Channels of Expression in Times of Change | 24 Hours of Harvard music and dance session

The Center for Hellenic Studies in Greece (CHS Greece),
the Center for Hellenic Studies in the USA (CHS US),
the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies in Brazil (DRCLAS Brazil) &
the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute in India (The Mittal SAI New Delhi)
are pleased to invite you to the event:

Channels of Expression in Times of Change:

Music and Dance across Continents

Wednesday, October 7, 2020, at 1:00-2:00pm Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)/ 8:00-9:00pm Eastern European Time (EET), Greece-time.

This live event is open to all and will be delivered in English. It will be broadcasted on the 24 hours of Harvard Vimeo page.

Synopsis of the event

Four units of Harvard University across continents will present dance expressions of ancient, modern, and contemporary understandings of:

  • Cosmic synergies encompassing both change and equilibrium in the cosmos (Asia)
  • Timeless truths on human emotion and experience to seek answers to contemporary questions (North America)
  • Human relations and their dynamics (Europe)
  • Universal connections between humanity and elements of nature (South America)

The presentation of these four dance performances
will be followed by a conversation among
the artists and special guests.

Opening remarks by:

  • Sanjay Kumar (The Mittal SAI New Delhi)
  • Helena Monteiro (DRCLAS Brazil)
  • Evan Katsarelis (CHS Greece)
  • Zoie Lafis (CHS US)-curator of the event.

Guest respondents:

  • Panayotis League, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology and Director of the Center for Music of the Americas, Florida State University
  • Yuri-Grace Ohashi, Harvard College Class of 2021. Ms. Ohashi conducts research focused on the intersection of psychological health and at-risk dance populations, specifically ballet dancers. Her dance-related activities include: Harvard Dance Center Intern; Executive Director and Choreographer for Harvard Expressions Dance Company; Scene Director for Eleganza Show at Harvard College.

From India:
“The Pulse Within”

About the performance and the artists:

Choreographed and performed by

  • Prateechi Acharya – Odissi (Disciple of Padmashri Smt. Madhavi Mudgal)
  • Shreya Dua – Bharatanatyam (Disciple of Padmashri Smt. Geeta Chandran)
  • Somya Narang – Kathak (Disciple of Smt. Gauri Diwakar)

Sound Track

  • Narration: Rajiv Chandran
  • Nattuvangam: Geeta Chandran
  • Vocals: Venkateshwaran Kuppuswamy
  • Mridangam and Tabla: Manohar Balatchandirane
  • Violin: G. Raghavendra Prasath
  • Audio Track: Manohar Balatchandirane and Aardarsh M. Nair

Concept by Shreya Dua, guided by Kevin McGrath
Mentor (Padmashri) Geeta Chandran
Script by Shreya Dua (editors: Rajiv Chandran and Kevin McGrath)

About the presentation:

A confluence of three Indian Classical Dances – Bharatnatyam, Odissi, and Kathak – revolving around the iconography of the God Shiva, the Lord who presides over both change and equilibrium in the cosmos.

Two aspects of Shiva are portrayed. First is his association with the serpents that adorn his body, these lithe creatures that are metaphors of all creativity. The second is the drum that he holds in his right hand. Our production demonstrates how these two dimensions are related to the health and well-being of universal order, as Shiva presides over the rhythmic life cycle of creation and destruction.

The ontogeny that Shiva represents and which we express through our own dance enables us to imitate and apprehend the paradoxical uncertainty and yet precision of human time; a period which is at present disordered by a devastating pandemic.

About the presenter:

Shreya Dua practices Bharatnatyam, a classical dance from the southern part of India, combining performance and theory. Ms. Dua is currently enrolled in the MPhil in Greek and/or Roman History, Department of Classics, University of Oxford (October 2020-August 2022). She studied with the Department of Classics, GSAS, Harvard University (August 2019-May 2020).

