REVIEW: Dance Mix 2017 The Galaxy Edition

What a night. I started walking over to the Power Center with my friend five minutes before the concert started to find a building packed with students. Before the first group took the stage, the organizers announced that this was the second sold-out concert in a row.

 

Some sold-out concerts don’t feel sold out. You can spot empty seats and the audience is tame. Not so for this young, rambunctious crowd that hooted and hollered names of friends in the dance groups all throughout the event. Between the energy of the audience and the students moving around on stage, the 2.5 hour event felt like taking a shot of espresso.

When things get hot and heavy on stage

First off, I have to apologize at not being able to keep track of the names of the groups. Every group that took the stage was incredibly talented in their own unique way. Alas, I did not have a program with me during the concert so I could not tell exactly which group was on stage at a particular time.

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t imagine it’s easy to fit a wide variety of student acts into one concert, but Dance Mix 17 pulled it off through smooth transitions between more traditional ballet (top left picture) and decidedly modern hip-hop (top right picture), as well as dancers that both to the melodies of ballads and rock songs alike.

One of the highlights of the group was Revolution and their stringless yo-yo performance. Countless students walked across the stage slinging their plastic yo-yo’s like divine beings levitating rocks. Those plastic yo-yo’s flew across the stage and around the slingers and every trick drew fresh cheers from the crowd. Even the tricks that failed still felt like successes, and I was definitely not the only one entranced by the performance.

 

Later, Photonix performed in the dark with glow sticks, producing images like the one you see in the header photo of this blog. Towards the end of the performance, they unleashed hundreds of mini glow sticks into the audience.
The audience being composed almost entirely of students, everyone went wild.

Another highlight of the night was a Bollywood rendition of Top Gun (by Michigan Manzil I think). The story was a cliche telling of a young fighter pilot who loses his friend in a fight, but this isn’t a Hollywood film and the performance was one of the standouts of the second half of the night.

The Bollywood-esque peformance went through half a dozen wardrobe changes without a hitch, in addition to props and set pieces, and above all it was entertaining as heck.

Rounding out the rest of the night were performances by EnCore (picture below), Outrage, and FunKtion again.

I’m incredibly glad I was able to attend this event, and if you’re reading this blog and didn’t go this year, you NEED to attend next year.

REVIEW- Insurrection: Holding History

Reading the synopsis of this play online had done little to prepare me and my friend for the powerful, and emotional journey into the US’s dark history of slavery that awaited us in the intimate space of the Arthur Miller theater. This interpretation of Robert O’Hara’s 1995 play was brilliantly adapted by the Department of Theater and Drama into a nearly three-hour long production filled with twists and turns.  O’Hara’s play is a time-traveling look into Nat Turner’s 1831 slave insurrection, from the point of view of Ron, a modern-day college student completing his thesis on slavery, and his 189 year-old grandfather, T.J., who was a part of the rebellion himself.

Before the play even began, I noted how intimate the Arthur Miller theater was, and that proved to only add to the emotional impact of the play itself.  The set was minimal and yet entirely sufficient to capture the feeling and multiple locations of the play.

One of my major takeaways was that every single actor had their intensity dialed up to the very top for the majority of the play’s runtime.  There were moments that left me breathless, as the actors went through emotions of extreme fear, anger, sadness in quick succession.  In the second act this was particularly noticeable, as the few moments that were quieter in nature were even more impactful, soft whispers standing in drastic contrast with the high energy shouts and cries of other scenes. Most of the actors also played multiple characters, and I was shocked at how easily they seemed to switch from one to the other.

Additionally, the actors were clearly working hard physically, with a large portion of the play being heavily choreographed or strenuous to do. I noticed that many of the actors would be sweating by the end of a short monologue, which only added to the emotional intensity.  While I know little about stage direction, it was an extremely lively play with never a dull moment, as the actors tripped, danced, and ran around not only the stage, but the entire theater.
I wasn’t expecting there to be the amount or level of comedy in this play as there ended up being.  Almost every other minute the actors sent the audience into a load roar of laughter.  Considering the dark themes of the play, the comedy felt uncomfortable at times, but I assume that was part of the point.  

I highly recommend attending future shows put on by the Department of Theater and Drama.  I couldn’t have imagined a more entertaining or engaging weekend.

Review: That Brown Show

As I expected, That Brown Show (TBS) was an impressive array of performances. I’ve got to begin by saying that audience etiquette is very different at this performance than they are in most performances I attend. Here, there was constant shouting from the audience, and sometimes the performers acknowledged them, too. It’s interesting, that interaction, because it’s something I’ve noticed just at TBS really.

The show began with renditions of both the American and the Indian national anthems. Both singers were quite good, but it proved to be quite the juxtaposition between styles of music: Alicia Kalsi, who performed the American anthem, sounded just faintly as if she were trying too hard, adding grace notes and extending her high notes – exactly how everyone that performs the American anthem does. Meanwhile, Vaidehi Dongre, who performed the Indian anthem, seemed to add very little froufrou to the song, and that plus the anthem’s narrower vocal range gave it a comfortable, effortless feel. I find it intriguing to compare the different definitions of a “classically trained” voice between American and Indian culture, because the way these two anthems were sung is a perfect example of the difference.

