PREVIEW: SMTD Collage Concert

Want to go to a performance, but not sure you want to commit to several hours of the same thing? Join the School of Music, Theatre & Dance for the annual Collage Concert, which will take place on Saturday, January 19 at 8 pm in Hill Auditorium.

“The event’s design is unique, featuring all ensembles and departments of the School performing one arresting work after another in rapid-fire order.” This means that you can expect to experience some amazing performances of classical music, jazz, theater, musical theater, vocal music, dance, and more.

Don’t miss this SMTD tradition. Tickets may be purchased online, or at the Michigan League Ticket Office (open 10am – 1pm on Saturdays). Seating is reserved, and tickets are just $12 for students, or $34 or $28 for non-students, depending seat location.

PREVIEW: Yi-Chun Wu: East in Motion

From now through Friday, November 30, is 2018, stop by the Michigan League to see some incredible photography by Yi-Chun Wu! East in Motion is an exhibition that “showcases Photographer Yi-Chun’s dance photography works, presenting “eastern” bodies and movements that transcend boundaries of nations and races.”

Yi-Chun Wu is an esteemed dance photographer, and she has worked with numerous dance companies and organizations throughout the world. I am particularly intrigued by her ability to capture light and motion in her photography. For a slideshow previewing this exhibition, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=409&v=Iyvk5kWqbJ0 Additionally, the artist’s website can be found at www.yichunwu.com/.

The exhibition is scattered throughout the main corridor and lobby of the League, and so it is easy to stop in between classes. It’s completely free, and all you need to do is take a walk into the building to enjoy some amazing art!

PREVIEW: hand&hand BFA Senior Dance Concert

My mother signed me up for ballet and tap dancing at the tender, undeserving age of three. I quit when I was five because I hated the makeup I had to wear on recital days. But my passion for the art unfortunately lived on, giving me far too much confidence in my “abilities” until I got to middle school, when school dances forced me to realize I had at least fourteen left feet.

Sometimes we need to face our realities and learn to appreciate folks talented at things we may never master. This lets us experience and support more of the world’s talent and culture. So join me at the Betty Pease Studio Theater in the Dance Building to see the senior dance majors Alyssa Gorman, Annelise Senkowski, Kandis Terry, and Amy Wensley perform their solo and group choreographies.

The shows are November 15-17, each at 8 PM. Tickets are for sale at the door for $7. Come by and show your support for some true talents!

 

REVIEW: Blue moon over Memphis

The Power Center is one of my favorite venues on campus, With the steep incline of it’s auditorium, floor to ceiling windows, and grey concrete staircases lifting off of the lobby floor I always feel like I’m stepping into the Senate Rotunda from Star Wars when attending an event there. The uniquely sci-fi setting proved to be yet another simultaneously clashing and complementary element in the night’s unique performance, a hybrid of American pop culture featuring the myth around “the king” himself, and Japanese traditional Noh theater, the most ancient theater practice in the world that is still being regularly performed today.  

After spotting flyers for the performance scattered across practically every free space on campus, I was curious as to how many people would actually show for the unique event.  When I first arrived a half and hour early I was surprised and slightly disheartened to see only a scattering of people in the section of the audience left open for the show, to say nothing of the empty seats above and to either side. Thankfully, as the show’s start time drew nearer more and more people trickled in until before I knew it, the crowd was sizably filled out.  Before the performance we had several esteemed guests including the head of UM’s Center for Japanese Studies warmly introduce the nights performance as well as acknowledge the Toyota Visiting Professor program that made the entire event possible.

As someone with little-to-no experience in… well… noh, I only had a vague idea of what we were about to witness.  I knew that noh involved slow methodic movement, painstakingly crafted masks, and very little else. Thankfully Theater Ongaku, the troupe that would be treating us to the performance that night first showed off two segments of other performances that they do, to give the audience a sort of “warm up.”  I also found it fascinating when they explained that the troupe had members flying in from quite literally all across the world to be there in person, and had done most of their rehearsing in the last few days leading up to the performance, although their polished performance certainly didn’t give the impression of being rushed.