From USA
“Dances in the Time of COVID”

About the performance and the artists:

Presented by Word Dance Theater

“The Ambush” Prelude 18 danced by Rebecca Lallande
Choreography: Isadora Duncan as taught by Word Dance Theater
Music: Frederic Chopin, 24 Preludes, Op. 28, Prelude No. 18, in F Minor

“Visions Unfolding” danced by Vanessa Gayle Carmichael-Elder
Choreography: Vanessa Gayle Carmichael-Elder
Music: Kung Fu Piano: Cello Ascends by Henry Jackman, John Powell, Hans Zimmer, and Frederic Chopin

“Harp Etude” danced by Cynthia Word
Choreography: Isadora Duncan (circa 1917) as taught to Cynthia Word by Jeanne Bresciani
Music: Frederic Chopin, Etudes, Op. 25 No. 1 in A-Flat Major

About the presentation:

A series of three solo dances that reflect on the emotional impact of the pandemic and the enduring beauty of nature.

Commentary from Cynthia Word, Artistic Director of Word Dance Theater (WDT):

 “When Zoie Lafis, Executive Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies, described the Channels of Expressions project to me, she asked if WDT would want to be part of it, of course I said YES. But we had very little time to imagine what our contribution would be, given the many restrictions that face the performing artists at the time of COVID and the timeline for the project. My company has not rehearsed together since early March 2020, so our normal creative process has been prohibited. I did not want to provide a clip from an existing performance because I felt that would represent a different time than we are in now. My solution was to ask three of our company members to pick a piece of music that expresses something of how they are feeling during this pandemic time, and to be prepared to dance with that music. We then gathered at the beautiful gardens of the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC. Each dancer would pick where they wanted to perform their solo, and we would record each dance. The video reflects our required separation, the unifying beauty of nature and some of how we use our art form to express our feelings.”

About the presenter:

Cynthia Word is the Artistic Director of Word Dance Theater ( Born and raised in Abilene, Texas, Ms. Word has a Bachelor of Science from the University of Texas/Austin but began her Modern Dance training at the University of Illinois with choreographers Beverly Blossom, Chester Wolenski, Mary Anthony, and Sarah Rudner. She later received her Master in Fine Arts from The George Washington University, where she studied with Maida Withers and served on the teaching faculty.  She continues her dance studies with her mentor, Jeanne Bresciani, Director of the Isadora Duncan International Institute. Based in Washington, DC, Ms. Word is passionate about creating performance events that blend compelling story, live music, contemporary choreography and the classic dances of Isadora Duncan to provide engagement for audience members through many modalities. Cynthia finds renewal and inspiration in Art, her loved ones, and the amazing people with whom she has the privilege of working every day.

From Greece:
“Something is going to happen that Ι don’t know what it’s gonna be.”

About the performance and the artists:

Choreographed and Performed by Evan Katsarelis and Reina Laina
Filmmaking by Panos Economou
Music score excerpts from:

  • “Dreams” by Nuages
  • “To Margoudi” by Konstantis Pistiolis & Eirini Konstantinou
  • “You and Me” by Disclosure (Flume Remix)

About the presentation:

Reina and Evan are two friends, who enjoy each other’s presence through the closeness they have. But suddenly, there is a change, a shift to a state of dystopia, which forces each other to move away and even blocks contact between them.

Through Alan Watts’ narration at the beginning and then with three songs of a different rhythm, this choreography reflects the concept of change, and of proximity and distancing, obviously inspired by the crisis that the global community is experiencing today. In the first part of the act, the emphasis is on the transition to a state of disconnection and how this is experienced by the two friends. In the second part of the act, the two heroes, after an agonized effort, manage to reconnect, showing that human relationships can overcome crises and that the transition to an undesirable situation eventually has a parenthetical impact over time.

The selected music offers the right tempo to capture the emotions of the theme in an experimental dance conception encompassing elements from R’n’B, modern, and contemporary dance. Among other things, the reconnection of the two friends, which is the culmination of the choreography (approximately in the middle of the performance) is combined with the sound of a traditional musical instrument, the gaida. The special music of this instrument and the sharpness of its sound give the point of the climax and, at the same time, enable the choreography to converse musically, but also choreographically, with the Greek tradition and in a way to integrate it within a modern aesthetic context and within the dramatic time of this story.

