UMass Percussion Ensemble, dance program to present a collaborative concert
On February 4 and 5, the Music and Dance Department will present a unique collaboration between the UMass Amherst Percussion Ensemble and the UMass Amherst Dance Program entitled “Elements: Movement and Sound”. The project is a multimedia journey into the depths of the natural elements of our world, bringing hope to the present moment through a provocation of the senses.
The concerts, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. both evenings at the Frederick C. Tillis Performance Hall, will include live performances of percussion works by Garth Neustadter and Kjell van Sice, Philip Glass, Jason Treuting and Iannis Xenakis, led by percussion . faculty Ayano Kataoka, accompanied by original choreography by dance faculty Lauren Cox, Molly Christie González and Aston K. McCullough. In addition to student musicians and dancers, the shows will also include a special appearance by world-renowned percussionist and four-time Grammy winner Glen Velez, as well as storyteller Muriel Johnson, who will act as host. Programs will also include lighting design by Bessie Award winner Tuçe Yasak.
The production, the department’s first collaboration between the two disciplines in more than a decade, is the brainchild of Kataoka and Cox, who serve as the project’s co-artistic directors. According to Cox, using the elements as a unifying theme to connect music and dance was a concept that resonated with her and Kataoka. In discussing ideas for repertoire and new choreography, Cox and Kataoka sought to explore “the raw, primitive, and refined evolution of natural elements and how they sustain life in many manifestations”.
The program includes four pieces of modern percussion music, each invoking at different points water, spirit, air, earth and fire. “Seaborne” is a 30-minute percussion work by Emmy Award-winning composer Garth Neustadter, accompanied by video by Kjell van Sice. Comprised of three movements, the piece explores our perception of water from aerial, surface and underwater vantage points, both visually and aurally.
In the “Japurá River” of Aguas da Amazonia by Philip Glass, dancers will perform an original choreography by Molly Christie González, while musicians will play clear glass bottles and bowls tuned by filling them with varying amounts of water, symbolizing the embrace of a river.
Jason Treuting’s Extremes calls for an intimate setup in which four percussionists surround a bass drum to play complex composite rhythms in a circle. Aston McCullough’s accompanying choreography, titled “dance iii (beetelling)”, is the final movement in his witch box series, an emergent sequence of eight dances created as a prayer for the environment and all its inhabitants. This new movement was inspired by watercolourist Richard Yarde’s study for Ringshout: Dance of the Bees, which will be projected during the piece.
“Peaux” from Les Pléïades by Iannis Xenakis, is an energetic drum work in which six percussionists play on nearly 50 drums, from timpani to bongo ensembles. Lauren Cox’s choreography, titled “In Meeting/Thunderstorm”, pairs each dancer with a drummer to fuel their asé (their divine force or energy) to invoke the Orisha, the gods and goddesses of Yorubá faith and folklore, manifesting the power and transformational qualities of each element of nature.
During the performances, Grammy winner Glen Velez will present a special demonstration of his unique drumming style derived from South Indian, Arabic, Central Asian and Southern Italian traditions. Recognized as the founding father of the modern frame drum movement, Velez immerses audiences with interactive drum vocalizations and harmonic Central Asian vocals. Velez and fellow musicians Shane Shanahan (drums), Yousif Sheronick (drums) and Raman Kalyan (flute) will present an improvised music and dance performance of an excerpt from his album, Doctrine of Signatures.
Tickets are $15 General public; $10 seniors/students/UMass employees; free for college students (ticket required). Tickets can be purchased at the Fine Arts Center box office, by phone at 413-545-2511 or online at www.fineartscenter.com/musicanddance. UMass Amherst COVID-19 policies will be followed (read full safety policy here).
Tillis Performance Hall is located in the Randolph W. Bromery Center for the Arts, 151 Presidents Dr., Amherst, MA. Free parking is available in the university’s lot 71 near Massachusetts Avenue and lot 62 via Thatcher Way or Stockbridge Road. Visit the Palace of Fine Arts website for more information or view the UMass interactive parking map.
Elements is supported by funding from the UMass Arts Council, the Research Council of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and the Center for Teaching and Learning. The Department of Music and Dance thanks the University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMass and the Estate of Richard Yarde for the use of Study for Ringshout: Dance of the Bees, 2007-2008, by Richard Yarde. Watercolor on paper; 46 5/8 x 46 5/8 in. Yarde’s work will be featured at UMCA as part of the “From My Heart to You” exhibit, Feb. 4-May 1 (www.umass.edu/umca).