REVIEW: Michigan’s Best Dance Crew

The Michigan’s Best Dance Crew Competition took place Thursday night at 8 p.m. in the Union Ballroom. The ballroom was packed with students and families cheering on their favorite dancers–the mood was electric. Many crews auditioned for a spot in the final show, but only 8 were chosen to compete for cash prizes in the finale. The ballroom was transformed to resemble MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew (ABDC), complete with large projector screens on which videos of each crew would play before they made their entrance on stage. Also like ABDC, three judges were chosen to provide feedback after each crew performed. Unfortunately, the judges didn’t provide much helpful feedback for the audience. They said a lot of nice things to each crew, but they didn’t provide any sort of objective critique. And I’m not sure that they were all the most qualified judges. One judge had no dance experience whatsoever, but liked to party and knew how to dougie. How does this make one an expert on dance? (I should have been a judge!!)  The night was hosted by our resident comedian, Eli Yudin, who also opened up for Russel Brand at EMU.

First to take the stage was Encore, a huge hip-hop dance troupe. They provided a really great opener for the show. They were incredibly energetic and had a good mix of hip-hop and techno songs in their performance. I have to give them props for having so many people on such a tiny stage, all dancing in sync together. But, I thought there were too many songs mixed in their set, with awkward transitions. In part of the performance the music transitioned from a techno/hip-hop song that was building in intensity, to an R&B slow jam, where the dancers slowed down to some lyrical hip-hop, then picked up the pace in the next song. That song choice sort of caused them to lose momentum and energy in their performance.

The Arabian Dance Ensemble was next to perform. The belly-dancers were the most unique dance group of the evening. They were really entertaining to watch, and I loved their costumes. It made me want to take a belly-dancing class! However, it was really difficult to judge such a different dance style against the predominantly hip-hop style of the show.

Also not fitting into the popular hip-hop style was Rhythm Tap, a tap dance troupe,  and Impact Dance, whose dancers do a variety of styles including lyrical, jazz, and hip-hop. It was great to see a variety of dance styles represented in the show. However, I don’t feel that they really fit in to the overall idea of a “dance crew,” which insinuates a hip-hop style. I think they realized this too, so in order to compensate these groups chose hip-hop music to dance to in their respective styles, which I wasn’t a big fan of. I couldn’t hear the dancers’ taps when Rhythm performed because the music was so loud. Being able to hear the dancers’ taps is important in judging for accuracy and togetherness in the movements. Impact Dance also performed some jazz/lyrical steps to hip-hop songs, which didn’t seem to fit with the choreography. I think they sacrificed a lot artistically in doing this. Even though they may have stood out more from the other crews, and may have been more difficult to compare to the other crews as a result, at least they would have shown the audience the best of their respective dance styles, rather than trying to mesh with a style that isn’t their own.

Several other hip hop dance crews performed in addition to Encore, including an all-girl group called Dalliance, who performed to a montage of 80’s and 90’s hits by popular R&B and rap artists. The choreography also included a lot of popular dance steps from the 80’s and 90’s. Dalliance had a lot of great energy and really gave the performance their all. Vertigo was another hip hop crew that performed, unique in that the crew is comprised of only medical students. Though they were lacking a bit in technique, they really seemed to enjoy dancing, and they ended their dance with a cute medical reference–a heart monitor flat-line.

Dance 2XS is another hip-hop crew that performed. These dancers are incredibly professional–I was impressed. They were all dressed alike in white button-down dress shirts and red ties, boys and girls alike. What I really liked about Dance 2XS is that both the guys and the girls perform equally difficult technical dance steps. The other crews that performed hip-hop throughout the night were guilty of filling their choreography with cheaper steps–booty-popping and sexier movements. I really respected Dance 2XS for never letting up the technically difficult hip-hop isolations and movements throughout their performance. They used a lot of interesting formations, and persisted with sharp, strong movements in unison. Most of all, you can tell they all LOVE to dance. Even after the performance was over and the DJ played music while they were counting votes, they all got back up and starting dancing around, just for fun, while everyone was leaving. They never stop. (Can you guess who I voted for? 🙂 )

