Doctoral student Wayla Chombo dances while she plays.
Wayla Chambo faces more challenges than a typical flutist. She not only plays the flute, but she dances while doing so.
"It takes some practice," says Chambo, a doctoral student in flute performance at UNT who started her dance training in childhood. She was inspired to merge her dance with her flute playing in 2009, after seeing a dancing flutist at a convention in New York.
Chambo has been selected to perform one of her choreographed routines for flute and dance at the closing ceremony of the National Flute Association Convention — the premiere professional organization for flutists in the U.S. — on Aug. 14 (Sunday) in Charlotte, N.C.
"There are thousands of flute players from all over the country and the world," says Chambo, who studies with Terri Sundberg and Elizabeth McNutt at UNT. "It's a really great chance to see and hear a lot of excellent musicians and for a lot of people to see and hear you."
Chambo will perform the Sarabande movement — or slow movement — from Bach's Partita in A minor for solo flute, a piece so standard in flute repertoire that many flutists know it by memory. But Chambo's audience will experience this piece in a new way at the convention, as she has choreographed the five-minute classical piece using modern dance techniques. She will be joined onstage by another dancer, Penny Chang, who is not playing an instrument.
Choreographing a dance for a performing flutist presented its share of challenges, but she still manages to choreograph jumps — landing during the rests so as not to cause a jolting sound in the flute.
"But I think it has also helped me explore different ways to keep my sound steady," she says.
"My arms pretty much stay with the flute," she says. "I can do various torso movements, like bending and turning, and the flute and the arms can move as part of that. I also do some things with going down to the floor and back up, like sitting down, rolling and spinning."
Not her first number
In the past, Chambo has also performed another dance piece for flute. At her doctoral recital at UNT in March, she performed Karlheinz Stockhausen's 33-minute Kathinkas Gesang (Kathinka's Chant), which she choreographed in collaboration with local choreographer Lily Sloan.
When she first performed the Bach piece in Virginia in 2009, some people in the audience couldn't believe at first that she was dancing while playing.
"A few people thought at the beginning that I wasn't really playing, that it was a recording," she says, "but as it went on, they realized it was me."