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Excerpted from a Dance Department press release   Date: 10/24/08

Dance Concert Features Premieres of Faculty Works

The season’s most anticipated dance event will feature the premieres of original works by Smith dance professors Susan Waltner, Rodger Blum, and guest artist-in-residence Donna Mejia, whose new work is grounded in the fascinating world of Tribal Fusion Dance.

The performances, on Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 20 to 22, will also include new dances by graduates of Smith’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Dance program Cathy Nicoli and Candice Salyers, and by West African dance artist/choreographer Marilyn Sylla and her troupe of drummers.

Performances begin at 8 p.m. in Theatre 14, Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $9 (for general public), $5 (for students and seniors).

This is Donna Mejia’s third and final year serving as guest artist in residence and it may be the last opportunity to see her perform in this area for some time. Smith is the first college in the nation to feature the genre Arab-American Tribal Fusion as a part of the dance department curriculum. Mejia has choreographed a high-spirited, percussive work showcasing sophisticated micro-movement with unusual musical interpretation.

Donna Mejia (photo by Jon Crispin)

Mejia’s piece combines contemporary sound technology with the doumbek, one of the oldest classical percussion instruments in the world. “Arab-American Tribal Fusion is

an emerging genre reflecting new technology in world music, cultural exchange between the East and West, and intense international interest in American hip hop and electronic music,” Mejia explains. “The resulting dance is a response to computer-generated accents and digital manipulation of traditional instruments, while aspiring to the signature values of Middle Eastern classical dance tradition. There is never a dull moment!”

Candice Salyers received an undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary arts from the University of Memphis and an MFA in dance from Smith. She is currently pursuing a doctorate at Texas Woman’s University. Her solo performance work has most recently been presented by New England Foundation for the Arts and Bates Dance Festival.

Salyers uses her work to collaborate with the audience in creating a multiplicity of meanings. Her solo piece, You (and everything else) explores the “boundaries we erect in attempt to save ourselves from a world full of heartache, as well as the futility of those separations,” she describes.

Cathy Nicoli earned her bachelor degree cum laude in dance and performance studies from Roger Williams University and her MFA from Smith. Nicoli, through her compositional framework and the shared performance of such, explores the notion of assembly and the imagining of unity between disparate parts. She approaches this by playing with various choreographic principles, such as accumulation, repetition, retrograde, construction, and deconstruction. Her piece features a Five College cast of graduate and undergraduate students.

Susan Waltner, choreographer and professor of dance at Smith, will be presenting a piece called Just Ask Me, an exploration of the physicality of leaning, with an opening for metaphors of what it means to lean on someone, and what it means to be leaned on.

Rodger Blum, professor of dance at Smith, will present a piece exploring the romantic themes in the 1945 classic David Lean film Brief Encounter. The film is based on the screenplay and movie by Noel Coward.

Marilyn Sylla is a Five College lecturer in dance who has choreographed and performed with her husband, Sekou Sylla, a member of the dance faculty at Greenfield Community College, throughout the United States, Africa, Brazil, and Haiti.

The Fall Faculty Dance Concert promises to bring diversity, high aesthetic values, and a variety of perspectives-all in one night.

For tickets, call the Mendenhall box office at 413-585-ARTS (2787). 



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