REVIEW: Range of Reaction

Swirling in a digital space, images of performers move in and out of view. Audience members are taken on a curated artistic experience, each work framed by a different striking background. Though unrelated in message, dances are linked in their ability to thrust viewers into a never-before-created world. Vivid colors, stunning silhouettes, clear intention–  this is none other than Range of Reaction.

            Having premiered on January 29th, audience members across the region watched Range of Reaction unfold on their very own screens. The digital showcase was presented by Arts in Color, a Department of Dance student organization dedicated to committed to promoting leadership and social activism in the arts. The showcase featured five original works, each of which was choreographed, performed, filmed, edited, and produced entirely by University of Michigan dance majors.

Beginning in silence, the work of Leah O’Donnell opens the show with its commentary on different perceptions of femininity. Dancers interact with various props such as a cloth mannequin and a broom, inviting audience members to consider the ways in which women are viewed at the societal level. Juxtaposition of person and prop creates several points in which it is impossible to tell what is human and what is not, thus emphasizing the illusions that O’Donnell says women are expert at creating.

Moving into its next work, Range of Reaction offers a trio choreographed by Chloe Chodorow that combines traditional and contemporary dance aesthetics to create what she calls a ‘contemporary fan dance’. The three dancers weave in and out of one another amidst the vastness of Nichols Arboretum, dancing with the fan as if it was a fourth performer. Continuing at a steady pace, the work has a visceral elegance that leaves audience members enamored from beginning to end.

The following work is a solo choreographed and performed by Cristina Benn. Set in a black box theater, Benn takes viewers on an incredibly expressive journey. She is the only individual in the space, but it is impossible not to feel her presence as she allows her story to unfold through her movement. The music is deeply powerful, but the passionate movement remains the rightful center of attention as Benn commands the space.

The end of the solo brings the beginning of the work of Katey Besser, a small ensemble work focused on the differences between individual and group think. Once again bringing viewers to the Arboretum, Besser’s work features four dancers and their efforts to break away from a collective. Dancers move in and out of different areas of the Arboretum, each of which frames dancers in a differently exciting way.

Bringing the showcase to a close, Rose Janusiak and Alana Packo present a deeply personal exploration of intimacy and interaction in queer friendship. The work is filled with imagery that finds a way to stay in the mind of viewers even hours after the showcase reaches its end. No scene in this dance film is the same, thus providing a complex representation of friendship.

The beauty of Range of Reaction lies in its creation of a world that is somehow both dreamily surreal yet faintly within reach. Meticulously curated, the showcase’s five original works create a varied landscape of differing aesthetics and intentions, ensuring that there is something that virtually any audience member will find enjoyable. This showcase is the quintessential COVID-era art: digital, emotional, and a representation of what can be created when armed with dedication and a vision. Those looking to fall head first into an escape from their current lives should look no further– Range of Reaction will pull viewers into a new universe as soon as they hit ‘play’.


To watch Range of Reaction visit

PREVIEW: Range of Reaction

On Friday, January 29th, Arts in Color will premiere a digital student choreography showcase entitled Range of Reaction.The virtual dance showcase is produced, choreographed, and performed entirely by University of Michigan dance students. Five dynamic choreographers have created short dance films that seek to answer the question “how does the world that we live in right now affect the choices that we make daily?” Range of Reaction showcases thought-provoking art, tackling a variety of topics including colonialism, groupthink, racism, and queer identity.


Range of Reaction began as a cathartic discussion of the creative silence COVID-19 has brought to art communities, and transformed into an imagining of what art may look like as our communities heal. Each work was filmed throughout the fall in Ann Arbor, with every party involved strictly following University of Michigan and statewide COVID-19 safety guidelines. This week’s showcase highlights the perseverance of artistic communities, as it offers the premiere of five original works despite the numerous hardships and challenges the pandemic has presented.


Range of Reaction will be posted to the Arts in Color Vimeo on Friday, January 29th at 8pm EST and will be available to view free of charge. Supported in part through the School of Music, Theatre & Dance Meta Weiser EXCEL Fund, as well as Arts at Michigan, Range of Reaction is a must-see showcase for those looking for a refreshingly original and thought-provoking performing arts event from the safety of their home.


