REVIEW: Resurgence: We’re Bringing Sexy Back by Pure Dance

Apparently, the dancers at Pure Dance had been busy last semester.

Their annual showcase took place last Sunday evening and featured nine stunning student-made choreographies complete with all the twirls, body rolls, and hair whips you could ask for. Furthermore, we were treated to a diverse range of guest performances by Salto, Gimble, FunKtion, Groove, Blue Bop Jazz, DB3, and Flowdom. Sitting in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater, the energy of the crowd was close-knit and infectious–people were not shy about loudly cheering for their friends on stage. 

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the showcase’s theme coming in, but I found that they were able to present a really interesting curation of dances embodying “resurgence”… and dare I say sexiness?

My favorite number had to be Illusion of Bliss, which was impressively performed in black high heel boots. The contrast between the slow hard beats of the beginning section with these incredibly sensual movements backed by Alicia Keys’ soulful raspy voice and the ending section with the imagery of the dancers sinking to their knees in prayer as she sings “I don’t wanna be a fallen angel” told a compelling story. Meanwhile, Mad at You and War of Hearts approached the concept from a more modern/contemporary angle, with flowing cascades of movement. Like a Boy seemed to pull from old-school hip hop influences with sharp jutting elbows while Toxic had a high-energy hard rock edge such that the dancers were practically throwing themselves into poses.

I also thought the guest performers did an incredible job. Hip hop dance practice videos on Instagram are probably one of my guilty pleasures, so I loved FunKtion’s tight transitions and incorporation of humor as well as Flowdom’s clean hits and charisma. Plus, it was nice to see Blue Bop Jazz’s saxophones hyping each other up during their solos!

The final choreography was Bride, which created some beautiful visuals out of the entire ensemble. The dancers wore a pretty pastel/neutral color palette and had a continual flow of synchronized bodies passing on and off stage, which paired well with the bubbly hopeful music. As a goofy ending note, the showcase fittingly concluded with everyone dancing to Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack for the curtain call.

Congratulations to all the performers who were a part of the event! I look forward to seeing what Pure Dance will bring next.

REVIEW: Drive My Car

Warning: Slight spoilers for the film’s exposition

Just yesterday, a few of my classmates and I went to see the premiere of Drive My Car (2021) in the State Theater. The Japanese film was directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi and based on the short story of the same name by Haruki Murakami, whose works have been bestsellers within and outside of Japan. 

I went into the film expecting a touching or tragic romance, the exposition of the film began to hint at the latter when the main character Yūsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) walks in on his wife Oto Kafuku (Reika Kirishima), in the throes of passion with a young actor that she works with. I expected a dramatic confrontation between the husband and wife, but Yūsuke’s response to the incident is passive, as he simply walks away before Oto or the actor sees him. 

Despite the cheating, their love appears genuine, as both of them are drawn together by the art of storytelling; he is a stage actor, and she is a writer for television dramas. However, the movie takes its turn from the romance as Oto soon passes, and Yūsuke fails to gain closure in regards to the relationship with his wife.

The second act begins when Yūsuke is hired a driver, the young Misaki Watari (Tôko Miura), when he takes a job to be a director for a stage play of Uncle Vanya. Their relationship starts with indifference towards each other yet progresses each time he requests Misaki to play the recording of his wife reciting lines from the play for him to practice with. Misaki has past grievances of her own and together she and Yūsuke help each other find closure with each of their dead family’s strange behaviors.

At first, Yūsuke did not want anyone other than him to drive his car, but he soon grows comfortable with Misaki’s driving and it is as if he has finally let go of that independent passivity that held him back from confronting his wife. This allows Misaki to reveal her trials of being raised by the abusive mother who she let die during a mudslide that collapsed her house. The comradery that the two find together is wonderfully developed without the need for overt displays as they simply build their trust in each other with each facet of information they release.

Being three hours long, the movie’s pacing is quite slow. The exposition itself took almost an hour to set up. However, if you have the patience and want to watch a film that touches your heart with a unique friendship, make sure to catch Drive My Car at the State Theater.

