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Defining Lines
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The Vassar College Music Department, in collaboration with the Creative Arts Across Disciplines, is thrilled to celebrate the 22nd season of MODfest, Vassar College’s annual exploration of the arts of the 20th and 21st centuries. This year’s theme, “Defining Lines,” invites us to examine, celebrate, and challenge the lines that exist between cultures, spaces, bodies, identities, and more.

Join us for a concert and conversation with the creators and performers of Shanghai Sonatas. Based on first-person accounts, this new musical theater work tells the true story of daily life for musicians from Europe during World War II who used their optimism, humor, and musical talents to survive, forging friendships with their Chinese neighbors who helped save their lives. Experience the duality of dancers Baye & Asa, who use Hip Hop and African dance languages to “confront contemporary dance and theater” as guest performers with Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre.

Two current Vassar students have research that fits perfectly with our theme: Solomon Hess ’24 will premiere his new play, The Game, which unpacks the history of lacrosse and the differences between white appropriation and appreciation of the sport, through art, activism, and accountability; and Camryn Spero ’24, through her thesis work in cognitive science, asks, “How does the audience, the lighting, and their sensational experiences physiologically change the dancers’ experience of the performance?”

Assistant Professor of Music Tahirih Motazedian returns to MODfest to expertly frame a screening of the acclaimed motion picture Black Swan. In addition, the annual Honorary Adene and Richard Wilson Concert will include a concert version of Stravinsky’s iconic L’Histoire du Soldat, which tells the tale of a soldier who unknowingly sells his soul to the devil. Composed for seven instruments and narrator, Eduardo Navega conducts this performance highlighting faculty from the Music Department.

Christine Howlett & Tom Pacio, MODfest Co-Directors


Modfest word mark

Join us for a conversation with the newest president of Toussaint Louverture College, the only HBCU in the Northeast, founded 150 years ago in Poughkeepsie. Once a failed initiative and footnote in the long history of educational inequities experienced by young Black men and women, Toussaint Louverture College has come to life in the mind of artist Jean-Marc Superville Sovak, who will moderate this speculative discussion.

A person sitting on the floor in the center of the photo, looking at the camera.

Challenging the separation between performers and spectators, Reciprocal Visions resituate who is viewing whom in the dance performance space. Dancers, as forms of embodied art, are themselves responsive to their environment in ways similar to how audiences react to the performance. Placing cognitive science and dance into a direct dialogue, this thesis performance of original choreography will measure the dancers’ physiological reactions to their environment and to the audience’s visibility. (Reciprocal Visions will also be performed during the VRDT concert on February 2.)

A person with short hair including facial hair, wearing a blue sweatshirt holding a script.

The Game: A New Play By Solomon Hess ’24

  • Powerhouse Theater
  • Friday, January 26, 8:00 p.m. & Saturday, January 27, 2:00 p.m.

Inspired by playwright Solomon Hess’s immersion in the world of lacrosse and recent experience competing internationally with the U.S. Junior Indoor Team, The Game tells the story of two friends’ complicated relationship with the sport of lacrosse and each other. George, a white writer/lacrosse coach, wants to write a play about lacrosse and to bring the sport into mainstream culture with the respect he feels it deserves. He enlists the help of his Haudenosaunee friend and former teammate, Inktomi, who is wary of George’s plan, but willing to help. The pair attempt to break down barriers set in place by over three hundred years of history. Directed by Mauricio Miranda. Reservations required. You can make reservations online. Contact the Box Office for additional information: (845) 437-5599.

A person with long dark curly hair in font of a clear stained glass window.

Film Screening: The Black Swan (2010) by Darren Aronofsky

  • Rosenwald Film Theater, Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film
  • Saturday, January 27, 7:00 p.m.

Music in this film is used to subtly define and separate the two identities of the main character, and throughout the film there is a strong recurring theme of boundaries between one thing and another, and the strange intersections between them. With introduction by Assistant Professor of Music Táhirih Motazedian.

Multiple performers singing on stage in front of a symphony orchestra.

Creating Shanghai Sonatas: A Musical Conversation

  • Alumnae House
  • Sunday, January 28, 2:00 p.m.

A concert and conversation with the creators and performers of Shanghai Sonatas—a new musical theater work that tells the true story of daily life for Jewish refugee musicians from Europe during World War II who used their optimism, humor, and musical talents to survive, forging friendships with their Chinese neighbors who helped save their lives. Moderated by Associate Professor and Chair of Music, Justin Patch. Make reservations here.

