PREVIEW: Things Both Hushed and Grand

Performance Ark presents

Things Both Hushed and Grand

Performance Ark is a U of M “student-led hub for developing artists looking to collaborate.” As part of a two day event, the group is producing its first ever evening length performance, titled Things Both Hushed and Grand. According to the artists, “this performance applies ‘dance party colloquialisms and tailored contemporary technique to a lo-fi bedroom pop sound to investigate the courage it takes to be “an absolute nobody.”

The piece is choreographed by U of M Department of Dance students Tehillah Frederick, Julia Smith-Eppsteiner and Katy Telfer. Dancers include Tehillah Frederick, Edith Freyer, Allie Harris, Natalie Niergarth, Maddy Rager, Molly Ross, Julia Smith-Eppsteiner, Katy Telfer & Cara Zonca, also students in the department. The show is paired with music by funky, up-and-coming local band Fthrsn (click here and here to get a sonic taste test).

I asked Julia Smith-Eppsteiner a few questions about her collaborative work and she gave me a hearty glimpse into her process:

Is this related to school at all? Yes and no. We have established ourselves as a student organization at the University, all the dancers we’re using are in the dance department of SMT&D, as is the musician, and we are partially funded by Arts at Michigan mini-grant. But in a lot of ways it is independent from the school … Firstly, we met Macklin Underdown (fthrsn) at a music concert/dance party at Arbor Vitae. Secondly, we also are funded by independent donors via Kickstarter. And most importantly, we’re doing this production on our own time. This isn’t our BFA Senior Thesis, we’re not getting any credit for it and aside from the assistance and encouragement from faculty members we approached, this project is independent of our departments.

How did you get the idea to make this performance happen?
The three of us (Tehillah, Katy and I) have been interested in each other as collaborators/choreographers/movers for a long time and sort of joked about making a show together at the end of our freshman year (we’re all juniors currently). Tehillah brought it up to us again at the end of this past summer and until we saw Mackie perform at a party in October we didn’t get concretely going on anything. Once he was on board and making songs, we were pushed to make it actually happen and create deadlines for ourselves to generate movement phrases and keep us moving forward (deadlines such as Collage Concert and a Telluride Lecture Series we did titled Defining Movement). We’ve been seriously working on Things Both Hushed & Grand since November, us four responsible for everything on both the creative and business sides of the production.

Who did the posters? Jessica Ford, a BFA student in the Art and Design School, with a focus in painting. She’s been a dream.

All performances are free of charge and open to the public. For more information on the show, check out the Performance Ark Facebook page. One of the exciting and novel things about this particular performance is that it will shift venues with each of the three iterations:

Friday, March 23rd

Studio 1 black box theatre in Walgreen Drama Center on North Campus

Doors are at 4:30pm, performance at 5 pm.

Friday, March 23rd

Ann Arbor Art Center, 117 W. Liberty St

Exhibition Gallery

Doors at 8pm, performance at 8:30

Saturday, March 24th

Campus Chapel, 1236 Washtenaw Ct.

Doors at 1:30pm, performance at 2pm

REVIEW: Tree City & The Contraband

Tree City & The Contraband

Last  Saturday night, Ann Arbor hip-hop group Tree City took the stage at The Blind Pig. First real night of spring break and what better to do than get down to some local sounds with some super funky musicians? The group performed to a crowd of happy college spring breakers freshly released from exams. The atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable but hype enough to feel the spirit of freedom.

Tree City was formed in Ann Arbor in 2005 by 3 MC’s and a DJ/MC. By day, they are known as Evan HaywoodKyle Hunter, and Jacoby Simmons. By night, as Clavius CratesGeneral Population, and DJ Cataclysmic respectively. The group originally included two others- Mike and Cheeks– but both have fled to the west coast, and then there were three. The trio supplies “eardrums with a  unique brand of hip-hop” via live shows around town (including last month’s Eighth Annual Midwest Hip-Hop Summit at The League) as well as through their recordings. The complete discography includes The TreE.P. (2007), Black Trees (2008), Say It Again (Single) (2010), and Thus Far (2010), and most recently Definement (2011). And luckily, you can hear samples of everything they’ve got to offer on their website!

The show at the Pig on Saturday opened with sounds from DJ Charles Trees, Thrills & Saul Good, Passalacqua, and Tunde Oliniran. And finally, headliner Tree City, as a combined act with The Contraband. The combo is an extension of other local artists that have been playing with Tree City as a group for a year. Musicians include UM students and grads Ben Rolston on bass, Julian Allen on drums, Yuma Yesaka on the saxophone and electronic wind instrument, Keaton Royer on the synthesizer and Michael Malis on synthesizers and keyboards.

