Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Kim Jones reconstructs Paul Taylor work to benefit students, audiences, history of dance

Words by Michael J. Solender

Photos by Jeff Cravotta

Late last fall, Charlotte-area dance enthusiasts experienced a performance at Robinson Hall that featured the work of internationally renowned choreographer Paul Taylor.

As audience members thrilled to the rebirth of his all but lost work “Tracer,” performed by the New York City-based Taylor 2 Dance Company, it’s unlikely many at the sold-out performance realized they were seeing the results of an extensive faculty research project.

The reemergence of “Tracer” capped an 18-month reconstruction project and represents an extraordinary collaboration among UNC Charlotte, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance and community partners in Charlotte.

Kim Jones certainly did. The College of Arts + Architecture associate professor of dance watched from the wings with a sense of deep satisfaction and accomplishment.

The reemergence of “Tracer” capped an 18-month reconstruction project led by Jones and represents an extraordinary collaboration among UNC Charlotte, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance and community partners in Charlotte.

Seminal Artist

Leading the movement of postmodern choreographers during the early ’60s, Taylor and his work demonstrated a creative intensity with “a direct kinesthetic impact, lifting the spectator to a state resembling a luminous cloud,” said Dance Magazine in 1963. Taylor is one of the few remaining third-generation American modern dance masters and considered a seminal artist of his generation.

In 2015, Jones was approached by Taylor’s company to reconstruct “Tracer.” Created in 1962 with sets and costumes by artist Robert Rauschenberg, the work was last performed in 1964 and thought lost to the company with no recorded footage or accessible notes. The company tapped Jones after her successful reimagination and choreography of the lost 1935 Martha Graham solo work, “Imperial Gesture.” This was the first time Taylor authorized an externally led reconstruction of his work.

Jones’ sleuthing began with a semester-long research sabbatical where she spent weeks combing archives for clues at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library. Jones conducted dancer interviews and studied critical reviews, costume design, staging, music and still images. Her most significant discoveries, however, were made in Taylor’s own archives.

“I found several reviews, the original Robert Rauschenberg costumes, six handwritten pages of Paul’s detailed notes, and most amazingly, a reel of the original James Tenney score in the Taylor archives,” Jones said. “The reel was given to a sound engineer who was able to extract and enhance a recording with excellent quality.”

Taylor 2 Residency on Campus

Jones worked directly with Taylor’s second company, Taylor 2, in New York. She subsequently fine-tuned the dance with the troupe during its three-week residency at UNC Charlotte. As part of the residency, the dancers and rehearsal director also worked directly with students, conducted master classes and held two public performances. 

Kim Jones (far right) talks with dancers during rehearsal for Paul Taylor lost work, "Tracer."

“The project had a great impact on our students,” Jones said. “They were able to engage directly with professional artists in the studio, working on the nuances of style and rigor it takes to do the reconstruction and fine-tune details of the dance.”

Jones developed two specific curriculum components for student learning as part of the project. “Our ‘Performance Practicum’ is a course where students learn choreography,” she said. “Students perform the choreographic works in our biannual dance concert and learn what is behind producing a great show. With the ‘Tracer’ project, they got the chance to work with the Taylor 2 dancers and experience what’s involved in staging work at this level.”

Jones also collaborated with her former professor at Florida State University, Tim Glenn, on a “Dance Documentation” course developed to take advantage of the detailed research involved in the reconstructive process. The coursework focused on student learning techniques and processes to document dance reconstruction, ranging from interviewing artists to editing raw video footage.

So significant was the research opportunity, the reconstruction/residency project was awarded a 2016 Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The project also received an Arts & Science Council grant and a residency sponsorship from the Wells Fargo Foundation.

“The project fulfills three mandates of the University,” said Ann Dils, professor and chair of the Department of Dance at UNC Charlotte. “The project is a distinct and unique research opportunity; it creates unique curriculum to benefit students; and it addresses our responsibility to build community partnerships.”

