PREVIEW: GenAPA Cultural Show 2019: “TECHNICOLOR: Vivid past, vibrant future”

Come out for GenAPA’s (Generation Asian/Pacific American) Cultural Show! GenAPA was founded in 1995; they are the biggest Pan-Asian cultural show in the Midwest. Their shows happen every winter semester.

This year’s show celebrates individual talents and experiences through vibrant colors and pictures that symbolize the Asian and Pacific American community. This is a really great example of the intersection of art, social justice, education, and culture. 

A lot of different performance groups will be featured, including:

  • – KPL x PAPhi Step and Stroll
  • – Michigan Taekwondo
  • – K-Motion
  • – Hula Michigan
  • – VeryUs
  • – rXn Traditional
  • – Sinaboro
  • – Seoul Juice x Emily & Jae
  • – DVN Guy-Girl Traditional
  • – DB3

Tickets: $12 at the door

Location: Lydia Mendelssohn Theater

Date/Time: 3/15/19, 7pm


REVIEW: Las Cafeteras

Having looked forward to this event for the entire week prior, I was thoroughly pleased by the impressive performance given by Las Cafeteras during the middle of last week. What I thought would be essentially another Latin pop performance was much more than that. The group experimented with vibrant, modern sounds while maintaining a traditional essence, and the aspect of their performance that was most meaningful to me was the social commentary that was emotionally striking throughout. After experiencing this performance, I couldn’t wait to write this piece and to explain how Las Cafeteras would give us a reason to listen to their music long after the curtains closed.

The style of their music was a perfect blend of modern sounds and a traditional essence. In other words, many of their songs gave a traditional Latin impression in terms of having upbeat tempos, uniform time counts, and classic instrumentation. In addition to these components, the group instilled some of their own personal flares into their songs that gave a revolutionized impression, such as rapping in some verses, filling up the auditorium with the hard and fast strumming of their guitars or ukuleles, or showcasing the baseline beat given by a full drum set. While these aspects of music composition may be more often seen in the rock genre, the group was able to utilize these techniques in their genre to make their music all the more well-rounded, far-reaching, and complete.

Part of what captivated me the most about the performance by Las Cafeteras were the personas of its members. Aside from being musicians, the three main performers were able to show us just how personable they were, expressing their vulnerability during songs about injustice or hard times and their utmost passion during songs about enjoying life and loving your family. When Hector Flores entered the stage, I immediately felt uplifted and attentive; he was the driving force behind the audience’s involvement in their performance. As Denise Carlos bellowed each song, she seemed to sing in a difficult range with ease, allowing us to feel like she could just be a passerby singing down the street. When Daniel French contributed to verses by rapping, he gave an impression that he could be my cousin or brother, writing and singing to address common social issues among our Latin community.

The most important aspect of their performance were the underlying messages in each of their songs. It was emotionally jarring when they talked about the hardships of immigration, the acceptance of diversified communities, and corruption in our nation’s highest influential powers. I believe that their attempt to bring light upon these issue was successful in the sense that everyone left the performance on the same page and forward in the same direction. In the end, what I left the performance with was a drive to achieve purpose in life. Throughout their songs, they continually asked us, “What would you do? Who are you? What are you here for?” and I will continue to support the idea that whatever we choose to pursue in life, it will only be worth doing if we make it meaningful to us.

REVIEW: Complex Rhythms

This past weekend, the School of Music, Theatre and Dance’s Department of Dance staged a fantastic performance entitled Complex Rhythms at the Power Center for the Performing Arts. Featuring four separate works, each had its own unique character and feel.

The performance opened with 7 x 12 and a Little Bit of Cha-Cha, a work by Robin Wilson with a jazzy and joyful, toe-tapping feel. Featuring live music by members of the Grammy-nominated ensemble Straight Ahead, I was immediately taken by the musicians’ position onstage, rather than off to the side. Before the dancers entered the stage, the musicians treated the audience to a jazz feature, solidifying the fact that they were an integral part of the work. Throughout the dancers’ rhythmic choreography, it remained evident that music was intended to play a very central role in 7 x 12 and a Little Bit of Cha-Cha. Additionally, the costume design, with bright colors and swinging skirts, complemented both the choreography and the music.

Next was the premier of Studio A, will you die with me? by Jennifer Harge, “a fire ritual that works to disrupt the anti-black, heteronormative, and capitalist structures that live within the fabric of Western dance studios and dance curriculums.” Featuring a backdrop of rows and rows of lit (electric) candles, ashen-colored costumes, glittering masks, and a long blue piece of fabric spread across the front of the stage, it was a performance that was at once unsettling and challenging, confusing and thought-provoking. Additionally, the soundtrack of the choreography was norm-defying and fascinating – it was an aural hodge podge that was not exclusively music, and for a length of time it was a recording of what seemed to me to be a woman humming singing while washing dishes.