PREVIEW: Resurgence: We’re Bringing Sexy Back by Pure Dance

I don’t typically frequent dance events, but with a name like “Resurgence: We’re Bringing Sexy Back,” I had to check this one out. 

Pure Dance is a student-run organization at the University of Michigan that welcomes dancers with a broad range of backgrounds. They will be hosting their annual showcase this Sunday, featuring member-choreographed dances and guest performances from an exciting mix of a capella, instrumental, and other dance groups.

Although I have long buried my childhood ballerina days, I am excited to see some of my friends perform on stage. Additionally, I look forward to getting to know some of the other performance groups on campus. While Pure Dance is known for doing contemporary and jazz dance styles, I have also been told to look out for ballet, hip hop, and K-pop!

Come support Pure Dance on Sunday, January 23rd at 6:00 pm at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater! Free tickets are available through this month’s Passport to the Arts.

Event info: myumi.ch/488My

REVIEW: Tiny Objects, Big Stories

Where do you go first in a museum?

This was the question behind the “Tiny Objects, Big Stories” virtual tour at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. I hadn’t given the question much thought until now. I realized that in all the hours I have spent wandering museum exhibits, I always began with the largest pieces, expansive paintings and statues. Naturally, these are the first things to catch my eye.

However, there’s a whole other collection of artifacts that are often overlooked. These include smaller tablets, amulets and coins that are typically protected behind glass walls. The “Tiny Objects, Big Stories” tour brings a magnifying glass to these artifacts to offer a closer look. The tour zooms in on amulets, scarabs, seals, coins and other tiny figurines and their respective histories.

I was particularly interested in the different amulets and scarabs. With detailed engravings, these amulets and scarabs were symbols of protection. Some protected one’s health and luck while others focused on navigating the afterlife. The heart scarab, for example, was inscribed with the Book of Dead spell to offer “protection of the deceased’s heart during the judgment in the afterlife.” This small scarab had a lengthy inscription of the spell that would have been difficult to spot during your average museum visit. This sparked an appreciation for the skilled craftsmanship and detail put into such artifacts. It made me wonder what spells may be hidden behind a scarab the size of my thumb.

I began to consider my own tiny objects and the stories they hold, such as an old Snapple bottle cap with a fun fact or an engraved ballpoint pen. They may not be as cool as the artifacts at the museum, but they have a lot significance in spite of their size. It just takes a bit more thought and effort to recognize these pieces.

This virtual tour allowed me to get in all the beautiful details of such tiny artifacts. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology will continue to host such virtual tours for anyone who is interested! It is a great way to stay safe and follow along from the comfort of your home (or squishmallows). Moreover, the Zoom interface creates a close-knit space where tour guides and guests can share comments and questions easily. The museum also hosts other in-person and virtual events you can find here.

 

 

 

PREVIEW: The Shining

On January 21st, Michigan Theater offers a very special and spine-chilling event: a one-time late-night screening of The Shining. When it comes to psychological thrillers, no film will have your heart racing like this cult classic.

Loosely based on a real setting, the 1980 film follows a family that moves into the snowy mountains to act as caretakers for a seasonally empty hotel. Without much to keep them busy, the family encounters an array of sinister forces, falling victim to the darkness of the hotel’s history; from psychic powers to hallucinations to isolation-induced insanity, the horrors accumulate as the winter progresses.

The film has gained a large following since its release, bits and pieces of it permeating pop culture. From the quote “Here’s Johnny!” to the image of two ghostly-looking girls standing in an empty hallway, each moment of The Shining offers a memorable piece of artistry that stands the test of time. Everything is intentional; after watching this film a handful of times, I still notice delicately placed details with each watch— and the electrifying acting (or was it even acting?) of Shelley Duvall and Jack Nicholson will never fail to keep me on the edge of my seat.

