Kandinsky painting brings together campus painters, dancers, and film-maker

Dana Hall’s art scene and dance world have collided in a cross-campus interdisciplinary collaboration, dubbed the Kandinsky Project after the celebrated painter Wassily Kandinsky. In this joint effort, advanced dance students have come together with Studio Art and Exploring Design students, and partnered with a film student, to construct a multifaceted project inspired by Wassily Kandinsky’s masterpiece, Composition 8.

The collective effort was inspired, in part, by the great artist’s eye-catching brushstrokes, and the tendency of Kandinsky’s paintings to transcend the art world by touching upon themes of music, light, and sound.

Kandinsky studentsWith advisement from art teacher Mr. Michael Frassinelli, art students repainted, piece by piece, the improvisational painting Composition 8. The students, using the painting’s original concepts as a starting point, expanded upon it in towering panels (currently on display in the hallway between the Student Center and Beveridge) that were then used as the scenery for the dance students’ performance.

Once provided with their backdrop, the dance students, under the guidance of Director of Dance Ms. Devon Fitchett, choreographed a dance number inspired by the emotion and spirit displayed in Kandinsky’s masterpiece. The students underwent an artistic process consisting of reflecting upon the painting, brainstorming individually about how to translate the motion of brushstrokes into human movement, and finally combining ideas with others to form a fluid number. Ms. Fitchett was happy with her dancers’ work, saying, “I am most proud of the Dance Repertory Students’ dedication to creating a meaningful piece of art and the thoughtful collaboration between students and teachers across disciplines.”

The project challenged the dance students to harness their creativity, but also gave participants a sense of accomplishment. Antonia Martin-Nucatola ’18 said, “choreographing was the hardest part for me. But I loved working with older, more experienced, and extremely talented dancers. And in the end, the dance was colorful and energetic, and I guess you could say that it ‘didn’t follow any rules.’”

kandinsky with dancersThe evolution of the project, from its conception to the painting’s artistic rebirth at the hands of the art students to the culminating dance piece, was captured by Michelle Ma ’18, who is currently pursuing an Independent Study in Filmmaking with Mr. Frassinelli. Of the two films born from this project, both filmed and directed by Ma, the first will be a fairly short piece that combines, in a documentary style, still images and interviews to capture the intricacies of the project as it spanned artistic disciplines. The second film documents the ensuing dance piece.

Wassily Kandinsky, christened the “father of abstract art,” was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1866. Kandinsky, a trained musician, set out to compose his paintings so that they transcended into the realm of thought and music. According to the Guardian newspaper, Kandinsky’s passion for the abstract, and his confidence in its ability, through its subtleties, to convey the rawness of human emotion, comprised his mission as an artist: to use abstraction as a tool to describe existence, on an emotional level.

Mr. Frassinelli notes that this integration of three disciplines is encouraged by Dana Hall’s Global Education Initiative, which could pave the way for similar projects involving any combination of student interests. The Kandinsky Project is an entry in the Teen Dance Film Festival at the Hamlin School.

Come and see the documented undertaking and final performance piece of the Kandinsky Project at Surge: Dana Hall Dances, on March 4 and 5 at 7:30 in Bardwell Auditorium.

Image: Wassily Kandinsky’s Composition 8. Image source: The Guggenheim. Photos: Student-recreated ‘Composition 8,” plus dancers working on choreography inspired by the painting. Photos credit: Christi Thorbecke and Mary Ann McQuillan.

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