrat deserves this honor: For a presence and a skill that is immediate and unmistakable, explosive and captivating. For her vibrant contributions to the works of Michelle Dorrance, Doug Elkins, Rennie Harris, Bill Irwin, Cori Olinghouse, Gus Solomons jr, and others.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council recently announced the 2016 MCC Artist Fellowship awards in Choreography. Four artists will receive fellowships of $12,000, and five artists will receive $1,000 finalist awards.
All four of the fellowship awardees have strong ties to the FCDD:
- Deborah A. Goffe is an Assistant Professor of Dance at Hampshire College, and the founder of collaborative dance theater company Scapegoat Garden.
- Candice Salyers (SC MFA '03) will be a full-time Visiting Artist at Mount Holyoke College during 2016-17.
- Sara L. Smith (HC '95) is an interdisciplinary choreographer, the editor of KINEBAGO, and an Arts and Humanities Librarian at Amherst College. She has also taught seminars in costume design for FCDD students.
- Dahlia Nayar has taught Indian classical dance at Smith College.
Three of the five finalists are also an important part of the FCDD community:
- Thomas L. Vacanti (SC MFA '97) is an Assistant Professor of Dance at UMass Amherst, Co-Artistic Director of the Pioneer Valley Ballet, and founder of Vacanti Ballets.
- Katie Martin (SC MFA '10) is an adjunct faculty member in the FCDD.
- Michelle Marroquin (HC '94, SC MFA '10) is a Pioneer Valley-based dancer and performance artist.
The MCC Artist Fellowship awards are anonymously judged, based solely on the artistic quality and creative ability of the work submitted. Applications were open to all eligible Massachusetts artists.
Congratulations to all of the awardees! We are proud of how well you represent the FCDD!
Paul Dennis in Deborah A. Goffe's BE'SPOKE(n) at the 2016 FCDD Faculty Concert. Photo by Jim Coleman.
Candice Salyers in her solo Six Reasons Why My Dance Card Isn't Full at Mount Holyoke College Fall Dance 2015. Photo by Jim Coleman.
Immigrant Voices: A Celebration of Arts event took place on Saturday, April 9, 2016 at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls. FCDD artists Sekou Sylla and Marilyn Sylla were among many singers, dancers and poets in the sold-out show that celebrated arts and culture for the Center for New Americans.
The Center for New Americans is "a community-based, non-profit adult education center that provides the under-served immigrant, refugee and migrant communities of Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley with education and resources to learn English, become involved community members and obtain tools necessary to maintain economic independence and stability."
On Friday, February 17th 2016, the Loculus Performance Collective presented "Solo," a series of performances at the Florence Civic Center. Loculus Collective includes FCDD alumni Hayley-Jane Blackstone, Olana Flynn, Stephanie Jacco, Molly McBride, Madison Palffy, and Aliza Persing. It was founded in the summer of 2015 after Loculus recieved a grant from the Northampton Arts Council. Their work includes seasonal performances and journals that explore performance and choreogrpahy in Western Massachusetts.
More information about Loculus here.
In addition to his work as a performer, choreographer, Assistant Professor at UMass Amherst, and Associate Director of the White Mountains Summer Dance Festival at Sarah Lawrence College, Paul Dennis is dedicated to bringing dance to Huntington's disease patients. Mass Live features FCDD Professor Paul Dennis's work with dance and Huntington's disease in an article published March 21, 2016. Since 2012 Paul brings dance to Huntington's disease patients at Tewksbury Hospital because he believes that dance can help with overall emotional and physical well being of the patients. He visits the hospital in weekly sessions and incorporates Laban Movement Analysis and Bartenieff Fundamentals in his work.
As the Mass Live article states, Paul's work is important because there are no known studies researching the effect of practiced movement elements on the slowing down of Huntington's disease movement, cognitive and emotional disorders.
Click here to read more about Paul's inspiring work with Huntington's disease.
Above: photo by Jim Coleman