The choreography unfolds in the inside and outside spaces of the emblematic neoclassical building of Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Nafplio, incorporating elements related to the operation of the building.

About the presenter:

Evan Katsarelis is Programs & Events Manager at Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Greece, a PhD candidate in Classical Philosophy, and a practitioner of hip-hop and reggaeton dances.

From Brazil:

About the performance and the artists:

Presented by Contemporary Ensemble
Directed by Fatima Suarez
Actress: Cristiane Pinho
Dancers: Fatima Suarez, Leila Gomes, Luma Santana, Rachel Neves
Music: Carlinhos Brown
Filming by Luiza Tavares
Edited by Maria Carolina Silva

About the presentation:

This work is the result of choreographic research by Fatima Suarez, bringing together movements of the spiritual practice of Candomblé in Brazil and the movements and steps from the repertoire of Isadora Duncan (1877-1927), a pioneer of dance and a significant figure in the in the history of artistic creativity and culture.

For the choreographer, the first inspiration comes from the practices of Candomblé, which reflect the beliefs and understandings handed down by Brazil’s African ancestors, the Yoruba from Nigeria and Benin, expressing the necessity to respect and honor the sacred relationship of nature’s elements and with human beings. The dance is performed with costumes of sea and straw from the Atlantic coast using the music of the Bahia composer Carlinhos Brown, as well as Talavera music, with words in Yoruba and neologisms created by the artist himself, staged and dictated as a theatrical text. Divine entities, called orixás, are mentioned: Ganga, Oxalá, Xangô, which are recognized as forces of nature.

According to the Yoruba peoples, after the world was created, each orixá received divine energy called axé, which gave the orixás the ability to rule over certain areas of the material world.

Each orixá has a specific dance and dance steps and also represents a certain aspect of nature both inside and outside of the religious context. For example: Oxalá corresponds to the air that we breathe and Oyá/Iansã to the winds; Lemanjá is found in the oceans and on beaches; Oxum can be found in the rivers and waterfalls. To contact Oxóssi, the hunter; Ogum, the warrior; and Ossaim, who rules the sacred leaves, the clue is in the forests. To approach Xangô, the god of thunder and lightning, one goes to a stone quarry, as it is very dangerous to be close to a lightning rod.

The second source of inspiration was the movement technique of Isadora Duncan. According to Isadora, the development of her dance was a natural phenomenon – not an invention, but a rediscovery of the classical principles of beauty, motion, and form. Her dances were born of the impulse to embrace life’s bittersweet challenges, meeting destiny and fate head-on in her own whirlwind journey, filled with both tragedy and ecstasy. She was determined to “dance a different dance,” telling her own life story through abstract, universal expressions of the human condition.

The goal of this work was to perform this choreographic research creating a fusion of movements for the African gods of Candomblé (Orixás) and for Isadora’s artistic gestures related to nature and the divine. For the artist, this merger would create images that would somehow relate to the idea of offering, as both relate to the elements of nature and human movements.

About the presenter:

Fatima Suarez is the Director of Escola Contemporânea de Dança in Brazil ( Ms. Suarez graduated in dance at the Federal University of Bahia. As a student, she specialized in modern and contemporary dance at the London Contemporary Dance School (The Place) and the Laban Centre of Movement, in England, at the Martha Graham Dance School, at the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, and at the Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation of New York. As a Professional, she served as dancer in Mantra Cia. De Dança since 1987 and Contemporânea Ensemble since 2002, working with national and international choreographs and dancing in the main capitals of Brazil, and in France, EUA, Germany and Greece. She also is a Creator of “Dance Journey of Bahia” and “Itinerant Dance Teachers Formation,” dance projects to discuss dance and education aimed at the expansion of creation and choreographic experimentation and training educators with agents of all Brazil and from abroad.

Persons with disabilities who wish to request accommodations or who have questions about access, please contact in advance of the session. Please note that we will make every effort to secure services, but that services are subject to availability.