School of Music, Theatre and Dance at the University of Michigan

JOINT: A Violin/Dance/Visual Arts Celebration

Faculty Performance

Dance Building: Studio 1

JOINT: A Violin/Dance/Visual Arts Celebration


Bodies in every size, shape and color, with hearts beating wildly and ideas colliding – the energy created in a LIVE interaction is sparked between hundreds of “joints” moving in tandem and in opposites on stage.  Music and movement are woven together in real time, unleashing creativity in our students giving our audiences a multisensory experience. 
          -Danielle Belen, Associate Professor of Violin

The Project

JOINT is a collaboration directed by SMTD faculty members Danielle Belen and Shannon Gillen, inspired by the diverse group of immensely talented students at U of M. The central themes of JOINT will be told through the sounds of solo violinists, the choreography of dancers, and the lens of Venezuelan photographer, Natali Herrera-Pacheco. 

The months-long artistic process of connecting the students and developing the musical program, rehearsing, and integrating Natali’s photographic art will culminate in a 50 minute dynamic performance in Studio One of the new Dance Building on January 20th, 2023. This space offers an amplitude of possibilities with respect to lighting design and staging, to be explored in conjunction with Herrera-Pacheco’s powerful images projected behind the violinists and dancers. 

The theme of the project explores the intersection of the physical body, its individual joints and parts, and the art we  create using them. JOINT refers literally to our physical joints, the borders that shape the beautiful angles of our limbs from shoulders to the small knuckles in our fingers, from our hip joints to our little pinky toe for balance. Of course, JOINT also intimates teamwork and togetherness, and this project reflects that in the basic fibers of its conception. 

As a violin teacher, Professor Belen focuses much of her teaching and research on the very visceral physical aspects of creating sound. Intertwining violinists’ bodies with the physical instrument is not far from the way dancers use their bodies to interact with spaces and each other. Professor Gillen encourages her dancers to create deeply expressive works and push boundaries as interpreters, makers and performers.

We are connecting dancers and violinists, pushing them to be expressive in ways outside of their usual comfort zones. Violinists typically perform with other string players, while dancers often perform to pre-recorded tracks. The energy created in a LIVE interaction is sparked between hundreds of “joints” moving in tandem and in opposites on stage. 

The Visuals

Through a multitude of visual arts, Natali Herrera-Pacheco will express the concept of the body’s various frames and borders created by our physical joints, while exploring the larger landscape of what it means for bodies, sounds and kinetics to coexist and create a beautiful artistic experience. Her artistic voice as a woman of color goes beyond her camera, and we are enjoying her inspiring interactions with the students leading up to this collaborative performance. Her visual storytelling and the performances by these gifted young artists will be interwoven to create a deeply enriching educational and aesthetic experience. In the artistic process, she has regularly traveled to Ann Arbor from her current home base in Texas to workshop with our students.

Natali has been pushing the boundaries of her art form across multiple continents and examples of her magnificent work can be found at

This idea of building a dynamic collaborative community within the larger SMTD landscape feels particularly relevant at this time. We hope to create a deeply connective tissue between dance and violin that speaks to larger ideas of self and personal expression through the infrastructure of this project. 

JOINT: A Celebration through performance of how our bodies make art. Friday, January 20