Philadelphia Folklore Project announces
Friday, December 11, 2009
African American Museum of Philadelphia (AAMP). 701 Arch St.
Experience the creative process of dancer/choreographer Germaine Ingram, composer/musician Bobby Zankel, and visual artist John Dowell as they develop a performance piece commemorating the nine African Americans enslaved by President George Washington in the President's house, a building that stood on a site just steps away from the Liberty Bell Pavilion.
Share thoughts and questions about how the arts are able to spur and shape public discourse about issues of community interest and concern.
This event is a chance to see early work-in-progress and for public discussion about how this emerging performance piece can create alternative and complementary spaces for community reflection on the meaning and significance of the President's House site. Dowell, whose initial encounters with the site began in 2007, created a portfolio of photographs at the site of the open excavations where enslaved Africans lived and worked in the presidential household. He later worked in multiple mediums with these photographs, and is continuing to create compelling and moving images which will ultimately become the visual environment for the dance and music. Zankel originated this multimedia collaboration; he is composing music that explores the dignity and power of the enslaved Africans living in the house, drawing on what is known of ring shouts and other African traditions which have been through-lines for generations. And Ingram has been imagining the everyday lives and emotions of the nine individual Africans in the President's House, writing songs and creating dances that use percussive/tap dance to meditate on the experiences of enslavement and intimate engagement with Washington's family. All three artists' deep involvement with the project results in work of emotional and imaginative power.
At this first public sharing, the artists will offer excerpts of their creative effort, and will reflect on their creative process for expressing the contradictions, ironies, and present-day impact of slavery's practice in America's first seat of national government. Join the discussion about how history is preserved and retold, and how resonances of the past affect the way race works in the 21st Century.
Visual artist John Dowell has created and exhibited work for over four decades. Professor of Printmaking at the Tyler School of Art of Temple University, Dowell has had over 49 one person exhibitions at prestigious venues including the 35th Venice Biennale, the 1975 Whitney Biennial in New York City, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia. His artwork is represented in the permanent collections of 70 museum and public collections. With the Visual Music Ensemble, he has performed concerts in the US and Europe, using his works on paper as the music scores. In 2001, he received the 14th James Van Der Zee Award from the Brandywine Workshop, in Philadelphia for a Life Time of Achievement in the Visual Arts and Teaching, as well as other prestigious grants and awards.
Composer/saxophonist Bobby Zankel first began attracting attention in the early 70s for his work with Cecil Taylor; his underground reputation grew on the New York loft scene, where he performed with the likes of Ray Anderson, William Parker, and Sunny Murray. Zankel became a Philadelphian in 1975, Since then, his performances as a sideman have ranged from the Hank Mobley/Sonny Gillete Quintet, to Jymmie Merritt's Forerunners, to the Dells, NRBQ, Odean Pope's Saxophone Choir, Ruth Naomi Floyd, and European work with Taylor. His alto playing has been described as a unique amalgam of the precision and rhythmic intricacy of be-bop, with the soul and drive of hard bop, and the fire, spirituality, creativity and intensity of the avant garde. Zankel has pursued a series of collaborations with choreographers, writers, and visual artists (funded by a variety of grants, and commissions) resulting in three ballets and one opera. In 1995 he received a prestigious Pew Fellowship in the Arts. He has worked for more than a decade in artist in residence programs in the Pennsylvania prisons. He directs Warriors of the Wonderful Sound.
Germaine Ingram came under the spell of jazz tap dance in the early 1980s when she began intensive study with internationally acclaimed tap artist and teacher, the late LaVaughn Robinson. Since that time, she has pursued tap's call through performance, choreography, teaching, oral history, video-making and stage production. For more than 20 years, she performed with her mentor, Robinson, and has also pursued work as a soloist. She has shared bills with tap greats spanning at least three generations, including Honi Coles, Jimmy Slyde, Buster Brown, the Nicholas Brothers, Gregory Hines, Dianne Walker, Brenda Bufalino, and Savion Glover. She appeared with Robinson in the Emmy Award-winning public television production "Gregory Hines' Tap Dance in America" and has numerous choreographic credits, including commissions for Manhattan Tap, Washington-based Tappers With Attitude, and works for musical theater. Her previous collaborations include work with Heather Cornell of Manhattan Tap, world music ensemble Keith Terry and Crosspulse, and work with renowned jazz composers and instrumentalists Odean Pope (saxophone), Dave Burrell (piano) and Tyrone Brown (bass). She has participated frequently in Folklore Project artist residency performances, and has performed and taught in concerts and festivals locally, nationally and internationally. She has received grants and awards from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Independence Foundation, and a 2008 Transformation Award from the Leeway Foundation.
The Philadelphia Folklore Project is a 23-year-old public interest folklore non-profit with a mission to sustain vital and diverse living cultural heritage in communities in our region, build critical folk cultural knowledge, and create equitable processes and practices for nurturing local grassroots arts and humanities. More information about the Folklore Project is at www.folkloreproject.org.
This free event is organized by the Philadelphia Folklore Project presented in collaboration with the African American Museum in Philadelphia. It is funded by The Pew Center for Art and Heritage, through Dance Advance, and by the National Endowment for the Arts.
For more information: 215.726.1106.
Photograph: courtesy of John Dowell. For larger image, download here.
Photograph: Germaine Ingram, courtesy James Wasserman, download here.
Photograph: Bobby Zankel, courtesy Bobby Zankel, download here.