REVIEW: Sa re ga ma pella

Sa re ga ma pella by Maize Mirchi featured 8 songs, an intermission with Indian snacks, a dance performance by Michigan Taal and a really really excited audience.

The acapella singers did a good job harmonizing and it was nice to know some songs were independently set up by students. The introductions of the new members between songs was one of my favorite parts. The introductions were short, sweet and really funny. We got to know a lot about the companionship shared between the members of Maize Mirchi. The audience consisted of parents and friends of the performers and they were really engaged with the performances and cheering their loved ones on.

A point I would like to highlight is the cultural fusion of this group. They are an acapella group with a touch of Indian culture. I would say their group shows a kaleidoscope of Indian American culture. Less than half of the songs were in an Indian language and some of these were half English half Hindi. The western Indian mix was well carried by the performers. Their coordination really hit the sweet spot!

The soloists showed a very authentic image of Indian American culture and by the excitement of the audience it was obvious their supporters liked it. I think the song selection could have been improved to show more diversity but it was an entertaining show regardless.

The performance after the intermission by Michigan Taal was short and sweet. The size of the stage was very small but they did not let it hinder them. They had an exciting diversity of dances and their energy was infectious.

Being at the acapella concert was like being at an intimate event for family and friends where everyone knew each other and supported performers.

If you like Indian American culture and acapella then Sa Re Ga Ma pella can’t hit it more on the head than anything else!

REVIEW: VSA’s Annual Đêm Việt Nam Culture Show

For people of different ethnicities born in America, it can be difficult to embrace a culture that seems so distant and detached. Through a mix of traditional and modern Vietnamese dances at VSA’s sold-out cultural show, DVN, we followed the journey of Anna as she was immersed into a culture she struggled to identify with.

Traditional dance props included umbrellas, Northern hats, ribbons, lanterns, and fans, twirled and spun and thrown in ways that highlighted the beauty of a proud past unforgotten. This culture embraces these meaningful traditions, and that respect is translated through dances centered around these objects that hold significant history. Whether elegantly simple like the NQT dance or with fast-paced flairs like the Fan dance, and or a mishmash of everything like the Traditional Medley, the traditional dances gave Anna a firm grasp and better understanding of her family’s culture.

The modern hip hop dances reflected the changing of culture, a culture with its roots in the past but includes the times of the present. These dances definitely got the loudest cheers from the audience with their impressive moves. Their use of American and Vietnamese songs point to the mixing of American culture with others, especially found in the new generations born here; nonetheless, the power of these dances proves the ability for different cultures to adapt to new influences while retaining their originality.

 

With the interspersed schedule of traditional and modern dances, the energy never died down throughout the show. Also included was a fashion show displaying various Vietnamese traditional garments and a guest performance by Izzat that further promoted culture. The colorful light work added an extra level of spice and excitement. The emcee dialogue was cringeworthy and the jokes were dry, but most shows are like that. Anna’s journey set up the next dances nicely, moved the storyline along, and united the dances under a common theme — just like culture does.

The hard work of all the dancers, choreographers, behind-the-scenes workers, and especially the DVN board paid off last night as Anna successfully found her light by the end. The DVN show showed that “the culture is with you wherever you go” through the art of dance.

PREVIEW: Ping Chong-Stamps Speaker Series

Ping Chong is a contemporary theater director, choreographer, and visual artist who has amassed many awards and fellowships across his career. Many of his pieces focus on culture and cultural identity.  In total, he has created over 90 different productions, with one of his most recent ones, Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity, currently touring.  Join Stamps for a special peek into Chong’s artistic process, perspective, and inspirations, and gain new insight into Beyond Sacred, which will be making it’s stop in Ann Arbor this weekend.

Ping Chong’s UMS performance Beyond Sacred, will be held in the Power Center on Saturday, February 18th at 8PM.  This event will be included on the most recent passport to the arts, but the voucher must be redeemed in advance.

This talk will be held on Thursday, February 16th, at the Michigan Theater at 5:10 PM.  Like all of the lectures in the Stamps Speaker Series, this one will be free and open to the public. Arrive there 10-15 minutes early for prime seating.  Immediately following the talk there will be a Q&A section for those interested.

REVIEW: Japanese Prints of Kabuki Theater

Photo courtesy of the UMMA

Although the UMMA houses many intriguing exhibits, the Japanese Prints of Kabuki Theater has become a favorite for visitors of the museum. The art of kabuki theater, which is a classical form of Japanese drama that dates as far back as the 17th century, has been captured by colorful woodblock prints for the public to view. The exhibit currently showcases a collection of these prints, including those made by admired print-artists such as Utagawa Toyokuni and Toyohara Kunichika.

