Philadanco Dance Company

Fusing ballet, modern, jazz, and ethnic dance, Philadanco exhibits sizzling energy and enjoys international renown. The centerpiece of this performance is Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s new work, “By Way of the Funk,” set to the music of the Funkadelics and Parliament. This work offers a joyous celebration of forty years of Philadanco’s contributions to American dance.

“Philadanco is a company of happy, invigorating contrasts. At 26, this Philadelphia-based troupe is a venerable institution in dance terms. But the company has not lost its youthful verve or the freshness of its strong technical grounding” (The New York Times). More Information


Across the nation and around the world, PHILADANCO is celebrated for its innovation, creativity and preservation of predominantly African-American traditions in dance. For this engagement they will perform Rosa – a vivid tribute to Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks, who refused to sit in the segregated back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Six women of Philadanco perform this modern contemporary ballet that includes audience participation and discussion. Recommended for Grades 3 – 8. Running time: 60 minutes.

Curriculum Connections: Modern dance, Civil Rights Movement, Personal and political convictions

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St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra is recognized internationally as an ensemble of the highest caliber. Maestro David Robertson captures the audience’s attention whenever he stands at the podium. Energetic and vital, few conductors are as riveting, or make the concert experience so much fun. The Amherst program includes Vaughn-Williams” “Variations on a Theme of Thomas Tallis,” John Adams” “Dr. Atomic Symphony,” and Tchaikovsky’s ‘symphony No. 6.”

‘st. Louis Symphony Orchestra music director David Robertson wants to change what is customary. The conductor of this proud 129-year-old orchestra prefers his concerts tightly connected, even if it means presenting a new-music program without the neutralizer of a tired war horse. How many major or mid-major orchestras ever do that?” (Chicago Sun-Times) More Information

Shahid Al-Bilali: A Mirror For My Children

This ambitious project consists of a series of doors and panels that are carved and painted sculptures. In Shahid Al-Bilali’s words: I am an artist whose intentions are to interpret the aspirations of my people, to get at the heart of our spiritual and material power, to the roots that enrich and strengthen the African in America.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1943, as a child in the segregated South, Shahid Al-Bilali experienced life in the all Black rural community of Newburg. As a politically and socially conscious person, he became involved in the Black Nationalist movement, first as an organizer for the Black Unity League of Kentucky, then as a member of the Black Panther Party and finally as a member of the Nation of Islam.

His first mentor was an extraordinary art teacher, Mrs. Anna Huddleston. Under her tutelage, Al-Bilali won statewide arts competitions and with her financial support he attended classes at the University of Louisville. He took classes in painting, printmaking, illustration and jewelry making. After dropping out of school, he married at nineteen and began raising a family. Over the next two decades Al-Bilali trained as a skilled tradesman, channeling his creativity into building renovation and new construction including interior and exterior design.

After moving to Amherst in 1997 to get a degree in African American Art and History from UMASS, Al-Bilali met renowned sculptor, Professor Dorrance Hill who introduced him to metal sculpture. Al-Bilali began expanding upon a concept placed in his mind by Hill, which was the notion of Fourth Dimensional Art. Hill had said to Al-Bilali, “You are breaking new ground in art by going beyond a three dimensional view of light and luminosity. You are a Fourth Dimensional artist”. This was a concept Hill told Al-Bilali he would have to define for himself. These words offered him a new direction. The Fourth Dimension is the connection, the bridge of the physical world into the spiritual world, a new culture created by the African American experience. As he says: The African American is like the crow in the Native American mythology and just like the crow can move between the worlds we can be in two places at the same time. This particular type of aesthetic and ideological movement is what Al-Bilali has come to understand as the art of survival, the art of development and the coming together of the worlds” cultures.

He explains: “African American art is the Fourth Dimensional experience. The Fourth Dimensional grid falls outside of what we call the natural world – it is the space, the bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds. Because of our position in the slave system, Africans in America experienced the space between many cultures and classes and endured the physical and spiritual effects of slavery. African American art, Fourth Dimensional art is the cutting edge in American and world art development. We find in African art all the definitions of the isms in European art. Many critics define African Art as primitive. In my opinion all art is primitive compared to the creation of the heavens and the earth. African American art is the evolution of African art, European art, American art and World art. African American art is neither African nor European; it is a new school of thought. African American creativity has touched our whole world. None of the many cultures of the planet Earth has escaped the influence of the creativity of the African American experience. More Information

Acoustic Africa

Join an exhilarating musical journey that focuses on the richness of the African guitar tradition. The concert includes Habib Koité, the Malian superstar whose exciting concerts have endeared him to audiences worldwide; Oliver Mtukudzi, the best-selling artist in his home country of Zimbabwe; and Afel Bocoum, a guitarist, singer, and composer from Mali whose songs evoke the evolution of traditional Malian society.

