Center for World Performance Studies 2023-2024 Year in Review

Dear students, faculty, alumni and friends,

In this newsletter, we take the opportunity to look back on the past year's programming, which brought a range of talented artists to our campus and wider communities. Our CWPS graduate and faculty fellows have been active across continents, carrying out summer research in various countries including Indonesia, Brazil, Tanzania, South Africa, China, and Argentina.

The Residential College has been our administrative base for the last eight years, providing essential support that has enabled us to offer a varied range of programming, from performances and academic research, to residencies and maintaining our graduate certificate and faculty research fellowship programs.

We're now preparing to enter a new phase in partnership with the School of Music, Theatre & Dance starting in July, which we believe will allow us to expand our programming. We are grateful to the Residential College for their past support and look forward to making the most of the opportunities our new partnership will present.

Keep an eye out for updates to our website and for details on our upcoming 2024/25 residencies, lectures, and co-sponsorships.

Michael Gould, Director

CWPS Mission

The Center for World Performance Studies seeks to create intellectual and physical space for the study of performance. Our aim is to advocate for performance as a mode of research and as a means of public engagement, centering on underrepresented, non-Western, and diasporic voices, bodies, and acts. We connect—both locally and globally—students, faculty, artists, thinkers, and scholars in order to educate each other about Performance Studies and to promote interdisciplinary and intersectional insights and research methodologies.

Pamela Z & The Living Earth Show Residency

In fall 2023, pioneering composer/performer Pamela Z and experimental chamber duo The Living Earth Show (Andy Meyerson & Travis Andrews) joined on campus for a week-long residency, continuing to develop their new work This Impossible Building, visit classes, and perform.


CWPS graduate certificate students visiting with Andy Meyerson and Pamela Z as they discuss process, collaboration, and values.


Travis Andrews, Andy Meyerson, and Pamela Z talking with Professor Erik Santos' Electronic Music composition students.

Pamela Z photo (pictured right) by Austin Richey.

Watch a full recap of the residency, including interviews from the artists:

Gina Chávez

Gina Chavez alongside SMTD alum David Ward on drums.

In collaboration with the Ark, CWPS hosted 2020 Grammy nominee for Best Pop/Rock Album, Gina Chávez. Chávez performed and held an intimate conversation with the audience on topics ranging from performance practices and songwriting, to touring, representation, and family.

Masimba Hwati Residency

CWPS 2018 Graduate Fellow and Zimbabwean artist, Masimba Hwati, spent over a week building an installation and talking with graduate students at our annual Fellows Luncheon.

The project Nyami Nyami: Water Never Lies is a continued exploration in collaboration with Professor Michael Gould into how climate change and man made intervention has affected the Tonga people who live on or near the Zambezi river. It considers the story of Nyami Nyami, known as the Zambezi River God or Zambezi snake spirit while putting this in context with the broader impact and complexity associated with the Anthropocene.


Guest alumni speaker Masimba Hwati at the annual Fellows Luncheon

TeMaTe Institute for Black Dance & Culture

In October 2023, students from across the university attended classes throughout TeMaTe's two-day Conference in Detroit. CWPS co-sponsored the conference and provided transportation, covered class fees, and performance tickets.


TeMaTe Institute's Saturday evening performance with guest performers Muntu Dance Theatre and Sophiyah E


In partnership with the U-M Festival of Asian Music, the Center for World Performance Studies hosted a day of Kathakali events including a lecture/demonstration and performance in full make-up and dress--a four-hour process!

The solo performance by Manoj Kumar, depicted the character of Ravana, the king of Sri Lanka. This anti-hero in the great Indian Epic, Ramayana, recollects the major milestones in his life from his childhood days. As part of the lecture/demonstration, Kumar shared the language of Kathakali: the stylized and semi-stylized hand-gestures, leg-exercises, body-movements, eye-exercises, facial expressions and enactment of characters. Alongside him for the lecture/demonstration was scholar V. Kaladharan, who integrated background on the history, aesthetics and transformations of the art-form.

