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Butler's Revolution 

A revolution is happening. It's an art revolution. And it's happening in the heart of Indianapolis at Butler University.

For the first time the university is hosting Butler ArtsFest, an eight-day festival with 40 events featuring everything from ballet and orchestra performances to theater and lecture series, all revolving around the central theme of revolution.

The festival represents revolution in terms of political, social and artistic revolution. This enables performers to have a loose interpretation of the theme, but still have the unifying characteristic.

Ronald Caltabiano, Dean of Butler's Jordan College of Fine Arts, says revolution is an artistically rich idea.

"The idea of change, a revolutionary change in an art form, is what many people think of as the most intriguing part," he says. "What we are presenting is representative of those changes."

Butler theater students created Lunar Revolution 2.0 for the festival. The piece was devised through improvisations, sampled images, sound, music and text. Students used the structure from Schoenberg's 1912 PierrotLunaire, originally inspired by 1912 revolutionaries.

click to enlarge Butler Theatre's original piece Lunar 2.0 explores our relationship with the moon.
  • Butler Theatre's original piece Lunar 2.0 explores our relationship with the moon.

Robert Grechesky, Butler's Director of Bands, says different disciplines within Jordan College of the Arts have taken different angles on the theme of revolution.

"One of the best things about this and about the idea of revolution is that it can be presented in so many ways and with different perspectives," Grechesky says.

The Butler Wind Ensemble will end its performance with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Husa's Music for Prague 1968, composed as a reaction to the Czech Revolution in 1968.

"It's an extraordinary piece of music that fits perfectly," Grechesky says. "It's a way not only to play a great piece, but also reference the societal circumstances around the piece."

Professor of Music Richard Clark says the idea of revolution has multiple perspectives. It could be work that influenced other composers or helped evolve music in some way. It could also be work that is scandalous or offensive.

"The whole idea of revolt or revolution and going against the common thread is what we live and do as artists every day," Clark says. "And I think this festival is highlighting that aspect of our lives and of our art."

The Butler Ballet is embracing the theme by performing Paul Taylor's version of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. When the piece was first performed in 1913, it caused a riot in the audience due to its progressive nature.

The piece pushed the boundaries of what the audience knew and accepted as ballet. It was very avant-garde in terms of innovation and experimentation. The dancers moved in unnatural ways, not common of the smooth and graceful motions of traditional ballets at the time and definitely had a different plotline.

The work is about a girl that is chosen as a sacrificial victim and ends up dancing herself to death. This is a far cry from the traditional grace and elegance of ballet works like Swan Lake or The Nutcracker.

Junior Zach Kukla is a chamber dance student performing in The Rite of Spring with the Butler Ballet. He sees the festival as a chance to show that Butler dance is more than just traditional ballet.

"I think we're breaking away from the ballet stereotype," Kukla says. "We're giving a voice for dancers that have created what is now modern and contemporary dance. In a way we are changing how people view dance."

click to enlarge Butler Theatre will be staging their new work Lunar 2.0 for the Butler ArtsFest.
  • Butler Theatre will be staging their new work Lunar 2.0 for the Butler ArtsFest.

Kukla says the piece is dark and sophisticated. He described the work as less dance and more being able to see the beauty of pedestrian movement.

Not only did The Rite of Spring test the limits of dance, but Stravinsky experimented with tonality, rhythm, stress and dissonance in the score. His score has since influenced many leading composers and is one of the most recorded classical works.

Grechesky says, "[The Rite of Spring] was one of the most revolutionary pieces in the history of music. It literally changed music."

The theme of revolution is close to the heart of the Jordan College of the Arts this year as they work on transforming the school; what it does and how it is perceived.

"The idea of revolution is very emblematic of the changes that are happening on our campus and in our college, with an emphasis on collaboration," Caltabiano says. "Starting something new and revolution goes hand in hand."

Clark says he sees the festival as a cultural revolution in the way the Jordan College of the Arts is viewed. He says the event will become a long-term annual event that garners national and international attention.

The event is already bringing in local, national and internationally guests. Former Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra conductor Raymond Leppard will conduct the Butler Symphony Orchestra and Grammy-nominated percussionist Bobby Sanabria will perform with the Butler Big Band.

The overall purpose of the festival, however, is multi-faceted. The Jordan College of the Arts is hoping to become a nexus for the arts in Indianapolis. But there is also the hope of unifying organizations throughout the city.

"We have a desire to show the totality of what Jordan College does," Caltabiano says. "Simultaneously we wanted to bring a number of Indianapolis organizations together and finally we wanted to bring the two together."

Butler ArtsFest will be a cornerstone for this movement. Organization like Dance Kaleidoscope, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra andthe Indianapolis Children's Choir are just a few of the larger groups participating in the festival.

"The idea of collaboration and reaching outside of our comfort zone is itself a revolution of thought," Clark says. "And I am excited to be a part of it."

For a full schedule of events, check out

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About The Author

Marissa Johnson  /  Butler

Marissa Johnson / Butler

Marissa Johnson studies at Butler University where she is a journalism major. She is a native of Indiana, graduating from Manchester High School. Marissa is also the sports editor of The Butler Collegian, winning awards from the Indiana Collegiate Press Association and the Society of Professional Journalists... more

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