Partnering with the Community

In bringing Taylor’s troupe to Charlotte, the University also facilitated opportunities for interaction with community partners. In April, Central Piedmont Community College and Charlotte Ballet are teaming up to bring the Paul Taylor Dance Company (main troupe) to Charlotte for the first time in 15 years.

The company will perform as part of the Sensoria Festival of the Arts, with a program that features "The Rite of Spring," performed to live music, using the four-hand piano arrangement of composer Igor Stravinsky’s original orchestration.

Later this year, UNC Charlotte students will take “Tracer” into area middle and high schools, reaching out to local youth and demonstrating the beauty of arts education.

For Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, the “Tracer” project has been a resounding success. “It is incredibly important to the art form that we not lose our past,” said John Tomlinson, executive director of the Paul Taylor Dance Company. “We started a repertory preservation project in 1992, and this project fits nicely with our ongoing efforts.”

“Tracer” is part of the Taylor 2 repertory and has already been performed for audiences in Providence, Rhode Island, and New York City. New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay gave the New York production a positive review, citing Jones as a “dance scholar” and noting the debut of the reconstructed piece occurred at UNC Charlotte.

“This project is important in many ways,” Jones said. “It is important to expose the American history of modern dance. It’s exciting to go behind the works done in the 20th century and explore how we respond to it. I’m incredibly proud to be a part of that.”

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Light rail extension coming to campus in 2017

The light rail onto campus includes the only underground stretch
of the Blue Line in the entire LYNX system.
The LYNX Blue Line Extension allows for a new dimension of connectivity between UNC Charlotte and the neighborhoods and business districts along the Blue Line as far south as Pineville. 

Light rail also provides greater accessibility for the citizens of the region to the resources of the University.

The prospect of bringing more people to and from campus for work, performing arts, athletic events, festivals and other activities will prove revolutionary for students, staff, faculty, alumni and visitors.

The Blue Line Extension includes a unique pedestrian bridge
that spans the entire width of North Tryon Street at Institute Circle.
Beginning in late summer 2017, new Charlotte Area Transit System light rail stations at Ninth Street – beside UNC Charlotte Center City – J.W. Clay at North Tryon Street and Cameron Boulevard at Wallis Hall will bring the convenience of light rail to the heart of the University campus. And as part of the Blue Line Extension, eight other new light rail stations – and related bus routes -- will provide an alternative to using automobiles.

The LYNX Blue Line Extension begins at Seventh Street in Uptown Charlotte and continues to the UNC Charlotte Main Station. Stations along the way are located at Ninth Street, Parkwood, 25th Street, 36th Street, Sugar Creek, Old Concord Road, Tom Hunter Road, McCullough Drive, J.W. Clay Boulevard UNC Charlotte Station and UNC Charlotte Main Station, along Cameron Boulevard near Wallis Hall and the North Deck

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Hunger to Help: Jamils give to support student food pantry, scholarship

By Paul Nowell

Dhiaa Jamil at dedication of a food pantry
for UNC Charlotte students
Dhiaa Jamil grew up comfortably, the son of parents with sufficient financial resources. By the time he entered college at UNC Charlotte that had all changed.

“When I ended up here, I had no means,” he said. “I worked, struggled and relied on the giving of others. Some people call it ‘food security.’ I call it hunger.”

Jamil became interested when he learned about a new project at his alma mater — a food pantry for needy students. He first heard about the pantry at a Board of Trustees retreat two years ago.

“I perked up because the idea brought me back to a certain time in my life,” Jamil said, speaking of his time as a college student. He and his wife, Hope, became fervent supporters of the then-fledgling operation, which became a small venue on campus.

60th Birthday Honor

The family also established the Hope E. Jamil EPIC Student Fellow Scholarship to provide support for students with financial need. Recently, Hope Jamil put together a donation for a larger food pantry in honor of her husband’s 60th birthday.
The Jamil Niner Pantry helps ensure
food security for students.

On Aug. 31, University officials, students, faculty and staff gathered in the backyard of that larger facility, a ranch house on the edge of the UNC Charlotte campus near East Deck, to dedicate the house as the “Jamil Niner Student Pantry.”

