Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy everything you love about the performing arts. Thanks to George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, Northern Virginians can enjoy livestreams of guest artists performing music; releases of previously recorded content; showcases of work done by alumni, students and faculty; and other interactive activities from across the college.
The program, called Mason Arts at Home, kicked off on April 2 in conjunction with Mason’s fourth annual Giving Day, featuring jazz musician Maria Schneider. And, on April 4, Bumper Jacksons performed a concert via Facebook Live.
Coming up on the calendar: Celebration of Green Machine on Thursday, April 9 at 1 p.m., featuring music from the university’s pep band; (Re)LiveArts Streaming on Thursday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m., which features a performance by New York Live Arts; and the Okee Dokee Brothers: Adventure Movies on Friday, April 10 at 10 a.m., featuring a concert by the Okee Dokee Brothers band.
From entertaining musicals at NextStop Theatre Company to comedic debuts on the Wolf Trap stage, there’s no question that performing arts are a staple of the Northern Virginia Region. And while many of the individuals who step out in front of hundreds of people to showcase their talent are seasoned professionals, NoVA is also home to those practicing and perfecting their craft on a regular basis.
“What we generally do is bring in some of the best choreographers we can find internationally and they stage the work for our performers,” says Susan Shields, director of GMU’s School of Dance and an accomplished choreographer with decades of experience. “The fact that we are able to even dance these works is such a big coup and it’s really what put GMU on the map.”
This year, students will be performing work from esteemed individuals of the dance field, including American choreographer Kyle Abraham and Tony-nominated dancer (and professor at GMU) Christopher d’Amboise. In addition to student showcases, the evening celebration also serves as a fundraiser for the school, raising money for student scholarships of the future, where community members can meet the dancers and School of Dance staff while enjoying hors d’oeuvres, dessert and wine.
Before the talented dancers of GMU take the stage next month, we chatted with Shields to get the inside scoop on what to expect, what it takes to be selected for the showcase and why it matters to the NoVA community. Find highlights from our conversation below.
Give me some details into what we can expect from this year’s showcase.
George Mason and School of Dance don’t always sound the sexiest together, but really we have one of the strongest dance schools in the country. This is our biggie, we call it the gala.
This year, students will be performing work from 25-year-old Micaela Taylor, who kind of bridges the gap between commercial dance and concert dance, which is a viable career option for these students. She navigates both worlds, and the kids are so excited to dance her work. She created a piece for the students and is going to flush it out for her own company. It’s this mesmerizing, six-minute thing. Plus, for the first time, Fairfax Symphony Orchestra will be performing with a few of the dances. It’s all going to be stunning.
You help select the choreographers of the Mason Dance Company Gala Concerts. What is that process like?
One, as the director, part of my job is to get my own community to fall in love with dance. Some people here are scared of dance and really don’t know much about it. Over and over again, any time someone lets me bring them in they are hooked, but it takes someone to make that initial move and tell them it’s great. I think , ‘OK, Fairfax County audience, I want to challenge them, but make them feel welcome and help them understand.’
I also do look at the dancers before me and because we are still an educational institution, if the men need more partnering or the women need something edgier, we pick that for the concert and it partners with the curriculum. I look at networking, how it would benefit my students. But that being said, the artist comes in and chooses the dancers—it’s not on me, they are treated like the real world. Not everybody gets a trophy. They know the game.
What impact does this event have on the students?
Honestly I don’t like calling them students, I truly call them pre-professionals. This event is why they come to Mason, they get to meet the choreographers and get firsthand experience unlike any other. One of the gentlemen who is going to be in Kyle Abraham’s piece, for example, is on scholarship here and has been on Kyle’s radar for years. Now Kyle is going to watch this student perform his own work … talk about an audition of a lifetime.
For the students to get this exposure and networking is great in and of itself, but also just dancing in master works—you can do as much student work as you want, but these works that we choose are so relevant to what’s going on in the current dance climate, and to dance a 25-minute piece, it’s just the best way to learn and improve as a dancer. This is their chance to be a poet athlete.
What is your favorite part of the Dance Fete?
With the party, we get to explain everything to the attendees, and I love that the community gets excited about dance. The community trusts us to know that they are going to see a great show. But the most important thing is, I tend to be astonished by what our students can do. To see them perform this work on the stage, I am a proud mama.
If you want to check out the annual affair for yourself, or are interested in sponsoring, click here.
Electric scooter company Spin has deployed a fleet of e-scooters on the George Mason University campus in Fairfax, Virginia.
GMU has been working with the city of Fairfax, and several vendors, and chose Spin to launch the partnership. Fairfax City has been working with Spin, as well as Lime and Bird, since last summer on a pilot scooter program.
GMU has installed scooter corrals across the campus for scooter parking. And they are geofenced via GPS, meaning they cannot leave campus and automatically power down when they cross an invisible boundary around the university.
Sidewalks are restricted from scooters on campus.
“Trying to make the sidewalks as safe as possible, especially with construction going on in many areas, has been a priority throughout the process,” said Josh Cantor, director of parking and transportation at GMU.
