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The Hildegard Project presents a collaborative performance

An exciting performance is coming to the Oscar Larson Performing Arts Center May 1 and 2 after over a year of preparation. The performance, “Viriditas: Twenty-First Century Hildegard,” is a multidimensional piece featuring dance, poetry, stage craft and music. The piece developed from the work of The Hildegard Project, composed of six members across various disciplines at SDSU.

The project was first conceptualized in 2019. Initial collaborators included Christine Stewart-Nuñez, professor in the Department of English and South Dakota Poet Laureate, Tammy Evans Yonce, associate professor in the School of Performing Arts, and Melissa Hauschild-Mork, associate professor in the School of Performing Arts. To create the project, members used a collaborative model developed by Hauschild-Mork and Rocky Dailey, which “posits that the synergy of creative work in the world, picked up by another, can catalyze new and larger creative projects.”

Evans Yonce was inspired by Stewart-Nuñez’s book of poetry, “Bluewords Greening,” in conceptualizing ideas that helped identify a composer to create music for the performance. From this, Hauschild-Mork was invited to bring movement to poetry and music in the form of dance. With these three initial collaborators, the foundation of THP was created and Stewart-Nuñez wrote new poetry from her research on Hildegard from which lyrics and sound design could be developed.

To accomplish the complete vision of THP, more collaborators were added to the team. Brian Lee, instructor in the Department of Architecture, Corey Shelsta, professor in the School of Performing Arts, and Dailey, associate professor in the School of Communication and Journalism, added their various areas of expertise. Lee used the poems to build structures to pair with the dancers who would be performing. Shelsta offered extensive experience in theatrical lighting and production. Dailey provided expertise in virtual film production, along with his scholarship in collaboration.

Once members were secured, the team began specific planning to achieve the goal of a performance in the spring of 2021. Fundraising started in spring 2020 by securing multiple grants to bring the project to life, including a Griffith grant, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences collaborative grant and a South Dakota Arts Council grant. Over the past year, collaborators individually worked on their parts of projects, including music and lyric creation, recruiting dance students to participate in the final performance, completing costume and apparatus construction and collecting all necessary data and documentation.

THP has been described as a “translation project,” where words can be translated to music to dance to visuals and structures. With 15 student dance performers and six collaborators across disciplines, this project has required strong collaborative skills of all involved. Hauschild-Mork said the work with her colleagues was invigorating.

“We learn not only how our work might intersect; we also gain a deep appreciation for disciplines we are not familiar with,” said Hauschild-Mork. “Maneuvering ambiguity while maintaining trust and mutual respect through process might be the most challenging aspect of collaborative work; yet this feeds our growth as people and artists at the very same time.”

After more than a year of work and adjusting plans because of COVID-19, THP members look forward to the impact this performance will have in the community. “This performance will engage audience members in different artistic explorations, shape their visceral experiences and challenge their understanding of performance,” said Stewart-Nuñez.

About the Performance

The performance draws inspiration from Hildegard of Bingen, a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, visionary and polymath of the High Middle Ages. The title of the show, “Viriditas,” is Hildegard’s theory meaning “the natural driving force toward healing and wholeness, the vital power that sustains all life’s greenness.” 

The performances will take place May 1 at 7:30 p.m. and May 2 at 2 p.m. Tickets are free and limited to four per patron. You can reserve your ticket using the State University Theatre and Dance’s ticketing website. Additional information about the performances can be found Hildegard Project.