by Pamela Young, Published June 16, 2014
YPSILANTI - “For Diego,” a video dance directed by Joanna McNamara, an Eastern Michigan University professor, will air on Community Television Network, cable channel 17, Wednesday, June 18, 2014, at 4 pm. and 8 p.m.
The dance, performed to an original score by Eastern Michigan professor Howard Cass---and featuring eight EMU dancers---premiered at Carnegie Hall on May 20. There it was projected on a large screen during a live performance of the video's music played by the Manhattan Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (MCCE). Cass is a pianist and composer for the MCCE.
“For Diego” was recorded in the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Diego Rivera Murals Hall. 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 Eastern Michigan. Cass teaches courses in musical theatre, performance and chamber music in both undergraduate and graduate programs. McNamara, the dance program coordinator, teaches courses in dance composition, performance and the history of dance.
Cass has been with the MCCE and has worked alongside the ensemble’s artistic director 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 video 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 Hall.
“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 in the initial stages of planning the concert at Zankel Hall, within Carnegie Hall, with the chamber ensemble.
Coincidentally, one of his colleagues had created a multi-media work for the concert, which included an original score, played live, to projected slides of “The Man With the Blue Guitar,” by David Hockney. Cass pursued getting “For Diego,” in the concert, as well.
The producer supported its inclusion, which was only the first of many technical hurdles to be cleared along the way, McNamara said.
She and her students didn’t know for several months whether the video would be projected during the performance of “Jazz Suite.” Then came the good news. McNamara received a text from Cass - “For Diego” would definitely be performed at Carnegie. McNamara was ecstatic, she said. Her dance students, who were nearby, started jumping up and down.
And the final presentation at Carnegie Hall?
“Professor Cass, who was also the pianist for the piece, had memorized the dance movements, and perfectly led the tempo and cues for the other musicians during the live performance,” said McNamara. “Seeing “For Diego” at Carnegie Hall, projected on a huge screen to live music by such brilliant musicians, was a dream-like experience.”
“For Diego” will air on CTN cable channel 17 at the following times:
June 19 at 10 p.m.; June 20 at 3 p.m.; June 21 at 5 p.m.; June 22 at 4 p.m.; June 24 at 10:30 p.m., and June 25 at 5:35 p.m.