The Farnsworth Art Museum
April 1, 1996
~ for immediate release
contact Deb Vendetti, Public Education Coordinator ~ 207-596-0949
The first in a series of monthly film programs begins Sunday, April 14 at 3:00 pm in the Museum's recently renovated auditorium with Ile Ife Films from the Arthur Hall Collection. Introducing the films as the programs guest host will be independent filmmaker, editor, cinematographer, photographer, writer and president of Ile Ife Films Bruce Williams. Snake Dance Teacher Dance (1977), Orisun Omi (The Well) (1982), and clips from the latest edition of Arthur Hall's Obatala (1996) will be screened.
Arthur Hall Dance Films
Open New Farnsworth Film Series
Snake Dance won top awards for dance education in the 1978 Dance Film Festival. The film is about Hall's work with a school in Winthrop, Maine, and was shown in American Embassies throughout Africa and in the Soviet Union. It was produced by Williams along with filmmakers Huey and Abbott Meader.
Orisun Omi documents an international exchange sponsored by the Philadelphia Bahia Partners of the Americas in 1978. Arthur Hall, Farel Johnson (Hafiz Shabazz), and Kwame Ron Payton travel to Brazil, where between the English and the Portuguese the common language is Yoruba. Bahia was once the first port of call for the slave trade in South America, and is now called the "Africa of the New World."
Dancers from the Bahia Ballet, Federal University, and the Condomble perform amid a mysterious landscape under the creative spirit of Obatala (the embodiment of creativity, the King of the White Cloth). The film premiered during the exhibition Treasures of Ancient Nigeria at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Arthur Hall's Obatala is based on the 1993 reunion performance of the Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble of Philadelphia, the first full company performance since 1988. The film also includes footage from as early as 1978, and as recently as three months ago. Obatala is the signature dance of Arthur Hall's company. It began as a dream of Hall's in the 1950s and has evolved with gifts of ancient song and beaded crowns and explications by priests of Obatala from Ile Ife in Nigeria.
Bruce Williams has been making films since 1967 in New York, Hollywood, Toronto, Philadelphia, South America, and Europe. He moved to Maine in 1972, making films as an independent artist. Along with Abbott Meader, filmmaker, painter, and faculty member at Colby College, and Huey, independent filmmaker and state-wide animation teacher, Bruce was a founding member of the Maine Film Alliance, now the Maine Alliance of Media Arts, and the Maine Student Film Festival.
He produced Hall's Snake Dance with a small grant from the Maine Arts Commission. "I became fascinated by the dance film, editing these beautiful movements to the complex rhythms of West African drumming." Hall and Williams have formed a nonprofit company to produce a feature film about the 30 year history of the Arthur Hall dance companies. The film is slated for release in 1998.
Admission to the Second Sunday Film Series is free to members or with Museum admission to non-members. The Second Sunday Film Series will be held monthly October through May. For the four months of extended daylight June through September, the series will move to Thursday evenings, showtime at 7:30pm. Watch local papers for schedules.
One of the last project grants of the Maine Arts Commission was for dance filmmaker Bruce Williams to work on his history of the Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble of Philadelphia (1958-1988) . "I am dedicated to exploring the relationship between film and dance,'' writes Williams. "There is a way of editing film that enhances the interplay between movement and rhythm. It results in something like experiencing the best live performances. I learned this from Arthur Hall. It' is a West African aesthetic, the interplay between live dancers and live musicians as the most revealing expression of a community. I want to make films that serve that idea."
This collaboration between dancer and filmmaker has been incorporated in the nonprofit, tax exempt Ile Ife Films, which includes the Arthur Hall Collection and the Arthur Hall International Dance Center . With the support of the Maine Arts Commission grant of $9,800, Ile Ife Films in the last six months of 1995 produced a series of dance concerts, Ile Ife Philadelphia Maine and The Rhythm of Life, filming and recording rehearsals, master classes, and performances, generating over $50,000 in cash revenues and over $15,000 in donated services. Over $14,600 has been paid in professional fees, including over $8,000 to dancers, $3,000 to musicians, and $3,000 to filmmakers and photographers, producing over 70 hours of videotapes, 2 hours of 16mm film, 7 hours of audio recordings and hundreds of still photographs.
In the concerts themselves were many wonderful dancers and musicians, including:
"A Triumph for all," reports the Rockland (Maine) Courier-Gazette, and a triumph for dance in Maine.
