Premiere Performance Investigates the Ritual Practice of Masking Across Cultures
Middlebury, VT—The 2014 Dance Company of Middlebury, under the direction of Christal Brown, will premiere three original works on February 21–22 at the Mahaney Center for the Arts. The performance, entitled “The Meaning of the Masks,” is the culmination of a multi-semester investigation of the ritual of masking across cultures.
The company took a long journey to develop their newest pieces, working with three different social catalysts over multiple semesters. First, the company studied Butoh performance with guest artist Shizu Homma in fall 2013.
Next, they investigated fashion design and contemporary choreography with guest artist Ayo Janeen Jackson. Finally, the company explored Jouvay practice in carnival, during a ten-day research trip hosted by the New Waves Dance and Performance Institute’s carnival performance studies program in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Inspired by these experiences, the company developed the three original works that will premiere at Middlebury.
The dancers and designers explored a wide spectrum for the definition of masking, spanning daily rituals like the preparation of clothing, hair, and makeup, to the yearlong preparation for an event such as carnival. The resulting dances will investigate the cultural underpinnings of ritually constructing, presenting, and transcending oneself through performance. The seemingly disparate dance styles will be fused artistically, using the moving body as a common denominator for understanding cataclysmic historical, social, and cultural phenomena.
Artistic Director Christal Brown stresses the interdisciplinary nature of the project. “The Meaning of the Masks includes seven student dancers, an architecture student as the set designer, an alumna as costume designer, an anthropology student, and an international student on academic training as the documentarian.” The 2014 company includes dancers Hai Do ’14, Amy Donahue ’13.5, Cameron McKinney ’14, Jill Moshman ’14, Rachel Nuñez ’14, Isabella Tudisco-Sadacca 13.5, and Chelsea Chuyou Wang ’16. Patrick Simbarashi Chakauya ’16 is the set designer; Sophie Bufton ’15 is the student anthropologist; Julien Joseph Mounier is the film documentarian; and Annie Ulrich ’13 is the costume designer. The work includes an original score by Faria Malianga, who last collaborated with Brown on her 2013 work The Opulence of Integrity.
The Dance Company of Middlebury (DCM) is an essential component of the Dance Program’s advanced studio course offerings. It is a two-semester, credit-bearing course, open by audition to sophomores through seniors, directed by a different dance faculty member or guest artist each year. After developing new work in the fall semester, DCM goes on tour each winter. Past tours have taken DCM to San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans, the Dominican Republic, and the Czech Republic.
Performances of “The Meaning of the Masks” by the Dance Company of Middlebury will take place on Friday, February 21, 2014 at 8:00 P.M., and Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 3:00 and 8:00 P.M. at Middlebury College’s Kevin P. Mahaney ’84 Center for the Arts, in the Dance Theatre. (Please note the addition of the Saturday matinee performance to the schedule.) There will also be a Behind-the-Scenes Lunch and Discussion on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 12:30 P.M. in the Dance Theatre; admission is free to Middlebury College ID card holders; $5 donation suggested for community members. The Mahaney Center is located at 72 Porter Field Road in Middlebury, just off Route 30 south. Tickets are $12 for the general public; $10 for Middlebury College faculty, staff, alumni, emeriti, and other ID card holders; and $6 for Middlebury College students. Free parking is available. For more information, or to purchase tickets, call (802) 443-MIDD (6433) or go to http://go.middlebury.edu/arts.
Dance Company of Middlebury photos by Alan Kimara Dixon