REVIEW: Bolshoi Theater Live: Giselle

As always, I really enjoy live screenings of real theater performances, because of the quality of the show combined with the cheap tickets for a great experience! This show in particular was a rendition of the classical ballet Giselle, and it incorporated the choreography of several different productions in the past into one cohesive performance. As a huge fan (and admirer) of ballet, I most enjoyed the group dances, the costumes, and the storytelling.

With the advantage of watching through a screen, we got to see all of the best angles of the actors and formations. This was particularly cool when there was a large group of ballerinas dancing on stage together, doing identical movements. The camera showed more of a bird’s eye view, and the precision of the group moving together was absolutely breathtaking. It always blows my mind how precise ballet is, and how they can all be so perfectly together with every move, so that not even one girl stands out as a better dancer than the one next to her. And from above, it was even more impressive to see them moving as if they were a single unit being operated in an almost inhuman way. I love the movements of ballet in general, because they are so graceful and so smooth. It always impresses me when ballerinas go on pointe, as I have had friends lament to me how difficult that is. I also admired the pairs dancing, as the movements of two people together were so in sync. The lifts and twirls that can only be done when a couple dances together were so beautiful.

The costumes were also gorgeous, with only simple alterations to show which members were principal dancers (the main roles). Most of them were simple, except for the costumes of the royal family and their court, which were lavish and glittery. They were 19th century style, and it was gorgeous to see all of the colors. I particularly liked the costumes in the second act of the vengeful spirit women, which were basically plain white shifts with some adornment on the bodice and sleeves, and tulle skirts. It felt very classic ballet to me, and made the movements more beautiful as the dancers kicked up their skirts in unison. The principal dancer for the group also had flowers running down from the chest to the skirt, and Giselle had a shinier version of the top and her skirt had a bit more tulle to differentiate. I loved the way the bodice was fitted but the sleeves sort of fell off the shoulders and were not holding up the dress. I wish they sold them to the public! Although I’m not sure what I would wear it for.

The way the dance incorporated the storytelling also was an impressive part of the show. I really liked the way the same gestures were used at different moments to help the audience understand the important plot points. These gestures were also, at times, part of the dancing, and it was very cool to see them both on their own and included in the choreography.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this ballet experience. It wasn’t a standout as an amazing performance over others that I have seen, but I appreciated the simplicity of Giselle, and I was very impressed by the skill of the dancers.

Preview: Bolshoi Theater Live: Giselle

This classic ballet is about a young peasant girl who loves to dance, but she dies of a broken heart after her lover betrays her. She is inducted into a clan of vengeful female spirits, who summon her from her grave. They try to force her lover to dance himself to death, but true love saves him. It also releases her from the spirits’ power, leaving her to rest in her grave in peace.

I am excited to watch this performance which requires not only incredibly skilled dancers, but is renown as a shining example of classic ballet. I have always enjoyed watching ballets, and I have not had the chance to watch one since I was a lot younger.

The show is playing Sunday, February 23 at 7:00 PM at the Michigan Theater.

Link to tickets:

REVIEW: Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán

Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán’s Friday evening performance at Hill Auditorium was a lively and colorful show full of life.

It was obvious that it was going to be a great performance right from the opener, which featured Mariachi Nuevo Santander (2019 National Mariachi Group Competition High School Division winner) and Ballet Folklórico de Detroit. The set included the two groups working together, with Mariachi Nuevo Santander providing the music and Ballet Folklórico de Detroit performing Mexican folkloric dance. The result was a visually and aurally stunning treat for the audience. As soon as each song finished and another was beginning, a new small group of dancers took the stage, resulting in seamless transitions and no break in the performance’s energy. Although it was the opening set for the evening’s performance and I knew that more music was to come, I found myself almost disappointed when Mariachi Nuevo Santander and Ballet Folklórico de Detroit’s performance time was up!

Similarly, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán’s set (which was performed without intermission) did not disappoint. In addition to engaging the audience with their music and with invitations to clap and sing along, they are virtuosos in their craft. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that Mariachi Vargas has no performers that just sing – instead, the vocals for all their songs are performed by band members who trade out from the instruments that they are otherwise playing, proving their musical talent in multiple areas. Mid-song, one small group of performers would trade their violins or guitars for microphones, while the vocalists up to that point would return to their instruments. I also enjoyed the energy of the audience (which seemed to be nearly full). For me, it is as much the experience of witnessing a performance with hundreds or thousands of other people as it is hearing live music that makes concerts, rather than YouTube or recordings, meaningful and worthwhile.

The only issue that I had with the performance was that Hill Auditorium is not exactly suited for the acoustic environment created by microphones and large speakers. Though its magnificent acoustics make it easy to hear every instrument at an orchestra concert, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and other ensembles that utilize similar equipment present different auditory demands.  There was a large black curtain hanging behind the performers, which presumably helped to deaden the noise some, but unfortunately, the sound still seemed to be muddied and too loud at times (though this could have been a product of where I was sitting and may not have been a problem in other parts of the hall). That said, however, I still greatly enjoyed the performance.