The naming event was held to honor the Jamils for their generous support to benefit students who struggle with a phenomenon called food security. National studies have found a large number of college students are unable to find or afford nutritious food.

“This food pantry clearly meets a real need for our students,” said Chancellor Philip L. Dubois, who was joined by his wife, Lisa, along with members of the Jamil family and others at the naming ceremony. “With this boost from Hope and Dhiaa, it will continue to do so for years to come.”

University Advocate

A 1978 graduate of UNC Charlotte and Duke Energy executive, Dhiaa is currently serving as secretary of the University’s Board of Trustees. He advocates with local corporations on behalf of UNC Charlotte initiatives, including faculty development, scholarships, athletics and the Pride of Niner Nation Marching Band.

The pantry provides assistance to undergraduate and graduate students. It has also benefited from donations from Food Lion, which donated $8,000 worth of nonperishable items to the pantry in its first year. The supermarket chain continues to support the food pantry.

To qualify for assistance, students must live off campus and not have a University meal plan. In addition, each client must complete an intake form and a food-pantry inventory list. In establishing the pantry, UNC Charlotte joined 13 other UNC system institutions with similar initiatives.

“There is no other place I would rather have my name associated with than this building,” Jamil said. “It touches my heart because it provides support to students with dignity.”

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Monday, September 26, 2016

UNC Charlotte students demonstrate peacefully after shooting

By Leanna Pough

On September 21, UNC Charlotte students conduced peaceful demonstration in response to a police shooting in Charlotte’s University City area.

Chancellor Dubois addressed a gathering of concerned students on Sept. 21.
The demonstration follows the death of 43 year old Keith Lamont Scott who was shot and killed Tuesday afternoon by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer.

Members of Black Student Union (BSU), a student organization at UNC Charlotte invited the campus community to join them in raising awareness concerning police shootings.

Wednesday, Sept 21, participants gathered in front of the Popp-Martin Student Union for a community forum to share personal accounts and fears surrounding racial injustice.

Following a moment of silence to honor the victims of police brutality, Chancellor Philip Dubois expressed his condolences and encouraged students to both speak out and exercise their right to vote.
Shortly after, a group of nearly 150 students met on the back patio of the student union to protest.

Students assemble prior to a demonstration in the
Popp-Martin Student Union rotunda.
Led by Fahn Darkor, Student Government Association

President, participants prayed and were reminded of the importance of their involvement. Darkor asked demonstrators to avoid using their phones to document their participation and to instead remain present in the moment.

Entering the union, protesters laid down, lining the floor of the student union rotunda. Their bodies sprawled side by side was a visual reminder of the slain victims of police brutality.
As visitors entered the union, protesters sang songs of encouragement and openly shared why they chose to participate.
Students lie down in an expression of solidarity.

“I do this because my oppression is not a figment of my imagination,” one student said.

“I do this for Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Korryn Gaines.”

“I do this so they’ll listen,” another said.

As a campus community that serves as an anchor for all of University City, UNC Charlotte as a whole grieves the loss of human life. The safety and well-being of all members of the campus community remains a priority for the University.

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Leanna Pough ('15) is communications coordinator in the Office of Public Relations.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Prof's book explores black militia after Civil War

