REVIEW: SpringFest

This past week marked the annual SpringFest capstone event hosted by MUSIC Matters. Founded in 2011, MUSIC Matters purpose is to “utilize the power of music to unite the Michigan community and promote educational accessibility.” The organization spends the entire year hosting various events on and off campus to promote music and create cohesion amongst students. SpringFest is their culminating project that attracts an audience of 10,000 people for their daytime and nighttime events.


This year, the Daytime festival took over State St. and North U., hosting over 80 student organizations, 7 food truck vendors, live performances, and various pop-up shops. One of the newest additions to this year’s Daytime festival was hosting Ann Arbor artisans. Traditionally, corporate sponsors were invited to have pop-up shops but this year focused on inviting smaller companies and student sellers. Aside from this addition, the festival included live dance and music performances from student organizations such as Maize Mirchi, the Men’s Glee Club, and FunKtion. Another component of the festival that I personally enjoyed was the presence of various orgs that promote health, wellness, and sustainability. There were interactive events for yoga, sustainable food practices, and CAPS even had representatives from their CAPS In Action student committee. It was really inspiring to see so many talented, ambitious, and creative students showcasing their work and talent to the campus community.


Following the immersive Daytime festivities is (what I believe to be the more known of the two) the Nighttime Concert. Since 2012, MUSIC Matters has hosted artists Common, J. Cole, 2 Chainz, Migos, and Lil Yachty in Hill Auditorium. As a junior who is also a big fan of well-known hip-hop artists, this was surprisingly my first time ever attending. This year’s headliner was A$AP Ferg, otherwise known as a member of A$AP Mob. Amongst some of Ferg’s most popular songs are Plain Jane, Shabba, New Level, and Work REMIX. His opening acts consisted of two DJs and two performance groups.


The first DJ was Jeff Basta. Had it not been for him being the DJ to play as people were still entering the auditorium, I think he could have gotten a lot more energy out of the audience. I really enjoyed his music choice and his energy while playing was admirable considering not many others were entertained/paying attention. The second DJ was Namix who served as a transition for the first opening act — Tracy Money (IG: prodbytracy). “TracyGang #333” is a group of three current and former U-M students who go by the names of $cottie Pimpin’, Fatz, and Tracy D. Although this was not my first time seeing them perform, this was my first time seeing them own the stage in a large auditorium. Their performance got the crowd on their feet and ready for the night.


Following Tracy Money was B Free from Detroit. I could be biased, but my personal preference for style, originality, and overall entertainment purposes would choose Tracy Money over B Free’s performance. Nonetheless, both performances were a well-needed segway into opening for A$AP Ferg.


Ferg was full of energy and was an authentic performer. You could sense his desire to be just as engaged with the audience as we were with him. However, this desire quickly led to some shockingly inappropriate comments on his behalf targeted at several women in the audience. I think it’s reasonable for a performer to want to feel more connected with the audience and interact with them but to single specific women out and express sexual desires in front of everyone, into the microphone, was embarrassing and disgusting. The remainder of the concert left me feeling odd and distraught as I was stuck questioning “Did he really just say that”?? Carrying on, he performed all of my favorite songs and it was a fun concert. I’m certain that this will be remembered as one of my favorite undergraduate experiences, despite the belittling comments that put a damper on my overall impression.

Photos courtesy of IG:

REVIEW: That Brown Show

I was very excited to see That Brown Show, and so, it seems, was everybody else in the audience, because they were much more boisterous than usual. In most other settings, this would have been somewhat irritating (in some parts, the audience cheered so loudly that I could barely hear the music), but after attending so many Indian student performances, I’ve accepted that this exuberance is simply part of the show.

