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Theatre and Dance

Swing into Spring Contra Dance

Grinnell College's Contra Dance club is holding its Second Annual Contra Dance at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 22. The free, public event will take place in Main Quad Dining Hall.

The dance will feature live music by Can I Get an Amen, one of Chicago's foremost folk bands. Nikki Herbst, a renowned contra dancer from Iowa, will be calling the social dances.

Contra dance is an American folk tradition, similar to square dancing. Fun for both skilled and beginner dancers, this live dance is a unique opportunity to experience one of America's folk traditions firsthand.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations from Conference Operations and Events.

This event is supported by the Grinnell Department of Music with funds from the Terri Thaler ’82 Memorial Endowment.

Mortal Tongues, Immortal Stories

Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company will present Mortal Tongues, Immortal Stories is a multimedia dance project that bears witness and celebrates the lives of poets and artists lost to AIDS. Based on the anthology "Persistent Voices: Poetry by Writers Lost to AIDS", this evening-length performance brings together spoken word, artists, dancers, and stunning visual designs in short vignettes that create an imaginary world inspired by the poems.

The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Flanagan Theatre, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. Tickets are required for this free event and are available at the Campus Box Office begin April 4.

The day before their performance, three members of Dakshina — Chris August, Daniel Phoenix Singh, and Gowri Koneswaran — will speak on the interdisciplinary nature of Dakshina’s work and how art can address social issues within the context of their upcoming performance of Mortal Tongues, Immortal Stories. The entire company of 11 will be present to contribute to the discussion and answer questions.

The event begins at noon, Friday, April 8, in Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Room 152, and lunch provided.

Grinnell College's Artists@GrinnellDepartment of Theatre & Dance, Center for International Studies, and Center for Humanities are sponsoring the free, public events.

About Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company

Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company is an emerging dance company based in Washington D.C. They perform and present Indian dance forms, such as Bharata Natyam, and modern dance, mirroring the multiple identities of second generation South Asians. The group combines the arts with social justice issues by incorporating the themes into their work and partnering with local community centers and schools.

Performing Locally, Thinking Globally

For many, theatrical performances are a way to explore the unfamiliar, to experience things that are different from the place and people they call home. For Leda Hoffmann ’09, however, theatre has been a tool for making a strange new place feel like home.

The daughter of a foreign service officer, Hoffmann’s life before Grinnell was spread across multiple continents. While some might see moving around between Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Canada, and the United States as an obstacle to getting involved in a community, Hoffman dove headfirst into local theatre to make friends in each new city.  

So why did this internationally-inclined student choose to come to the middle of Iowa? The answer is simple: To get the benefits of international ideas without the distractions of a big city.

“I had never lived anywhere that wasn’t a big city, but going to Grinnell was easy for me,” she says. “Grinnell felt cosmopolitan enough that I knew if I went, there would be people from big cities, smaller towns, and all over the world.”

A theatre and dance major, Hoffmann directed numerous student-run plays during her time at Grinnell, working closely with theatre faculty. “Grinnell professors push you to do better,” she says. “To have professors and other students push you and go, ‘That’s not good enough, push harder. Ask more questions.’ That’s the whole point of going to Grinnell for me.”

This willingness to engage and challenge each other is part of what attracted Hoffman to Grinnell in the first place. “The people I talked to at Grinnell felt really honest and connected to what was going on there,” Hoffmann says. “It felt like a really strong community and one that felt true to whatever it wanted to be.”

After graduating, Hoffmann began her theatre career as an assistant lighting designer for Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. and later as an education apprentice at Hartford Stage in Connecticut. More recently, she has worked her way from education coordinator to literary coordinator and director at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

“When I started as an intern at the Repertory Theater, I did a lot of teaching literacy through theatre. After two years, I had enough connections in town to become a director,” says Hoffmann. “As director of community engagement, I create and execute the programs that ignite positive change in our community. It’s a job that combines my love of theater with the social justice mindset Grinnell instilled in me.”

Celebrate Humanities Day

Grinnell College will mark Celebrate Humanities Day, a daylong series of free, public events to honor the study of the humanities, on Monday, March 14.

U.S. Rep. Jim Leach will present the keynote, "Where Politics and Morality Conjoin and Disconnect," at 7:30 p.m. in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.

Leach represented Iowa’s second district in the House of Representatives for 30 years and later served as chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Under his leadership, the NEH created a Bridging Cultures program designed to promote understanding and mutual respect for diverse groups within the United States and abroad. Leach is now chair in public affairs and visiting professor of law in the College of Law at the University of Iowa.

Students will perform at 4 p.m. in Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Sebring-Lewis Hall.

Student performances include:

  • "Choreography as Research" by Rosie Fuqua ’17, Ivy Kuhn ’17,  and Taylor Watts.
  • "Indo-Jazz Fusion from Banaras to New York," by Vincent Kelley ’17 and his band.

