Two-part SMTD event looks at sexual misconduct in performing arts


The School of Music, Theatre & Dance will present a symposium and performance Feb. 26 as part of an ongoing effort at SMTD to improve communication and institute transparency around issues of sexual misconduct and gender bias.

“Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct Awareness and Prevention in the Performing Arts” is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 26 in Hankinson Rehearsal Hall at the Earl V. Moore Building on North Campus. Free parking is available in the Moore Building lot.

The free event is open to the U-M community and public, although online registration is recommended.

Presented by SMTD’s new Faculty and Staff Allies Network, the two-part event is designed to to effect a permanent culture change at U-M, and in society. It will begin with a panel discussion and question-and-answer session with leading advocates for eradicating gender inequality, sexual misconduct or racial injustice in the performing arts.

The second half of the presentation will feature performances by artists who address these themes in their work.

“I am so grateful to our Faculty and Staff Allies Network for putting together this important event,” said SMTD Dean Dave Gier. “The performing arts face a unique set of challenges in relation to gender bias and sexual misconduct.

“We are excited to host these panelists and performers who are doing so much to create positive change in the field. We look forward to sharing the work that is being done to make the performing arts safe and equitable, and to showcasing artists who are informing that process through their work.”

The symposium panel consists of:

• Laura Fisher, co-founder of #NotInOurHouse, a Chicago-based advocacy organization for victims of sexual harassment in the theater industry.

• Eun Lee, founder of The Dream Unfinished, an “activist orchestra” whose mission is to use classical music as a platform to engage audiences in dialogues surrounding social and racial justice.

• Los Angeles dance artist Amy O’Neal, choreographer of “Opposing Forces,” which uses tropes of contemporary performance to expose fears around feminine qualities in our culture through the hypermasculine dance style of “breaking.”

• Kaaren Williamsen, director of the U-M Sexual Assault Prevention & Awareness Center, who also will moderate the discussion.

The evening’s performers include an SMTD alumna and current students:

Carla Canales, who received her Bachelor of Music degree in voice in 2002. She is a world-renowned mezzo-soprano and founder of The Canales Project, which was created to “give voice to issues of identity and culture through music and conversation.”

TCP’s debut initiative is “Hear Her Song,” which celebrates the stories of women leaders through songs inspired by their words and composed by leading female songwriters and composers.

At this performance, Canales will be joined by students Joshua Cerdeni (piano) and Colleen Bernstein (percussion) to sing songs written in honor of several contemporary female role models.

• Colleen Bernstein, a master’s student in percussion performance and chamber music. She founded a multimedia concert experience, “Strength & Sensitivity,” which blends music, poetry and audience interaction to inspire dialogue exploring themes of gender dynamics, intersectional feminism and empathy.

At this performance she will be joined by students Josh DeVries (cello), Hannah McPhillimy (keyboard and vocals), Jonathan Mashburn (vibraphone) and Janet Lyu (speaker).

• Nicole Reehorst, a master’s student in dance. She uses choreography and performance to research the complicated power(s) of femininity, collaboration and embodied mindfulness.

Her theses project, “Playing Dead,” will be performed and will feature student dancers Michaela Esteban, Olivia Johnson, Elise Miller and Florence Woo, with Yalan Piao on piano.

The SMTD Faculty and Staff Allies Network is a collection of volunteer leaders dedicated to fostering a nurturing, respectful and safe SMTD community, free from sexual misconduct, harassment and gender bias.

Distinct from a policy body or counseling effort, FASAN works collaboratively with the SMTD community to deepen the collective understanding of issues surrounding sexual misconduct, especially the power dynamics that can lead to abuse and a culture of silence.

The network strives to create a climate of open communication, awareness and responsiveness through community education events. Network members seek to create an ever more positive learning atmosphere at SMTD and to improve the professional climate of the performing arts field as a whole.

This event is informed by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report, “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering & Medicine.”


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