Students who dutifully park their scooter in a coral when they’re done with get a 25 cent discount off their next ride.
The Spin scooters on the GMU campus cost $1 to unlock, and 24 cents per minute to ride.
“We’ve seen so much potential in the region since deploying scooters in Fairfax city last summer and are excited to work alongside the George Mason University community to provide students with an accessible, affordable and sustainable means of traveling around campus,” said Josh Bear, Spin’s general manager for the D.C. region.
Spin employees are on campus this week offering safety demonstrations.
Spin covers 100% of equipment, marketing and operational costs through its partnership with GMU and other college campuses where it has deployed scooters.
GMU students can get a discount on their first ride with the promo code THEPATRIOT.
First Camille Paglia’s university stands up to students on her behalf, now this. Since when do universities resist the whims of the woke brigades?
If you find it gross that college students would support blackballing someone on the basis of a bare allegation, remember that that’s how students themselves are treated on campus under Title IX. Guilty until proven innocent is academia’s version of due process when it comes to sexual misconduct. If you can destroy a young adult’s future on someone’s say-so in the name of zero tolerance for rape, surely you can deny a Supreme Court justice his summer side hustle for the same reason.
Here’s HuffPost reporting on a campus town hall held on Tuesday night by the university’s president and other officials to let students vent about their decision to hire Kavanaugh for a part-time teaching gig. Students won’t even have to interact with him on campus: His summer class will be taught in England during July and August, when the Court — and school — aren’t in session. Even so, 10,000 people have signed a petition cancel his gig. The crowd on Tuesday night was aghast that administrators seemingly didn’t share their disgust that GMU was about to employ someone accused of something terrible:
Provost S. David Wu said it was the law school’s choice to hire Kavanaugh, and he saw “no reason for university administrators to override” their decision. Cabrera agreed, emphasizing the need to protect the law school’s ability to hire who it wants. Alison Price, senior associate dean of GMU’s Antonin Scalia School of Law, said she would ensure going forward that faculty would thoughtfully consider a hire’s “implications to all students.”
Students were somewhere between baffled and outraged that none of their school’s leaders saw a problem with giving Kavanaugh a job.
“In hiring Kavanaugh, to what extent did you consider the mental health of the survivors on campus and how that might affect them and their education?” asked one male student, as the room filled with the sound of students snapping their fingers in support…
HuffPost asked Cabrera after the event if he saw any possibility of revisiting the school’s contract with Kavanaugh if students continue to protest and say his association with the school feels inappropriate or makes them revisit their own sexual trauma.
“No,” he said. “It’s done.”
One student asked the six administrators on the panel who have kids to raise their hands if they’d feel comfortable having someone accused of sexual assault around them. Only two did. Which was clever because of course there *are* cases where you’d want to usher someone away from children even though they haven’t been convicted of a crime. No one wants Harvey Weinstein as a guest lecturer on gender studies. No one wants O.J. coaching the women’s swimming team.
Actually, O.J. has been convicted of a crime, hasn’t he? Well, you know which crime I mean. That other one.
What they could have said, though, (and probably wanted to say) was that it depends on how credible the accusation is. If the accuser can’t remember where the attack happened; can’t remember when; can’t remember who was at the party where it allegedly occurred; didn’t tell a soul for decades; made her accusation in the context of a politically turbo-charged confirmation fight; and was contradicted by character testimonials from dozens of women who know the accused, then yes, perhaps you’re okay with your kids around that person. Another way they could have answered is this: If Christine Ford had decided not to testify but Michael Avenatti had brought Julie Swetnick forward to make her claim about Kavanaugh and gang rape, would that have sufficed to drive him away? How bare does a bare allegation of sexual assault need to be to justify blackballing?
But the administrators couldn’t say that. To imply that they didn’t believe Ford would have invited disingenuous attacks that they don’t think accusers should ever be believed. Then their political problem would have been worse.
I understand why GMU chieftains want Kavanaugh there. This is the university that renamed its law school after Antonin Scalia, a decision that came with big money attached. How big? When they announced the name change, they also announced that they had received $30 million in gifts, of which $10 million came from the Charles Koch Foundation and the other $20 million came from an anonymous donor who had approached Scalia’s friend Leonard Leo about it. (Leo is now Trump’s right-hand man on judicial appointments, a key player in getting Kavanaugh on the Court.) A few months ago the school announced a new donation of $50 million(!) from the Rouse family, admirers of Scalia. To have pulled the rug out from under Kavanaugh now under left-wing pressure would have jeopardized GMU’s lucrative relationship with the conservative legal world. I think long-term they’re hoping not just to rake in the dough but to build a strong enough brand in the conservative imagination that they become a top pick for talented young right-leaning lawyers — basically the Federalist Society JV team.
Why Kavanaugh wants this gig is less clear to me, though. Remember that he quit his job at Harvard after students and alumni there freaked out about having him back on campus after the Ford saga. Although his lecture series in England won’t attract as much aggravation from protesters as it would if it were held here in the U.S., it’ll surely attract some. Why subject himself to that?