AHA! A House for Arts

S6 E11 | FULL EPISODE

AHA! | 611

See how mixed media visual artist Alisa Sikelianos-Carter transforms traditional Black hairstyles into new forms. Discover how Myers Ballet School is moving to a different beat during these challenging times. Don't miss singer/songwriter Jim Gaudet perform "Goin' Up To Saratoga,"

AIRED: September 02, 2020 | 0:26:46
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

(upbeat music)

- [Laura] An artist creates a mythology

centered on black resistance.

Dance instructor, Darlene Myers on keeping dance alive

and a performance from singer songwriter, Jim Gaudet.

It's all ahead on this episode of AHA.

- [Announcer] Funding for AHA, has been provided by

your contribution and by contributions

to the WMHT venture fund.

Contributors include Chet and Karen Opalka,

Robert and Doris Fischer Malesardi,

the Alexander and Marjorie Hover Foundation

and the Robison Family Foundation.

- At M&T Bank, we understand that

the vitality of our communities is crucial

to our continued success.

That's why we take an active role in our community.

M&T Bank is pleased to support WMHT programming

that highlights the arts and we invite you to do the same.

(upbeat music)

- Hi, I'm Laura Ayad

and this is AHA, A House for Arts,

a place for all things creative.

Alisa Sikelianos-Carter is a mixed media visual artist

from Albany, New York.

Her work transforms images of traditional black hairstyles

into new forms, creating a mythology

centered on black resistance.

(suspenseful music)

- It's very funny to see people's responses

because they are just, "What am I looking at?

Is that a body, is that an animal?"

Like, they just don't know

and so I really love like having this.

It's just very,

for lack of a better word, like trippy,

to see these like different

shapes of like pattern and scale with the hair,

'cause you don't know it's hair necessarily right away.

Black people's hair, braids, dreads, twists.

I cut those images out and I collage them into

what I see as like other worldly deities

or the gods, aliens, future folks.

And hair is such a loaded part of blackness

in that like, there's like a very long tradition

of black people, us decorating our hair

and being a part of like our family

traditions and histories,

but also people who are in the workplace or school

are asked to leave or you know, barred from being there

because of the styles that they're been wearing

because they're Afrocentric styles

or they have their hair in an Afro

and like their natural styles.

Coming from that idea,

I imagined us as black people sort of revolting in this way,

and our bodies responding and becoming

these hair-consumed beings.

(suspenseful music)

It's like a divine technology,

it's like other worldly and godly and like,

or like a sacred adaptation,

a way that we respond

that will protect us and keep us safe and empower us.

(gentle music)

I love fantasy and sci-fi and so, I love thinking about

like different timelines happening,

like worlds opening up.

I mean, all of that, like in reading and in television,

like I love TV (laughs),

so that, it's like really, it's very inspiring.

A very direct influence was like life experience, right?

So like, it came out of my own direct experience

of growing up and being a black person

and having the kind of hair that I do

and having things said to me, subtle microaggressions,

anti-black things that I would hear

about like hair, black culture.

And so I started to imagine these deities,

the future ancestors like coming in

and just sort of, just like swiping away the thing,

like getting rid of it.

(gentle music)

Listen and Behold, which is a story/telling

is the most recent painting, which you can kind of see

in the background right there, behind me.

That is, that's the most trame narrative based painting

that I made thus far, like large-scale painting

because it's sort of like, it's a creation myth.

It's like the deity, GodX in the center

with their hands out in a very like religious pose

and then they're flanked by these two,

what I call afronauts or angels

who had seated positions

and below that, there's this like this

and on the sides, there's like this twisting

and turning pattern, that could be like hair.

It could be, I mean, to me it represents like a life force

and growth and like the depth, I guess,

because there's like this deep blackness

that it's coming out of.

So that's, I'm just imagining that that figure

is sort of telling the story of how this all came to be.

Like, how did we get here?

To become these beings who now are like part

you know, flesh and also like hair and.

(gentle music)

With the larger paintings,

I feel like people are quite in awe.

Like, it's what I would hope,

like really just like taken aback by all this,

the power of the beings

and I want it to feel empowering,

but I also want you to see these beings and be like, "Whoa!

Like I am a human and these are like giants,

or something, you know?"

People have been really like (mumbles)

and it's been great to have people talking about it

and interacting with it.