To watch the Range of Reaction Promotional Trailer, visit . Range of Reaction will be posted to the same channel.

REVIEW: Proving Up

Piercing vocals and eerie lighting fill the Power Center arena. Performers pace the stage, desperately chanting a seemingly impossible list of requirements for obtaining the deed to their land. Though physically distanced, each character’s life is hopelessly entangled with every other person on the stage. A show that had once started in warm yellow light devolves to a harsh inky blue, leaving audience members with a kind of uneasiness that can’t be shaken. This is emotional opera theatre in the age of a global pandemic. This is the University Opera Theatre & University Symphony Orchestra production, Proving Up.

Premiering just last night on December 16th, audiences across the region were given the chance to watch Proving Up, an opera included in SMTD’s winter digital series. Taking places in the early 1870s at the dawn of the Homestead Act, the opera follows a family of Nebraskan homesteaders in their quest to obtain the deed to their farmland– to “prove up”.

The chamber opera begins in a way that seems mostly normal to audiences. The orangey-yellow set feels warm and welcoming, inviting viewers into the family’s world and their quest for the American Dream. Almost obsessively, the family repeats the four requirements that need to be met in order to get their land deed: a house of sod, acres of grain, a five year history on the land, and a window of glass. The last requirement is the most elusive, as it is the very thing that leads to the family’s eventual demise. With every line, the atmosphere on stage grows colder– a mother makes a haunting confession, a father commits a desperate crime, and a ghostly set of sisters weave back in forth between reality and the beyond. Nothing about the world on stage is truly normal, and it is almost impossible while viewing to ignore the sense that the family is being controlled by events just outside of their sight. Though set in what may be a familiar period in American history, Proving Up is anything but expected.

As the opera continues, it becomes apparent that every creative decision made by performers and production team members alike was made with the audience’s discomfort in mind. Scenic Designer, Henry Pederson, has created a set that just slightly exposes the industrial innerworkings of the Power Center itself. Lighting Designer, Harrison Hoffert, lights the performers in a way that pointedly foreshadows their demise. Remaining in line with COVID-19 safety guidelines, the closest performers stand an achingly far 12 feet away from one another, even in times of immense emotional distress. Though subtle details exist throughout the show, it isn’t until the last two acts that audience members find such details coming together to reveal just how warped this world is. Left in an initial hazy confusion, an understanding of events doesn’t dawn on viewers until the true tragedy is centerstage.

Proving Up is a morbidly beautiful opera. The talented performers and members of the creative team work have worked harmoniously to create a cohesive yet grating environment for the heart of the show to live in. With every scene, viewers pick up on yet another detail in a complicated series of events, eventually resulting in an emotionally-charged finale that will leave some unsettled even hours after the curtain falls. This modern age opera expertly combines some of the best things that art has to offer: emotion, drama, and story-telling. Those looking for an evocative show must look no further: Proving Up draws on an intangible kind of fear that audience members will find nowhere else.

PREVIEW: Proving Up

On Wednesday, December 16th, University Opera Theatre & University Symphony Orchestra will premiere a digital production of the opera, Proving Up. Composed by Missy Mazolli, this deeply unsettling work follows a family in their quest to bring their ‘American Dream’ to fruition. Taking place in 1870s Nebraska at the dawn of the Homestead Act, the chamber opera brings audience members on a thrilling rollercoaster of emotions as they watch the family desperately try to obtain a deed to their land by “proving up”.


The performance was filmed in early November over several nights at the Power Center for the Performing Arts. During this time, all cast and crew members followed strict health precautions according to the University of Michigan COVID-19 safety guidelines to ensure that no one was put in danger by participating. I was lucky enough to work in the lighting booth for this incredible production, and doing so gave me an inside perspective into the immense amount of work that goes into producing a show of this caliber. Every single person involved in this production poured their hearts and souls into creating a high-quality arts event despite the circumstances.


Proving Up will be posted to the SMTD YouTube channel on Wednesday, December 16th at 8:00pm EST and will be available to view free of charge for one month. The opera is short, running for approximately 80 minutes, and is sung entirely in English. As the semester’s finals come to a close, this intimate work is an excellent indulgence for those looking for an artistic change of pace.