Finally, FunKtion finished out the night as the last performance before voting opened. This all-male, multicultural group was incredibly entertaining. The guys came out on stage to “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO, flexing their muscles and strutting their stuff like they were in the club trying to grab all the girls’ attention–it was hilarious. I liked how they could do a variety of things within their style, from comedic routines to more serious, hard-hitting hip-hop, to really sweet, romantic songs that charm the girls. They were pretty versatile as hip-hop dancers, and really fun to watch.

I’m sure by now you’re dying to know who won. And the winners were…. In third place, Encore! In second place, FunKtion! And in first place…. Dance 2XS!

I was so delighted to see how many great dance opportunities there are at the University of Michigan for non-dance majors. Watching everyone else perform made me really miss dancing myself. I’ll have to keep an eye out for auditions to some of the crews that performed at the show! Maybe next time you’ll see me up there dancing with them…

REVIEW: Word of Mouth StorySLAM

The Word of Mouth StorySLAM took place on Friday December 9th at Work Gallery on State St. The theme of the night was “Stuffed,” and while hors d’oeuvres included double stuffed Oreos and peanut butter filled pretzels, the theme garnered stories beyond the topic of food.

The first story of the night, told by senior Art and Design student Laura Gilmore, told of a performance art piece she created in which she stuffed a box full of her ex-boyfriends belongings and presented them to him in a dramatic- yet unsuccessful- fashion. Another, told by LSA sophomore Sylvia Gindick, was about the time she was quarantined in France because a member of her American travel group spread Swine flu to the country. Her companions were advertised in the French news as American bearers of infectious contagions. She stuffed into a clinic and detained as a result. Embarrassing.

Food related stories included one by Word of Mouth regular Garnett Bruell: the magic of his grandmother’s cranberry sauce had the power to nearly mend his dysfunctional family at a holiday meal. In one less sentimental by sophomore Hania Bigoszewska, her dog scarfed a wedding cake master piece that her mother labored over for hours. The dog was banished to the yard for days. For shame.

It was not only students who participated but townies as well. Austin Murphy, avid member of the Ann Arbor Atheists, made a brief guest appearance, delivering a story that hardly referenced the theme but did include talk of the origin of the universe, a tale about mama cave bears, and a shameless plug for his new book…? Oh Ann Arbor locals…

RC sophomore John Coats delivered the winning story of the night. In a series of chaotic events in an unexpected hospital visit, he unconsciously mooned an attractive nurse through the revealing flaps of his hospital gown. Oops! Guess it happens to the best of us. As a prize, John is invited back as a story teller in the final Grand Slam event of the year in April.

In between stories, the MC reads anonymous mini-slips submitted by audience members. Last night included short tales of being stuffed to the brim in competitive eating contests as well as a few suggestive ones about what “Stuffed” might denote, but those are too lewd to be repeated here.

Overall, the night was a success. The gallery space was decked out with student art work from the A&D All Student Exhibition, giving the white walls a flare that enhanced the creativity of the gathering. While Word of Mouth usually packs the room, however, attendance last night was lower than usual. Could have been because of finals or the plethora of other end-of-semester events taking place simultaneously, including F.O.K.U.S’s Pause, which was happening down the street at the Kelsey Museum (in fact, many attendants alternated between arts events throughout the evening). Because Word of Mouth relies on audience participation, a small or shy crowd can change the face of the event. Yet eventually, the space filled. It was stuffed with people listening to stories and laughing along with the anecdotes of the raconteurs.

To stay posted on future Word of Mouth events, check out the blog! Pictures and sound bites from “Stuffed” to come!

To get involved with planning the events, email wordofmouthstories@umich.edu

As they say on NPR, thanks for listening and have a story worthy week!