(gentle music)

- The Myers studio has been a fixture

of the local dance scene since 1985,

offering young dancers, comprehensive training

throughout the Capital Region.

Let's talk with Founder and Director, Darlene Myers,

about how the company is moving to a different beat

during these challenging times.

Well, Darlene, it's a pleasure to have you.

- Thank you, Laura, for having me (giggles).

- Darlene, are you in your studio right now?

- I am.

- It's an incredible building (giggles).

- (giggles) Yeah, it is.

We're very lucky to be here.

Actually, Schenectady Light Opera Company owns the campus.

They're right next to us.

It's their theater building next to us

and we're in their building.

- Great.

Well, why don't you,

actually, let's backtrack a little bit,

because I'd love to know when you knew

you wanted to become a dancer

and to also tell me a little bit about,

you know, what kinds of productions and choreographies

you've done over the past 35 years.

- I don't know if we have enough time for that, Laura,

but (laughs) I can chance it a little bit.

I am from Florida, originally.

I think I really became a dancer

because I was a normal child.

I grew up around here and I grew up in the country.

So, I really didn't have a lot to do.

It's sort of reminiscent at this time for it actually,

for different reasons.

And my parents sent me to ballet school,

although it wasn't really a ballet school,

it was more of a dance school.

We did a lot of different kinds of things,

you know, dance (indistinct).

And when I was growing up,

I didn't really have a lot of friends

because we were in the country.

So, we thought that I would be socialized,

by going to a dance school.

Well, one doesn't really realize that you don't talk

when you're in class (giggles), you dance.

So, as time went on, I got better

and then I went to a more serious school

and then I got older and I got a scholarship

at School of American Ballet and one thing led to another

and I became a professional dancer, with Pennsylvania Ballet

and I really didn't like the lifestyle,

although it was my dream, since I was a young child

that was rather, a disappointment for me in some ways,

because I loved the art form,

but I didn't like the lifestyle,

because we were on tour, everyday.

So one night stands really, from all over the country.

Although I did get to dance a lot of wonderful ballets

with George Balanchine, all of his works.

And it was a wonderful, wonderful background for me,

but I came home after that,

taught at Union college for 10 years.

I loved that, it was wonderful for me.

And also at the State University at Albany.

I missed teaching young children,

'cause I guess always when I was growing up,

I was a student teacher or so.

So, I started my school

and since then it has grown

and in 1990, Gloria Lamere,

who was at that time, hired CEO of Proctors,

asked me if I wanted to start a company, for Proctors

and the rest, sort of is history (giggles)

because out of the school, the company came,

Northeast Ballet Company.

So, now I'm the director of Northeast Ballet company

and we do Nutcracker at Proctor's, every year

and we've done that for 30 years,

except not this season (giggles).

- Yeah, this is absolutely a different year

for a lot of people in the arts,

but I kinda wanted to know,

you talked about missing teaching young people

and talked about the arts center.

I'm kind of curious to know

who are the people that you teach

at the Myers Dance Center and what kinds of programs

has the center done in the past?

You talked about the Nutcracker.

Are there any other ones that the center has done

in the recent past?

- Yes, we were in the middle of doing

the Festival for Young Artists,

for SPAC, when we shut down.

And this was their third year,

which is a very exciting program

because it's with everything,

an arranged orchestra and the chorale

and it's just an amazing program.

Elizabeth Sobol's done an amazing job putting this together.

And we were in rehearsal for that and for the company.

We had just started and boom, that was it.

That was the end of it.

And so, we didn't get to do that either.

Although we did do it virtually for them

on their website now,

but that was one of the things

outside of Nutcracker that we do.

- I'm curious to know now that the pandemic has hit

and it's really changed the way that the Myers Center

can do things, can you share a little bit about

what sorts of challenges the Myers Dance Center

has faced recently and also to how have students

responded to different types of changes

in the programs and classes?

- We get, as dancers, very married, if you will,

to our mirrors (giggles), that we have in our studios,

which is a good thing and a bad thing.

In this environment now, of course at home,

when we're doing zoom classes,

which we have offered on and of, for the students,

they don't have that.

So they, when they're learning at home from,

you know, from their little tiny laptop,

or sometimes even their phone,

when we do some classes,

they have to find their own center

and their own self, which has been good,

very good for some of them,

but also very challenging for others.

So, that has been interesting for our teachers also.