The encore was, in my opinion, the best moment of the entire night, as it featured Mariachi Nuevo Santander singing alongside the musicians of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán. It was a fitting close to a night of great music.

REVIEW: 8th Annual Yule Ball

What a fantastic night!

University of Michigan’s quidditch team surely put on a show. The Rogel ballroom looked positively gorgeous in it’s Harry Potter attire, transforming into something almost as magical as the great hall itself. Quidditch hoops lined each opposing end of the room, decorated in twinkling lights, serving as a popular spot to to take pictures. A banquet table full of appetizing delights, tempted witches as wizards alike with different cheeses, fruits, cakes, and bread, as well as water and lemonade. A playlist of catchy dance music was constantly playing throughout the night encouraging guests to strut their stuff out on the dance floor, and of course being the enthusiastic dancer that I am, I complied, much to the despair of the dancers around me. I’ll tell you, dancing in full robes and high heels is harder than I thought it would be.

Although I enjoyed the Yule Ball very much, it did have it’s shortcomings. One of which is that the entertainment that was provided was a bit of a hit or miss. Of course, I have to take into consideration that this is an event put on by a student organization, hence budgets are always limited. However, when you see a sorting hat hanging from a string off a sagging wall-like structure that is  falling over at times…you start to wonder how much was left until the last minute. Of course, I would never claim that that was the case and I’m sure they worked hard on all their props, but if a prop is every failing, it’s better to just cut it out entirely. Another problem with the sorting hat was the performance itself. As my friend sat down to be sorted, it seemed as though the quidditch team had a series of sorting questions that were printed out a sheet of paper. However, the person in charge of the sorting hat only asked my friend two of them before abruptly sorting her into Gryffindor, a rather disappointing turn of events. As well as the sorting hat, there was also a divination booth which produced a better experience overall. The person in charge seemed very willing to put on the best performance possible and gave both my friend and I a very enthusiastic prediction of our futures.

Overall, I’d say it was a successful night in the long run. It was fun to see fellow fans of the wizarding world of Harry Potter enjoying time together under the same roof. No duels broke out and no one got turned into a ferret. I would have liked Dumbledore to make an appearance, but I guess that was too much to hope for.

Oh well, there’s always next year!

PREVIEW: 8th Annual Yule Ball

This esteemed, Harry Potter themed event is put on by our very own Quidditch team!

As you can probably surmise from the title, this event has become a beloved tradition that grows bigger and better every year. Harry Potter fans throughout campus flock to the Yule Ball to enjoy dancing, performances, and all other sorts of magical festivities that are part of the wizarding world; the most important, being fantastic food.

I for one, am absolutely ecstatic to be able to break out my dress robes and high heels to dance the night away with my fellow J.K Rowling fans!!

For just $12 in advance or $15 at the door, you can be a part of this magical night, February 1, starting at 7:15 at the Michigan Union Rogel Ballroom.

Bring friends, bring family! Just be sure to remember your Umich ID and wear something worthy of a ballroom. (This is a formal event)


REVIEW: Callisto presented by Pure Dance

A photo of Pure Dance from its Facebook page

Every dance show I’ve seen at Michigan has had its own flavor. In Pure Dance’s winter show, Callisto, there were many flavors spread throughout in a performance that was at times entertaining and at times lacked cohesion.

Pure performed eight dances and a finale, alternating between jazz and contemporary numbers with seven guest performers: a cappella group 58 Greene, contemporary company Ambiance, alternative percussion outfit Groove, jazz ensemble Blue Bop Jazz, hip-hop crew Flowdom, contemporary ballet company Salto and the ballroom dance club. All of the guest performances were good on their own, but there were too many of them for the number of dances Pure performed; it felt like the guests were onstage for a longer amount of time than the company itself. Blue Bop Jazz even opened the second half, taking the spotlight off the show’s supposed headliner.

Because of the abruptness of transitions between so many different types of performances, the show never really built up a rhythm. Still, it had its moments. I really enjoyed “Under Pressure” — set to the song by Queen and David Bowie — which Pure smartly placed toward the end of its program to ensure it was remembered. The choreography, by Libby Owen, was smart and went well with the music.

Overall, Pure’s contemporary pieces were stronger than the jazz ones, with “Under Pressure” as the exception. The jazz numbers seemed at times out of sync, but they got stronger as the show went on.

Pure did do some innovative things with lighting, staging and choreography. They frequently created a silhouette-like effect with the lighting, turning themselves into shadows dancing across a colorful backdrop. In the number “Elastic,” Pure walked out to flashing white lights, as if cameras were flashing as they strutted across the stage. They wore high-heeled boots, still managing to complete turn sequences. I appreciated the artistic risk they took in the piece, and it’s a risk that paid off. They also utilized lifts to good effect several times.

Overall, though, I wished I’d had time to truly settle in with Pure rather than seeing them constantly alternate with a litany of guest groups. In particular, Ambiance performed a contemporary number that I thought outshined the ones that came before and after.

Callisto had a lot of potential, and Pure Dance did a lot of cool and innovative things I haven’t seen in other student-run dance shows. However, the organization of the show ultimately undersold Pure’s talents and I wish I had been able to see more from them.