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Summer is the Season of Creativity

For many of us, summer is synonymous with beaches, barbecues, and relaxation.  But for a lot of performing artists, summer is the season of creativity–and it’s brimming with residencies, summer festivals, and the creation and performing of new artistic work.  Summer is a great time to catch up with many of the artists that UMS audiences have enjoyed over the years and see what they’re working on, plus it’s a chance to see new performers who are just emerging in their genres.  A few UMS staffers had the chance to sample some of the many the delights of this “season of creativity” and share their stories here.  Let us know what you think, and tell us about any great performances you experienced this summer.

From Mark Jacobson,

UMS Programming Manager:

In late-June/early-July, I attended the 31st edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. The Montreal Festival staff have consistently produced some of the finest jazz, global, and popular music concert programs within an extremely concentrated festival setting.  This year lived up to my anticipation as I caught concerts led by young vocalist José James, French drummer Manu Katché, and celebrated avant-garde darling John Zorn.

A highlight was an extraordinarily rare concert appearance by one of the great voices of Spanish flamenco, Diego “el Cigala”….nicknamed for his small stature…and temperament (cigala means “lobster” in Spanish).

El Cigala Performs in Beunos Aires

Of special interest to me was the opportunity to attend the exhibition “We Want Miles” at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the first major North American multimedia retrospective dedicated to the music legend Miles Davis as developed by the Cité de la Musique, Paris.

From Mary Roeder,

UMS Residency Coordinator:

This past weekend I was in New York City for two jam-packed evenings of dance at the Joyce Theater.  I’ve never been to the Joyce before, so that was exciting in and of itself.  The Joyce has a long and proud history of being one of the foremost venues for dance presentation in New York City, and, at less than 500 seats, it affords a really great opportunity to get up close and personal with what’s happening onstage.  On the evening of August 13, I saw Gallim Dance perform.  Gallim’s choreographer, Andrea Miller, was a member of Ohad Naharin’s Batsheva Dance Company, last seen by UMS audiences in  February 2009.

On August 14, I was introduced to Monica Bill Barnes & Company.  They performed “Another Parade,” which really struck a chord with me.  I described it to a colleague as “a love letter to the awkward girl.”  I’m looking forward to seeing more from them.

Back in the spring, I saw a concert at Chicago’s Vic Theatre by Sigur Rós frontman, Jónsi, who released a solo album earlier this year called “Go.”  The live production was over-the-top gorgeous.  Conceived of by the UK-based production company Fifty Nine Productions and inspired by the fire that destroyed the cabinet of wonders of the famed Paris taxidermy shop, Deyrolle, the concert featured lots of beautiful video and scenic elements, and some crazy avian-influenced costuming (my personal favorite was Jonsi’s feather headdress).  Local audiences will have a chance to see this concert on November 5 at the Fillmore Detroit.

Jonsi 2010 Tour Poster

From Liz Stover,

UMS Programming Coordinator:

I saw Shen Wei Dance Arts perform their triptych titled “Re- (Parts I, II, and II)” at the Kennedy Center in May.  The piece is made up of three dances inspired by Tibet, Cambodia, and the Silk Road.  You may remember that UMS’s special presentation of the Chinese Opera project Second Visit to the Empress (from Fall 2007) brought together Shen Wei dancers with actors and musicians, but this piece is repertoire featuring only the company of dancers. Visually striking, my favorite section was Part III (but performed second) which suggests feelings of city life in Beijing and New York.

I caught Caravan Palace’s performance here in Ann Arbor as part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival.  I meant to see them in New York during the Arts Presenters Conference last January, but I missed their set at globalFEST.

Caravan Palace

I am so glad I didn’t miss them again!  Caravan Palace turned the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater into a dance party with their electronic and hip-hop infused gypsy jazz.  It was one of the most enjoyable concerts I saw all summer—the only thing that could have made it better would have been an outdoor performance and dancing in the streets!

(The fine print: the opinions expressed here are the views of the individuals mentioned, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UMS.)

UMS Summers “Up North”

Northern Michigan Sunset, courtesy of Marnie Reid

Northern Michigan Sunset, courtesy of Marnie Reid

Ah, summer. For many Michiganders, that means packing up the car and heading to a place we lovingly call “Up North,” the land of fresh air, blue skies, and sandy shores that stretch on for miles. Head north of Cadillac and west of Houghton Lake this summer, and you’ll find a myriad of arts opportunities and UMS connections.

Paul Taylor Dance Company: Piazzolla Caldera. Photo courtesy of Paul Goode.

Twenty minutes southeast of Traverse City, Interlochen Center for the Arts is nestled between tall timbers and two inland lakes. Catch an encore performance of the Punch Brothers and Chris Thile on July 17 (they performed to a sizable crowd at the Power Center this past fall) or get a sneak peak of the Paul Taylor Dance Company on July 23 before their week-long residency in Ann Arbor this fall.

Interlochen is also home to a world-famous summer arts camp that draws young musicians, dancers, writers, visual artists, and more from around the globe for two to six weeks of intensive study, and a high school arts academy. Its list of high-performing alumni is astonishingly long, and includes musicians in the Berlin Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra, and Detroit Symphony Orchestra; dancers and directors of the Martha Graham Dance Company, Mark Morris Dance Company, and José Limón Dance Company; jazz musicians Regina Carter and Chris and Daniel Brubeck, and many more. In any given year, you’re bound to find at least a few alumni on the UMS schedule. In fact, UMS also used the Interlochen Academy Orchestra in the past for performances of Handel’s Messiah.

But that’s not the only place Interlochen alums appear. Several members of the UMS staff are also alumni. I myself have wonderful memories of six summers in the All-State piano, band, and orchestra programs and one summer on faculty as a flute instructor. UMS Choral Union conductor Jerry Blackstone led the University of Michigan All-State Choirs for 17 summers in addition to serving as Director of the All-State Program for several years. And UMS President Ken Fischer met his wife Penny there during summer camp in 1961 and now serves on the Board of Trustees.

Speaking of Ken, if you’re traveling to the Petoskey or Charlevoix areas, you may bump into him around town, as he often spends a few days each summer meeting with members of the UMS National Council, donors, and new friends of UMS who call this region home for part or all of the year.  For members of the U-M Alumni Associations who travel to Camp Michigania, he also gives annual talks at the Education Center.

Whatever your summer plans, we’d love to hear how you are making the arts a part of them, whether in northern Michigan, here in Ann Arbor, or by traveling to Stratford, Aspen, Tanglewood or one of dozens of other summer festivals.