The performance featured all original material. Definitely danceable; definitely a good time. The main act was worth the ticket, but the openers also warmed up the crowd nicely. Most original, in my opinion, was Tunde Oliniran, whose performance included some level of experimental/interpretative dance (click here to get a taste of what I’m talkin’ about).

A golden moment of the night, bass player Ben Rolston said, “was experiencing the audience interaction that is a major part of hip-hop. Evan or Kyle would start a chant and the crowd was right there with them, giving that energy back to us. Coming from mostly playing music where the audience connection is less direct its really wonderful to be a part of.”

I got to drop in on a rehearsal at The Neutral Zone a few nights prior to the show. It was exciting to be able to watch the evolution of the performance from practice to a complete work of art. Even in a trial run, without the lights and crowds, the group has really got it going on. Nothin’ like some good old fashioned local music to get down on over Spring Break.

Look out for more Tree City shows happening around town. In the meantime, get connected! Check out the Tree City: homepageFacebook pageTwitter, and Soundcloud.


The Oscars happened last Sunday and The Artist was a sweep. But this time next year, look out for the film Pina. See it in theaters now, remember it when awards season rolls around in a year. This spectacle is bound to be a hit.

Based on the life and work of German choreographer Pina Bausch, this 3-D film mixes an explosive combination of mediums: film, dance, choreography, set design, music, sound, lighting, language, graphics, special effects, cinematography. A sensational splendor.

Pina’s work in modern dance escalated in the 1970’s and continues to be influential today. Her role as a director is most prominent in Tanztheater, which translates to “dance theater.” She spearheaded a company in Germany by the same name, though throughout her career she worked with the gamut of cross-continental dance fame. In Tanztheater, Pina created celebrated pieces such as Rite of Spring (1975), and Café Müller (1978). Both are exemplary of her outrageous style: in the former, dancers move about on stage completely covered in soil and in the latter, they aggressively crash into chairs and tables on a café set. Both are reenacted beautifully in the film.

Image from Café Müller

Image from Rite of Spring

So thats the overview of who Pina is: a creative, expressive, and innovative movement artist. And now about this crazy movie that she inspired: Oscar-nominated film maker Wim Wenders has been a fan of Pina since the 80’s and decided to document her work in action. His crew followed hers long before the project took off, building artistic relationships between those in front and behind the camera. Unfortunately, days  before the shooting began, Pina died unexpectedly of a sudden cancer. The fim, therefore, began a tribute to her life more than just a portrayal or her work ethic.

The sets incorporated a wild combination of elements. Here, I mean earth elements: dirt, mountains, water, plant life. Some performances were filmed on a traditional stage, while others sought peculiar venues like rooftops, subway trains, swimming pool decks, or glass paneled houses in the woods.

The dance numbers were performed by professionals from Pina’s company. Their segments were separated by close- ups combined with voice overs in the variety of languages spoken by the worldly crew: Spanish, French, German, Portugese, Japanese, Chinese, English, and more. They talked of Pina as a guiding artist and all that her ingenuity and freedom of expression taught them about themselves, their bodies, and their work.

Counter to the common conception of dancers as always youthful, these workers ranged vastly in their ages. I found this point to be very curious. It spoke to the life long development of artists and how they become enriched as they ripen in their craft. Their ages may be have been evident on their skin, but the astounding strength and nimbleness of the dancer’s bodies far from gave them away. In fact, there was one piece in which dancers of various eras of life were dressed in identical outfits, confusing the audience about who was who. It was a number that could only have been performed for screen dance. I don’t see how this switching of characters could be performed live without the trickery of editing.

I asked my cousin, who works as a professional ballet dancer for the Boston City Ballet, his opinion on the work. “I thought it was beautiful,” he said. “She’s so unique in her choreography.”

And I agree! Watching Pina was one of the most visually pleasing experiences I have had in a long time.It was creative, stunning, marvelous, and inspirational beyond belief. I would feel badly for anyone who misses the opportunity to experience it.

Hurry up and see it! I’m serious, this was a very powerful artistic undertaking. The documentary has already swept up  The European Film Awards and German Film Awards, as well as receiving nominations or Official Selections from The Academy Awards, New York, Telluride, and Toronto Film Festivals. Pina is only playing at the Michigan Theater through this Sunday, March 4th. Check the Michigan Theater website for show times. Also, here’s and interview with director Wim Wenders from the New York Times. For more background on the production, check out the movie’s website .

