The Hop, as it is known, is more than a collection of performance venues; it plays an active role in developing art and artists.
By Susan B. Apel
Those who live in New England who are serious about the performing arts need to keep an eye on the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College in Hanover NH. The Hop, as it is known, is more than a collection of performance venues; it plays an active role in developing art and artists. It routinely commissions a variety of works, alone or with others, including such large and celebrated institutions as Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and the Mellon Foundation. It also provides artists with workshop and residency opportunities that are crucial in originating and developing new works.
The official 2017-18 season at the Hopkins Center is about to begin in mid-September, and it is filled with a number of “firsts” commissioned by the Center. Here are four premieres that showcase the breadth of the season’s offerings:
Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion: Dearest Home. Abraham is a MacArthur “genius” choreographer who is turning his attention from exploring political issues to examining “love, longing, and loss” in his latest work. Abraham workshopped Dearest Home at the Hopkins Center last year, garnering reactions from various communities at and outside of the Dartmouth campus. Originally designed for and performed in a theater-in-the-round, this new proscenium version was commissioned by the Hopkins Center and will debut there with performances on September 21 and 22, 2017.
Roomful of Teeth with Tigran Hamasyan, Piano. These Grammy-winning vocalists, who specialize in performing culture-spanning music, share the stage with Hamasyan, whom critics have described as “one of the most distinctive next-gen jazz pianists.” The January 9, 2018 performance will mark the New Hampshire debut of Roomful of Teeth as well as the world premiere of a piece (co-commissioned by the Hop) from Hamasyan.
On March 30 and 31, 2018, a Hop co-commissioned dance piece, Gisele, arrives. South African choreographer Dada Masilo’s gender-fluid Swan Lake was performed at the Hop in 2016. This season, Masilo will dance the lead in a re-imagined version of a romantic ballet classic. “Using classical ballet and African dance is tricky,” Masilo said of her work to Business Feminin. “African dance is fixed to the ground while ballet is quite graceful. It took me a lot of time to find the point where they meet.” This will be the American debut of Masilo’s Gisele.
The renowned Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble brings its tradition-bending work back to the Hopkins Center. The Ensemble’s performance on April 5, 2018 will include a world premiere of a piece by Jia Daqun, a leading classical composer from China. Ma and the Silk Road performed another piece by this composer a number of years ago. Ma and the Ensemble chose Jia Daqun for this Hop-commissioned work.
Margaret Lawrence, Director of Programming at the Hopkins Center, is a 23-year veteran. She believes it is imperative for campus-based performing arts centers to take an active role in the development of the arts, in part because, unlike many other countries, the United States offers so little government funding of the arts. In addition, supporting the arts furthers the Hop’s educational mission. Artists who refine their work in workshops are often involved in residencies at the school; they interact with students and the public by giving master classes as well as inviting input at viewings of works-in-progress. According to Lawrence, audiences at these events have an opportunity to see the process that leads to the final polished performance—they observe art as it is being conceived and constructed.
What do commissions, residencies, and workshops mean to the artists involved? Choreographer Kyle Abraham is particularly thankful for what the Hopkins Center workshops have given him. Aside from the obvious benefits of financial support, Abraham appreciates the generous invitation to use, for days, the Hop’s facilities; in particular, he recalls the staff’s herculean efforts to track down a flock of old and working typewriters for an exercise in writing love letters. His workshop gave him much needed, uninterrupted time outside of his customary (and highly pressurized) urban environments. Moreover, receiving a commission helps build momentum for the piece. Dearest Home is already booked in several US cities prior to a scheduled European tour
Dozens of other performers from all corners of the globe are on the Hopkins Center program for the coming season. For further information about memberships and individual tickets, see the Hopkins Center website.
Susan B. Apel is a writer and law professor whose creative nonfiction and poetry has appeared in Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Best of Vine Leaves 2015, Rhizomes, The Vignette Review, Woven Tale Press, Bloodroot, and the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review. Her blog, ArtfulEdge, in which she writes about arts in the Upper Connecticut River Valley, appears regularly on the dailyUV.com. She is also a contributor to the newspaper, Vermont Woman. She lives in Lebanon, NH.