September 2017 Newsletter

Powerful Dance with a Unique History

On September 30, Gumboots and Pantsula Dance Companies bring their acclaimed styles of South African dance to the Center. Though different, both companies present dance that has been used not only to entertain, but to send powerful messages about political injustice and social change.

Traditionally performed in Wellington boots, gumboot dancing originated in the mines of South Africa during Apartheid. Black migrant miners made rhythms with their gumboots to express themselves and to communicate when they were forbidden to talk. Gumboots has been adapted to new modern forms of dance including Stepping.

Pantsula dance also emerged in response to the Apartheid era government. It was used to express resistance to oppression and also to spread awareness of social issues. While it was developed from other South African dances, Pantsula was later influenced by American jazz, hip hop, and breakdance. This highly energetic dance form has remained a powerful form of expression for a variety of South African communities.

Don’t miss your chance to see both of these styles performed in Festival of South African Dance
Featuring the Gumboots and Pantsula Dance Companies
Saturday, September 30, 2017 at 8 p.m.
Tickets and more information

Virginia Opera’s Conductor Speaks Out

Jeffrey SiegelAdam Turner is the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor for Virginia Opera, the company presenting the epic French opera Samson and Delilah. This opera by Camille Saint-Saëns dramatizes the well-known Biblical story of a legendary Israelite warrior who is seduced and then betrayed by a Philistine woman. We have asked Adam to give his thoughts on moments in this particular opera, as well as on the future of the art form.

As Principal Conductor, how does this opera compare to others you have previously conducted?

Adam Turner: One of the unique qualities of this particular opera is its glorious choral music. Initially conceived as an oratorio, Saint-Saëns gives a fair amount of attention to the chorus, with Bach-like intensely challenging contrapuntal writing in the Hebrew choruses and Handelian lightness and simplicity for the Philistines. Outside of Verdi’s Aida and last season’s production of Puccini’s Turandot, I can’t think of a more complex, demanding and yet truly rewarding opera for the chorus to perform.

As Saint-Saëns composed this opera, it was largely rejected in Paris for its depiction of a Biblical subject. Do you think this history plays into its current frequency of performance?

Adam Turner: Quite honestly I think it was simply out-of-fashion for France in the mid-19th century. Saint-Saëns initially intended to use the well-known Old Testament story of Samson’s death and betrayal as an oratorio, but as he and his librettist began to sense tremendous dramatic possibilities, it was adapted into an opera. Once Samson and Delilah was more widely performed in the late-1800s, it enthralled audiences worldwide, becoming one of the most popular of operas.

What is the musical moment that most stands out to you in "Bacchanale," the opera’s best-known excerpt?

Adam Turner: It’s such a thrilling moment in the opera, as the celebratory Philistines are whisked into a sensuous frenzy. There’s a point towards the end of the Bacchanale, where the timpani has a raucous solo followed by the entire orchestra in unison melody, evoking the eroticism and exoticism of the Philistines. It’s an intensely seductive and breathtaking moment for the ears, let alone the eyes!

How does your additional role as Artistic Advisor affect performances of Samson and Delilah? 

Adam Turner: Together with President & CEO Russell Allen, I’ve selected each of the artists for this production, including: the stage director and designer, the principal singers, and every member of our fabulous Opera Chorus. Much of this work is completed years in advance of rehearsals, but there are always final tweaks to the process and I absolutely relish the creative process, offering suggestions or critique as required.

This is your fourth season with Virginia Opera so far. What is your vision for the company, and/or for opera in general?

Adam Turner: One of Virginia Opera’s primary goals is to secure the youngest audience in the U.S. by 2025, and this is always at the forefront my mind—attracting young people to this incredible art form, giving them the opportunity to escape from a multitude of digital distractions, to unplug and restore their souls with the extraordinary power of the human voice. There’s nothing quite like sitting in a theater and becoming intimately acquainted with this uniquely passionate and soul-nourishing music.

Experience Virginia Opera’s Samson and Delilah
Saturday, October 7, 2017 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, October 8, 2017 at 2 p.m.

Tickets and more information

Alumni Weekend 2017 at CFA

Each year, Mason offers a four-day celebration gathering thousands of alumni and supporters through dozens of events in the main Fairfax campus. It’s a special time to stroll through old stomping grounds, reconnect with friends and faculty, and to reminisce about the joy of being a true #MasonPatriot.

The upcoming Alumni Weekend is scheduled to take place from Thursday, October 12–Sunday, October 15, 2017. One of the weekend’s highlights will be an exclusive Q&A and book signing session with Steve Parke, author of the newly-published Picturing Prince—an intimate portrait by the legendary star’s former creative director.

Steve Parke attended Mason in the early 1980s as a Theater major. Following his studies at Mason, he embarked on a 14-year run as art director and personal photographer for Prince. In this role, he designed everything from album covers and merchandise to sets for Prince’s tours and videos. He eventually became Paisley Park’s official art director for 14 years. As a prominent photographer, Steve’s clients have also included David Bowie, Bon Jovi, Bob Dylan, and Sheila E., among many others.

Meet the Author: Steve Parke is being held on Saturday, October 14 at 1 p.m. in Grand Tier III. It includes a one-hour interview and Q&A facilitated by Mason alumna Nicole Livas. Guests may purchase a book at the event to be signed by the author. This event is FREE.

Grand Tier III to be Renamed the Dr. Linda Apple Monson Grand Tier

In honor of a $1,000,000 gift to the College of Visual and Performing Arts from local philanthropist Sid Dewberry, the Center for the Arts’ Grand Tier III has been renamed the Dr. Linda Apple Monson Grand Tier.

Sid Dewberry is a former Chairman of Mason’s Board of Trustees and has long been a champion of the arts at Mason. This transformative gift benefits the College of Visual and Performing Arts for years to come. The Center for the Arts and the entire College of Visual and Performing Arts are incredibly fortunate to have such dedicated supporters of the arts in our community like Sid Dewberry. To find out more about making a meaningful gift to College of Visual and Performing Arts, please contact CVPA Director of Development Susan Graziano. Gifts of any size, including planned gifts, make a difference.

Fall for the Book Features Literary Artists

Enjoy the 2017 Fall for the Book festival, which runs from Wednesday, October 11–Saturday, October 14, 2017 and features 150 authors at George Mason University and around Northern Virginia. Headliners include Colson Whitehead, author of The Underground Railroad, Mohsin Hamid, author of Exit West and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians trilogy, and Jennine Capó Crucet, author of Make Your Home Among Strangers, as well as David Shields, Ellen Bryant Voigt, and many more writers across all genres and interests. All events are free and open.

Visit for the full schedule or download the free app today. 

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