REVIEW: The Mystery of Irma Vep

Porscha Kazmierczak’s senior thesis, The Mystery of Irma Vep, was an amazing adventure that was a great break from studying for finals because it provided plenty of laughter and relieved stress. The play runs December 8 through 10 and there are shows at 7pm and 11pm. I went to the 11pm showing on December 9 and the audience were just as good for the show as the actors. It was amazing that two actors played every character in the show and it was highly entertaining. The thing that impressed me the most was how the actors could go from playing a completely different role in a matter of seconds and they always stayed true to whatever character they were playing. Eric Krawczyk and Jackson Pierce were both able to maintain four different characters and switch easily between them as well as deal with quick costume changes. It really displayed the talent of the acting and directing at the University of Michigan because the script as well as how it was portrayed were perfect.

The supplementary actors were great as well. There was an actor who prompted applause, laughter, and gasps with signs and this added to the comedic atmosphere of the play. The sound designer was so good. He sat on the side of the stage and played different sounds depending on what was happening in the scene. He was very into the play and it was obvious that he was having a good time, which made the audience have a good time as well. The actors were not afraid to show a large amount of expression and they even interacted with the audience quite a lot.

The sets of the play were interesting as well because there were different backdrops and they were wonderfully designed. The main sitting of the play was Mandacrest manor and it looked like a genuine mansion.  I have yet to see a play at the Walgreen Drama Center that I did not love. I feel so privileged to see these amazing plays and musicals for free only five minutes away from my dorm. I would recommend that anyone who does not mind commuting to north campus or is already there to see any play put on at the Walgreen Drama Center. Before I came to the University of Michigan I did not have opportunities to see beautifully casted and directed play like this one, so I am extremely content that I have that opportunity now. Take advantage of the talent we have here!

Preview: Little Women, the Musical?

Last year I was blown away by the fact that Little Women was turned into an opera, but I went and thought it was fantastic. So when I heard that the musical was being put on this year, I had to go! Maybe next they’ll do the play…or I could read the book! But who has time for that? Maybe one day,

since it is a piece of classical American literature and all. The musical, inspired of course by Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women, is being put on this weekend by the Department of Musical Theatre Studio Production. The story of these four sisters and the trials they go through is sure to be a night to remember and I hope that the music by Jason Howland and the lyrics by Mindi Dickstein will be as memorable for me as that of Bare, which I reviewed last weekend. Maybe I’ll be listening to and singing Little Women for a week too!

This will be a welcome break right before exam week (which most of us will refer to as Hell Week) and I hope you can go out to a show or do something to relieve some of that built up stressing out. I promise, the sound of beautiful voices coming out of some of the sexiest people on campus really does things for the soul. You won’t be let down, because in musical theater, I don’t even think that is possible (unless you’re one of those Sondheim fans that hate everything that he didn’t write).

So here are the details, I know it sucks to have to read through some crazy guy’s thoughts all the time, so here it is laid out ;

What: Little Women the Musical

When:
Thursday 12/8 @ 7:30pm
Friday 12/9 @ 8:00pm
Saturday 12/10 @ 2:00pm
Saturday 12/10 @ 8:00pm
Sunday 12/11 @ 2:00pm

Where: Arthur Miller Theater on North Campus (it’s a great theater, worth the commute)

How much: Student rush $10 BUT HURRY! They’re going fast! They are nearly sold out!

With that, I sign off. Get back to studying!

Sending you love and light,

Danny Fob

(Coffee is on me if you can name the show that my sign off is from!)

P.S. I actually LOVE Sondheim, I’m just not all hipster about him.

PREVIEW: Word of Mouth StorySLAM

Hey all! Nina here, a lucky new writer for [art]seen. Taking the opportunity to christen my writing profile with a preview about an event that is near and dear to my heart. Shameless plug: a student organization that I help to run is holding its last event of the semester this Friday night!

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Word of Mouth StorySLAM . STUFFED. Friday December 9. Work Gallery on State St.  6pm.