By: Leanna Pough

A recently published work by history professor Gregory Mixon analyzes one state’s process of freedom, citizenship and the incorporation of African Americans within the political and economic structure of the United States after the Civil War.
“Show Thyself a Man: Georgia State Troops, Colored, 1865-1905” explores the history of Georgia’s black militia and how both independent militias and state-sponsored militias defined freedom and citizenship for African Americans. The work is available at University Press of Florida.
“Black people had a vision for freedom after the Civil War. They had a vision of what citizenship should be and that vision conflicted with white definitions of post-Civil War freedom and citizenship,” Mixon explained. 
He added that attempts to fulfill the African American vision of freedom have often met with resistance.
“There were two kinds of militia in Georgia. One was an independent militia, which was not associated with state government. Independent militias were used to organize the black community around political and economic issues such as voting and land acquisition. Tunis Campbell was one man who came south to help African Americans organize after the Civil War,” Mixon said. 
Tunis Campbell, regarded as an influential African American politician in 19th century Georgia, openly spoke against laws and policies that undercut African American citizenship and economic rights.
State-sponsored militia companies served between 1872 and 1905 as an officially recognized division of state government, and both whites and blacks organized militia units at the county level to use as an instrument to dominate local governance, said Mixon
“For blacks, independent militias were a means to defend economic rights such as land ownership. State militias became more of a ceremonial group in Georgia’s cities,” he added. 
State militia companies organized the celebration of Emancipation Day; the anniversary of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments; May Day; and Independence Day. If there was an emergency within the state, state militias could be called to restrain any threats to public safety and harmony.
According to Mixon, the resistance blacks once faced in their fight for citizenship during the 19th century is still present today. “It’s evident in the threats to the right to vote. It’s evident in police-community relations. It’s evident in the disparities of resources and the questions aimed toward the current president of the United States. It is evident in the firestorm being dumped on the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers seeking to define the nation as a nation that sees all as equal.”
Mixon’s scholarship offers an in-depth approach to race relations, politics and U.S. urban history. Earlier this year, he received the Atkins Library Faculty Engagement Award, which honors a UNC Charlotte faculty member who has engaged in innovative or exceptional work with library collections, programs and services. The award, presented along with a $2,500 allocation for professional development, enables the library to recognize outstanding faculty contributions to its mission, vision and strategic initiatives.

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Leanna Pough is communication coordinator in the Office of Public Relations.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Researcher studies movement, evolution of Zika virus

Edited by Leanna Pough

Named for the African forest where it was first isolated in 1940, the Zika virus has remained a public interest over the past year. Ongoing outbreaks in Brazil are estimated to have infected more than one and a half million people and have been associated with debilitating birth defects and other serious health concerns.

As the eyes of the world turned to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics, scientists and public health officials across the globe moved quickly to respond to the virus which many experts believe will spread across the Americas in the coming months. Among those responding, Dr. Dan Janies, The Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Bioinformatics and Genomics at UNC Charlotte sat with Inside UNC Charlotte TV to discuss Zika.

As a researcher studying Genomics and Bioinformatics, what do you do when consider when studying a disease or a virus like Zika?

Epidemiologists typically look at the occurrence of the disease, putting points on a map. In Genomics, we look at the biology of the disease itself, its genetics. In a more functional molecular way, we look at what has occurred to cause the disease. By observing genetic similarity, geneticists connect those dots and see how the disease is moving across the earth. So, we’re looking at both time and geography, as well as comparing samples that have been taken from patients across time and geography. Labs across the world are sequencing the virus and sharing that information over the Internet. We compare all those viruses and compare their Meta data, where they're taken from, and what biological properties they have, what animals or humans they are taken from, and we put all that in context akin to a weather map.

Zika has been known as a relatively mild virus. What's different in current cases that have public health officials concerned and scientists involved?
The disease recently spread from Africa across Asia and the Pacific. In doing so, it's taken on new properties, causing birth defects in children and Guillain-Barre Syndrome in some mature adults. Our work has shown that the virus has picked up novel mutations as it crossed the Pacific into the Americas. Those mutations seem to be allowing it to attack the immune system, causing both birth defects and the Guillain-Barre Syndrome. That's completely new for the virus.

Can those conditions cause long-term debilitating conditions or, in some cases, even death?
Yes, in children it’s microcephaly –the child's head and brain don't fully develop. That's one very obvious phenotype of the disease but there are many others: limb problems, eye problems, hearing problems and developmental problems.  It might not just be microcephaly.  In mature adults, Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a paralytic disease; if it’s not treated, it can attack the lungs and then cause death.

How dependent is this kind of science on advances in technology?
Bioinformatics and Genomics in our program is a reflection of a lot of very recent technological advances. One, the ability to share information rapidly over the Internet primarily. Two, the ability to rapidly compute on that shared information. These are big data problems and we have high performance computers to do that. Lastly, the advent of very good sequencing technology so we can observe with precision the building blocks of the viruses.