Presented by the Center for World Performance Studies with support from the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, Center for South Asian Studies, and the U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant.

Nite Bjuti Residency

In February 2024, Nite Bjuti (pronounced night beauty) joined on campus for a three-day residency. Nite Bjuti is Candice Hoyes, Val Jeanty and Mimi Jones, an improvised trio of Afro-Caribbean artists using electronics, vocalism, bass, Haitian drum rhythms, sampling and spoken word to cultivate their narrative journey.

While on campus the artists visited several classes, meeting students and making connections across disciplines to explore and discuss improvisation, personal and cultural histories, and artistic approaches.

Nite Bjuti with graduate dance student, Kiana (KC) Cook.

Nite Bjuti welcomed student involvement in their performance at the Keene Theater. Student's from Amy Chavasse's sophomore Dance Composition, Marcus Elliot's Creative Arts Orchestra, and Mbala Nkanga's Intro to Performance Studies graduate course offered improvised movement, poetry, and sound.

Pictured left, Val Jeanty with Marcus Elliot and students in his Creative Arts Orchestra course, sharing how she utilizes the electronic drum set to produce a breadth of sounds and textures.

Presented by the Center for World Performance Studies with support from the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

The Innocents ft. John Lane & Allen Otte

John Lane and Allen Otte brought their work, The Innocents to campus as part of a three-day residency in February 2024. The work is an effort to delve deeply into wrongful imprisonment and exoneration, as well as connect with the communities in which it is performed.

A highlight of the evening was a post-performance discussion with Allen Otte, John Lane, David Moran, Clinical Professor of Law and co-founder of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, and Richard Phillips, a client of the Michigan Innocence Clinic who was exonerated in 2018 & 2022 after serving 45 years in prison.

Picture left to right: Allen Otte, John Lane, Richard Phillips, and Dave Moran discussing performance, wrongful imprisonment, and personal experiences.

The one-hour dramatic soundscape utilized a variety of found-object and home-made instruments, electronic soundscapes, and spoken texts. Through eighteen individual tableaus they explored various aspects of the issues surrounding wrongful imprisonment and exoneration in the American criminal justice system such as mistaken identity, incarceration, injustice, politics, psychology, and resilience.

Allen Otte & John Lane visiting Professor Ashley Lucas' Theatre & Incarceration course.

Presented by the Center for World Performance Studies with support from the School of Music, Theatre & Dance and the Prison Creative Arts Project.

West African Drum & Dance with T. Ayo Alston

The Center for World Performance Studies in partnership with the School of Music, Theatre & Dance welcomed back T. Ayo Alston, founder and director of the Chicago-based Ayodele Drum and Dance, for a semester-long course in West African Drum & Dance.

T. Ayo Alston teaches and practices a signature theatrical style of West African drum and dance culture that captures the strength and power of women and community. Through Ayodele, she has performed, educated, fostered interpersonal healing, and created artistic work from a foundation of traditional African cultures fused with contemporary dance styles.

Students in the course came from different academic backgrounds across the university. The course focused on foundational dance technique, terminology, and history of traditional West African dances, primarily those derived from the Old Mali Empire and traditional rhythms from Mali, Guinea, and Ivory Coast.

Students in the class shared their knowledge on the history of different West African drum and dance forms and performed for an enthusiastic audience at the end of the semester.
Ayo leading a rhythm on dun dun drums with students and the audience.

CWPS Co-Sponsored Student, Faculty and Departmental Events

CWPS co-sponsors a wide variety of student and faculty projects in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and the broader university—all of which serve to strengthen intellectual and cultural life on campus and beyond. In 2023-2024, CWPS was the proud sponsor of several projects, including performances organized by student cultural organizations, artist residencies, film projects and installations by faculty.

Generation Asian Pacific American (GenAPA) students (pictured left) performing in their annual show Eclipsed 2024.

CWPS co-sponsored student organization events such as Not Even Really Drama Student's production of Sinner City (pictured right).

