REVIEW: Reverence by Salto Dance Company

It’s not too often that you see dancers en pointe, wearing Hawaiian shirts with sunglasses and holding up a beach towel.

But that’s exactly what Salto Dance Company did in their winter show, Reverence. And though unexpected, it was a move that cemented Salto’s identity as one of the most unique, innovative dance groups on campus.

Reverence is a French word meaning “a feeling of great respect.” At the end of performances, dancers perform a gesture called a reverence to show respect to the audience, and the audience applauds to return that respect to the dancers. After Salto’s opening number, the club presidents came onstage to teach the audience how to perform a reverence. Then they continued the show and put the crowd under their spell.

Salto is known for its blend of many different styles of dance; they are the only student dance group on campus that performs en pointe, but they also perform contemporary and lyrical pieces. Many of their dances transcend genre entirely. And indeed, Reverence provided a perfect blend of tempo, genre and mood.

Say My Name was the first piece that really stuck out to me.  A contemporary piece, the choreography pulled me in from the beginning and the leaps and turn sequences were technically impressive.

Several dances evoked nature with their movement. Revolution, a contemporary pointe piece, flowed like water, and San Francisco, the second act finale, made me envision birds. The technique and choreography were beautiful and captivating.

The solos — mostly classical variations — also impressed. The audience oohed and ahed over the difficulty and quality of movement. However, where Salto really shined was when it went outside its comfort zone.

Sunshine was the first example. Set to the song by Kyle and Miguel, it featured dancers en pointe wearing beach clothes. In the middle of the number, they held up a towel with the words “Salto brings the sunshine.” The dance was full of personality and evoked an almost Broadway feel. It was unexpected from a ballet and contemporary company, but it worked.

And when Salto came on for the second act, their opening number was entitled simply Broadway. Set to a medley of songs from Chicago and A Chorus Line, the musical theatre number was different from anything else in the show. It showcased a completely different side of the dancers and brought out a performance quality that was sometimes lacking in other pieces, especially in the first act.

Another unique piece was Focus, which featured three dancers using contemporary technique and three dancers en pointe. The choreography blended the two styles seamlessly and highlighted the strengths of each individual dancer.

When the show ended and the dancers came out for a curtain call, they did their reverence. And while the gesture was meant to show respect to us to thank us for coming, all I could feel was respect for them for blending so many styles, for displaying a full range of emotion, for pulling me in and never looking back.

PREVIEW: Reverence by Salto Dance Company

My lasting impression of Salto Dance Company was this: as their first act finale in their winter show, their dancers came out wearing pointe shoes and Chance the Rapper’s signature “3” baseball cap. They danced ballet to Summer Friends. And it was captivating.

In my first year writing for ArtSeen, I’ve learned that Michigan has a lot of dance groups, and it especially has a lot of contemporary dance groups. But what Salto — a self-choreographed contemporary ballet company — brings to the stage is completely different from all the others.

In their fall show, they mixed the technical mastery of classical ballet with the artistry of contemporary. They performed both variations of well-known ballets and original pieces — many en pointe — both solo and in groups.

After the first impression, I’m ready for more. That’s why I’m going to Reverence, Salto’s spring showcase. Of all the dance shows I’ve seen in my first year here — and the number is close to 10 — Salto’s winter performance was one of my favorites.

I’m supposed to write what to expect in these previews, but the truth is I don’t know. I thought I knew what to expect the first time, and I was wrong. This isn’t your traditional ballet company. Instead, I’ll say this: expect to see something you’ve never seen before, something you’ve never even thought about seeing before. Something like ballet to Chance the Rapper.

Reverence by Salto Dance Company runs Saturday, April 21 at 7 PM at the Mendelssohn Theatre. Tickets are $8 for students, $10 for adults and free for children under 12 or with a Passport to the Arts.

REVIEW: M-agination Film Festival

The M-agination Film Festival this year was, as always, long and full of many varied and excellent student films. Instead of reviewing all 15 films shown at the festival, I will select a few highlights.

