Seeing the Beast

University Theater mounted an experimental play in November that was part TEDtalk, part fairytale, and part nature documentary. Seeing the Beast focused largely on the issue of overpopulation of deer in Hamilton and offered possible solutions — while tiptoeing between farce and fact.

In the opening scenes, an actor playing a TEDtalk-style speaker advocated for the “rewilding” of Hamilton in order to increase biodiversity in the area. He took questions from the audience about proposed initiatives to manage the deer population by introducing predators like wolves or inviting hunters into the area. After the speech, another actor underwent a fairy tale transformation from a human to a deer. Soon, several performers dressed as deer came on stage.

The audience was then encouraged to follow the herd of “deer” into a hallway behind Brehmer Theater that led to “the woods” — a backstage performance space where seating restrictions meant that, this time, the humans were overpopulated. In this idyllic scene, as a nature documentary narrator described the deer in their natural habitat, the presence of a hunter hinted at the inevitable.

Seeing the Beast made the audience confront conflicting attitudes toward deer: How can people appreciate the animals but also see them as nuisances in need of extermination?

The students had a hand in every aspect of the play, as playwrights, creative directors, and set designers. The show was formed over two months by their observations — studying deer in the wild — and improvisations.

They also considered information and findings from research about deer overpopulation that was conducted by Professor Catherine Cardelus’s biology class last year.

“It’s a play about Hamilton, it’s a play about this community,” said the show’s director, visiting artist Scott Sheppard. “We presented this first as a theatrical dare. What would it be like to ‘rewild’ Hamilton?” continued Sheppard, founder of the Philadelphia-based Groundswell Theatre Company (which recently changed names to Lightning Rod Special). “It entered us into this larger conversation about what it means to be an animal. How estranged are we from that experience? How do we have to think about our responsibility as human beings?”

— article by Natalie Sportelli ’15; photo by Gerard Gaskin


A step forward for dance

Professor Tanya Calamoneri teaching dance

Professor Tanya Calamoneri leads a contemporary dance class in the newly renovated Helen K. Persson Dance Studio. (Photo by Andrew Daddio)

You wouldn’t expect to walk into a dance class and see 14 men and only two women. But that was the makeup of Professor Tanya Calamoneri’s Dance Imagery and Improvisation course last fall.

Last semester was the first in which a full-time faculty member taught dance at Colgate. “There’s so much interest, and I see a need for expression,” said Calamoneri, a visiting professor whose three academic dance classes filled quickly, with long waitlists.

Calamoneri’s Intro to Contemporary Dance is Colgate’s theater practicum, which has a different focus depending on the professor. Her other two classes — Dance Imagery and Improvisation, and Intermediate/Advanced Contemporary Dance — are being offered for the first time, as part of the English department. Previously, the university’s dance offerings (ballet and jazz/modern) were part of the physical education program.

The impetus behind Calamoneri’s hiring began with the Colgate Dance Initiative (CDI), which was co-founded last spring by Emma Satchell ’13, Michelle White ’13, Chloe Holt ’14, Jill Goltzer ’14, and Danielle Iwata ’15.

“I realized that there was so much passion and talent amongst the student body that it really needed a better platform; it needed more support,” explained Iwata, CDI president. “I’m impressed by how much the students pulled together,’” Calamoneri noted.

As demonstrated in the improvisation class, the initiative is exposing students like Chase Newman ’16 to dance for the first time. “Coming into college, [taking a dance class] was not something I thought I’d ever do,” he said. “In the beginning [of the class], I felt awkward and weird, but the environment is a great change of pace, everyone in our class is close, and it teaches you to let loose.”

The CDI members are also currently working with the Student Government Association to create a dance governance structure that would give more prominence to dance outside of the classroom. From ballroom to belly dancing, there are 13 groups (more than 200 students) that perform twice a year at Dancefest, one of the most well-attended events on campus.

CDI members have built a relationship with members of the Hamilton community through dance classes taught at the Hamilton Center for the Arts and the annual production of The Nutcracker, which features more than 40 local children.

In the fall, a series of workshops was open to the entire community, including a Eurythmy workshop led by Mariko Endo, and Partnering Dance led by Phoenix Dance Project.

“We are working toward making a collaborative environment and culture here,” said Allison Zengilowski ’17, CDI vice president.

— Hannah O’Malley ’17


Late night arts at Lounge

Students playing guitar at Bunche House

Bunche House is transformed into a coffee shop atmosphere during Lounge, a regular event where students perform and display their artwork. (Photo by Nicholas Gilbert ’18)

The fireplace mantle in Bunche House had been transformed by student artwork and white lights as students gathered around for the second Lounge: Late Night Arts Event of the year in September. The feeling in the room was welcoming and supportive.

Lounge showcases student artwork as well as performances in music, dance, spoken word poetry, and even stand-up comedy. The series was started by Karl Jackson ’14 and Manuel Heredia-Santoyo ’14 in 2013.

