I was very excited to see That Brown Show, and so, it seems, was everybody else in the audience, because they were much more boisterous than usual. In most other settings, this would have been somewhat irritating (in some parts, the audience cheered so loudly that I could barely hear the music), but after attending so many Indian student performances, I’ve accepted that this exuberance is simply part of the show.
I think all the ensembles did a very nice job, but I know I’ve seen much better from some. Sahana Music could have been a little more balanced – the vocalists didn’t perform much, while there were several percussion solos – but I loved the harmonium solo. Taal is capable of far more than what the piece they performed let on. The storyline of their dance, Robin Hood, could have been more connected to their choreography. The choreography itself seemed more fit for a nightclub until they started incorporating movements inspired by Indian classical dance, which they performed much more gracefully. It is possible that this was a deliberate juxtaposition between the more graceful Merry Men and the decadent King Richard, but if so, a more obvious difference would have helped. The Michigan Bhangra team had, as always, a very energetic performance, and their movements were crisp and unified, even those of the handkerchiefs they were flicking around. I wish they hadn’t had a video playing in the background, because after I noticed it all it did was distract me. Michigan Manzil had a really cohesive performance, and I was amazed at the unison they displayed despite the throng of people onstage. Their storyline for the dance – 21 Jump Street – worked really well with their performance, and their style and energy remained consistent throughout even when they were blending moves from different genres of dance. Sahana Dance was my favorite: they did a beautiful job of blending the three styles of dance that were represented onstage. Often, they take turns highlighting each dance style, but this time they managed to dance at the same time, and it worked really well. And they had some really unique music choices (that transitioned well) and some beautiful geometric formations. Michigan Izzat, as per usual, had a really tight performance with their hallmark crisp movements and a very well implemented storyline. Someday, though, I’d like to see them do more lyrical movements. I think it would add a lot of range to their repertoire, and I know they’re skilled enough to perform them. Lastly, Wolveraas had some really lovely musicality and very consistent energy, and they didn’t let that slip even despite a couple minor mishaps. This year, TBS was a competition – why I don’t know, and I hope it isn’t actually going to happen annually – and Izzat won the audience’s vote.
Strangely, Hill Auditorium as a venue didn’t seem to help anyone. Somehow the sound seemed muffled, not as bright as usual, and that leeched energy from everybody’s performances. This was not helpful, because these performances require a lot of energy, and I realized then that not all of that can come from the performers. But that couldn’t really be helped. My last note, though, is something that can be fixed: I really wish they would get their tech together. There were some hiccups with videos, sound editing, and sound balance that seem to happen at every show, and I know those are things that are so easily fixed with some minor attention to detail.