Cereal Theft: What begins as a classic noir-inspired student film ends in a refreshing twist. No student film festival is complete without a pseudo-noir, and though usually these films are basic parodies, Cereal Theft manages to set itself apart from the crowd–if only because of the last ten seconds.

Dana: An unusual addition this year was Dana, a min-documentary about Dana Greene who kneeled in the Diag for 20 hours back in September. While this documentary does a good job at capturing the moment, it is unfortunately rather underwhelming. Viewers receive some additional information about Dana and his motivations, but it does not feel like there is enough there to justify the documentary–if you read the original letter and passed through the Diag on that day, this documentary won’t give you much more information. Still, it is nice to have this record for future generations.

Vine Addicts Anonymous: This film centers on an AA style support group for individuals addicted to vines. During the movie, the afflicted individuals tell their stories of vine degeneracy while the referenced vines are played. As someone who has never been much into the vine scene, I still found this short funny, though it was certainly carried by its actors.

Not Delivery: The story is simple: two stoned college students on a mission to get frozen pizza from a local liquor store. There isn’t a crazy twist or strange occurrence, just weed, pizza, and paranoia. It’s classic college. Funny, good-natured, and a decent PSA about the dangers of buying food when stoned. Enough said.

Planet Earth: Endangered Species Special: No student film festival is complete without a mockumentary and this year was no exception. This Planet Earth spoofed centered around the plight of pubic crabs, which face extinction (this is actually true). It’s a bit uneven and some scenes feel unnecessary or repetitive, but the concept is solid and they land a few good jokes now and then. Overall, a cute short.

Settle for Nothing: Now, this film was refreshing. I haven’t seen a student film tackle heists movies before, and Settle for Nothing not only pays homage to our favorite aspects of heist films, but does so in a way that feels very college. The plot revolves around three guys on a mission to retrieve a Settlers of Catan game from a vindictive roommate’s home. In the course of this short film, they face various setbacks and come dangerously close to being caught–the tension is mild, but there, and the film focuses on humor more than seriousness. Still, it’s pretty enjoyable.

Home Grown: The festival ended with a SAC Honors Thesis, Home Grown, which was the best film of the night. Home Grown is a pilot for a TV show centered on two queer persons as they return home after a failed stint in New York. Not only is it funny as fuck, but it also explores gender and relationships in a non-typical, non-trivializing way. Not to mention the high quality production that evidently went into this pilot–scenes are well shot and colors pop. Though it has a few rough patches, Home Grown almost feels like a real pilot for a TV show, and is far above the usual quality of student projects. Highly recommend watching this if/when it becomes available online.

PREVIEW: M-agination Film Festival

The best showcase of student films is back. This Thursday join M-agination Films for their 17th annual festival, where they will be playing 15 student films (including a SAC Honors thesis). As someone who went last year, I assure you these are not clumsy films you and your friends used to make for Youtube, but relatively high-quality shorts that students spent months writing, shooting, and producing. Furthermore, admission is free and attendees get free popcorn and t-shirt. The festival will take place tomorrow at the Michigan Theater. Doors open at 7:30 and films begin at 8:00.

PREVIEW: New Beat Happening Presents: Diet Cig and Palm

Like alternative rock/ indie pop? This Wednesday, April 4, at 7:30 PM, come to the Union for a FREE Diet Cig and Palm concert, presented by New Beat Happening, a student org committed to bringing music to campus. (Tickets are free to students with an MCARD, when purchased at MUTO. If you would like to buy them online, they are $5).

I have been listening to Diet Cig for a while, and am personally really psyched to be able to see them play live. If you are a fan of Girlpool, Frankie Cosmos, or Slutever, you will probably enjoy Diet Cig, too. Their sound is bouncy and fun, a true testament to the “indie pop” genre. Check them out on Spotify! My favorite songs by them include “Harvard” and “Link in Bio.”