And some children have really flourished

in ways that they wouldn't, I don't think, in the studio

because it's been very individual, for some children.

It's been on wide variety of experiences,

I would say, during this time period.

- Yeah.

Yeah, it sounds like

this sort of shift to virtual classes,

if I understand you correctly, Darlene,

has both, you know, sort of made challenges

for some students,

but also opened up opportunities for others.

And you get to know about the very pedagogy of dance

through such a shift like that.

- Absolutely, absolutely

and I think even though the students

can see other students in class, in a virtual class,

they have to concentrate more on themselves

and they have to find their own balance because they really

can't compare themselves to other dancers.

They really have to find for themselves.

And I think that's been very good for them,

in their, for themselves.

And also, a different way of looking at themselves

through ballet, which they wouldn't have had in the studio.

And we wouldn't have had the time to really

talk them through something.

And also some dancers like to follow other dancers,

if they don't get the combination.

Well, they don't have that opportunity (chuckles).

So, it's made them think with their mind,

which has been good. - Right

What do you think dance can really give to people

right now, that maybe they can't get otherwise?

- The children and the students that I've been serving

and my staff been serving virtually, has been,

I think a sanctuary, for them.

They had to set that hour aside or those two hours a week.

They've had to clean up their bedroom or their kitchen.

And they've had to make sure the cat or the dog

or the parent or whatever, or their siblings are not there

for that time period.

So it's been like, a meditation, for them.

- It sounds like they're carving out

kind of a space for themselves in the day

and then they have space

for something that's really expressive and really creative.

- I think that's helped them get through this

- Yeah (mumbles)

- And maybe the parents too (laughs).

- Yeah, absolutely.

You know, I'm kind of thinking about the future of dance,

especially in what something people call

the post-pandemic world

and I'm wondering in your view, Darlene,

what should the goal of dance instructors

and dance institutions be for the next five years,

or even perhaps maybe the next 10 years?

- I've had many discussions with my peers

from Boston Ballet and also Miami City Ballet and NYCB.

We've had a lot of discussions about this

and none of us really have any solid design here.

One of my students actually,

went to the summer program at Tisch

and she's only a junior in high school.

And she was sort of saying, "Well, we don't really know

where we're going, but we have to go."

And that's kind of what everyone is saying.

I don't really feel virtual is the only way to go.

I think that we all need to be in the studio to some degree.

I think that's important, for many, many reasons,

which is why we are offering

some in studio classes, although limited

for only 10 people,

but I think for dance, it will open different avenues

that we would never have thought about,

because of the necessity, you know?

- The necessity of having to do that

and working in different ways and doing dance outside,

where we wouldn't have done it

because we didn't need to, but now we do need to,

even in, you know, colder weather and so on.

So, I think it will bring more creativity to us.

- Thank you so much for taking time out,

to speak with me on A House for Arts.

It's been a pleasure speaking with you.

- Oh, pleasure's been mine, thank you (giggles)

- Please welcome singer, songwriter, Jim Gaudet.

- Very happy to be here tonight

and I have few songs to play for you

and I'm gonna start off with a tune,

to tell you a story of a father and his 10 year old daughter

who were on the run from the authorities

and during the chase the father is forced

to reveal his past.

(upbeat guitar music)

♪ Hold on, hold on tight ♪

♪ Do not make a sound ♪

♪ Revenuers are on our trail ♪

♪ They're trying to wear us down ♪

♪ Take my hand, hold your breath ♪

♪ Keep your face down in your coat ♪

♪ 'Cause if they catch up this time ♪

♪ You have to make it out on your own ♪

♪ 'Cause then I thank God for this pouring rain ♪

♪ Now the dogs have lost our scent ♪

♪ And all I got, one shot gun ♪

♪ And all the four shells spent ♪

(upbeat guitar music)

♪ I'm sorry for things I've done ♪

♪ And all I put you through ♪

♪ I've always tried to keep the truth ♪

♪ Hidden away from you ♪

♪ I had you believing that I worked down in the mines ♪

♪ But I've been running, through Lake Whiskey ♪

♪ across the County line ♪

♪ I said I thank God for his pouring rain ♪

♪ Now the dogs have lost our scent ♪

♪ And all I got, one shot gun ♪

♪ And all the four shells spent ♪

(upbeat guitar music)

