In his new choreographed piece, Isabella’s Dream, Granada Artist-in-Residence Dr. Henry Daniel continues his exploration of the intercultural contact and migration that stemmed from Columbus’ voyage.
“The choreography is driven by the stories that the performers bring to the project,” Daniel said. “I posed a very specific question: ‘Can you trace your family history from August 3, 1492, the start of Columbus’ voyage, to today?’ People can rarely do that, but they go through the process of connecting their background to that date.”
According to Daniel, the main content of the piece is presented as a dream of Queen Isabella of Castile, who hired Columbus to go on his initial voyage in which he attempted to reach the east by sailing west. This resulted in the “discovery” of the New World.
Isabella’s Dream is part of a research project known as Project Barca, of which Daniel is the lead investigator. Project Barca combines artistic practice with academic research. This is known as practice as research, and according to Theatre and Dance Department professor Dr. Lynette Hunter, UC Davis ran the first Ph.D. program for practice as research in the U.S.
“This piece is one of a number of works that examines notions of identity, place, history and belonging,” Daniel said. “As the principal investigator, I conceived of the project and got a team with overlapping interests together. I was able to work with scholars in Spain, Vancouver and now in Davis.”
The piece itself is interdisciplinary, which is one of Project Barca’s goals. In addition to choreography, Isabella’s Dream incorporates three short films into the piece.
“These films came from live performance work with actors, dancers, singers, musicians and media artists who also worked on the project with computer scientists and engineers,” Daniel said. “Isabella’s Dream brings a number of different disciplines together to bring a work that is truly interdisciplinary.”
Hunter noted that this kind of interdisciplinary work was good for
all of the departments involved.
“Henry puts his money where his mouth is by actually doing things,” Hunter said. “He’s trying to develop a project with a few UC Davis scientists that will set up an institute that looks at how sciences and arts communicate with each other. He’s really trying to get a conversation going, and that’s where the future is for a lot of the departments — not just having a conversation but actually integrating the disciplines.”
Isabella’s Dream will be performed from Thursday, May 22 to Sunday, May 25 at the Nelson Gallery. Every performance will begin at 8 p.m. The suggested donation is $10.
— John Kesler