I think all the ensembles did a very nice job, but I know I’ve seen much better from some. Sahana Music could have been a little more balanced – the vocalists didn’t perform much, while there were several percussion solos – but I loved the harmonium solo. Taal is capable of far more than what the piece they performed let on. The storyline of their dance, Robin Hood, could have been more connected to their choreography. The choreography itself seemed more fit for a nightclub until they started incorporating movements inspired by Indian classical dance, which they performed much more gracefully. It is possible that this was a deliberate juxtaposition between the more graceful Merry Men and the decadent King Richard, but if so, a more obvious difference would have helped. The Michigan Bhangra team had, as always, a very energetic performance, and their movements were crisp and unified, even those of the handkerchiefs they were flicking around. I wish they hadn’t had a video playing in the background, because after I noticed it all it did was distract me. Michigan Manzil had a really cohesive performance, and I was amazed at the unison they displayed despite the throng of people onstage. Their storyline for the dance – 21 Jump Street – worked really well with their performance, and their style and energy remained consistent throughout even when they were blending moves from different genres of dance. Sahana Dance was my favorite: they did a beautiful job of blending the three styles of dance that were represented onstage. Often, they take turns highlighting each dance style, but this time they managed to dance at the same time, and it worked really well. And they had some really unique music choices (that transitioned well) and some beautiful geometric formations. Michigan Izzat, as per usual, had a really tight performance with their hallmark crisp movements and a very well implemented storyline. Someday, though, I’d like to see them do more lyrical movements. I think it would add a lot of range to their repertoire, and I know they’re skilled enough to perform them. Lastly, Wolveraas had some really lovely musicality and very consistent energy, and they didn’t let that slip even despite a couple minor mishaps. This year, TBS was a competition – why I don’t know, and I hope it isn’t actually going to happen annually – and Izzat won the audience’s vote.

Strangely, Hill Auditorium as a venue didn’t seem to help anyone. Somehow the sound seemed muffled, not as bright as usual, and that leeched energy from everybody’s performances. This was not helpful, because these performances require a lot of energy, and I realized then that not all of that can come from the performers. But that couldn’t really be helped. My last note, though, is something that can be fixed: I really wish they would get their tech together. There were some hiccups with videos, sound editing, and sound balance that seem to happen at every show, and I know those are things that are so easily fixed with some minor attention to detail.

REVIEW: Dance Mix 2019, Tropical Paradise

This was my first time attending Dance Mix, and I was wowed. In many ways, the event felt like Acarush, the a cappella concert in September where 16 different student groups perform. At Dance Mix, fourteen groups performed: 2XS Michigan, Ambiance, Cadence, Element One, Encore, funKtion, Impact, K-Gayo-3, Michigan Ballroom, Michigan Manzil, Photonix, Revolution, Rhythm, and Salto. Each group approached their performance differently. Some used elements of humor, storytelling, Shrek’s movie soundtrack, or even lip-syncing.

It was a great event that showcased the variety of dance styles across campus. There was contemporary ballet, modern, hip hop (including breakdancing, funk, jazz, krump, and house), ballroom, tap, urban, k-pop, contemporary, jazz, bollywood, glowsticking, Chinese yo-yoing, etc. I never fully realized just how many different genres of dance there are.

I appreciated Dance Mix’s inclusivity of groups that might not otherwise be considered “dance” teams—such as Photonix and Revolution. Not everyone would consider glowsticking or Chinese yo-yoing as forms of dance, but I believe that they are. “Dance” means to move your body rhythmically and usually to music. Both performances by Photonix and Revolution exhibited musicality, and the performers achieved a high degree of skill in order to execute the complicated choreography. I have personally tried to twirl glowsticks but kept hitting myself instead of synchronizing my left and right hands. Now I appreciate the difficulty level of Photonix’s routines so much more.

A fun observation that I made was that there was a lot of collaboration across different groups. I often saw dancers appear in multiple performances. There was even one performance where two groups came together, coordinated costumes, and danced together.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the show was the energy in the room. Often, audience members would scream and cheer on their friends who were performing, or whistle when they were impressed by what was happening on stage. I noticed that the energy generally peaked when the performers exhibited striking skill and/or musicality. When a dancer’s sharp movements match the beats in a song, it’s pure magic. One of the performances with the most striking musicality was Cadence’s “Rain Dance.” Dancers’ crisp motion synchronized with the sound of rain drops. It was enchanting to watch.

Other aspects I valued in the performances was how they challenged and reshaped ideas on “masculine” or “feminine” movement and clothes. Dance Mix celebrated self-expression that traversed across both sets of gender norms. It was an encouraging space where performers could show off who they were and convey their emotions and passion to an audience. I loved seeing how each dance group embodied culture, community, and self-expression.

I’ll be back next year.