♪ I think it's best we separate ♪

♪ So that you may survive ♪

♪ 'Cause I know that if they find me ♪

♪ They won't be taking me alive ♪

♪ When you got your mother's number ♪

♪ Way back in Tennessee ♪

♪ I hope you know, she loves you so ♪

♪ She left on the counter mail ♪

♪ 'Cause then I thank God for this pouring rain ♪

♪ Now the dogs have lost our scent ♪

♪ And all I got, one shot gun ♪

♪ And all the four shells spent ♪

(upbeat guitar music)

♪ Now it breaks my heart ♪

♪ To see the fear, in your eyes that shine so blue ♪

♪ Leaving you is the hardest thing ♪

♪ I will ever have to do ♪

♪ Believe me that I love you ♪

♪ With every breath I take ♪

♪ And I hope you'll be safe ♪

♪ Once you make it to the lake ♪

♪ And I thank God for this pouring rain ♪

♪ Now the dogs have lost our scent ♪

♪ And all I got, one shot gun ♪

♪ And all the four shells spent ♪

♪ Yes, all I've got, one shot gun ♪

♪ And all the four shells spent ♪

(upbeat guitar music)

This next one I'd like to do for you is a tune

that originally started out,

it was written for a friend who loved to play the horses

and he had a specific obsession, I guess, you might call it

with the horse secretariat, the Triple Crown winner.

And that's the way the song started out,

but it certainly took a turn as in,

and most songs do, songwriters know this well.

It's called Goin' up to Saratoga.

I'd also like to add, there's a reference to Oklahoma,

it's not the state,

it's actually the track, the practice track at Saratoga.

(gentle guitar music)

♪ I'm goin' up Saratoga ♪

♪ Watch some ponies run ♪

♪ I'm goin' up Saratoga to watch some ponies run ♪

♪ I'm gonna win the Daily Double ♪

♪ Get on down to Siro's having some fun ♪

♪ Stole my heart in Oklahoma ♪

♪ Ran off the Hudson fall, yeah ♪

♪ Stole my heart in Oklahoma ♪

♪ And then ran off the Hudson fall ♪

♪ Stolen my heart ♪

♪ Saying old friend, drink it off ♪

♪ You know I never saw it coming ♪

♪ She broke me the news ♪

♪ You know I never saw it coming ♪

♪ When she broke me the news ♪

♪ She made me feel like I was nothing ♪

♪ But I'll be something she'll be sorry to lose ♪

♪ (Gentle guitar music) ♪

♪ Kinda hard to believe ♪

♪ That I went and let her into my life ♪

♪ I can hardly believe that ♪

♪ I went and let her into my life ♪

♪ Well I had every intention of making her ♪

♪ My future ex-wife ♪

♪ Yeah, I thought this time baby ♪

♪ You were really gonna be the one ♪

♪ I thought this time baby ♪

♪ You were really gonna be the one ♪

♪ I know that you somebody's daughter ♪

♪ But to me, you're a son of a gun ♪

(gentle guitar music)

♪ She was born in a tropical storm ♪

♪ That's how they got her name ♪

♪ She was born in a tropical storm ♪

♪ That's how they got her name ♪

♪ When she quit me, you know it hit me ♪

♪ Like a hurricane ♪

♪ So I'm goin' up Saratoga ♪

♪ Watch them ponies run ♪

♪ I'm going up Saratoga ♪

♪ Just to watch them ponies run ♪

♪ I might call my brother Johnnie ♪

♪ Get on downtown while having some fun ♪

♪ Yodel-Ay-Hee-Hoo ♪

♪ Yodel-Ay-Hee-Hoo ♪

♪ Yodel-Ay-Hee ♪

(upbeat music)

- Thanks for joining us.

For more arts visit wmht.org/aha.

And be sure to connect with WMHT on social.

I'm Laura Ayad, thanks for watching.

(upbeat outro)

(gentle outro)

- [Announcer] Funding for AHA has been provided

by your contribution and by contributions

to the WMHT venture fund.

Contributors include Chet and Karen Opalka,

Robert and Doris Fischer Malesardi,

the Alexander and Marjorie Hover Foundation

and the Robison Family Foundation

- At M&T Bank, we understand that the vitality

of our communities is crucial to our continued success.

That's why we take an active role in our community.

M&T Bank is pleased to support WMHT programming

that highlights the arts, and we invite you to do the same.

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