The Project will be revealed in Lasell Dance Studio at 8 p.m. on the night of Tuesday Dec. 11. A unique and exciting blend of traditional and original drumming, spoken word poetry and dance, the Project is the culmination of a semester-long collaboration between seniors Jason Lucas ’02 and Ben Sands ’02.
The performance of The Project is the result of an independent study that the two proposed to the Williams College Dance Program at the beginning of this school year. They wanted to immerse themselves in, as they put it, the “Retention and Evolution of West and Central African musical tradition in the Caribbean.” The performance is billed as a display of music, dance, and folklore from Cuba, Brazil, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, India, theCongo and the Bahamas.
Over the course of the semester, the two musicians have been learning the intricacies of these musical traditions. Lucas and Sands not only learned about and prepared the traditional rhythms for performance, but also combined sounds and rhythms from different parts of the Caribbean into five original compositions that are a synthesis of traditional sounds and contemporary reinterpretations. Layered on top of the music will be a visual element provided by dancers or slides.
The fusion of aural and visual elements is what make this show so innovative. In one piece, for example, Lucas and Sands perform a traditional West African rhythm while Medha Kirtane ’00 interprets the music with Indian Dance. These separate cultural elements will combine onstage for a unique experience. Lucas and Sands will not be performing alone. On some pieces, they will be accompanied by drummers Rob Michelin ’03, Andy Chiu ’00 and Aaron Jenkins ’03. Two of the works are collaborations between the drummers and choreographer, Billie Green ’03, who will be arranging dancers for the performance. All these elements contribute to the constant re-imagining and re-contextualization of the traditional Caribbean sound.
One of Lucas and Sands’ main goals is to make the show as energetic as possible through bringing their composed pieces to life onstage, using improvisation while staying with in the boundaries of the overarching rhythms they have constructed. According to Lucas, “Although a rhythm may sound simple, it is very mathematical. An improv-er needs to have a mathematical understanding.”
The roots of The Project can be traced to the extensive percussion training of both performers. Lucas has been playing since he was three years old and has performed marching band percussion, jazz traps and gospel. Recently, he has played with Owen Zero and joined Sands in Kusika. In the summer of 1999, Lucas won a Citibank Group Arts Internship to do an eight week summer residency with Ghanaian Master Drummer Obo Addy. The following summer, in 2000, the Williams College Dance Program sent Sands on the same program with Addy. Both Sands and Lucas stress the important influences of this residency to their current work.
This summer, 2001, Sands also won a Citibank Group Arts Internship and used it to travel to Arizona for a residency with Chris Masango, a drummer trained in the Zimbabwean tradition. When Sands returned, at the beginning of this fall term, he and Jason proposed this independent study to the Dance Program.
The sponsors for the project are Sandra Burton, assistant professor of dance, Ernest Brown, professor of music, and Kwae Yao Agypon. Agypon is the College’s resident composer and works with the Williams Dance Program. Sands and Lucas said that they are indebted to him for teaching them the traditional rhythms and for helping them all along the process. As a follow-up to the Project, both Sands and Lucas will be traveling with the Williams College Music Department to Cuba during Winter Study, where they will continue to study the art of percussion.