POUGHKEEPSIE, NY— A series of dance works informed by the culture and music of Africa, The Griot Dance, choreographed by Stephen Rooks, chair of the Vassar Department of Dance, will be performed on Friday, April 16, at Vassar College. Free and open to the public, the performance will begin at 8:00 pm in The Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater in Kenyon Hall. Reservations are requested for general seating on a first-come, first-served basis. For reservations, please email email@example.com.
Named for the Western African term for “storyteller,” The Griot Dance is based on choreographer Rooks’ experiences in and of Africa. Presented in two parts, the program will begin with three shorter works: a solo excerpt from the piece Soweto (1993), the ensemble piece Exile Searching for Water (1997), and the trio Rwandan Cry: Jackie’s Dance (2008), a piece based on the true story of one of Rook’s students, a former Rwandan prisoner, whose life was spared because she danced for her captors. The second part of the program will feature Rooks’ latest work, a multimedia piece entitled Notes from Zambia, based on his life-changing 2008 humanitarian trip to Lusaka, Zambia, as a volunteer.
The pieces are set to a full spectrum of music, including works by former Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart; contemporary African singer-songwriters Coco Mbassi, Oumou Sangare, and Youssou N’Dour; and a modern minimalist orchestral work by Howard Kilik, Vassar adjunct artist, composer, and accompanist. Featured dancers include Kathy Wildberger, Vassar lecturer in dance and drama and assistant director of the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre, as well as members of the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre, members of the Ad Deum Dance Company of Houston, Texas, and dancers from the Alvin Ailey School in New York.
Rooks said that The Griot Dance represents “a celebration of that great continent and my experiences there” and he hopes that the audience will have an experience “more celebratory than cerebral, and more inspirational than intellectual.”
About Stephen Rooks
Steve Rooks began his dance training in Washington, D.C., with Jan Van Dyke and Greg Reynolds, after graduating with honors from Dartmouth College. He continued his training in New York City as a scholarship student at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. Rooks has danced and toured with the Greg Reynolds Dance Quintet, the Mary Anthony Dance Theater, Peter Sparling, Dancer’s Eye, and the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, where he performed classic works by Ailey, Donald McKayle, Talley Beatty, and Ulysses Dove. He joined the Martha Graham Dance Company in the summer of 1981, and was a principal dancer with the company until 1991.
Rooks was the recipient of a Vassar Research Grant for an artist residency in Riga, Latvia, in May 2002, and a 2004 winner of the Sixth Annual National Choreographic Competition sponsored by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Two created solos, Sanctus and Sonata D’alta Gracia, were performed during the 2004 Youth America Grand Prix Ballet Competition. Rooks has performed The Skull and Bones Club with Kathy Wildberger at the 2006 Cool Dance Festival in New York, and danced in a presentation of From the Horse’s Mouth with the Graham Company during their 2007 New York season at the Joyce Theater.
Rooks is a professor of dance, resident choreographer, and chair of the Department of Dance at Vassar College. He is also a guest instructor at the Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham Schools of Dance. He has taught internationally at several dance festivals, as well as for the Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Ballet Nacional de Mexico, The American Academy of Ballet, the Houston Ballet, and the International Summer School in Sydney, Australia.
Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations at Vassar should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.