(Promotional video that gives you a snippet of the performance)

REVIEW: Exploring the Complexities of Jazz Funk

Have you ever been to the video studio in the Duderstadt? It’s a super cool space. This was my first time seeing a performance in the studio. They have a lot of fancy sound and video equipment.

Exploring the Complexities of Jazz Funk is a behind-the-scenes commercial dance video production put on by Lenard J. Foust for his masters thesis. Audience members experience what it was like to film a dance video with all the camera angles, breaks between different takes, etc. It was a really unique experience that made me think about the differences between a live dance performance and one that is filmed.

For the most part, I enjoy live dance performances a lot more than filmed ones. This is mainly because I get really annoyed when the camera zooms in and out so I can only see one aspect of the performance. For example, when the camera only focuses on the dancers’ faces, I can not see their footwork. Or when the camera only shows one dancer so I miss out on the synchronicity of the ensemble, which is often a crucial element of the performance. I saw a lot of this happening during Exploring the Complexities of Jazz Funk. They also had busy projections in the background during the videos. I thought it was unnecessary, a little too “busy,” and distracted my focus on the dancers.

Even so, I understand why camera movement and somewhat-psychedelic backgrounds are so widely utilized while filming dance performances. With the shortened attention spans of this generation, it takes more and more to keep audience members intrigued. Camera movement makes a scene more “exciting,” even though I personally believe that choreography should be captivating “enough” in and of itself.

Another element I noticed was how dance should appear “effortless.” Clearly, after dancing vigorously for an hour, most people would be exhausted. But to put on a dance performance that is professional, it is important for dancers not to huff and puff, or grimace, or be dripping with sweat from physical exertion unless the choreography calls for it. Of course there are exceptions. But this is something I have noticed from personal experience and also watching competitions such as World of Dance (an international dance competition and tv show where judges evaluate top dancing talent and troupes of all ages). A dancer’s facial expressions are as important, if not more important, than the choreography. If you are bored by the routine and your movement shows it, how can the audience not feel at least a tinge of boredom or lack of energy as well?

The dancers in Exploring the Complexities of Jazz Funk did a great job of exuding confidence, connecting with the camera, as well as coming up with engaging motion on the spot. Often, I feel like I have a limited repertoire so it was helpful to see how each routine showcased different types of movement. Jazz funk is recognized for its sharp movement and syncopated musicality. It often exudes lots of “femininity,” and the genre combines elements from hip hop, jazz, vogue, and waacking. One piece had a lot of back-arching in its choreography, another featured the fluttering of the hands. Paying attention to the choreography introduced new ideas of movement into my vocabulary.

Overall, the performance was thoughtful. It sparked personal reflection, and I am glad I went.  

PREVIEW: Exploring the Complexities of Jazz Funk

It’s that time of year again when thesis performances are in abundance. Tomorrow and Friday, Lenard J. Foust (Master of Fine Arts in Dance candidate), will present Exploring the Complexities of Jazz Funk.

What is Jazz Funk? It’s more than sharp movements and syncopated musicality. It blends traditional concepts of “masculine” and “feminine” movement. A jazz funk dancer isn’t just someone who embodies the movement, but also one who understands the historical and cultural contexts that led to the birth of jazz funk as a genre.

The thesis performance features twenty dancers, interactive projections, and choreography by Foust, Lando Coffy and Jose Tena (who are international jazz funk dance professionals). Audience members will experience behind-the-scenes production of a commercial dance video.

A panel discussion will follow each 8:30pm performance.


Price: Free

Show Times:

March 28th, 7pm and 8:30pm

March 29th, 7pm and 8:30pm

Location: Duderstadt Center Video Studio (Suite 3360), 2281 Bonisteel Blvd, Ann Arbor, MI 48109

More info: &


PREVIEW: That Brown Show

I’m excited to go to That Brown Show again this year; it’ll be my fourth time, I think. Every year the Indian student performance groups come up with something totally new, which means you never quite know what you’ll see. But they are always consistent in the high quality of work they present, and their dedication to their art. And every year what the show does best is highlight India’s bright colors, vibrancy, and our deep love for our culture.


That Brown Show will be held in Hill Auditorium on March 30, 2019. The performance runs from 7-9pm; doors open at 6. Tickets can be found here.