Experiencing a cult classic and visual masterpiece on the big screen is a rare opportunity that can’t be passed up. The lavish interior of Michigan Theater slightly parallels the elegant atmosphere of the film’s infamous hotel, adding another dimension to the immersive experience. If you enjoy horror, snowy days, big hotels, and human villains who convey demonic evil, you’ll love seeing The Shining at Michigan Theater. Grab a couple of friends and spend your Friday night celebrating an old gem.

REVIEW: Prisons and Politics in America Exhibit

Tucked away in a corner of Hatcher North’s first floor is the Audubon room, named for the extremely rare volume of naturalist James Audubon’s “Birds of America” paintings that it houses. From now until March 24, it also houses the Prisons and Politics in America exhibition curated by Julie Herrada.

“Prisons and Politics in America: An Exhibit of Art, Poetry, Letters and Prison Resistance from 1890 to Today,” examines the political reasons for why people are imprisoned: for speaking out, for writing, for violating repressive laws, framed because of their color or politics, for stealing from the rich, for refusing the military draft, for whistleblowing, for attempting to overthrow the government, for standing up for a belief, or for walking over a forbidden line.

The items focus on maintaining one’s humanity behind bars, promoting political causes, and offering solidarity in support of prisoners.

 

 

The exhibit was pretty small, with a total of 39 items, but I thought it was a fitting size. The items on display were well-chosen and represented a variety of time periods, activist movements, and prison injustices. I learned a great deal by walking around and slowly taking each artifact in, reading the thoughtfully-written blurb about each.

“San Quentin Days: Poems of a Prison” by Anonymous

There were all sorts of artifacts: from protest pinback buttons to FBI Wanted posters to comics to a recipe for DIY prison ice cream. The most moving parts of the exhibit for me were the sections displaying prison writing: poetry, letters, memoirs, books. Writing is one of the most powerful tools of expression that a prisoner has, and also is one of the only ways they have to connect to the outside world. Some of the items in the collection were extremely rare and among only a few surviving copies around the world. Writing is hard enough in a comfortable space – can you imagine how difficult it must be to write from prison?

I had forgotten how far back the history of protest and activism goes. Every time a new movement starts , to me it can feel like a whole new isolated effort, which is a huge sign of my privilege. There are many who are not given the chance to forget the history to which movements are attached to because those issues affect them every single day. Rarely is there an injustice so new that there were no ancestors who had to fight it in their time too.

 

Free John Now! Poster, 1971

The exhibit sparked some thoughts for me on how activism has changed over the past century and how it has stayed the same. The language in some of the items in the exhibit was very similar to the language I see in protest posters printed today. Strong language, fueled by a sense of justice. Images of chains and bondage and upright fists underneath calls to action like “FREE [X]” and “STOP [Y].”

Attica. Poster, [197?]
The greatest difference I see is because of something that modern-day activists have that the past did not: digital technology. I am amazed at the materials people used in the past — postcards, buttons, flyers — that had to be distributed by hand and on foot. Imagine if the leaders of the 1919 labor strikes in Detroit had access to a computer at the library where they could open up a Microsoft Publisher document, put together a graphic and slap it on Facebook or Instagram for free. It has been said often in the Information Age, but I’ll say it again: our modern-day ability to disseminate information so quickly and widely is borderline magic.

Free Gary Tyler Poster, [197?]
I will say that I would have arranged the exhibit a little differently. The arrangement of artifacts seemed to maximize how much I had to walk. I also would have also liked it if items that were part of the same “movement” or at least from the same time period in history were placed close together to make the exhibit feel more cohesive. The decision to put this exhibit in the Audubon room strikes me as a bit strange, given that James Audubon was known to oppose the abolition of slavery and argued that black and indigenous people were inferior. Many of the incarcerated people mentioned in this exhibit were of black or indigenous origin and were jailed by blatantly racist judicial systems on little to no evidence, a term labeled “legal lynching”. A small acknowledgement of the fact that their stories are right now sharing the same space with the legacy of a proslavery individual would have been thoughtful.

If you’re ever studying in Hatcher, I highly recommend slipping away for a bit to check out this exhibit in the Audubon Room on the first floor. It is well worth the visit and I guarantee you’ll learn something new!