In 2017 when COVID arrived, dancers looked to film. Instead of restaging Brave New World as a theatre production, we made this interpretation of Aldous Huxley’s famous book into a short film. Footage from the original on-site theatre production at Wichita State University (with a different cast) has been included.
This is a Valentine’s Day duet on film.
In response to the pandemic, Wichita State University’s Dance Program created a virtual dance film performed by all the dancers in the program.
This is a film created by Zoe Domnika Johnson.
This mime theatre duet, originally created by Jose Rivera, toured with The Invisible People. This presentation was restaged by Nicholas Johnson and performed at Wichita State University by Max Mayerle and Cainan Spellman-Sak.
This solo/duet is a story of unrequited love created and performed by Nicholas Johnson.
Written & Directed by Nicholas Johnson
Music Director: Timothy Shade
Choreographer: Regina Klenjoski
Costume Design: Renea Goforth
Set Design: Jason Flandors
Film Director: Nicholas Johnson
Director of Photographer/Editor: Curt Rierson
Film Producer: Greg Matthias/Media Resource Center
Raw Film Footage: Classic Images Stock Footage LLC
Art Photography: Dr. Robert Baldwin
Dante’s Nightmares and Dreams is a multidisciplinary collaboration between the WSU Dance Program, the WSU Wind Ensemble, and the WSU Media Resource Center. Dance, live music, and film will weave a story about Dante’s descent into hell (an adaptation of Inferno that takes place in Dante’s mind), a person tortured by dreams of man’s inhumanity to man, and a historical look at some of history’s darkest moments. Dante, with the help of his muse, gathers the strength to dispel the darkness in his mind, overcome his fear and solitude, and ascend to a place that celebrates the human spirit defined by ingenuity, innovation, and creative potential.
The theme of this performance resonates deeply today. A large segment of the public experiences fear and isolation as a response to current events. The work is not intended to specifically reference any political position and chooses not to reference present-day politics. The work, instead, first demonstrates the irrationality of man’s decisions to diminish the human condition, obstruct freedoms, and destroy life itself. The work then reminds us that there are creative impulses that have moved us forward through invention, creative endeavor, and the enhancement of the human condition. Dante is steered by his muse to acknowledge activities that bring light and hope rather than succumbing to a dark history that leaves a trail of sadness, futility, and desperation. In a sense, the work is a warning to remember the past or be doomed to repeat it.
This is a film portion of the first half of Dante’s Nightmares and Dreams. The film was made with help from the Wichita State University’s Media Resource Center. It was written and directed by Nick Johnson and created by director of photography/editor Curt Rierson.
This is the second film portion of Dante’s Ascent from the production. The film was made with help from Wichita State University’s Media Resource Center. It was written and directed by Nick Johnson and created by director of photography/editor Curt Rierson.
In 1980, driven by passion, courage, talent, and the will to create a place for mime theatre in the performing arts arena, Gregg Goldston created the School for Mimes at Kenyon College in Gambier, OH. This summer residency program would occur from 2 to 6 weeks as the school evolved and continued for 25 years. The school maintains a summer presence in Mt. Vernon, OH, working with young people even today. Founded by Gregg Goldston, Nick Johnson, and Deborah Wasserman, the school attracted a plethora of talented individuals who became faculty and working professionals in the field. The school, although not the only mime school in the US, was credited with contributing to the creation of “the first generation of American mimes.” This documentary was filmed in 1990 after a decade of teaching. During this era and following summers, numerous guest teacher residencies with Marcel Marceau and Stefan Niedzialkowski helped students develop their voice as American mimes by providing powerful professional training and a strong foundation in classical mime. The school became a creative process that transformed all the artists who participated in the experience, launched numerous careers, and impacted performing artists from around the globe.
The school was “An American Enigma.”
Wichita State University’s School of Performing Arts Dance Program is producing an original, experimental dance theatre event written and directed by Nicholas Johnson, director of dance.
Brave New World was inspired by the 1932 novel of English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley. It examines what happens to a conformist society when it is confronted by the behavior of an outcast individualist. The performance is a collision of two worlds, pitting a highly structured, passionless society against a new vision brought by a visit from beings outside their social context. Wild, free, and curious, these others immerse themselves in the new world but discover they can never fit.