Most of the acts this year had a story to them. I can’t quite decide whether or not I liked the use of a video to introduce the premise. Some of these premises were surprisingly dark, and while I don’t object to the showcasing of serious themes, it seemed to cast a temporary shadow on an event that is normally (at least as far as I’m aware) on the exuberant side of things.

Each act was strong, very tightly knit and immaculately choreographed. Sahana Music’s performance was so beautifully blended I couldn’t tell who was doing what (though I wish I could have, because they all sounded fantastic). Michigan Raas had an amusing premise, that of one of India’s more well known dating websites) and their synchrony (barring a slight mishap) was excellent. Taal, who themed their performance on Alice in Wonderland, had a larger set piece that obscured some of the text on the screen, but this was more than offset by the way their dancing matched the disjunct quality of the book, and the clever way in which they created the face of the Cheshire Cat. Sahana Dance did a fantastic job of melding multiple dance forms together seamlessly, and their formations were so clean that even though I was in the balcony and not at the right height to appreciate the uniformity, I still did. Maize Mirchi had excellent harmonies and rhythms in their performance, although I’d definitely like to know what songs they sang and/or how they choose their music, because I didn’t see much of an Indian influence in their performance. Novi Nazar, a high school group, was a new addition to the ensemble performing at TBS (or at least they were for me – I’ve never seen them perform before), and I was impressed with their performance. The Michigan Bhangra Team had a wonderfully lively performance, and happened to use a snippet from one of my favorite songs, but I do wish the people dancing offstage in the wings had stayed behind the curtains more. Izzat, the show’s closing act, had an incredibly dynamic performance, with very nicely synchronized movements.

In the lobby of the theater was an art gallery showcasing a series of photographs taken to showcase the South Asian experience, each with a caption. The photographs were beautiful, but I do think the captions told more of a story – or maybe that’s just because I gravitate towards words.

The main impression with which I left the theater was that the choreography had been excellent. It is difficult enough to get two people to move in unison, but twenty? A near impossibility, and yet these groups all accomplished it magnificently. It speaks to the caliber of these groups and the dedication they have towards their art. I’m very glad I got to experience it.

REVIEW: The Little Mermaid

Tonight I had the opportunity to see The Little Mermaid performed by students in U of M’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and it was wonderful!!!  It brought me right back to my childhood and dreams of being a Disney princess.  There honestly was not one character in the show that I didn’t like.  The audience immediately fell in love with the quirky, adventurous mermaid Ariel (Halli Toland) and the charming Prince Eric (Trevor Carr).  And Sarah Lynn Marion rocked those crazy Ursula solos, with thunderous applause after each one!  Other noteworthy characters included Ariel’s best friend Flounder (Matthew Kemp), the “smart” seagull Scuttlle (Barrett Riggins), Ariel’s father King Triton (Jordan Samuels), Prince Eric’s guardian Grimsby (Elliot Styles), and the crustacean Sebastian (Liam Allen).

“Under the Sea” (Photo Credit: Peter Smith Photography)

 

The applauses were endless after numbers like Halli Toland’s beautiful solo of “Part of Your World”, the biggest number with dancing fish and even a giant stingray – “Under the Sea”, and Sarah Lynn Marion’s evil “Poor Unfortunate Souls”.  If I could see this show over and over again, I would!

The Little Mermaid can still be seen Saturday and Sunday April 15-16 at 2pm.  Tickets are on sale now: Reserved seating $26-$32 and Students $12 with ID.

Ticket information can be found at: http://tickets.music.umich.edu/single/eventDetail.aspx?p=3001

Preview: That Brown Show

Michigan Sahana is a student organization that performs Indian classical dance and music. That Brown Show is an annual celebration of South Asian performing arts, featuring performances by not just Sahana members, but also other music and dance groups on campus. South Asia is a vibrant, colorful place, and this show highlights that: when I saw it two years ago, I walked out feeling the urge to dance.

The show is at the Michigan Theater Saturday, April 15 at 7:30pm. Tickets can be bought at the door (student price $12), or free admission is available with the Passport to the Arts.

PREVIEW Dance Mix 2017 The Galaxy Edition

Sometimes you need to take a break from exam studying and paper deadlines. That’s where Dance Mix 2017 comes in!

Where: The Power Center (121 Fletcher St)

When: Tuesday, April 18th @ 7 PM

Cost: FREE with Passport to the Arts

Tickets are also on sale at the Mason Wall posting wall April 14th & 17th, 10-4pm

A quick list of all the groups performing:

  • EnCore
  • FunKtion
  • Impact Dance
  • RhythM Tap Ensemble
  • Cadence Modern Dance Company
  • Dance2XS University of Michigan
  • The Ballroom Dance Team at the University of Michigan
  • Michigan Izzat
  • Michigan Manzil
  • Outrage Dance Group
  • Salto Dance Company at the University of Michigan
  • Photonix
  • Revolution Chinese Yo-Yo

Here’s a link to the Facebook Event so you can put that you’re attending