Still full from Thanksgiving? Come tell us about it! Join Word of Mouth Stories for its next StorySlam at 6 PM on Friday, December 9th, at the Work Gallery on State Street. This month’s theme is “Stuffed,” and the event should be full of tasty tales. Never been to our slams before? Audience members tell five-minute stories from their lives relative to a theme. Whether you come with stories or just to listen in, we hope to see you there. In the meantime, check out our blog!

Word of Mouth began as a student organization in Fall of 2010, inspired by NPR’s The Moth. The Moth holds StorySLAMS in major cities throughout the country, including Detroit and, recently, Ann Arbor (third Tuesdays of every month at Circus Bar on 1st St.). Originally the student group was called The MothUP, as offspring groups of the radio program go by. After growing in publicity and popularity on the internet, however, NPR contacted our student org and us we had to change the name if we wanted to avoid a lawsuit. Oops! But at least we made a splash in the literary world. Now we go by Word of Mouth. Events are just as fun, just as moving, just as creative as ever before.

Here is a clip from our last event on October 21st. In the spirit of Halloween, the theme of the evening was “Night.” The speaker is last month’s winner Maddie Sharton, a junior in the school of Music, Theater, and Dance.

Also, check out the muse of our org, The Moth. Here is a story from 2006 told by playwright Michaela Murphy. It is about her her Irish Catholic family who “lovingly spies on the Kennedy compound from afar.”

Take a listen, tell me what you think. Hope to see you on Friday!

REVIEW: Lizzie Hutton, poetry reading

First of all, let me be clear that I know nothing of poetry. Other than the presentation I gave on Lord Byron in my British literature class, junior year of high school, I really haven’t studied much on the subject. I saw that Lizzie Hutton was coming, read a biography on her, and decided it would be worth attending, if for no other reason than to expand my literary horizons. Lizzie Hutton is a renowned poet, UM alumni, and currently getting her PhD at the university as well.

Knowing that I know nothing of poetry, you can take my opinion as what you want, but I was blown away by Hutton’s words. Her poems were actually more like short stories to listen to, filled with brief expressions of conflicting emotions, family values, disappointments, and struggles over sexual intimacy and the exploration of femininity. One of her poems, entitled “Low City,” described how sex is broken, fragmented, and violent, with imagery so dramatic and vivid it is almost disturbing. Another poem called, “You knew it was so,” is about shyness I believe (I’d like to read it a second time to fully capture its meaning), and the descriptions of an indoor pool, reflecting on the ceiling, are absolutely beautiful. Her poem “Blue Stocking” has a leaping sort of motion, moving from person to object back to person and onto something else. Maybe that’s how most poetry flows, but it is so distinct that we end up somewhere out of seemingly nowhere. I really enjoyed “Milkweed” as well. It seems to capture the difficulties in the self-conscience nature of creation and when something as freeing as creativity is left “contained but uncomposed.” At the end of each poem, the audience sat entirely still, stunned; like at the end of a symphonic piece when you aren’t sure if it’s the end and whether it’s yet appropriate to clap.

I’ve been to quite a few fiction readings, so I know how they are sometimes acted out and read rather quickly to best get through a passage of text. This poetry reading was entirely different. She read slow, emphasizing each word with an effective, matter-of-fact tone that gave prominence and importance in nearly every word she spoke.

The woman who introduced Hutton said that Hutton’s poems made her want to write poetry, and I couldn’t relate more. I am a creative writing major and work primarily in narratives and fiction, but after listening, I too feel a serious desire to try my hand at poetry; if only to feel empowered by weaving words, such carefully selected words, to paint a single image.

If you have not been to one of the Zell Writers Series events, I highly encourage you to attend. It is such a great opportunity to meet and listen to such accomplished members of the literary world without having to leave UM! And besides, what better way to de-stress than to be creatively inspired by talented writers?

Here’s a link to the English dept. website for further information on upcoming events:
http://www.lsa.umich.edu/english/events/default.asp