The Center for the Arts presents
with Robyn Watson
Thursday, November 17, 2016, 7:30pm
$47 Members, $52 General Public
American music has at its core an affirmative language that unites all of us as brothers and sisters. Rhiannon Giddens and Dirk Powell are masters of this language.With roots in North Carolina and Kentucky, their musical heritage springs from places where the mix is particularly potent.
Rhiannon brought African-American stringband traditions a new and beautiful vitality through The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and has launched a versatile solo career that confirms her status as a major American artist for this day and age. Dirk has championed the Appalachian music of his grandfather and the Cajun/Creole sounds of his Louisiana family since his teenage years, becoming a central figure in the revitalization of both traditions, while recording and performing with artists like Eric Clapton and Joan Baez.
To quote producer T Bone Burnett, with whom both have worked closely, Rhiannon is “next in a long line of singers that include Odetta, Mahalia Jackson, and Rosetta Tharpe.” And about Dirk, Burnett enthuses, “He’s got great subtlety, tremendous feel, and is modern in the best sense of the word.” Both artists have Grammy wins in several contexts, in categories ranging from Folk to Alternative Rock to Blues to Country. But, these aren’t the things that equate to success for them.
Rhiannon and Dirk create with the intent to reach the hearts of those listening. Whether with banjos and fiddles, grand pianos framing deeply soulful vocals, or Creole accordions laying down bayou grooves beneath melodies sung in French, the duo’s music may in moments take a path through the mind, or perhaps through dancing feet…. but in the end, they are out to reach hearts, and in each other have found a unique partnership in which to do so. Their musical range touches on all of what makes American music the resonant force that it is, including fearless original songs written with the conviction to open and heal the wounds of racism and other forms of prejudice that continue to haunt us. They could be seen as possessing a rare multilingualism, but are, in the end, speaking one highly evolved American language; in their performances, audiences are included in a conversation that is spirited, emotional, masterful, and, in the end, transformational.
Robyn Watson is a native of Philadelphia and began dancing at the age of 5. She began her training at La-Cher-Tari Dance Studio and later at Wissahickon Dance Academy. By the age of 10 she was asked to join Tap Team Two and Co. and served as a member and choreographer until 2002. She has had the opportunity to perform with noted artists in the discipline including, Dianne Walker, Germaine Ingram, Savion Glover and the legendary Mabel Lee. Robyn was featured in the May/June 2005 issue of Dance Spirit Magazine as one of the “20 Hot Tappers, 20 and Under. Watson received her B.A in Theater from Temple University. She has also. served as a costume designer for several high schools and production companies in the Philadelphia region. She recently served as the tap instructor for the broadway sensation “Shuffle Along” For the past seven years she has had the opportunity to work and study under the direction of Savion Glover. Besides being a professional dancer, Robyn also is a photographer and writer.