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Faculty Fellows

The Center for World Performance Studies provides summer funding to individual faculty members to pursue research projects which involve traveling to various sites for field work, both domestically and internationally. We encourage inventive ideas, especially those that involve thematic support for CWPS mission, including ethnography and performance as research. Fellows are invited to share their research with the CWPS community through our Faculty Lecture Series and as mentors to graduate students in the Certificate in World Performance Studies. Applications to the Faculty Fellows Program are accepted annually in March; for more info, visit our faculty funding page.

2024-2025 Faculty Fellows

Amy Chavasse
Professor of Dance

Professor Chavasse will bring together dance artists, Contact Improvisation (CI) practitioners, scholars, and educators to develop and present the workshop Contact Improvisation at the edge of democracy: improvising new steps from South to North in Buenos Aires, Argentina this summer. Through this project, Chavasse and collaborators aim to disrupt the conventional flow of legitimized knowledge and canonized narratives in the realm of dance, that traditionally move from North to South. Together, the group will hold multiple sessions with the CI teaching team or “cátedra” at the Universidad Nacional de las Artes. They will also present as part of the 2024 Dance Studies Association conference, including a roundtable and Open Lab for conference attendees. Lastly, they will further this research within the CI community in Buenos Aires through Contact Improvisation sessions, (called “jams”), discussions, roundtables, information sharing, and archiving.

Tzveta Kassabova
Associate Professor of Theatre & Drama

Professor Kassabova will further develop their devised theatre work Prometheus. Beginnings and tour it to the Sibiu International Theatre Festival (FITS) in Romania this summer. Participation at this leading performing arts platform will expose students who collaborated on the project to diverse cultures and project-based learning, and cutting edge performative research. Kassabova will continue their creative research, deepening connections between dance and theatre international communities. The project will provide a fresh educational experience for students and visibility to the UM Department of Theatre and Drama.

Mbala Nkanga
Associate Professor of Theatre Studies

Professor Nkanga will continue his research on street masks and performance in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This research explores the language of trash and its implication in the artistic creation of masks and performances; the techniques used by the performers to put together these masks and costumes; the contradiction of the symbolism of trash and SAPE (Société des Ambianceurs et Personnes Élégantes) known for their high fashion in the same neighborhood of Matonge and in Kinshasa; issues of individual and collective memories along with the daily experience of being Congolese and Kinois (a resident of Kinshasa); and the role played by Congolese traditional and the Rumba Music, along with dances in the performances. Nkanga aims to complete an ethnographic analysis leading to publications and presentations on the phenomenon.

Sarah Oliver 
Assistant Professor of Theatre & Drama

Professor Oliver will conduct a field study on Japanese matsuri (festival) performance costume while traveling with two Design & Production BFA students on a two-week global engagement trip to Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan. Oliver will investigate the historic costume worn at two matsuri in Japan and what role the costumes play in imparting era and historical accuracy to the festival goers versus a distilledrepresentation of character, closely aligned with the theme of the festival and symbolic storytellingthrough highly recognizable color and pattern adapted for festival clothing. This trip will support the development of a permanent study abroad program that will serve as Theatre & Drama’s first sponsored study abroad program, and complement Oliver’s non-western fashion course, Global Adornment & Attire.

Rogério M. Pinto
Professor of Theatre & Drama

Professor Pinto will spend four weeks at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London developing a new play, while studying dramatic forms and history. Pinto will expand his research to areas such as solo performance, verbatim, documentary, and testimonial theatre, as well as strengthen current social/behavioral research and burgeoning scholarship on theatre and drama. This research will add to Professor Pinto’s existing long-term scholarly impact, enhance the learning outcomes and experiences of U-M students and engagement with communities.

Carlos Rodriguez
Chair of Music Theory and Associate Professor of Music

Professor Rodriguez will complete a residency at Universidad Veracruzana in Xalapa, Mexico to learn more about son jarocho, the distinctive folk music style that developed in southern Veracruz, Mexico over the past two hundred years. Rodriguez’s research will explore connections between ethnography and pedagogy, asking questions in collaboration with local colleagues about the history, style, performance techniques and other aspects of son jarocho. Through this work, Rodriguez will disseminate this research through journal articles and instructional modules to enhance the field of global music education.

Julie Zhu
President's Postdoctoral Fellow/Assistant Professor of Music, Performing Arts Technology

Professor Zhu will conduct a research project on creatively and ethically digitizing the Chinese traditional instrument sheng, a 37-pipe mouth organ, that will result in a performance at the Festival Propagations in Marseille for sheng and a digital interface that uses machine learning to re-synthesize and co-perform with the sheng through a speaker dome.