Kelley, drums and tabla, will be joined by Omri Benami ’17, piano; Tom Earnest ’17, bass; and Jacob Ziontz ’17, viola; and Assistant Professor of Music Mark Laver, saxophone.

The daylong celebration will culminate in a Pub Quiz trivia night at 9 p.m. in Lyle's Pub, in the basement of the Rosenfield Center.

This will be Grinnell College’s first Celebrate Humanities Day, which is organized by the College’s Center for the Humanities.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center has accessible parking in the lot to the east. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. The Bucksbaum Center has accessible parking at the south entrance.  You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

Exploring History Through Dance

Taylor Watts ’16 had never danced before taking a salsa lesson during her New Student Orientation. She discovered she loved dance.

Her passion for French goes back a little further, to her sophomore year in high school. Watts is combining both passions in a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP), “A Choreographic Exploration of the ‘commerce triangulaire,’” under the direction of Celeste Miller, assistant professor of theatre and dance.

Watts had the idea for this MAP after several powerful academic experiences. One was a summer MAP in Atlanta, also directed by Miller, working with theatre and dance companies whose work addresses social justice issues.

Another was a semester abroad in Nantes, France. While there she learned about the history of France’s largest slave port in the 18th century in a course taught by a black Frenchman. “Why is it so much easier to study [slavery and race] in a different culture’s history? I was very interested in the class, but I wasn’t going to do anything with it,” Watts says.

When she returned to campus the next semester, Watts took a class on Caribbean authors from Haiti, Guadalupe, and Martinique with Gwenola Caradec, assistant professor of French. The impact of slavery on the Caribbean was a topic that spoke to Watts.

Taylor Watts performanceShe says, “I really questioned doing it because I’m not French or from the Caribbean. Do I have the right to write about this? So I chose words directly from the text. Dance adds another layer of emotionality.”

“Taylor’s ‘Choreographic Exploration’ is a rich example of how dance, because of the undeniability of the body, can be a powerful and visceral use of the arts to examine complex and difficult topics,” Miller says. ”It is a choreographed embodiment drawn from research into both her topic and the aesthetic of the art form of dance.”

“Because of the emphasis spoken French places on connecting each word so that a sentence flows together, just listening to French I can visualize movement,” Watts says.

Watts was already planning the MAP when she heard about the France on Campus Award competition. She had just watched the film The Royal Tenenbaums, written and directed by Wes Anderson, one of the France on Campus Award patrons. The timing seemed auspicious. She won second place.

Watts will perform her work at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, in Flanagan Studio Theatre in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. As part of her award, she also will receive mentoring from the French Embassy and from Kickstarter to raise funds that will enable her to perform the work on other U.S. college campuses. 

Taylor Watts ’16 is a French and anthropology double major from Sacramento, Calif.

2016 SCMS Undergraduate Conference

The January 29th deadline is fast approaching for submissions to the 2016 SCMS Undergraduate Conference, to be held April 14-17 on the University of Colorado Boulder campus.

This is a wonderful opportunity for students to experience the intellectual and social exchange that professionals enjoy at conferences. Please email your submission to Tiel Lundy.

Find the proposal form and more information on the SCMS Undergraduate Hub

When the Wolves Came In

Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion will perform “When the Wolves Came In,” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, in Roberts Theatre in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

This stand-alone repertory-based program explores the historical legacy of two triumphs in the international history of civil rights: the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 20th anniversary of the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa.

Abraham was inspired by Max Roach’s iconic 1960 protest album “We Insist: Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite,” which celebrated the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation and shed a powerful light on the growing civil rights movements in South Africa and the United States.

The potent themes inherent in these historical milestones are evident in Abraham’s choreography, evocative scenery by visual artist Glenn Ligon, the visceral power of Roach’s masterwork and original compositions of Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Robert Glasper.

In addition to the performance, Abraham will give a free, public talk titled "Dance Repertory as Creative Collaboration" at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101. The Center for the Humanities and the Public Events Committee are sponsoring the talk and the performance.

About Kyle Abraham

A 2013 MacArthur Fellow, Abraham began his dance training at the Civic Light Opera Academy. He later studied dance at State University of New York at Purchase, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and at New York University, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts in the Tisch School of the Arts.

Abraham’s choreography has been presented throughout the United States and abroad in countries including Canada, Ecuador, Germany, Ireland, Japan, and Jordan. In November 2012, Abraham was named New York Live Arts Resident Commissioned Artist for 2012-14. One month later, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater premiered his work, “Another Night at New York’s City Center,” to rave reviews.

Tickets

“When the Wolves Came In” is free and open to the public, although tickets are required.

Ticket distribution will begin at noon Tuesday, Sept. 8, in the box office of the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. A limited number of tickets are also available at the Pioneer Bookshop located at 823 Fourth Ave.

Any tickets not distributed by the box office will be available the night of the show beginning one half hour before show time. For more information, call 641-269-3236.

No tickets are needed for Friday's talk.

Nature - A Walking Play

Grinnell College will host three outdoor performances of “Nature — A Walking Play” about Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau from Sept. 11-13 at the Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA).

