Lots of theatre, dance performances at the Williamstown ’62 Center this year

The 62 Center comes alive alive again at Williams College.

The 62 Center comes alive again at Williams College.

The ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance unveiled its twelfth season of diverse and challenging theatre and dance programming for the Williams College community and beyond.

Continuing its mission to contextualize arts within scholarly inquiry, the Center will be presenting an impressive body of work that sets student work side-by-side with professional artists. This season will challenge traditional forms, engage with the larger political dialogue, and allow students to explore diverse modes of expression.  Not content to merely present popular work, the professional performances, workshops, and students productions are designed to invite the entire academic community to engage, debate, and celebrate the experience of both witnessing and creating live art.

The CenterSeries will have five productions this season. The Series kicks-off with the much anticipated  return of Dancers from New York City Ballet on Thursday, October 20th. The program will feature a mixed program of repertory that will reflect the evolving nature of the Pas de Deux over the past two centuries by presenting classics such as August Bournonville’s La Sylphide and Lev Ivanov’s Swan Lake alongside more modern excerpts of works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Justin Peck, and Christopher Wheeldon. 

On Friday, November 4th, the award-winning musician and composer Toshi Reagon will present Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Singer-songwriter-guitarist Toshi Reagon brings her genre-bending music and irresistible performance style to this new opera, written in collaboration with her mother Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of the iconic vocal group Sweet Honey in the Rock

Baba Brinkman will return on Friday, February 3rd with this new work, Rap Guide to Climate Chaos. Fringe First Award Winner Baba Brinkman is the world’s first and only “peer reviewed rapper,” bringing science to the masses with his unique brand of hip-hop comedy theatrics.

After a successful run at Jacob’s Pillow, Dorrance Dance returns to the Berkshires with The Blues Project. The show features some of today’s finest tap artists, whose percussive movement becomes a visual and aural conversation with music performed live by Toshi Reagon and a band featuring acoustic and electric guitar, bass, drums, percussion, and violin.

April will feature Emily Johnson and Catalyst Dance in her new work Then a Cunning Voice and a Night We Spent Gazing at the StarsCunning Voice is the realization of a multi-year project dedicated to building an all-night outdoor performance gathering. The work includes in equal measure: making quilts, performance, storytelling, song, and a night of stargazing. It relies upon people coming together to voice intentions, witness, work, experience time, rest, and imagine.

Critical to the ’62 Center’s mission of bringing academic context to our productions is the Integrated Programming.  Each CenterSeries production will feature panels, movies, lectures, workshops, and master classes. All of these events are free and open to the public. Please see our website for the latest details. http://62center.williams.edu

The Williams College Theatre Department continues to engage its students and audiences through contemporary and historical modes of performances with a spectrum of productions. This season will kick-off with a presentation of Maya Zbib and Omar Abi Azar from Zoukak Theater Company The Re-enactment on Friday, September 23rd. Zoukak is a socially engaged performance collective based in Beirut. They will lead a two-week performance creation workshop with a group of students. 

Kameron Steele returns to Williams as visiting faculty to direct Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker November 10th to 19th. British playwright Caryl Churchill explores the question, “If the earth could speak to us today, what would it say?” by charting the machinations of its title character, a “shape shifter and death portent, ancient and damaged” as s/he infiltrates the souls of two teenage mothers. 

Omar Sangare will be bringing the DialogueONE Theatre Festival back to the ’62 Center. DialogueONE was founded to promote individuality and the diversity of solo voices, the festival invites performers to experience the possibilities of storytelling by sharing their reflections and discoveries on stage. 

Robert Baker-White will be bringing Anton Chekhov’s classic Uncle Vanya to the Elm Tree House at the iconic Mt. Hope Farm. Uncle Vanya presents a precisely unique and evocative vision of familial longing, strife, desire, and regret. Chekhov himself observed that “any idiot can face a crisis; it is the day-to-day living that wears us out.”

Wrapping up the Department’s production season is August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, directed by Omar Sangare. In his eye-opening play, Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts reveals the secrets of an American family defeated by its mistakes and avalanching toward its final disintegration. Family members gather to discover how far apart they’ve grown and how dysfunctional their lives have become.

The Williams College Dance Department begins its season inviting H.T. Chen & Dancers for a residency and performance of South of Gold Mountain on October 1st. Chen’s new work is an interpretation based on the images and oral histories of the Chinese who settled in the southern states prior to WWII. Lesser known were the Chinese who came to the southern states to work on plantations, widen the Augusta Canal, and build the railroads. Starting from the diaspora that led the Chinese to the American South, this piece is a collective journey of these individuals.

The Dance Department’s four ensembles continue to excite and challenge with new original works. On November 19th and 20th all the ensembles will come together for their fall presentation Pachedu. Pachedu means “among ourselves,” in the Shona language of Zimbabwe. This year, the Department continues their tradition of offering a family friendly (F)all shared concert, with dance and music in diverse genres, created by students, faculty, and guest artists. Each ensemble will present a full spring production examining the ideas first explored in Pachedu. CoDa (Contemporary Dance Ensemble) is dedicated to the continued development of dance on the campus and larger community by fostering collaboration across artistic and academic disciplines.

CoDa’s Spring performance on April 7th and 8th, will feature premieres by Directors Erica Dankmeyer and Janine Parker, as well as new student choreographic works, with live music by Department musicians and guests.

Kusika and the Zambezi Marimba Band, under the direction of Sandra L. Burtonand Tendai Muparutsa and this year featuring work by guest artist Souleymane Badolo will perform on April 21st and 22nd. Kusika and the Zambezi’s reflect performance of traditions, concepts, and material from Africa and the diaspora. It is a community that shares a repertoire of traditions in dance, music, and storytelling that embraces the innovations characteristic of the global impact of the African continent. 

Rounding out the season is the always popular step team Sankofa. Step is a percussive dance form created by black fraternities in the mid-1900s that is influenced by military drill, South African gumboot, West African dance, and hip-hop. The word Sankofa comes from the Akan language of Ghana; in English it means “stepping forward while looking back.”

This is just a taste of what to expect this season as this award winning building throws its arms wide open to the arts on campus and the Berkshires.  A complete calendar follows, and for tickets, prices and additional information, please call (413) 597-2425 (Tuesday throughSaturday 1:00pm to 5:00 pm) or visit http://62center.williams.edu/

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