- the Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble, Arthur himself, Van Williams, Rita Cottman-Johnson, Kalilah Allen, and James Corry
- the Celebration Dancers & Drummers of the Belfast Dance Studio
- The Dancing Mayor of Lewiston, John Jenkins
- Debi Irons of Art Moves Dance Studio in Norway (that's Maine)
- Ms. World & Ms. Universe '95 Cathy Butler-Corish of Gardner (also Maine)
- Tony Spotton, a former member of the Ile Ife Center in Philadelphia and his brothers
- the bella ballerina on leave from her dance fellowship in Barcelona (that's Spain), Bridget Kelly
- and the Rhythm of Life Band, with percussion, bass, guitar, trombone, saxophone, flute, cello, and piano
Dance master Arthur Hall presents The Rhythm of Life Benefit Dance Concert at the Camden Opera House Saturday evening, December 30, at 7:30 PM. The concert features live music by the Rhythm of Life Band and the spirited folk music of Dreamwork, including a number of original compositions. The Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble of Philadelphia is represented by three dancers and a drummer, and the concert marks the debut of the Arthur Hall International Dance Company based in Rockland. Erma Colvin's dancers based in Union will also perform, and the combination of young and old, amateur and professional under the artistic direction of Arthur Hall promises a wonderful evening for the entire community.
The concert is a celebration of the life and spirit of Adam Smith," who died in an automobile accident last September. Adam toured the country as a principal drummer for Arthur Hall, and he was the music director of last summer's sold out dance concert Philadelphia Maine at the Rockport Opera House. For The Rhythm of Life, Arthur Hall has created Requiem for Adam, an emotional dance with orchestra, including Portland-based, German-born Annegret Baier (Zulu Leprechauns, Papa Loves Mambo) on djimbe and Arthur Hall on talking drum. Erma Colvin has created "The Pearl," a solo dance "thank you for the inspiration of Adam's music."
"The Dancing Mayor of Lewiston" John Jenkins will perform "Adowa," a classical Ashanti (Ghanian) dance commemorating those who died in defense of their country. "His Honor," a five-times international Karate/Jiu-Jitsu champion and a member of the Maine State Sports Hall of Fame, will be joined on stage by the reigning Ms. World and Ms. Universe Cathy Butler-Corish of Gardner, who performs a dance of youthful power and passion to contrast with Arthur Hall's calm, creative dance of the "old man." Perhaps the oldest dance in the concert is the sacred "Yanvallu," which was documented as early as 1619 in the New World and which will be performed by Rita Cottman Johnson of Philadelphia.
Debi Irons, who runs the Art Moves Dance Studio in Norway, Maine, will perform her choreography to "Dance Sister Dance," an original composition by music director Glen DuBose of Rockland. Other featured dancers include Xania Tuton of Philadelphia performing the "Fanga" of Liberia and Bridget Kelly of Castine, who is currently home between sessions of an arts fellowship in modern dance in Barcelona, Spain.
The Rhythm of Life Band includes Glen DuBose, Jeff Densmore, James Corry, Willy Kelly, Bruce Boege, Al Crichton, Jonathan Boulware, vocalist Carol Stone, C. Quay Blount on piano, Dave Grisaru, cello and Annegret Baier and Arthur Hall on drums. Rachel and John Nicholas perform as Dreamwork, known on the New England coffeehouse circuit for their powerful harmonies and compelling original songs.
Tickets for The Rhythm of Life Benefit Dance Concert are available throughout the midcoast region at the following locations:
Camden - Once a Tree (236-3995)General admission tickets are $15, and patron's tickets with preferred seating are available for $50 or more (a portion tax deductible). MC/Visa are available courtesy of Camden National Bank. Tickets will be sold at the door the evening of the performance if seating is available. For more information contact production manager Don Isikoff, 236-8945.
Rockport - L.E. Leonard (236-0878)
Rockland - Harbor Square Gallery (594-8700)
Northport - The Studio at Saturday Cove (338-8700)
Belfast - 90 Main (338-1106)
Proceeds from the concert will benefit the restoration of an old ballroom at 418 Main Street in Rockland to house the nonprofit, tax exempt Arthur Hall International Dance Center and the International Dance Company. With the addition of barres and mirrors (and a little heat), the center will provide a beautiful space for children's and adult dance classes. Don Isikoff of Camden and Erma Colvin of Washington head up a building committee for the center which includes dancing architect Ricardo Guillermo and dancing treasurer Patrice Janssen.
Community support for both the concert and the development of the Dance Center is already strong, including a growing list of businesses and individual patrons. Liberty artist and musician Alan Crichton has donated a series of four original pen and ink drawings for the Rhythm of Life poster, t-shirts, and programs, and Camden graphic artist Amy Fischer has donated her time for layout and design. "I experienced the importance of community based arts thirty years ago in Philadelphia," writes Arthur Hall, "and I feel doubly blessed to see all these wonderful, creative people coming together to do the same thing for Mid-coast Maine."
Internationally known dancer, choreographer, teacher and humanitarian Arthur Hall is bringing together dances from several cultures to cap the 1995 summer season. Ile Ife Philadelphia Maine combines dancers from the Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble of Philadelphia and Belfast's Celebration Dancers & Drummers for concerts in Madison, Lewiston, Bath, and Rockport. In addition to pieces drawn from Arthur Hall's extensive repertory of traditional African dances, the programs include a contemporary Greek dance, a dance inspired by the Mississippi blues, and modern dances rooted in the folklore of the Caribbean and the African-American experience.
