Sir Dave, 1998, oil on canvas, 18 by 24 inches, copyright Jonathan Green.

March 14-15: Dance concert

Performance by UD's dance minor focuses on storytelling

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4:18 p.m., March 11, 2014--They’ve practiced all year. They’ve danced with guest artists from across the country. They’ve collaborated with percussionists, painters and poets. And now, the University of Delaware dance minor students are waiting for the curtain to rise on their annual concert.

“It is just about here, and it's very exciting,” said Kim Schroeder, head of the dance minor, noting that all this week is dedicated to final rehearsals and preparations.

Events Stories

Dec. 1: Inspirational webinar

A compelling webinar featuring University of Delaware alumnus David Mays, a member of the Class of 2002, will be offered at noon, Monday, Dec. 1.

Dec. 2: Meet with the provost

UD students, faculty and staff are invited to meet with Provost Domenico Grasso in an open-format, town hall meeting Dec. 2.

The concert, this year titled (non)Fiction, will take place Friday and Saturday, March 14 and 15, at 7:30 p.m. in Mitchell Hall. Tickets are $10 for the public and $5 for students. It will feature everything from dance to original paintings, poetry, live performance music and more.

This year’s theme is storytelling, which arose somewhat by chance.

“We met as faculty after we had been in the initial stages of the rehearsals process, and we started talking about each specific piece and how it connected in with the night’s work,” Schroeder said. “We saw a theme of storytelling.” 

Storytelling is present in everything from a piece called Harvest Day, produced in collaboration with Bamidele Dancers and Drummer’s Marilyn and Sekou Sylla — who visited UD as artists-in-residence through the President’s Diversity Initiative in November — to the final act, a large collaborative body of work focused around a historical figure known as Dave the Potter.

“Dave the Potter is based on David Drake, an enslaved individual who wrote poetry on his pots,” said Lynnette Young Overby, professor of theatre. “There will be a suite of dances that were created … based on the life and times of Dave the Potter.”

But dance is only part of the experience.

The show will also feature paintings of Drake’s pottery by renowned artist Jonathan Green; poetry by P. Gabriel Foreman, the Ned Allen Professor of English and a professor of Black American studies at UD, and South Carolina poet Glenis Redmond; guest choreography by Vincent Thomas and Theresa Emmons; works by composer Ralph Russell; musical performances by UD graduate student violinist Duo Shen and other student musicians; and presentations by performers from the dance minor and from Christina Cultural Arts Center and Cab Calloway School of the Arts, both in Wilmington.

“We all have stories to tell, and dance is one way that we can share stories that people can relate to in a kinesthetic way as well an emotional way,” Overby said.

The decision to perform Dave the Potter emerged through a “creative sisterhood” between Overby, Foreman and Redmond, who has collaborated with Foreman on her research and produced the poetry for the collaborative. 

Foreman is currently working on a book project focused on David Drake and, familiar with Green’s paintings, she realized he could also play a role. She described Green as “one of the most important painters of Southern Black experience.”

The UD professor will contribute an original piece to the production, which she calls Slavery’s Slippery Touch. She came to her research on Drake through examination of his poetry inscribed on pottery.

In fact, she said, one his poems provides the “emotional core” of the performance:

“I wonder where is all my relations/Friendship to all- and every nation” 

Engaging the community in this production is critical to Foreman.

“The creativity, ingenuity and will to survive and find voice was actively suppressed for millions of captive Africans in the Americas for four centuries,” she said, noting that racial disparities in colleges across the country remain shocking.

“As a Black woman writing about Black subjects, I’m painfully aware that if we don’t engage communities outside the academy, too few who share Dave’s heritage will ever hear his story.”

But Overby said outreach won’t stop with this performance. On March 18, at 5 p.m. in the Gore Recital Hall of the Roselle Center for the Arts, Foreman, Green and others will give the annual Paul R. Jones Lecture.

In June, they will perform the piece for the Council for Undergraduate Research Conference in Washington, D.C., and they will collaborate with Green to develop educational materials and a website for students in secondary schools. Foreman said a book will be another outgrowth.

In addition to Dave the Potter, the dance minor show will include a movement-based interpretation of visual artist Maren Hassinger’s exhibit, Hanging Boxes and Changing Boxes, which were showcased in Mechanical Hall Gallery last fall, also through the President’s Diversity Initiative.

Students will also perform a piece created by guest artist Elijah Gibson, a well-known dancer and instructor from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dance minor faculty, including Schroeder, will present other collaborative works while Sarah Braverman, a senior UD dance minor, will showcase a piece she was invited to create called Contagion.

“What’s most rewarding for me is seeing the transformation in the students throughout the process of a professionally run concert experience,” said Schroeder, adding that the audience is the final element, the piece that brings all their hard work into focus.

“The key to training anyone in the arts starting out is through collaboration and contribution, not just by re-creating dance phrases but by becoming a vital force in the creative process.” Schroeder said.

Article by Kelly April Tyrrell

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