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Dance department, music conservatory team up in ‘The Collaborative Spirit’

April 14, 2011

Chapman dance students rehearse an excerpt from famed choreographer Jiri Kylian’s “Falling Angels."

A unique live performance by Chapman University student musicians and dancers will feature a “minEvent” by the late choreographer Merce Cunningham and his longtime partner, the late composer John Cage.  “The Collaborative Spirit: An Evening of Music and Dance,” which takes place Thursday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m. in Chapman’s Memorial Hall, will be an experience of live music combined with dance – an experience not often found on university campuses, where dancers most frequently perform to recorded tracks.  The evening will also feature a dance work by another superstar choreographer, Jiri Kylian, set to live music by Steve Reich, and an original work by Chapman dance professor Liz Maxwell, set to live music by Frederic Rzweski.   

Tickets are on sale now or will be available at the door, at $15 general admission or $10 for senior citizens. Admission will be just $5 for Chapman students, faculty and staff with ID.

Call 714-997-6812 or go online to purchase tickets:

Liz Maxwell, assistant professor of dance in Chapman’s Department of Dance, did some collaboration of her own within the university’s College of Performing Arts, teaming with fellow Chapman faculty member Nick Terry, assistant professor of music and director of percussion activities in Chapman’s Conservatory of Music, to create the show.

The performance, titled “The Collaborative Spirit: An Evening of Music and Dance,” is the first of its kind for the College of Performing Arts, says Maxwell.  “To illuminate the aspects of collaboration, Chapman dance and music students will perform a Merce Cunningham ‘minEvent’ to the music of John Cage,” Maxwell said.  “Both artists were long committed to supporting live music as the accompaniment for dance.” 

Cunningham (1919-2009) was an iconic American choreographer and hailed as one of the creative giants of the last century.   Cage (1912-1992), one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, was Cunningham’s partner in life and also in creating dance/music works together.  

“A minEvent is an uninterrupted sequence of excerpts drawn from various selections of the Cunningham repertoire,” Maxwell explains.  “Each minEvent is unique, and can include any variations representing his 70 years of dance-making.  In this case, our students learned a nearly 30-minute series of excerpts of six dances.  In the same vein, eight musicians will play 12 various scores by Cage in an unspecified order to be determined at showtime.” 

Maxwell added that 2011 has been dubbed the Merce Cunningham Legacy Year, “and in the wake of Cunningham’s passing in 2009, Chapman is greatly privileged to be part of an exclusive list of schools performing his work, including The Juilliard School of Music, Cornish College of the Arts (Cunningham’s alma mater), the University of Michigan, Trinity Laban Conservatoire, London Contemporary Dance School, Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers, and the American Dance Festival.   The famous 50-year partnership of Cage and Cunningham continues to be a beacon for pioneering new ways of creating and perceiving the arts.”

Also represented in the performance will be an excerpt from “Falling Angels,” one of the most famous dance works created by world-renowned choreographer Jiri Kylian.  Kylian, artistic director of Nederlands Dans Theater from 1975-2004, is currently NDT’s chief choreographer and has created more than 70 works for the Dutch company.  He created “Falling Angels” in 1989, set to the ground-breaking composition “Drumming” by Steve Reich.  The excerpt to be performed by the Chapman students was staged by Fiona Lummis, a former member of NDT, and appears by special permission from Kylian and his Kylian Foundation.  “This dance, featuring eight women, is an expressive statement of femininity as well as a rigorous exploration of the music’s African sensibilities,” said Maxwell. 

Professor Maxwell was inspired by Frederic Rzweski’s politically themed work “Coming Together” for her original choreography, “Impetus II.”  “The music, which uses improvisational elements and variable instrumentation, is set to letters from Sam Melville, an inmate at Attica State Prison that was the site of the famous riots,” said Maxwell.  “This dance also employs collaborative methods and well be performed by 24 dancers and eight musicians.”

“We’re thrilled to have put this performance together, offering our students such a unique opportunity to work with repertory from the postmodern lexicon,” said Professor Terry.  “There’s no better way for them to learn about the world of arts collaboration than by participating firsthand in the creation of this evening-length performance.” 

This performance is the capstone activity of a course co-taught and developed over the past year by Professors Maxwell and Terry.  The two faculty members were the first winners of Chapman University’s Co-Teaching Competition, in which the university gives an award for the development of innovative interdisciplinary classes.   “The goal of this class, and the performance, is to build an interdisciplinary arts community at Chapman and to illuminate the link between theory and practice,” said Maxwell.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mary permalink
    April 12, 2011 1:11 pm

    I am looking for a dance performance on a Fri Sat or Sun that I can bring my college-bound, high school sophmore to.

  2. April 12, 2011 1:46 pm

    Our friends in the College of Performing Arts tell us that the upcoming Spring Dance Concert performs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, May 11-14, with a 2 p.m. matinee on May 14 as well. We hope one of those performances will work out for you. It would be great to see you there!

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