A person with short hair wearing a black long-sleeve shirt and gold necklace singing with a standing microphone.

Concert Gathering with Batya Levine

  • The Aula, Ely Hall
  • Thursday, February 1, 8:00 p.m.

Join Batya Levine and their musical ensemble for an evening of harmony, rhythm, and heart-opening communal song. Through their kavanah (intention) and songful weaving, Batya invites everyone to raise their voices in this participatory concert—rooted in traditional Jewish texts and sounds, contemporary melodies, and the transcendent power of nigun—wordless spiritual song. A workshop will be offered on Wednesday, January 31. For more information, please email

Two people, one sitting and the other standing

Dance Performance: Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre

  • Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater, Kenyon Hall
  • Friday, February 2, 7:00 p.m.

Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre performs works selected from the current repertory by faculty, students, and guest choreographers, including a special appearance by Baye & Asa Dance Company. This is a free but ticketed event; reservations for general seating are required and are available online. For additional information, please email or call (845) 437-5541.

A line drawing of Igor Stravinsky, a person with short, straight-combed hair, glasses, a mustache, and formal clothing.

Honorary Adene and Richard Wilson Concert: L’Histoire du Soldat

  • Skinner Hall of Music
  • Saturday, February 3, 3:00 p.m.

Vassar’s brilliant music faculty perform the music of Rogerson, Richard Wilson, and Stravinsky’s iconic L’Histoire du Soldat. Scored for seven instruments and narrator, L’Histoire is the story of a soldier named Joseph who meets the Devil in disguise.


Performance and Talkback: Through the Waves with UpLift Physical Theatre

  • The Martel Theater, Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film
  • Sunday, February, 4, 7:30 p.m.

Weaving a poetic vocabulary of acrobatic movement and storytelling, this award-winning intimate play tells the tale of one woman, lost between the uncharted waters of her grief and the shores of her joyful memories following the disappearance of her soulmate. You can make reservations online. Contact the Box Office: (845) 437-5599



Founded in 1881, Spelman College has long been an important cultural hub. The historically Black liberal arts college for women began collecting in 1899, and in 1996 the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art opened with the mission to uplift art by and about women of the African diaspora. Organized in honor of the museum’s 25th anniversary, Silver Linings highlights the works by the pioneers and trailblazers who anchor the Spelman collection, including Elizabeth Catlett, Faith Ringgold, Charles White, Carrie Mae Weems, and Romare Bearden.


This exhibition presents a selection of prints made by members of the Gee’s Bend Quilting Collective displaying the intricate and unique quiltmaking designs and techniques taught through generations of women located in Boykin (aka “Gee’s Bend”), Alabama. Residents in Gee’s Bend are direct descendants of enslaved people who worked on the plantation owned by Joseph Gee and later Mark Pettway, producing cotton and vegetables. Following the Civil War, their descendants stayed on the land as sharecroppers, and eventually acquired land to carry on farming. This settling in Gee’s Bend allowed cultural tradi- tions, such as quilting, to be preserved and respected by the community.


As both a profession and artistic pursuit, photography has historically been dominated by men. Yet despite many inequities, women have made significant contributions to photography as a creative profession. Drawn from the Loeb’s collection, this single-gallery exhibition explores the relationship between photography and labor, spanning the early 1900s to the present, featuring seven American women photographers. While some have made their living through fashion photography, photojournalism, editorial, and documentary photography, others are artists whose photographs examine unpaid domestic labor. This exhibition is generously supported by the Hoene Hoy Photography Fund.


MODfest People

  • Christine Howlett & Tom Pacio, Co-Directors
  • Francine Brown, FLLAC Events Coordinator
  • Daria Robbins, Office of Communications
  • Chris Silverman, Office of Communications
  • Eric Hepp, Concerts Administrator, Music Department
  • Jane Podell, Concerts Assistant, Music Department
  • Shelby Seipp, Administrative Assistant, Music Department


MODfest 2024 is supported by:

  • Dickinson-Kayden Fund for Music Events
  • Margaret Fischer Fund
  • Carolyn Grant ’36 Endowment Fund
  • Jewish Student Center/Jewish Life Fund
  • W. Mason and the Jane P. Smith Fund
  • Mellon Foundation
  • Helen Forster Novy 1928 Fund
  • Jeanne Periolat Czula Endowment
  • Warner Fund Inc., in honor of Olivia Zane, Class of 2019
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