REVIEW: Take Six: New Jazz Compositions

I learned about “Take Six” from a musician friend who plays piano for the ballet class following mine. After class last week, I asked  if he had any gigs coming up and he informed me of this innovative performance happening at the UMMA. On Saturday, February 17th, the museum held a musical progressive called “Take Six: New Jazz Compositions.” The museum was staged with six musical sets; six combinations of musicians played six original compositions inspired by six works of art in the University’s collection. The audience progressed from stage to stage at ten minute intervals, experiencing an hour’s worth of varied pieces. A kind of musical chairs, literally. Better yet, the set repeated itself four times throughout the afternoon. So if you missed any composition in the rotation, there was opportunity to catch it a second, third, or fourth time. Now that’s some repetitive Phillip Glass stuff right there.

I stayed for one full round of playing. Because of that, however, I think I missed the full affect of the progressive. The pieces remain the same, yet each iteration is unique in its rendition. The spaces the sets occupied included the Apse near the main entrance, the Forum near the gift shop, the Commons across from Angell Hall, and two floors of the Vertical Gallery near the DialogueTable. It would have been ideal to stage the performances beside the pieces that inspired them, but that would have been spatially challenging, especially since the last is no longer on display.

A progressive is a curious and interactive manner of experiencing artwork in its various forms. The performance format inspired dynamic conversation both between the audience and the musicians, as well as the musicians and the artists each chose as his muse. Instrumental reflections of brushstrokes and color pallets included drums, piano, bass, saxophone, clarinet, flute, trombone, and more. The combinations were written and performed by students and faculty from the School of Music’s Jazz Department.

The entire project was clearly a demonstration of strong talent and commitment. It seemed to be hard work to prepare, but a breeze to partake in. All the audience had to do was heed the shepherd’s call and meander with the flock. Easy following, easy listening. Personally, I truly enjoyed the event. Wandering about the art museum with the soundtrack to my visual experiences playing aloud for all to hear, what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?

Below are images of the six auricular-visual pairings, to give you an idea of what you can’t see or hear from where you’re sitting.

Boyhood of Lincoln by Eastman Johnson

on view in the gallery of European & American Art

Inspired The Boy Lincoln by Keaton Royer

Shrine Figure (edjo) by Akpojivi of Orhokpko, Nigeria

on view in the gallery of African Art

Inspired The Spirit of the People by Alekos Syropoulos

Twilight by Dwight William Tryon

on view in the gallery of European & American Art

Inspired Something Hidden by Kevin McKinney

The Dead Soldier by Jospeh Wright of Derby

on view in the gallery of European Art (1650-1830)

Inspired The Mourning Widow by Demetrius Nabors

Smoke Rings June 14, 2001 by Donald Sultan

on view in the Vertical Gallery

Inspired Smoke Rings by Sam Crittenden

Sparrow on a Bamboo Branch by Kanô Gyokuraku

Japanese Art, currently not on view

Inspired Sparrows by Ryan Wolfe

PREVIEW:PiTE Valentine’s Day Concert

Program in the Environment is holding a Valentine’s Day concert!

Love Each Other, Love Your Earth

Inspiring Environmental Change through Music and Literature

On Tuesday, February 14th, the Keene Auditorium in East Quad will be hosting a concert in honor of love for one another and love for the earth. Performers include Ann Arbor singer/songwriter Joe Reilly, as well as two creative U-M faculty. U-M Professor of Composition Evan Chambers pairs music with the poetry of Adjunct Faculty & Creative Writing Coordinator Keith Taylor. The concert is FREE and open to all. Included is a pre-concert reception at 7:30 pm in the Benzinger Library, also in East Quad, where there are bound to be Valentines Day treats…hmm chocolate. Not a bad place to bring a Valentines Day date! though not necessary to enjoy this special performance. Doors to the concert open at 8:15 pm. Come “experience together how arts can influence social and environmental change.” Enjoy!


Hey all, you knew it was coming. This month’s theme is love and lust, or maybe quite the opposite. Get to Work Gallery this Friday night to dish it out at our February slam with Word of Mouth. Theme: Infatuation. Great place to bring a date! Or not….depending on what kind of story you might tell…Necessary info below, and, as always, check out the sweet graphics by the lovely Hannah Hillier. See ya there! Happy Valentines Day (or whatever).

Word of Mouth StorySLAM is coming around again.

Friday, February 17–6 pm–Work Gallery, 306 State Street
Valentine’s day is right around the corner, and so is our next Story Slam, “Infatuation.” Don’t miss your opportunity to share your tales of love and woe as we wind down from everyone’s *favorite* holiday. No matter what kinds of mischief cupid has been stirring up in your life, we want to hear it! Snacks and drinks provided for those of us in need of a little extra TLC.

Never been to our slams before? Audience members tell five-minute stories from their lives relative to a theme. Events are always free, and no previous storyslam experience is necessary. Whether you come with stories or just to listen in, we hope to see you there!

In the meantime, check out our blog and our Facebook event!