 

Much to my expectation, the performance was very purposeful and deliberate, which some might also describe as painstakingly slow if they are used to the high energy plays and musicals so popular these days.  Additionally, there is no other way to word it, but several of the moments in the performance seemed to be unintentionally comical, with the dissonance between the subject matter and the art itself feeling slightly awkward and the intense acting on the part of the actors far from what most Americans are used to. I certainly spotted a few other audience members in the crowd trying to stifle their laugher as I was myself out of respect for the performers and the art form itself.  However it wasn’t until near the end of the performance when the groundskeeper character launched into his lengthy monologue that easily made up a quarter of the script that I realized that many of these moments were intentionally meant to be funny, as the groundskeeper himself acted like a jester, dancing around stage whirling about a pair of women’s panties as a prop.

My personal favorite element of the performance was not even the performance itself, but the beautiful and uniquely crafted garments made for it.  The main character of Judy was wearing what appeared to be a traditional Japanese garment sewn out of patched-together denim scraps, combining the American and Japanese elements quite literally.  The costumes worn by Elvis were striking as well, especially the enormous gilded cream outfit that he wore, subtly decorated by an elegant feather motif. The photo below, while not taken at the local performance, shows the interesting design of these two garments, especially in contrast with the plain black clothes most of the other performers were wearing.

While I can’t exactly ascertain how faithful the play was to traditional noh theater, it was evident that the troupe had a deep love and appreciation of noh theater, as well as extensive knowledge and training in the subject, so I can only assume that they did it justice.  

Welcome to [art]seen!

Our [art]seen bloggers are University of Michigan students who review arts events on and near campus, sharing their thoughts and experiences on live music, film screenings, dance performances, theatre productions and art exhibitions.
If you’re a U-M student interested in becoming a regular blogger, there may be a position available to get paid for your writing! Read more about Blogging Opportunities here… We review applications and hire twice a year, in September and January.
Email us at arts@umich.edu with any questions.

REVIEW: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

I attended the Saturday show (they performed two different programs). I haven’t gone to contemporary dance performances before, so this was a new experience. This one was environmentally themed, centered on things that are debilitating: plastics, overdependence on electronic devices, and habitat degradation. They performed two dances, punctuated by an instrumental piece performed by Third Coast Percussion, who also provided live accompaniment for the dances.

I liked the first one best. A poem narrated the evolution of the universe, from elements to the creation of the earth, the evolution of humans, and finally the disconnect between humans and nature. The dancer portraying the Earth was beautiful: she exuded strength and grace. What I loved about this piece was the interplay between dancers. Movements that would have been chaotic on their own made sense when they danced as one, and they were so attuned to each other here it was an extraordinary sight to watch. At one point the dancers recreated the classic human-evolving-upright-stature diagram, so subtly it took me a moment to register it. They also took time to dance in pairs. There is something breathtaking about the intimacy created by two people dancing together, sharing their bodies and space to create something  greater.

The instrumental piece was pretty, but I had a hard time staying engaged. There were so many things happening in the music at once that it was impossible to focus on all of them.

However, I liked their performance, and I was happy to find that in the third piece they were integrated into the beginning, moving around the main part of the stage and interacting with the dancers. Musical accompaniment can make or break a performance, and so it was good to see this relationship acknowledged here. The dance I found somewhat incomprehensible and disjoint. The dancers were attached to each other in ribbons for reasons I couldn’t perceive, the choreography had a strange juxtaposition of angry, almost feral movements, and languid ones, and there was a plastic bag that kept appearing, adding arbitrarily crinkling noises into a performance that was otherwise so controlled. Confused and slightly concerned (the dancers kept putting it over their heads), I only found out its significance because I stayed for the Q&A (it was one of the items that debilitate us). The one thing I did love here was that the dancers seemed almost to be experimenting with each other’s bodies, making the dance seem exploratory and almost childlike instead of the highly choreographed sequence it was.

My thoughts on the choreography aside, the dancers were incredibly talented. Unsurprising, I know, but I was still astounded at their ability to move what seemed like every bone of their bodies separately from the others. As a dancer of Brazilian Zouk, I am more adept at such isolations than most, yet this level of control is one I could only dream of achieving. So if I have a chance to see another performance of theirs, I definitely will be taking it.