Vaudevival: Old is the new New
Saturday, June 30th, 2012, 8pm, Dance Place, Washington DC
Sunday, July 1st, 2012 7pm, Dance place, Washington DC
Vaudevival: Old is the new New presents a collection of accomplished artists whose backgrounds bridge the gaps between early American vernacular and traditional percussive dance forms and contemporary urban culture. Sporting an unusual remix of tap, vernacular jazz, fire-spinning, video projection, Appalachian flatfooting, post-modern and urban dance, the evening will entertain, amaze, and challenge you with a unique brand of “Trad Dance Theatre.”
The idea for Vaudevival: Old is the new New began with a conversation about the days when there were vaudeville touring circuits that supported artists, including dancers, at a range of local, regional and national levels. Looking more closely at vaudeville, we noticed that many of the kinds of dances we in Good Foot Dance Company were devoted to (tap, clogging and flatfooting, Irish and North American step dance traditions) were also featured on the vaudeville stage. Often dismissed as "just entertainment" and not "art," the idea of an organized infrastructure for these dance forms endeared vaudeville to us.
Emily was already interested in contemporary urban dance forms going into the project, and as we looked into other offerings that were present in early 20th century vaudeville performance, we found that social dances like the Charleston that were popular at the time (equivalent to today's urban dance forms like hip hop or b-boying) bridged the gap between what people liked to do at a party, and what they might watch on stage. "Vernacular," in Marshall & Jean Stearns' definition from their book Jazz Dance (1968), meaning "native or homegrown" describes many of the dances we were examining, and pointed the way to new areas of study like vintage jazz and Charleston.
Throughout all of the American vernacular forms we studied, certain themes emerged around community, class, gender, race and hierarchies in art. Issues of racial discrimination and cultural appropriation are laced throughout dance history (as through our country's history at large), and they became too prominent in our research to ignore for this project. Emily, getting her M.F.A. at the University of Maryland, College Park during the first incarnation of the show, started exploring some Critical Race Theory to inform the work, and recruited a cast from diverse backgrounds who were willing to engage in some candid exploration of the nature of race and appropriation. We want to use our work to foreground the issues and start the conversations that might be helpful to our community at large, presenting ideas from multiple perspectives and reexamining our own assumptions.
Accessibility, too often a dirty word in the world of Art, can also act as a glue by which audience and performer are held together in their appreciation of dance and music; brought into a context which is familiar legible, we think it's an essential component of healthy individuals and healthy societies. Vaudeville, though far from a perfect system, provided accessible and inspiring live performance that fed and was fed in turn by popular dances, and supported many dancers.
We imagine a modern vaudeville-esque touring circuit where national and local artists perform side by side, and where dancers, musicians and other performers can practice their craft in a setting that embraces ideas of art and entertainment in equal measure. All of the money from this Kickstarter campaign will go to the artists. Your donation will help us to pay a living wage to a cast of truly amazing dancers, musicians, poets and other collaborators, allowing them to bring their art forms to an exciting new project with a mission to illuminate and bring to the stage the connections between vintage and contemporary rural and urban dance forms!
In a fitting reflection of the content, Vaudevival’s choreography spans new and historical repertoire, blurring the line between the original and the traditional. Good Foot Dance Company’s Emily Oleson and Matthew Olwell have collaborated with award-winning choreographers, musicians and historians to include works by Gesel Mason (NEA and National Performance Network Creation awardee), Aysha Upchurch (U.S. State Department Cultural Envoy), Baakari Wilder (Bessie Award winner), Brenda Bufalino (NEA Fellow) and Ann Kilkelly (Smithsonian Senior Fellow). Director Emily Oleson has collected a band comprised of all-star musicians from across the mid-Atlantic region; The New Band, assembled especially for the project, combines several musical idioms to form a sound that is as fresh as it is familiar. Special Musical Guests Include: Joseph “Joebass” DeJarnette, formerly of The Wiyos, Sarah Alden of Luminescent Orchestrii, Aimee Curl of The Woodshedders & Furnace Mountain, Jabari Exum of Hueman Prophets & Farafina Kan, Lydia Martin of The Martin Family Band, and ethnomusicologist Greg C. Adams of The Banjo Sightings Database. Poets, tappers, urban dancers and DJs round out the conversation about American dance history and aesthetics, encircling the audience in an honest and courageous exchange.
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