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Presented By: Center for World Performance Studies

Ancestral Haiku

Marion Hayden and Legacy in collaboration with Robin Wilson and M. Saffell Gardner

Ancestral Haiku Ancestral Haiku
Ancestral Haiku
Friday, September 23 | 8:00 PM
Dance Building, Studio 1
1000 Baits Dr.
Free and open to the public

Seating is limited. To reserve your seat in advance, fill out this form:
or email

SMTD+CWPS, a new partnership between the School of Music, Theatre & Dance and the Center for World Performance Studies will present an interactive performance that weaves together live original music, dance, video projection and original artwork. Part performance, meditation, and ritual, Ancestral Haiku explores Black Ancestry, the Middle Passage, and engages the work of poet/scholar Mursalata Muhammad. Detroit jazz legend Marion Hayden and Legacy join dance artist and U-M faculty Robin Wilson, with artwork and video installation by M. Saffell Gardner.

Ancestral Haiku also considers spiritual restitution as a way to alleviate spiritual suffering and begin the process of community healing. In particular, the use of buttons in visual media, soundscape and as interactive objects reflect West African religious practices carried over to African-American slave culture. Seen as objects of ritual and meaning, buttons connect the ancestral world with our own.

The Bass speaks in the hands of Marion Hayden. Mentored by master trumpeter Marcus Belgrave; Hayden began performing jazz at the age of 15. She has performed with such diverse luminaries as Bobby McFerrin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Geri Allen, Regina Carter, Steve Turre, David Allen Grier, James Carter and Nancy Wilson.

Her creative practice centers around her ensemble Legacy which performs original and narrative driven compositional works within the framework of improvised music with an emphasis on African diasporic music and Detroit composers. She is a co-founder of the Grammy nominated ensemble Straight Ahead- the first all-woman jazz ensemble signed to Atlantic Records.

Widely recognized as an advocate for the preservation of cultural and artistic legacy, Hayden was honored with the prestigious Kresge Artist Fellowship, the Spirit of Detroit Award and the 2022 Ron Brooks Award from the Southeast Michigan Jazz Assoc. She has served as Panelist or Consultant for Chamber Music America, the McKnight Foundation, Charles Wright Museum of African American History and South Arts. A passionate educator, Hayden holds jazz faculty positions at University of Michigan, Oakland University and the Geri Allen Jazz Camp- the first all-woman jazz residency.

Robin Wilson sees teaching, artmaking, and activism as easy companions – giving voice to untold stories and giving tools for others to speak their truth. She sees no contradiction between making art, teaching others to discover the artist within, teaching others to understand their history and connection to the greater good and being an advocate for the arts and communities. A founding member of New York’s Urban Bush Women, Robin is a Professor of Dance at the University of Michigan with an MFA in Choreography from Temple University. Her work explores the influences of the African Diaspora in historical and contemporary dance/culture, public scholarship and social justice through community engagement, and most recently, documenting the oral histories of black dancers in Harlem during the Black Arts Movement of the early 1970s.

Her recent collaborations include What We Ask Of Flesh with INSPIRIT: A Dance Company at Jacob’s Pillow and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Shattered Globes: For Tamara 2020 at the Detroit Dance City Festival and the Midwest RAD Festival and Ancestral Haiku with Detroit bassist Marion Hayden and visual artist Saffell Gardner at the Sidewalk Detroit Festival.

In 1992, Wilson received a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award as a former member of Urban Bush Women for her collective work on the company’s dances River Songs (1984) and Praise House (1990). She continues to perform and collaborate with artists across cultures, bridging communities through dance and scholarship and activism.

M. Saffell Gardner was born in Detroit, Michigan and holds BFA and MFA degrees in painting from Wayne State University. A sculptor, painter and educator, Gardner’s work uses bold forms and personal iconography in centering themes of African American identity, ritual and ancestry. In recognition of his artistic creativity and originality, Gardner was honored with the Kresge Artist Fellowship, a prestigious award to a distinguished group of visual and performing artists.

As a sculptor, Gardner’s work has been described as “visually stunning” and “regal”. “Sankofa” a 12’ sculpture celebrating the Ghanaian concept of “bringing the knowledge of the past forward” has been exhibited at the Chelsea Art Walk, Chelsea, MI, 2020-21 and the Krasl Biennial at the Box Factory in St. Joseph, MI, 2022-23. His sculpture “Lost Kings” was included in the 2021 Regional Biennial at the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum.

If you require accommodation to participate in this event, please contact the Center for World Performance Studies, at 734-936-2777 or Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the University to arrange.

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