As the spokesperson for Acoustic Africa puts it, “our vision is intra-African arts collaboration. This tour is a lovely expression of the finest African singer-songwriters from different traditions undertaking an extraordinary musical journey – the concert comes home to Africa, bringing together these wondrous musicians and audiences from many African traditions. It’s a great feeling to belong” (Artslink). More Information

Celestial Septet: Rova Sax Quartet + Nels Cline Singers

"The Celestial Septet is a vehicle for time and space travel through dense, narrow thickets and airy, wide expanses of boundary-blurred extrapolations of jazz, rock, late-20th-century European modernism and American minimalism, and 21st-century postmodern fusions," writes Derk Richardson in the liner notes of the Septet’s recent New World Records release. "The trip is challenging, but the open-minded listener/traveler cannot help but come through the experience with new perspectives on sound and music."
Since forming in 1977, the Berkley-based ROVA Saxophone Quartet has become an important leader of genre-bending music. The Penguin Guide to Jazz calls its music "a teeming cosmos of saxophone sounds" created by "deliberately eschewing conventional notions about swing [and] prodding at the boundaries of sound and space…" Inspired by a broad spectrum of musical influences – from Charles Ives, Edgard Varese and Olivier Messiaen, to John Coltrane, Steve Lacy and Sun Ra – Rova began, in 1978, writing new material, touring, and recording, including adventurous collaborations with guitarists Henry Kaiser and Fred Frith, saxophonist John Zorn, and Italian percussionist Andrea Centazzo. In 1985, the Rova Saxophone Quartet incorporated as the not-for-profit organization Rova:Arts. Founding member Andrew Voigt left Rova in August 1988 and was replaced by Steve Adams. Otherwise, the personnel (Larry Ochs, Jon Raskin and Bruce Ackley) is unchanged.
The Nels Cline Singers are a ten-year old, all instrumental trio featuring guitarist Nels Cline, Devin Hoff, bass and Scott Amendola, drums. Born in Los Angeles in 1956, Nels Cline is known for his improvisational work in a wide variety of musical projects, as well as his use of effects pedals and looping devices which give his music a distinct sound. David Carr describes Cline as "one of the best guitarists in any genre." He has played with Charlie Haden, Wadada Leo Smith, Vinny Golia and the late Eric Von Essen, and has also worked with Willie Nelson, Thurston Moore and the jazz/punk/improv band Banyan. He frequently performs with his twin brother, drummer Alex Cline. He is currently the lead guitarist of the alternative rock band, Wilco.

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22nd Annual Friends of the Fine Arts Center Gala & Auction

t’s the 22nd Annual Friends of the Fine Arts Center Gala & Auction! Join us on Saturday, February 5th from 7:00 to 11:30 PM at the Hotel Northampton for a night of music, dance, great food, and an auction to benefit the arts! Black tie or festive best.

Visit our online auction website to bid on a tremendous array of items. The auction is open from now until February 6th. All proceeds will benefit the FAC’s Arts in Education programs.

And check out the fabulous entertainment for the evening of the Gala on Saturday, February 5th at the Hotel Northampton.

Click here for info on sponsorships and auction donations. A commitment form is available here.

See you on February 5!

Timelines: Photographic Works by Sandra Matthews

p>These composite photographs are constructed from images made over intervals of hours, months or decades, hinting at the complex experience of time.

Sandra Matthews works in photographic collage, and engages – as a teacher, writer, curator and editor – with cultural issues raised by the practices of photography. She is Associate Professor of Film and Photography at Hampshire College and Editor of the online journal Trans-Asia Photography Review.
Matthews is co-author, with Laura Wexler, of Pregnant Pictures (Routledge, 2000). Her photographic work is represented in collections including the Fogg Art Museum (Harvard University), the Smith College Art Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), and the Women In Photography International Archive at Yale University.

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Waiting for Godot

Originally created by Classical Theater of Harlem, this Waiting for Godot takes place in the world of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. Two shabbily dressed African-American men become increasingly desperate for help as they wait on the roof of a dilapidated home surrounded by water in a flood of immense proportions. Directed by Christopher McElroen.

“Though hurricane relief was almost certainly not on Beckett’s agenda when he wrote the play, the recent history of New Orleans certainly comes to mind as Vladimir and Estragon stand atop their ruin and wait. This, though, is no parody; it’s a serious reading that is not afraid of the tale’s comedy, and the two actors carry it off admirably” (The New York Times). More Information