Mayor John Jenkins of Lewiston returns to the dance stage as an Ashanti king in "Adowa," a classical Ghanian dance commemorating those who died in defense of their country. Mayor Jenkins first performed the dance in 1991 with Arthur Hall. The solo is set in another Ghanaian dance, "Akom," which says "We are proud of who we are and turn our backs on those who would change us." Dressed in a magnificent cloth, surrounded by attendants in pure white, Mayor Jenkins makes a significant statement about the importance of the arts to a community. "The arts express who we are as a people," he says. "They express our dreams, our hopes and humanity. That is why it is important to continue supporting the NEA and the NEH. Just in terms of economic activity, this project promises to quadruple the value of the modest Maine Arts Commission grant that makes it possible. On the other hand, you can't begin to put a value on the excitement and joy among the performers and the audiences."
Other dances include a lament for the death of a queen and a dance about the power in a woman's hands. The stage is possessed in turn by demons, witches, and warriors. "Miss D" is Arthur Hall's tribute to Katherine Dunham, first performed in 1986 by the People to People Dance Company in Camden. "Miss D" has been lavishly costumed by Veronica Wardwell of Belfast for recent performances by the Celebration Dancers & Drummers at the Eden Festival in Bar Harbor, at the Heartwood School of Art in Kennebunkport, and at the Maine Festival. Katherine Dunham is the anthropologist turned dancer who received the Presidential Award for her work on Broadway and Hollywood. She has exerted a lasting influence on modern dance, developing the Afro-Caribbean "Dunham Technique" that Arthur Hall continues to teach to this day.
Camden resident Arthur Hall began working in the schools of Maine in the 1970s as a movement specialist for the National Endowment for the Arts. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, he is perhaps best known for Fat Tuesday & all that jazz, broadcast in the "Great Performances" series "Live from Wolftrap." Fat Tuesday will be restaged next year with the Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago and Preservation Hall of New Orleans for an international tour in 1997. Over the years the American Dance Festival has sent Arthur Hall throughout Africa and to Korea as an ambassador of dance and a specialist in transposing traditional dance forms to the concert stage.
The thirty year history of the Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble and the Ile Ife Center and Museum in Philadelphia are the subjects of a feature length documentary film by Belgrade filmmaker Bruce Williams. It is this project which received the support of the Maine Arts Commission. "The public performances this summer will be recorded for the film, and we may edit together a little portrait of the event itself," says Williams, "but we are really just offering back to the people of Maine what we have already supported with our tax dollars."
"Arthur has been working in the schools of Maine for nearly twenty years," Williams continues. "He helped found the People to People Dance Company in Camden and his Philadelphia company has performed at Colby College. He was on the faculty at the Bates Dance Festival a couple of years ago, and whenever he's not out on the road - which isn't all that often - he teaches at the Belfast Dance Studio. But this is the first time he will present concerts in Maine with combined companies, professional dancers and local kids drawn from the community. This is really what Arthur does best. He gets everyone dancing, from little kids to old folk. There's a lot of meaningless dance out there these days. Arthur's dances are meaning FULL, and he has the ability to find the most appropriate role for each individual dancer."
"With live theater, you never know what will happen," muses Arthur Hall. "At Jacob's Pillow I danced with my foot in a cast. Each show is unique. Some of these dancers have been working with me for four decades, and they still surprise me. Mix live music with live dance, and anything can happen."
The concert band includes percussionists James Corry, Adam Smith, and Jeff Densmore, with Willy Kelley on guitar, tenor sax Bruce Boege, bass Glenn DuBois, and Uncle Al Shearon on trombone. In addition to Arthur Hall and John Jenkins, soloists include Rita Cottman Johnson and Van Williams from Philadelphia, and Eleni Koenka and Karen Tvarian of the Belfast Dance Studio.
Performances are scheduled for:
Sunday, August 27All shows are at 8:00 PM. All tickets cost $7.00 and are available in advance locally in Madison and Lewiston or at the door the night of the performances. For tickets and more information please call 207-548-2445 or write Ile Ife Films, 754 Mount Ephraim Road, Searsport, Maine 04974.
Thomas J. Elias Performing Arts Center in Madison
contact the Wesserunsett Arts Council at 696-8313
Wednesday, August 30
Lewiston Middle School Auditorium
contact LA Arts at 782-7228
Friday, September 1
The Chocolate Church in Bath
call Ile Ife at 548-2445
Saturday, September 2
Rockport Opera House
call Ile Ife at 548-2445
PHOTO CREDITS: BWms [Bruce Williams]
CAPTION 1 ["three hands"]: Arthur Hall dances in the Maine Woods
CAPTION 2 [mirror]: Arthur Hall conducts rehearsal at the Belfast Dance Studio
Caption 3 [funny walk]: Arthur Hall demonstrates a funny walk