I am not as familiar with Palm, who are listed as part of the “experimental rock” genre, and who describe themselves as “playing rock music backwards.” The New York Times hailed the band as being “one of the most ambitious and promising acts in today’s art-rock scene.” I recommend giving their EP, “Shadow Expert,” a listen.

The Facebook event can be found here, and more information about the artists can be found on their Spotify pages or Bandcamps (1, 2).

 

REVIEW: Bloom

NERDS can lift any sad or sick spirit. After a couple days of feeling under the weather, involving little movement and work, I made my way to the Union to watch this semester’s production of Bloom. And that was certainly the highlight of an otherwise bad weekend.

As a purely student-run theater group, this original production was amazing in terms of its talent in acting, singing, composing, and writing, as well as the powerful message it conveyed. Despite some curtain technical difficulties (handled with poise and laughter) and an extended intermission due to the game (GO BLUE), the cast carried on and performed this important work filled with heartfelt, heavy content that is not represented in media enough. The importance of the opportunity NERDS provides students cannot be emphasized enough. Diana Yassin, part of the ensemble, said, “It was a really good experience because I’ve never done anything theater-based in high school because it was always really intense and stressful and scary. But then I came here…and it was really fun and there’s not a lot of pressure on it and everyone’s really nice.” You heard it here folks: NERDS makes dreams come true.

Leah King and Asritha Vinnakota’s portrayal of best friends Margot and Aggie, each struggling to make sense of their own sexualities, was very real and authentic. Their misguided intentions and projected insecurities are problems all too common in friendships and the community. The fact that this Austen-era world highly resembles today’s world still is disconcerting. But it is works like this that is changing the narrative.

This musical had many intricate layers that complicated the lives of the characters. Playwrite Sarah Costello did an amazing job highlighting the difficulties of being understood, even among close friends and people who might understand you better than you might think. The tension between Margot and Aggie was heartbreaking, as their struggles were more similar than they knew, showing how one’s identity may obscure the understanding of another’s.

Taking place in a world where impromptu love duets determine your fate, Margot’s inability to romantically duet led to many raw solos that Leah absolutely killed. Asritha’s gut-wrenching performance of “Right In Front Of Your Eyes” showed everyone the silent struggles Aggie also deals with as she grapples with her own feelings of bisexuality. Toby Jaroslaw’s well-intentioned Ollie complicated the situation but despite his embarrassment, his continued support at the end is a perfect example of how one should treat someone who comes out as asexual and aromantic — exactly how you treated them before (and his proposal number “Next To You” was stuck in my head for the rest of the night). As the town’s outcast, Ellen Paquet’s song as Aunt Clarabel was so beautiful, it was exactly what Margot needed to hear. And the platonic duet between Margot and Aggie at the end was truly heartwearming as each character began to accept that they are exactly who they are meant to be.

The costumes were beautifully designed and symbolically important. Margot’s stunning dress — purple, white, and black — was the color of the flag for asexuality, and Aggie’s was the color of bisexuality — pink, lavender, and blue. The subtle symbols may seem small, but they are huge for raising awareness, as well as being an integral part of each character.

Bloom was truly groundbreaking in terms of representation for invisible and misunderstood minorities. Castmember Fareah Fysudeen commented on the significance of this musical, saying, “I think it’s really important for representation…and I’m sure it meant a lot to people in the crowd and onstage. Overall, it was just a really enriching experience.” Just as Sarah wrote the change she wanted to see, every member of NERDS believed in the power of this musical and dedicated three months of their time to this production, being the change they also wanted to see onstage.

Championing platonic love over romantic love, a concept foreign to many heteronormative people, is not weird or abnormal. Being aromantic or asexual does not mean something is wrong with you. Just as Margot was a beautiful character that gradually found her way to happiness and acceptance, if you are struggling to find your place with your sexuality, Bloom shows that there is a community that cares. You are wanted, you are accepted, you are loved, and you are supported. You, too, will bloom.