TigerLion Arts will present the mythic telling of Emerson and Thoreau’s mutual love affair with the natural world. Grounded in the story of their friendship, the production offers a perspective on their lives that is strikingly relevant, richly complex, and yet utterly simple. 

A professional ensemble of actors will take the audience on a journey through the natural environment as scenes unfold around them. Bagpipes, ancient flutes, drums and rich choral arrangements will be intricately woven into the experience. 

“Nature” is an extraordinary, family-friendly journey that co-mingles story, spirit, and nature, as a means to reconnect its audience with the natural world. This original work was collaboratively created with writer and actor Tyson Forbes, a direct descendant of Emerson. 

Two Grinnell College alumni have key roles in the production. John Catron ’02 plays Thoreau, and Sara Shives’97 serves as production manager.

For more information, including ticket and transportation information, see Nature — A Walking Play.

Nature: A Walking Play

Grinnell College will host three outdoor performances of “Nature — A Walking Play” about Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau from Sept. 11-13 at the Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA).

TigerLion Arts will present the mythic telling of Emerson and Thoreau’s mutual love affair with the natural world. Grounded in the story of their friendship, the production offers a perspective on their lives that is strikingly relevant, richly complex, and yet utterly simple. 

Bolstering the Arts

Chris Bulbulia ’10 came to Grinnell College as a Posse Foundation scholar interested in theatre. He wanted to become a professional actor, but a wealth of support and experience combined with intellectual flexibility honed at Grinnell opened up an even richer path of discovery.

Two short years after leaving Grinnell, Bulbulia had already climbed from post-graduate intern to a full-time development assistant at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. One night at the urging of a friend he journeyed across town to see Congressional Chorus perform its annual cabaret at the historic Atlas Performing Arts Center. It changed everything.

“I’d seen ballet and opera. I’d seen lots of shows at the Kennedy Center,” Bulbulia says. “But I saw this show and my jaw fell to the floor. I was like, whoa, what is this? There was such a range of genres — a cappella singing, bands and dancing, soloists and ensembles. It was a wonderful production.

“I fell in love with Congressional Chorus the first time I saw the cabaret,” Bulbulia says. “I feel very proud to be part of the organization today.”

Congressional Chorus and American Youth Chorus — its full name — is a family of five choruses devoted to American choral music. It performs a full slate of concerts and special appearances each year in Washington, D.C., including The White House and Capitol Hill occasions.

Bulbulia became a Congressional Chorus singer in 2013. He quickly transitioned to become the organization’s director of marketing, production, and development.

“We have a performance style for everyone,” Bulbulia says. “You’re not going to get the same thing every time you come to a show, which really lends to a dynamic season that people enjoy.”

Building relationships

Far from being overwhelmed by his multi-faceted job, Bulbulia is energized by the integration of functions he came to appreciate as a theatre major at Grinnell, as a freelance fundraiser for non-profit groups, and as an intern and employee at the Kennedy Center.

“There is a whole other side to the arts besides being a performer,” Bulbulia says. “I’ve come to understand that relationships need to be built in order to sustain organizations. This job incorporates all of the elements that allow Congressional Chorus to be healthy.”

Posse support

Bulbulia grew up in Maryland and Washington, D.C. He arrived at Grinnell as a Posse scholar through the College’s partnership with the Posse Foundation in his hometown. The Posse Foundation’s model is based on the idea that a small, diverse group of talented and carefully selected students can serve as a catalyst for individual and community development. It worked especially well for Bulbulia. 

“I had a great experience at Grinnell because of my Posse’s support system, and also because the Posse Foundation correctly decided that I would be a great fit for Grinnell,” he says.

Bulbulia’s activities at Grinnell included two years with the Grinnell Singers. His participation with the Student Publications and Radio Committee (SPARC) gave him insights into fundraising, allocations, and non-profit relationships.

Shortly after graduation, Bulbulia worked as an overhire stagehand in and around D.C. while “doing the struggling actor thing.” He even went to bartending school. The plan shifted, he says, when opportunities at the Kennedy Center refocused his attention on arts management.

“The arts are in need of people who can bolster the craft and provide good representation for artists themselves,” Bulbulia said. That includes helping artists make sound financial decisions and building their marketing and technical skills to assist in the creation of their best productions and performances.

Bringing people together

Bulbulia continues to work in support of community organizations such as Afromoda Dance Theater, City at Peace, D.C. Public Library’s Punk Archive, and Funk Parade. He is a member and officer in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which is dedicated to the principles of friendship, love, and charity.

He also manages events and partnerships for the city’s largest online music magazine, DCMusicDownload.com, which provides in-depth coverage of the local music scene and hosts major music events at prestigious venues like 9:30 Club, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Howard Theatre.

“I have strong commitment to community and to bringing people together through fellowship,” Bulbulia says. “That is why I’ve been a part of all these organizations — to help communities grow and enjoy life together.”