In the past, you’ve explained these changes to the virus as purposeful. Why is the virus doing this?
As viruses replicate themselves, they make a lot of errors. They don't have a lot of error correction in their replication and that's actually an advantage; their sloppiness is an advantage and some of those variants go on to take on new properties and allow the virus to have new strategies such as crossing the Pacific not on mosquitoes but on human travelers.

What are the next steps moving forward for you in your lab? What are some of the concerns you're looking at from an American and a North American perspective in terms of the spread of this virus?
Since the outbreak in Miami it has become a continental U.S. problem and it looks like these outbreaks are not travel warranted. People who have not traveled to Miami are starting to experience the disease from their local mosquitoes. What we're looking towards now is which species of mosquitoes can be infected and what the range of those mosquitoes is across the continental United States. That will allow us to predict the spread of the virus.

As an Urban Research University, we also look at the student experience and educating students. How does this work relate to what your students are doing and what the Bioinformatics program is doing?
UNC Charlotte has a Department which is unique to the country and around the world in training Master’s and Ph.D. students and undergraduates in technologies used to track pandemic diseases. What they're doing is extremely socially relevant work.

Watch an 8-minute video interview of Janies on YouTube.

Dr. Janies is a national principal investigator in the Tree of Life program of the National Science foundation and is funded by the Defense Applied Research Projects Agency. His work involves empirical studies of organismal diversity and development of software.

In July 2012, he joined the University of North Carolina at Charlotte as The Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Bioinformatics and Genomics. Dr. Janies received a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Biology from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Florida.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Profs' Film Earns Emmy Nomination, Explores Impact of Art

By Kendra Sharpe

UNC Charlotte researcher Margaret M. Quinlan and colleagues received a regional Emmy® nomination for Creative Abundance, a film that explores how art can redefine vocational opportunities and expand the lives of people with developmental disabilities.

Quinlan, an associate professor in Communication Studies and core faculty with the Interdisciplinary Health Psychology doctoral program, is a co-producer on the film.

UNC Charlotte's Margaret Quinlan (center) shares the Emmy spotlight
with colleagues Evan Shaw (left) and Lynn Harter.
“It is a huge honor in so many ways,” Quinlan says. “It is an honor that the individuals in the film allowed us to tell their stories. This documentary draws from years of research. Dr. Harter invited me into a research project she was working on in 2003 related to disability and sheltered workshops. My passion for creating these films started with that work over a decade ago.”

Quinlan was nominated by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in the category Documentary – Cultural/Topical, along with lead producer Lynn Harter, professor, Scripps College of Communication, Ohio University; and Evan Shaw, chief videographer/editor, WOUB.

The documentary is part of a series, The Courage of Creativity, which explores the role that artists and creativity can play in people’s well being in health-related contexts. In 2014, the series won a regional Emmy award from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, based on the strength of a promotional trailer.

“Our research and creative activity is inspired and informed by the stories of individuals,” Quinlan says. “Storytelling is a powerful form of experiencing and expressing.”

The most recent film, the second in the three-part series, examines services in place for individuals with developmental disabilities, usually in the form of vocational and rehabilitative workshops that often are sheltered from the public eye and from community interaction.

With this research, Quinlan and colleagues have found that the use of art can help medical and other professionals understand and address the impacts on people’s lives caused by illness or disability.

“Artists do not eliminate the uncertainties surrounding illness,” Quinlan says. “Even so, they answer suffering in ways that go beyond the traditional reach of biomedicine. We hope that Creative Abundance will offer people a glimpse of creative programming that integrates artful encounters in various settings.”

The film also will be shown on PBS affiliates over a four-year period, through a national distribution arrangement with the National Education Association. The schedule for broadcast in North Carolina is not yet set.

The Ohio Valley Regional Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences will present the Emmy Awards on August 6 in Lawrenceburg, Ind. The film and various people involved with it also received three additional Emmy award nominations for videography and production.

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Kendra Sharpe is a student communication associate in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.