CWPS 2023-24 student co-sponsorship included:

  • Chinese Student Association's Celebrasia & Lunar Gala
  • Persian Students Association's Sarvenaz (سروناز) 24th Annual Nowruz Show
  • Michigan Malaysian Students Association's Malaysian Cultural Night
  • Basement Arts production of colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf
  • Vietnamese Student Association's Đêm Việt Nam
  • Thai Student Association's Thai Night
  • RC Players production of Community Garden
  • Generation Asian Pacific American's Cultural Show
  • Korean American Student Association's Culture Night
  • Iraqi American Union's Iraqi Culture Night
  • Michigan Sahana Show
  • Not Even Really Drama Student's production of Sinner City
  • The Cowboy is a Tombstone production
Taekwondo demonstration as part of the GenAPA cultural night.
Iraqi Culture Night's annual gathering Chai and Chobi

CWPS Graduate Fellows

Graduate Fellows presented capstone papers, performances, and videos sharing their research and study. Pictured left is James Koo (MM in Percussion and Chamber Music Performance) capstone presentation.

Congratulations to the following graduate students who completed the Certificate in World Performance Studies:

  • Gloria Sitsope Ahlijah | MFA in Dance
  • Xin Yi Chong | MM in Percussion Performance
  • Sreyashi Dey | MSW
  • James Koo | MM in Percussion Performance
  • Sreya Muthukumar | MFA in Dance
  • Fitz Neeley | MM in Composition
  • Kara Roseborough | MFA in Dance
  • Gavin Ryan | DMA in Percussion Performance
  • Jonathan Taylor | MM in Improvisation
  • Asa Willoughby | PhD in Asian Languages and Cultures

CWPS 2024 Graduate Fellows:

  • Olivia Cirisan, MM in Percussion Performance
  • Kiana Cook, MFA in Dance
  • Lola Gallo, Ph.D in Romance Languages and Literatures
  • Marthe Djilo Kamga, Ph.D in Romance Languages and Literatures
  • Paige Madden, DMA in Percussion Performance
  • Rachel Richards, MM in Percussion Performance
  • Timothy Tsang, MFA in Dance
  • David Wang, MM in Percussion Performance

Graduate Fellows are pursuing research this summer throughout Indonesia, Brazil, Tanzania, South Africa, China, and Argentina.

2024 Faculty Fellows

Each year, grant awards are available to individual faculty members to pursue research projects, both domestic and international. We encourage inventive ideas, especially those that involve thematic support for Performance Studies, including ethnography and performance as research. This year, Faculty Fellows grants were awarded to the following faculty projects:

  • Amy Chavasse, Professor of Dance | Improvisation at the edge of democracy: improvising new steps from South to North
  • Tzveta Kassabova, Associate Professor of Theatre & Drama | Prometheus. Beginnings
  • Mbala Nkanga, Associate Professor of Theatre Studies | Multidisciplinary performance in Kinshasa
  • Sarah Oliver, Assistant Professor of Theatre & Drama | Japanese matsuri (festival) performance costume
  • Rogério M. Pinto, Professor of Theatre & Drama | Playwriting and play reading at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
  • Carlos Rodriguez, Chair of Music Theory and Associate Professor of Music | Explorations and research on son jarocho
  • Julie Zhu, President's Postdoctoral Fellow/Assistant Professor of Music, Performing Arts Technology | Digitizing the Chinese traditional instrument sheng

Youth Arts Alliance & CWPS

CWPS partnership with Ypsilanti-based Youth Arts Alliance began in 2022 with community programs held at Sycamore Meadows. Led by CWPS graduate fellow alum Jean Carlo Ureña Gonzalez (DMA in Percussion), drumming and art classes were held weekly throughout the summer. CWPS continued this partnership in summer 2023 with CWPS graduate fellow Godrey Lubuulwa (MM in Improvisation & Music Education) and will again partner during summer 2024. Recent CWPS graduate fellow Fitz Neeley (MM in Composition) will join the team this summer to lead workshops and classes.

Youth Arts Alliance student Miranda, singing and recording an original song with CWPS alum Godfrey Lubuulwa.