My personal favorite of the evening was Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs, a new work by Bill DeYoung set to a recording of Leonard Bernstein’s “Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs” by the University of Michigan Symphony Band. With a backdrop of lights that resembled a collage of starry night sky and brick wall, the entire performance had a swinging, urban vibe that hearkened back to another era, while simultaneously remaining modern.

Last was probably the most monumental of the evening’s works, Shelter by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. First staged in 1988 “to address the suffering and isolation of homelessness,” the version performed by the Department of Dance was adapted after Hurricane Katrina “to address the lives of the people that the hurricane left homeless.” It was a powerful performance, featuring spoken word (by Associate Professor Robin Wilson, original company member of Urban Bush Women, who first staged Shelter in 1988) and percussion as accompaniment to the emotive choreography. “I ain’t fled nothing. My country fled me,” Professor Wilson emphatically repeated.

Complex Rhythms explored a wide variety of human emotion and struggle, and it was a boundary-challenging, thought-provoking performance. Congratulations on an excellent performance to all those involved!

REVIEW: Swaranjali

This year, Swaranjali was a little more limited in scope than it has been in the past – I believe there were fewer performances than I’ve seen in previous years. However, the performances were, as always, of excellent caliber. Every time I attend a Sahana concert, I find something different to consider as I watch the performance. This time, there were two things that struck me.

First, one of the performances was a Kathak piece, Kathak being one of India’s classical dances. About 15 years ago, I used to take lessons in Bharatanatyam, another Indian classical dance. I’ve seen multiple performances of both styles of dance and others before, yet it was only last night that I consciously registered that there is a difference in the way Bharatanatyam and Kathak dancers hold their hands. The way you hold yourself – what I know from partner dancing as ‘frame’ – is incredibly telling about the feel of a dance. I’m amazed it took me this long to see the distinction, but after having realized this, it was interesting to think that to experienced performers, the difference, of course, must be a night-and-day contrast.  And yet Sahana often does performances that blend different styles of music and/or dance, and the way they navigate that blend has never been jarring. I think their performances are stronger for it, and in fact, that was the theme of another dance piece at Swaranjali. This one was first danced in Bharatanatyam, then in Odissi (a third classical dance), and then in a combination of the two. It was incredibly intriguing to see two dancers, each experienced in one style, try the other’s style and manage to put their own spin on it. The performance worked very well, showing that interdisciplinary work often produces the most innovative results.

The second thing that struck me as a result of Swaranjali was the very different air around performances of classical music. In India, classical music seems to flow much more freely between improvisational and structured music. It also seems to have a much more collaborative air (although, not having attended very many jazz concerts, I can’t make an authoritative comparison to jazz). When listening to Indian classical music it always seems like a team effort even if there’s only one person playing at the moment – I think it might come from a general sense on my end that the musicians are all very attuned to each other, and that the music they’re improvising is still stylistically cohesive with the piece they’re playing, both of which I find don’t always happen in other improvisations.

And, of course, there’s a certain joie de vivre about an Indian performance that I’ve never experienced elsewhere. Sahana’s performances always evoke for me that sense of tight-knit belonging, humor, and pride that I feel when I am surrounded by my cultural heritage.

PREVIEW: Complex Rhythms

The University of Michigan Department of Dance will present their annual concert, Complex Rhythms, from February 7-10 at the Power Center for the Performing Arts. It feature the re-staging of a “noted twentieth-century masterpiece,” as well as “three new creations.”

Included in this year’s works is Shelter, an “unsentimental commentary about homelessness and disenfranchisement” that was created in 1988 by Urban Bush Women founder Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. Additionally, professor of dance Bill DeYoung sets a new work to Leonard Bernstein’s “Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs” in commemoration of Bernstein’s 100th birthday.

Grab a Passport to the Arts and take it to the Michigan League Ticket Office for a free ticket to this not-to-be-missed event! Showtimes include February 7th at 7:30 pm, February 8th and 9th at 8pm, and February 10th at 2pm.


PREVIEW: Art Outta Town – Evita

This Saturday, February 2, Arts at Michigan will be taking a group of students on a trip to the Stranahan Theater in Toledo, Ohio to see a matinee performance of the Broadway musical Evita for just $20!

Centered around the life story of beloved Argentinian First Lady Eva Perón, the musical features a Grammy Award-winning sound track by Andrew Lloyd Webber with songs like “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” The musical itself was awarded several Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Soundtrack.

For more information on Evita at the Stranahan theater, click here.

To learn more about Arts at Michigan’s Art Outta Town program, visit their website at