Eastern Michigan dance students' video 'For Diego' to be featured during performance by EMU professor May 20 at Carnegie Hall

by Geoff Larcom, Published May 19, 2014

YPSILANTI- An Eastern Michigan University professor will perform and EMU dance students will be featured in a special tribute video to the Detroit Institute of Arts during a concert at Carnegie Hall Tuesday, May 20.

EMU professor Howard Cass, along with a dance video featuring EMU students performing in the DIA, will be included in a 7:30 p.m. performance by the Manhattan Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, at Carnegie Hall. As a member and composer for the ensemble, Cass will be performing three of his own pieces on the piano, including “Jazz Suite,which was chosen to accompany EMU professor Joanna McNamara’s recent dance video, entitled, “For Diego. 


EMU students perform in their video dance recorded in the Detroit Institute of Arts Diego Rivera Murals Court.

The concert will be held at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Tickets are available through Carnegiecharge and through the Carnegie Hall website

 “For Diegois a video dance featuring EMU dancers recorded in the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Diego Rivera Murals Court. The video was completed when Detroit was the subject of national press coverage for filing bankruptcy, and the future of the DIA was in doubt. “For Diego”is a timely tribute to a Detroit treasure during a stressful time.

Both Cass and McNamara divide their time between performances and teaching at EMU. Dr. Cass, an assistant professor and music director in the department of Communication, Media and Theatre Arts as well as in the Music and Dance program, teaches courses in musical theatre, performance and chamber music in both undergraduate and graduate programs. Dr. McNamara, the dance program coordinator for the music and dance programs at EMU, teaches courses in dance composition, performance and the history of dance.

Cass has been with the Manhattan Contemporary Chamber Ensemble and has worked alongside the artistic director for the ensemble for more than 25 years. He has performed in other venues, such as the Lincoln Center in New York, and has completed a CD based on writings by author Kurt Vonnegut.

“When Professor Cass and I first met to talk about ideas for music, we agreed that a musical score he was working on, ‘Jazz Suite,’ would be a perfect fit for my dance,” said McNamara. “The ‘Jazz Suite’ consists of trumpet, viola, cello and piano, and there’s a sense of space, architecture and splendor to the music that resonates with the location of the dance staged in the Diego Rivera Murals Court.

“The music is full of playful nuances, too, and sentimental ones, so it really works hand-in-hand with both the dancers’ relationships within the dance, as well as the current financially precarious circumstances of the Detroit Institute of Arts. “

Cass said, “I am very excited to have the opportunity to work with Professor  McNamara. Her completely wonderful work – concept, choreography, and film – has been inspirational, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to work with her and with this project.”

McNamara said that when Cass and she first met to talk about music, he was also in the initial stages of planning a concert at Zankel Hall, at Carnegie with the chamber ensemble. Coincidentally, one of his colleagues had created a multimedia work for the concert, which included an original score, played live, to projected slides of David Hockney’s ‘The Man With the Blue Guitar.’Cass pursued getting “For Diego,” in the concert, as well.

The producer loved it, which was only the first of many hurdles to be cleared along the way, McNamara said.

She and her students didn’t know for a while whether the video would be projected during the performance of “Jazz Suite.”  Then, on one of those many cold March days earlier this year, came heartwarming news. McNamara got a text from Cass following a ballet class she was teaching.  It said that “For Diego” would definitely be performed at Carnegie.

McNamara was ecstatic. Dance students who were nearby started jumping up and down and screaming with joy.

“I’m incredibly excited for the performance, and so are the EMU dance majors who performed (in the video),” McNamara said. “It will be amazing to see the video dance projected as the musicians play the music, live, on stage.

“This performance affirms the significance of collaboration in the arts in EMU’s Department of Music and Dance, and it attests to the outstanding programming that continues to happen in our department.”

For more on the EMU Department of Music and Dance, please visit https://www.emich.edu/musicdance/





Geoff Larcom



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