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Faculty Dance Concert Brings Fresh Moves


This year’s popular dance program series opens with The Fall Faculty Dance Concert, with performances Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 16-18, at 8 p.m. each night in Theatre 14, Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts.

The annual concert is known for introducing fresh, original choreography from a spectrum of genres and styles by the college’s dance faculty and visiting artists, including Rodger Blum (ballet), Marilyn Middleton-Sylla (West African), Robin Prichard (modern), and new guest artist Donna Mejia and her exciting work in tribal fusion.

Mejia, a choreographer, lecturer, teacher and performer who specializes in contemporary dance, is new to the Smith and Five College dance programs as a Guest Artist in Residence. She most recently spent 10 years on the Colorado College faculty as a teacher and director. For 12 years, she served as managing director of the award-winning Harambee African Dance Ensemble of Colorado University-Boulder.

Tribal Fusion is an emerging dance genre rooted in women’s nomadic dance traditions of North Africa, the Middle East, Mediterranean, and Asia -- all linked by the common thread of Arab and Persian influences.

“Tribal Fusion commemorates the legacy of women’s dances and movements dating back over 7,000 years to practices of the Goddess traditions,” says Mejia. “My personal approach is inspired by 20 years of scholarship in nomadic dance traditions coupled with the highest regard for my teachers and elders.”

Two of Mejia’s works will be presented in the concert: a Tribal Fusion solo she will perform herself, and E.K.G. for 10 dancers. The work explores the idea of the indomitable spirit -- those who choose to face pain and vulnerability with open eyes. It is danced to an original score by composer/DJ Matthew Tucker Moore exclusively for this production. The movement is rooted in the gestures and symbology of Candomble and the dancers use this athletic, provocative repertoire to illustrate the heart’s ability to revive and persevere after bumps, bruises and trauma.

Rodger Blum, associate professor of dance, has created an original ballet, Helenia, Angelique, and the Broken Cane, which he describes as “a new fairy tale for the 21st century.” The work features a number of classical music pieces and special effects including video projection.

Marilyn M. Sylla currently is a Five College lecturer teaching at Smith College, Mt. Holyoke College, Amherst College and UMass, Amherst. She has performed and taught in Brazil, Haiti, West Africa, including Guinea, Senegal, the Gambia and the Casamance, and the United States. Her traditional West African dance will be performed at the Mt. Holyoke College Faculty Dance Concert, November 9-11, and again here at Smith for this concert.

Robin Prichard, visiting assistant professor at Smith, will present a trio titled Duet for Three that investigates the landscape of excess. Utilizing virtuosic movement and formalistic choreographic concerns, this dance explores the alienation a person inhabits when she feels superfluous or unnecessary in a relationship. With music by Michael Nyman and performances by Vanessa Anspaugh, Aretha Aoki, and Kellie Lynch, this is a vibrant and charged dance with poignant repercussions.

Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office, (413) 585-2787, and at the door beginning at 7 p.m. on the night of the performance: $8 general, $5 students/seniors.

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