When I first stepped into the exhibit, I was greeted by oriental music and a large wall colored in blue, with text that described the art of kabuki theater. After reading the text, I make my way around the room—it was spacious, with clean white walls that had splashes of color from prints. These depictions of theater showcased famous actors and actresses in scenes from actual plays, as well as fictional ones. Some of the scenes included actors in disguise from enemies, lovers who were reunited, and battle scenes.

Photo courtesy of the UMMA
Photo courtesy of the UMMA

Among the collection of prints was a showcase for a bright red kimono with gold embroidery in the shape of various animals. This kimono was iconic for a specific kabuki actress, who was rarely seen wearing kimonos of other colors.
Next to the kimono was a TV that played a video recording of a kabuki theater performance from the late 1900s, a visual that seemed to bring the prints to life.

Overall, visiting the exhibit was a wonderful experience. I was enlightened of an aspect of Japanese culture that I did not know existed. Don’t miss the chance to view the exhibit for yourself—it will be at the UMMA until the 29th of this month, from 11AM – 5PM on Tuesdays through Saturdays, 12PM – 5PM on Sundays!

REVIEW: Sister Africa 2015

This was the 17th annual Culture Show put on by the African Students Association, and after weeks of hype and social media frenzy, the Michigan Theater was filled to capacity.

Comedian standup comedian Foxy P took the stage and did not hesitate bringing up diversity. It was a pleasant surprise to hear him complementing the diversity in Ann Arbor, as he told us a story about walking into a barber shop downtown and having his hair cut by a white guy named Tim. This story and every other time he came on stage was filled with an energy that kept the audience filled with passion.

There were no bad performances. Whether it was the Amala dancers flowing across the stage, the Uprizin Steel Drum Band reminding us of warming weather, or a blisteringly frank spoken word poem by Adedolapo Adeniji, the audience was on the edge of its seat.

Two standout dance performances by the Michigan Center for Capoeira and the Zuzu Dancers book-ending the second half truly made the Africa Show a worthwhile experience. Not only were the dancers shaped like bodybuilders, but we watched them flip and spin and fly through the air as if they were superhuman. The Zuzu Dancers especially condensed several acts into a short performance that deserved a standing ovation at the end.

Spaced at different points through the show was a fashion show. This was a reminder of Africa’s wide range of cultures and dress, as well as a reminder of how beautiful its people and clothing are.

Like the Fusion Show put on by ASA months before, the Culture Show was something that can only truly be enjoyed in person. This time, at least, there will be a video available of show online at 1Africa. For future reference, this is not an event to pass up when it comes around again next year.

REVIEW: FUSION OF CULTURES

Although it got off to a bit of a slow start, Fusion of Cultures soon picked up and jumped around quickly from one act to another. In an effort to keep people around until the end, the schedule of events was hidden from the audience, but I kind of liked the uncertainty, especially since I didn’t gain anything by knowing who was up next.

First of all, the food. There was a range of Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and African cuisine, and let’s just make it clear that all of it was absolutely delicious. There may be a variety of finals breakfasts and meals around campus, but this kind of food is rare and should be cherished. I drank a sweet Mango Lassi while munching on fried plantains, refried beans and hummus, to name a few of the dishes that I can remember.

IMG_7433
Pictured: Not Dining Hall Food

The best part about the food was that it was not even the best part. We (the audience) watched a number of dance routines juxtaposed with poetry readings, videos, and even a fashion show.

Translated Poetry Reading
Translated Poetry Reading

As I’m sure we were supposed to see, the variety of cultures that we saw were surprisingly similar. Yes the exact dance moves differed, but all of them had an invigorating, sophisticated quality that one does not normally see at a frat party.

Pictured: A typical frat party
Pictured: A typical frat party

 

Furthermore, the poetry read was heated, especially in the weak of recent national tragedies. It is a sad fact that much of what we heard was characterized by oppression and discrimination, but that is the truth of our world for people other than white heterosexual males.

Best of all, I think, the room was packed. This season has been especially filled with protests and anger in our society, and Fusion of Cultures was a reminder of why we want and need to celebrate diversity in the United States. Throughout the night I watched dozens of talented individuals perform for a packed room and everyone was enjoying their evening. To me, that fit perfectly with the name of the event.

Peace
Peace