Last fall’s Lounge included six Friday night happenings, and the event will continue into spring. The September 26 event featured four artists and 24 performers. As each student got up to share, the room grew silent and the audience listened intently.

Chantel Melendez ’16 read her piece titled “A Grossly Overextended Metaphor” that focused on her changing ideas of a house. Ashleandra Opoku ’17 performed “The Rain in April,” which connected personal feelings to her description of how rain feels. Grant Haines ’15 shared some of his musical talents by playing his guitar and singing.

In addition to the student paintings and photographs perched on the windowsills and tables around Bunche House, the gathering always features a community poem. The poem, which starts as a blank sheet of paper at the beginning of the night, is hung so students can add a line, or however much they wish to contribute, as it is written throughout the event.

“[I go to Lounge] because it’s a fun alternative to the social scene at Colgate,” said Brett Christensen ’16. “It’s pretty cool to see what hidden talents people have.”

— Jessica Rice ’16


Zhou on Performance Today

Music professor Zhou Tian’s work “Red Trees, Wrinkled Cliffs” aired on American Public Media’s Performance Today on October 15.

Zhou’s alma mater, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, commissioned the work, which was recorded during the show’s weeklong residency at the school.

Host Fred Child also interviewed Zhou about the composition, played by guitarist Jason Vieaux and a trio of Curtis students.

Performance Today is billed as America’s most popular classical music radio program, broadcasting on 292 public stations and attracting 1.4 million listeners.

Zhou arrived at Colgate in 2011. Since then, his works have been performed by leading orchestras such as the Cincinnati, Houston, and Indianapolis symphonies, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, and Colgate’s own symphony orchestra.


A-tisket, a-tasket

Fancy basket by Denise Jock

Fancy basket by Denise Jock, Mohawk (Photo by Warren Wheeler)

Finely crafted baskets of varied shapes, sizes, and materials represent different cultural regions in the exhibition Weaving Identities: Native American Baskets, on display at the Longyear Museum of Anthropology until March.

During the opening reception in mid-November, 15 students who researched the baskets as a project for their Native Art of North America class spoke and answered questions.

The ancient Native American art of basket weaving has been practiced over millennia and has developed various regional distinctions based on materials, form, and technique. The baskets in this exhibition date from the late 19th century to the present and derive from various cultural regions including the Arctic, Northwest Coast, Southwest, Eastern Woodlands, Great Basin, and California coast.

The environment of each area determined the materials available for basket making. Southeast baskets, for example, are commonly made from long pine needles, river cane, and various types of vines, while Northwest Coast peoples used cedar bark, swamp grass, or spruce root.

Throughout the Eastern woodlands, ash and oak splints were used to create plaited baskets. Arctic cultures used sea grass, sometimes decorated with shiny seal gut, while Southwest groups relied in particular on willow, yucca leaf, and devil’s claw (martynia).

The exhibition also includes baskets from Akwesasne, a Mohawk community on the border between New York state and Quebec province in Canada. There, the preferred materials are black ash splints and aromatic sweet grass.


Fusing art and science

DeWitt Godfrey's Odin

Professor DeWitt Godfrey’s sculpture, Odin (Photo by Andrew Daddio)

A confluence of art, engineering, and mathematics led to the creation of Professor DeWitt Godfrey’s latest sculpture, Odin, a giant steel structure now nestled in the courtyard between Olin Hall and the Robert H.N. Ho Science Center.

Godfrey collaborated with Colgate mathematics professor emeritus Tom Tucker, London-based engineer Daniel Bosia, and University of Ljubljana mathematics professor Tomaz Pisanski. The group was interested in exploring how the intersection of computational design, mathematics, and art could generate complex forms, patterns, and structural systems.

“In some ways, this is a very long and elaborate experiment to test a set of ideas,” Godfrey said. The three-year project was supported by a grant from Colgate’s Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute.

  • The sculpture shares a name with the ruler of Norse gods for a reason. Godfrey’s Odin weighs in at 13 tons, was cut from 38,000 pounds of steel, and is 40 feet in diameter.
  • The sculpture is composed of 240 unique conic sections, called frustums, held together at 2,500 individual points. As an early proof of concept, Godfrey’s assistants connected empty Chobani yogurt cups together to see how it would behave structurally.
  • Over two years, with the help of Bosia, Tucker, and Pisanski, Godfrey created a series of digital models, testing various patterns and forms, which eventually led to a first formal model, about one-sixth the size of the final piece.
  • Each section was cut, numbered, and drilled for fastening with a computer numerically controlled laser.
  • Local artists, students, and alumni assisted Godfrey in rolling each unique section into a conical shape for final assembly.
  • Assembly took seven days and a crane to lower the pieces into the courtyard.

— Dan DeVries