REVIEW: That Brown Show

That Brown Show, presented by Michigan Sahana, is an annual event that showcases South Asian performance groups at the University of Michigan. The show allows for members of the South Asian community and others to enjoy a night of traditional and not so traditional performances. The night started off with a performance by Michigan Sahana Music, who performed Indian classical music as students showed their skill with various instruments as well as their voices. Also performing a musical number was Maize Mirchi, a South Asian a cappella group that presented a Hindi-English fusion song mix. I really enjoyed watching their performance and loved how they were able to combine songs of different cultures into a cohesive production.

The various dance performances were also very entertaining to watch. Michigan Sahana Dance and Michigan Mayuri both performed Indian classical dances that were traditional in style. Both groups were very skillful and expressive, able to communicate an entire story through dance. Michigan WolveRAAS also performed, mixing traditional regional dance styles with some contemporary elements. Their performance was extremely energetic and very entertaining to watch. South Asian fusion teams Michigan Taal and Michigan Manzaat also danced, mixing Bollywood and South Asian music and dance styles to create incredible and unique programs. The night ended with a series of thank you’s as  WolveRAAS won the judge’s choice award and Manzaat took home the audience choice award. I truly appreciated the sheer variety of performance groups, each of which offered something new to the audience while still highlighting South Asian culture.

REVIEW: M-agination Film Festival

After two years away due to the pandemic, the M-agination Annual Film Festival made a reappearance at the Michigan Theater this week. The film festival showcased 13 short films, all of them written, produced, and acted by students.

I was largely impressed by the range and quality of these productions. There were a good amount of comedy sketches, some of which fell flat and felt like a group of friends just messing around on camera. Some of them, however, had me laughing out loud in my seat. I particularly enjoyed “Buster,” a gruesome short film about a sentient pet rock, and “Dunked,” a well-executed comedy in which nothing really made sense. There were also a handful of more serious, dramatic pieces, including the spooky, suspenseful short “Familiar,” which I was surprised to find out was partially filmed in my campus residence. I was particularly struck by a piece called “Leisure Activities,” which told a story with no words at all about someone going into the woods to paint. The cinematography and coloring in this one in particular that made this one stand out to me as a masterpiece. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this film festival. The “short” nature of short films meant that we got to see 13 different stories, and there was something for everyone. M-agination created a fun night out–I hope they are able to host their festival next year as well! 

REVIEW: A Night at the Burlesque

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from the collaborative dance show, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The show was run by Flowdom, a multi-cultural hip hop dance group, and Outrage, a jazz and contemporary dance team. The night started off with a bang as both groups joined together to perform their Burlesque number, accompanied by the songs from the 2010 film.

From there, Flowdom began their series of performances, all of which were meant to reflect various movie genres: Horror, Fantasy, Romance, and Action. They incorporated popular songs and props to help them along the way. My particular favorite was their Nightmare on State Street number (of the Horror genre), which incorporated eerie music, lighting, and dance moves to create an interesting and entertaining dance. Outrage also performed a number of times, although their music varied from upbeat pop songs to softer, more contemporary work. There was talent galore on display as the team performed complicated spins and lifts, accompanied by dazzling costume changes. I particularly enjoyed their dance to Lorde’s song Liability.

 

The show also featured several other student dance groups throughout the night. These teams included DB3 (an all-male K-Pop/Hip-Hop dance crew), the Dynamic Dolls, who performed majorette style dancing, Salto (a contemporary ballet dance group), and Konnect, a co-ed K-pop dance group. These groups all performed high-energy dances that were met with thunderous applause and cheers. I really appreciated the variety in the guest performances and thought they added to the complex arrangement of the show overall.

The night ended as Flowdom and Outrage partnered up for one last song, I Wanna Dance with Somebody. I could tell both groups had an absolute blast and their joy was expressed clearly through their performances. I had a great time watching the show and can’t wait to see what these groups do next!

REVIEW: Groove Robs the Louvre

I admire Groove’s creativity.

On the night that the Groove declared that they will rob the Louvre(!), the Michigan theater where the viewers would be the witness this exciting heist was filled up with the crowd. The performance was highly enjoyable because, fundamentally, the performances sounded so good! Groove is a student organization known to create amazing beats out of untraditional percussion instruments such as trash cans, plastic buckets, or anything they can beat! It was amazing how the Groove used different percussion that did not sound the same – each has a different pitch, so instead of the sounds crumbling altogether, they came together to create an exciting harmony.

