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Date: Mar 16, 2012
Faculty Member Adds Acclaimed Production to His Credits
Arthur Solari's Musical Direction of "Angel Reapers" Gets Raves from NY CriticsHofstra University, Hempstead, NY … November-December 2011, theater and dance critics were very generous with their praise for a production titled Angel Reapers which had an extended run at New York City’s prestigious Joyce Theater. Along with rave reviews for dance legend Martha Clarke’s choreography and Pulitzer Prize-winner Alfred Uhry’s text, Arthur Solari, Music Director of the Hofstra Dance Program, received accolades for his musical direction of this very innovative and provoking program.
This production is not Solari’s first collaboration with Martha Clarke, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship recipient who is widely considered one of America’s most important choreographers. Solari first met Clarke when she was a visiting professor here at Hofstra in the spring of 2007 and provided musical accompaniment to a work she choreographed for a student dance concert. They have since worked together on a number of productions, including an off-Broadway revival of The Garden of Earthly Delights in 2008-2009.
Angel Reapers is a song and dance piece inspired by the life of Ann Lee, founder of the mysterious Shakers movement of the 18th century, which was known for worshipping through song, ecstatic dancing (or shaking), gender and racial equality, and a commitment to celibacy. All men and women were equals in this religious order, but had to relate to one another as brothers and sisters.
Solari researched the songs and movements of the Shakers for about a year in preparation for Angel Reapers. His research focused on the meaning of songs to the Shaker community – and the specific songs they sang while working and worshipping. Solari says they believed their songs and dances were sent to them by God to be handed down from generation to generation. Music and movement were also a great form of release for the followers – release of emotional and sexual tension.
Theatergoers and critics have responded very enthusiastically to Angel Reapers. Solari said, “Audiences were drawn to the darkness in this society. But while the Shakers were completely repressed, they were also compassionate in the way they viewed equality among members. They took a lot of troubled people into their community – runaway slaves, Native Americans, orphans, battered women, couples who were having difficulties in their marriage.”
Another interesting aspect to Angel Reapers is that the nine dancers and two actors in the show had never sung professionally before. Solari says, “We were focused on the rhythmic movement and vocabulary of the performers. We needed experienced and mature dancers and strong actors to bring the story to life. That was more important to us than the level of musical training these performers had when we were casting the show.”
Prior to the run at the Joyce Theater, Angel Reapers opened at Emerson College’s Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston. The production is represented by Columbia Artist Management Inc., (CAMI) and Solari looks forward to mounting more performances in the future.