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Arts in the News: A City-Wide Dance Festival, the Secret of the Pyramids and more

A City-Wide Dance Festival

For an entire weekend in October, the city of Chicago became host to a multi-day, multi-venue dance festival called “Elevate Chicago Dance.” Presented by the Chicago Dancemakers Forum (CDF), the festival aimed to highlight Chicago dance and increase the visibility of established artists in the city across a range of genres and disciplines. For 15 years, CDF has supported independent artists through grants and artistic development programs. Some of the highlights from the Elevate program included a late-night showing of Khecari’s audience immersion and Zephyr Dance’s site-specific “Valise 13” which uses the Defibrillator Gallery’s creepier spaces. One piece even features the mixing of dance with needlecraft. The one-of-a-kind festival served as a sort of dance buffet, allowing Chicagoans a glimpse inside the artistic processes of some of the city’s emerging dancers. Unlike other dance festivals, Elevate did not pressure artists to present a finished, polished product. CDF executive director Ginger Farley explains: “It’s more about everyone thinking: how can we look at what we’re doing and what we have, and with those things, elevate one another and the field?” Surely people in other cities would love to see similar festivals put on in their own hometowns. What an amazing event, supporting and promoting local artists!

Ancient Papyrus Reveals the Secret of the Pyramids

For centuries, people have puzzled over the mystery of how the ancient Egyptians built the Great Pyramid of Giza. The oldest and only survivor of the original Seven Wonders of the World, the pyramid was built over a 20-year-old period using locally-sourced limestone and granite and was used as a tomb for Pharaoh Khufu. Now, an ancient papyrus seems to have revealed the complex infrastructure created by builders to complete the architectural marvel. Written on ancient papyrus, the scroll was authored by an overseer and provides the only first-hand account on record of the building of the pyramids. It indicates that the Egyptians used a system of wooden boats, ropes, and canals, along with thousands of workers, to transport the 170,000 tonnes of limestone along the Nile. A fascinating insight into an age-old mystery, illuminating how some of the most stunning architecture of the ancient world was brought to life.

Mental Health Toll on Musicians

A new report being called a “game changing” study, published by the charity Help Musicians UK, explores how the working conditions within the music community can impact individuals’ well-being. Drawing from in-depth interviews with 26 musicians working in various musical genres, including opera, dance, and musical theater, the study emphasizes how the “precariousness and insecurity” of a career in music can be psychologically damaging, resulting in “constant stress” around finding work and financial stability. Additionally, the reality that many musicians are self-employed can result in feelings of isolation, especially when dealing with mental health problems. The report also points to the pressure put on relationships with family, friends, and partners, as well as problems with bullying, discrimination, and abuse in the profession. In the wake of the report, Help Musicians UK has made three specific policy recommendations to help address the factors impacting musicians’ mental health: first, to embed discussions of mental health awareness into music education; second, to create a code of best practice to demonstrate organizational awareness of these issues in the industry; and third, to ensure mental health support services for musicians are affordable and accessible. Hopefully, this report and the recommendations of Help Musicians UK can lead to positive change and increased wellness in the music community.

A Look into Kazakhstan’s Trophy City

Architects from around the world have bid and contributed to the architectural fantasy envisioned by Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first president of Kazakhstan. In a treatise on architecture and city planning, Nazarbayev argues that “Like people, cities have destinies. Each has a name and an individual biography of its own, a character which cannot be confused with that of any other place on earth.” The Kazakhstan president has spent the last two decades building a city-sized monument in the middle of the Asian steppe– it includes a shopping mall (the biggest tent in the world), a rollercoaster, an artificial beach (with sand imported from the Maldives), a silver pyramid (conceived as a meeting place for world religions), a presidential palace (modelled on the White house but 8 times larger), a gold mirror-glass gateway, a polished grey egg (to house national archives), and a golden orb observation tower. Japan’s Kisho Kurakawa conjured up the cosmic masterplan for the city, though much of his original design has been ignored. Other well-known architects like Italy’s Manfredi Nicoletti have contributed to the components that stand today. The city (to which Nazarbayev is continually adding) is a source of much controversy–with half of the Kazakhstan population living on roughly $70 a month, the extravagant project has drawn intense criticism. One Kazakhstan school teacher explains: “The Kazakh people are now very angry. We are proud that the Expo is here, but the leaders of our country have spent far too much money on it, trying to show off to the world.” To learn more about the controversial project and see some of the incredible buildings, both completed and proposed, read on <HERE>.

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