As acting chair I am starting a brand new engagement model to work with students of color and less privileged backgrounds to learn about the arts and not start with them at 11th grade but rather at 7th grade. No one knows this yet, but it will become a required class for the dance department that you must be engaged in this class. We are trialing it this year and our plan is to make it a formal class starting in 2021. For me, I don't think we have succeeded at reaching students of color in this department. I basically put a stop to what we were doing before. I don't know why it has taken so long to get here. I think it is even more important now, post COVID-19, since no one will have any idea where the center is. I think we need to help people find their centers again.
It seems everyone is doing something online whether its engagement or teaching. I see everything from soup to nuts and I don't even see 1/10 of it. It seems like so much is offered. People are trying to be creative in new models and it is not expected. I have to focus on how we will get back and what we will be after this. How do we help students who have their sense of community and interaction taken away? This is a trauma for everyone and we have to treat it like that.
A leading researcher and pianist in the area of dance and music studies, Christian Matijas-Mecca has served as musical repetiteur in the staging of dances by Balanchine, Graham, Weidman, Taylor, Dean, and Lubovitch, and has accompanied for directors and artists from such dance companies as the New York City Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, Cullberg Ballet, Mark Morris Dance Group, Martha Graham Dance Company, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Trisha Brown Dance Company, Miami City Ballet, and many others. Most memorable for him was his collaboration with director Robert Benedetti on his restaging of Marc Blitzstein’s play, The Cradle Will Rock, both in Ann Arbor and Las Vegas. Matijas-Mecca has also built a reputation as a composer for dance and has composed works that include a commissioned score for the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Existence Without Form (2006), that was choreographed by Uri Sands. With U-M alumnus and pianist Ilya Blinov, Matijas-Mecca also maintains an active concert career beyond dance, and through their partnership, the RusCa Piano Duo, he regularly performs the music of Stravinsky, Gavrilin, and Ravel in concerts in the United States and Canada.