Brave New World is designed to break the conventional boundaries of theatre-based performance. Locations for the event were staged at four venues around the campus, starting at the Heskett Center pool, moving to outside the Hubbard Hall, then inside the Rhatigan Student Center near the food court, then onto the Shocker Courtyard outside Shocker Hall.
Take a look at what went into turning this multidisciplinary event into reality.
This is the film element of a dance, theatre, and film work created by Rachel Boyajian and Nicholas Johnson for the Wichita State University Spring Dance Concert.
Brave New World is an original experimental dance theatre production written, directed, and produced by Nicholas Johnson and the School of Performing Arts Dance Program. The audience will rotate in sequence through four locations: Heskett Pool, outside Hubbard Hall, Rhatigan Center, Shocker Courtyard, and back to conclude in the pool. This experimental work of physical theatre will, similar to the book by Aldous Huxley, examine the effects of a conformist society when confronted by the behavior of an outcast individualist. The work was conceived and directed by Nicholas Johnson, director of dance, and includes choreography from Denise Celestin, Sabrina Vasquez, and Cheyla Chandler. The event was designed to stretch the conventional theatrical boundaries of theatre-based performance and created to break these boundaries while including the WSU campus as an entire, single, social, organic entity. The event is multidisciplinary to the extent that technology, videography, dance, theatre, and physical theatre create an extended moment that shifts audience perception toward self-reflection and, hopefully, new concepts of external and internal space.
This is the opening film segment in the pool.
This is the closing film segment in the pool.
This is a multidisciplinary theatre performance combining film with mime, dance, and original music.
“I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Seg way closing piece
This piece of dance choreography by Nicholas Johnson was commissioned and performed by the James Madison Dance Program performing company.
Working with Charlotte Boye-Christensen during her creation of Feast was innovation at its best. This multidisciplinary experience involved the percussion program, the entire dance program, and her NOW company dancers. Billed as a “banquet for the senses.” Feast exemplified the meaning of contemporary performance. The process was organic, intelligent, and exhilarating. The dancers performed their personal best, inspired by the work, collaboration, and professionalism of the NOW dancers, themselves extraordinary artists. Charlotte approaches choreography with a specific voice she developed during her career. Invention, originality, and current are the descriptions of her process that immediately come to mind. Collaboration was easy, patient, and visionary. We all grew from this remarkable “dinner date” and look forward to a repeat effort in the near future.
Johnson was asked by Dr. Ron Kopita, vice president of student affairs, to “roast” Wichita State University president Don Beggs for a diabetes foundation fundraiser. This is the film segment. Performers entered and exited the film during the presentation, which explains the pauses in action on this video.
Before the snowboard, there was the “snurfer.” Johnson and friends film themselves testing the limits of speed going downhill at Alta, UT, in 1975.
Johnson was asked to be an actor in a French commercial in the Bahamas for Buffalo Blue Jeans. He was accompanied by his brother, Alexander Johnson, and actress Denise. The concept was inspired by the film Cool Hand Luke starring Paul Newman.
The show was designed to highlight the dance program, The Wiyos, and the creative talents of Lonny Quattlebaum and Greg Mathias of the WSU Media Resource Center. The writing is a philosophical inquiry disguised as a traditional and familiar journey, an icon celebrated with a vague reference to the celebrated story of Oz.
The Wiyos of Oz is a story about the coming of age of Dorothy, from girl-child to woman. Her process of self-actualization is a journey into the self (film/Oz). Her pursuit of passion is the discovery of her body. “Dance” is this vehicle. There is a connection between sensuality and physical exploration, a careful line we tread here. Her discovery of her voice is the solo dance she learns during the show. Oz is her lover, mentor, father, teacher, and guide.
All of Oz are aspects of her mind, her “selves.” The journey is her discovering herself, that she is “home.”
The Wiyos of Oz was a multidisciplinary project with video, dance, and the original live music of The Wiyos loosely based on the original story.