On Wednesday night, tap dancer extraordinaire Savion Glover performed to a packed audience at Page Auditorium. Glover, whose creative fusion of traditional tap and African dance is world renowned, is only one artist in a terrific lineup from this season of Duke Performances. Previous performers from this season include Reggie Watts, Bela Fleck and Meredith Monk. Performers such as Mike Daisey, the China National Symphony Orchestra and Diavolo Dance Theater are slated to perform in the upcoming months.
Many students take this star-studded lineup for granted. Ten years ago, before the birth of the Nasher Museum of Art, the arts at Duke were a small and overlooked category. But the inception of Duke Performances in 2005 brought arts opportunities to campus that—at highly subsidized rates of $10 per ticket—should receive more attention from students. Led by director Aaron Greenwald, Duke Performances has the potential to broaden what Duke students conceive of as fun.
With the Animal House myth of college, it comes as no surprise that most think of going out at Duke as college bars and section parties. Duke Performances offers an enriching alternative to the typical Saturday night. With performances ranging from all genres and mediums, there is enough variety to appeal to any student. Furthermore, many of these performances take place in nontraditional Durham venues such as the Hayti Heritage Center, Durham Performing Arts Center, Motorco and the Pinhook. The latter two venues are unique local bars, perfect for students who want to combine an informal social setting with a first-rate artistic experience. Clearly, Duke Performances is not all about listening to chamber music in a concert hall—although there are such performances too, such as those by the Ciompi Quartet.
Duke Performances has made commissioning new work a priority. Amazingly, Duke is the birthplace of innovative new art, including musical compositions such as the Bad Plus’s “On Sacred Ground” and Steve Reich’s “WTC 9/11.” Few students know this, but they have the rare opportunity to witness the first-time performances of original artwork.
At such a low cost—non-student Duke Performances tickets can cost around $40—students should take advantage of such opportunities to explore Durham, experience cutting-edge art and socialize with friends. Just be sure to actually go if you buy a ticket: Duke Performances has noticed that students often buy tickets but do not actually attend the shows, which makes the program take a significant loss.
While complaints about the Duke bubble sound like a broken record, how many students have truly tried to take advantage of the artistic opportunities available to them? Duke Performances offers high quality art experiences at virtually no cost, except for a few Flex points and a trip to the University Box Office.
Too often, we narrowly define our view of what our options are for a Saturday night at Duke. Why not broaden our limited notion of what constitutes one’s “social life” to encompass listening to a jazz trio at a cool local dive or the beatboxing of an eccentric comedian-slash-musician? Those who decry the Duke bubble should not despair—amazing opportunities are only a beat away.