Yeah, everyone knows that Groove sounds amazing, but I was wondering from my prior experience from watching their shows consisting of short performances focused solely on sounds about how they will link diverse percussion performances into a 2-hour show with theme and storyline. As always, Groove’s creativity was way ahead of me. The general storyline was that Groove had decided to rob the Louvre as a bonding activity, and each performance represented what happened during the planning of the heist, the incident they had on France, and how they finally went through all the challenges and stole Monariza. As for the story, short dialogues were inserted between shows while the stage settings were being changed. This was a smart, strategic choice not only because it prevented the audience from being bored during the pause but also because it overcame the percussion performance’s difficulty to convey the story due to the lack of lyrics in the music.

The show was well structured: as the story unfolded, the scope of their performance became wider as well. The performance started with purely percussion sounds – the ones we would expect from a typical groove performance(wait, groove performance is never typical!). Also, the performance offered interesting visual scenes while the percussion was being played – my personal favorite was where they were making music in a kitchen scene where the icebox was used as the main beat while other small kitchen utensils and cooking process, including the popping of the egg as the highlight, were added on top of it. Both visually humorous and sonically exciting, this scene was truly enjoyable. Then the wider range of performances joined on top of the beat, such as dancing or the display of talents of the members including receiving a jelly thrown across the stage by the mouth. Then, the range of instruments widened to include strings and horns, returning to percussion performance in the end. This not only showed how talented each individual of Groove is but also proved that Groove’s ability to coordinate music is not bounded to percussion.

Alas, I almost forgot to mention the incredible stage design! Stage made out of iron bars that had fake Monariza on it definitely highlighted the ‘Louvre’ part while going so well with the exciting, raw vibe of Groove’s music. In all, I really appreciated the pure creativity that Groove had enchanted us with during the two-hour show.

REVIEW: Holi Festival

Unlike today’s chilly temperatures, the weather for the annual Holi Festival at Palmer Field was warm and welcoming, mirroring the celebratory nature of the holiday. Although there is debate about the mythological origins of the festival, Holi is traditional Hindu festival, meant to honor the arrival of spring while also commemorating the triumph of good over evil. Though there are regional variations of Holi celebrations in India, the practice of playing with colored powders and water is common.

The event was hosted by the Indian American Student Association, Hindu Students Council, and Indian Student Association. They did a wonderful job of creating a fun festival, complete with music, dancing, and delicious Indian snacks. This was my first time celebrating Holi at the university, and it was amazing to see the community come together for a fun-filled afternoon. Strangers and friends alike stood shoulder to shoulder and slowly became more and more colorful as the event went on. It truly was entertaining to witness the multi-colored clothes and shoes of people walking around the grounds.

Being a member of such a large university can make it hard to connect with others, especially given the recent pandemic. Events like these allow students to meet others who share the same experiences and interests (alongside students just interested in learning about other cultures) to help build a sense of community and belonging. I’m very glad that Holi at Michigan returned after pausing for COVID, and I look forward to participating in the festival again next year!

REVIEW: Once on This Island

Once on This Island was everything it was hyped up to be and so much more. The joy and excitement in the audience when the musical began was palpable. It was a transporting experience. The music, the stage decorations, everything was phenomenal. I don’t know where to begin describing the event!

A good place would be the music. The live music was amazing. There were instruments used that I had never seen before but only heard. Iconic instruments from the Caribbean region. The audience was thrilled by the music before the musical even began and there was an atmosphere of cheer. Throughout the show, the music added a LOT. The authentic tunes helped transport us to a Caribbean island. The music brought an air of carefreeness and love. It also upped the tension a lot during tough scenes.

The actors took the musical to a whole new level. They were marvelous in their performances and the casting choice was just perfect. Every actor filled their role really well. There was a feeling of community when one saw them perform. The audience loved the actors. There were hoots and just a ton of general excitement all over.

I can’t write a review about this show and not mention the dances. The dances were amazing. Their energy was great. It brought the theme of family out really well. There were authentic dances of the region and the performers executed them so well. There was a tense scene where the main character was asked to perform at a party alone and dance for people. I couldn’t imagine how that scene would have progressed but oh my God, the main character did so well. She handled that scene like a boss and wowed everyone. It did not look forced and the reactions that the director of the musical had expected came out authentically from the audience. Everyone was in love. The performances used a lot of movement as well. The actor who played the devil mimicked a snake’s movement phenomenally.

The singing was great as well. It was joyous at times and sad at times but it was never not great. This was an overall amazing performance. MUSKET has done it yet again!