PREVIEW: Best of Michigan A Cappella CharityFest

This Saturday, February 19th, the Michigan A Cappella Council will host its first philanthropic event of the year: Best Of Michigan A Cappella CharityFest. The show will feature 13 University of Michigan A Cappella groups, each of which will perform a single song.  The purpose of the event is to raise awareness about the charity album that MACC produced last year, entitled: Best of Michgian a Cappella. This album will be sold at a special discount price of $5 during the event. All proceeds from the show and album sales will go to the VH1 Save the Music Foundation.

The concert will feature:

58 Greene

Amazin’ Blue

Compulsive Lyres

Dicks and Janes

The Friars


The G-Men

Good News

The Harmonettes

Kol Hakavod


Midnight Blue

The Sopranos

Hope to see you all come out for this amazing event!

When: Saturday, February 19th, 7:00pm

Where: University Club (First floor of the Union)

Price: $3

REVIEW: Dancing Americas

On Thursday, February 3rd, 2011 I entered the Power Center at the University of Michigan to watch the University Dance Company perform in Dancing Americas.  The show showcased dances from across the Americas, from tango to jazz to New York City pop.  The purpose of Dancing Americas is to celebrate multiple disciplines in dance across time and space.  The cultural diversity within this program set each performance apart from the other.

While the program featured the work of four different choreographers, I will only focus on the first two pieces within the program: “MinEvent” and “Towards A Sudden Silence.”  The show opened with “MinEvent,” a piece by Merce Cunningham.  This piece was the most contemporary of the night.  The curtain rose to reveal a barebones set.  The backdrop, curtains on the wings and everything else was removed leaving a set that was reminiscent of a construction site.  The industrial feel of this performance was the first of many surprises.  I should note that Merce Cunningham was known for his innovation.  He believed that music and dance should be created independently of one another.  Thus, the dancers rehearsed in silence and were not exposed to the music prior to this performance.  This created a very interesting experience, as the music was nothing like traditional music.

The music was reminiscent of an introduction to music composition class I once took.  The class philosophy held that any combination of sound was music.  This philosophy seemed to define the music within this first piece, as there was no apparent tempo or melody.  The “music” included many unpleasant sounds: sawing wood, tin cans, feedback, drills, bells, chewing of food, change in a mixing bowl, whisks and a plethora of other non-traditional instruments.  While I can appreciate the creativity within the music, I felt that it became distracting at points.  I often found myself engulfed in the creation of this music, which pulled my attention away from the dance itself.

The dance started with two people on stage, a man and a woman.  Their moves were stiff and extremely rapid, but synchronized at times.  Their grey leotards revealed every curve of their body.  This was very interesting, as you could see every muscle working to create their art.  It was like watching a machine.  The dance continued with multiple groups of dancers running on and off the stage.  Because of the bare nature of the set we could see the dancers waiting in the wings, which was also a very interesting experience.  The dancers would often run on and off stage at full speed.  They would come on in groups of two or three, dancing to their own beat.  As more dancers began making their entrance the colors of their costumes began to change.  We began to see dancers in light blue and red costumes.  These bright colors were a relief and provided a stark contrast from the set and the costumes initial dancers.  There were not many times when the entire group of dancers was on stage and dancing in unison.  Throughout the majority of this performance the dancers all seemed to be doing their own dance in the same style.  As mentioned previously, the dancers were very mechanical and almost alien in their movement.  I distinctly remember a reoccurring move that involved an isolated violent shaking of the foot.  The dancer would walk up the stage and engage in this birdlike dance.  It reminded me somewhat of a mating dance from the wild.  The performance was extremely foreign to me, so much so that it is difficult for me to actually describe the choreography.

I must admit that this performance made me feel a bit uncomfortable.  It was an extremely visceral experience that pushed me past my comfort zone.  However, I appreciated it and felt that it was the highlight of the evening.  It was truly an indescribable performance.

Melissa Beck choreographed the second piece of the evening, “Towards A Sudden Silence.”  While I felt that “MinEvent” was more memorable, this was the most enjoyable piece throughout the program.  When the curtain rose the audience was presented with a more traditional dance experience.  The curtains were lowered in the wings and downstage and the set was very simple and featured a bench downstage center.  The bench was adorned with several female dancers wearing bright colored dresses, each a different shade.  The women were poised and proper with their hands in their laps and their backs straight up.  At the end of the bench stood a single male dancer, who seemed to be a headmaster of sorts.  When the choreography began, a female dancer at the end of the bench closest to the man attempted to stand up only to be brought back down by her peers.  The anguish in her face assisted the audience’s interpretation of the piece.  She wanted out.  Once she escaped she stood upstage right.  She then began running in place, but tripping with each step.  It looked as if she was trying to escape from something, but was unable to obtain that freedom.  Her running became more violent with every stride.  She began flailing in place, creating audible grunts.  Her attempt to escape became so violent that her headband flew off of her head onto the ground.  She stopped.  It was as if she had given up.  She picked up her headband, placed it on her head and straightened out her dress.  The remainder of the piece reflected this first scene.  The dancers attempting to break free, becoming more and more violent only to be corralled back in by their peers or the lone male.

I came to this performance with a feminist point of view, believing that our patriarchal society as some sort of control over minorities, including women and especially women within a sexual minority.  To me, this performance seemed to be a testament to this ideology.  The women performing within this piece carried with them a fire.  They were angry and wanted more than anything to break out of the roles in which our society has cast them.

The two performances, though extremely different, created an experience and elicited visceral emotional responses.  While I was unaware of the quality in dance throughout the majority of the show, I was able to connect to the performances on an emotional level.  Whether that was feeling uncomfortable and awkward or feeling a strong connected to the performance and its meaning.  For me, the emotional connection to these performances was the most impressive aspect of this program.

REVIEW: dandia Dhamaka 2011

I must say that I have never set foot into a space with so much energy in my entire life.  The moment I walked into the Michigan Theatre for dandia Dhamaka 2011 I knew I was in for something special.  Hundreds of audience members stood in the lobby wishing their friends and family members the best of luck for the competition ahead.  Fans from each respective school orchestrated these interactions, as they donned their school’s colors and chanted their fight songs from the grand staircase in the lobby of the theatre.  The only situation of worthy comparison is State street on a football Saturday, pure madness.

As I waited in my seat for the show to start, I could not help but notice the dazzling costumes of each competing team.  They were absolutely stunning.  Not only were the costumes authentic in nature, but they sparkled like nothing I have ever seen before… and I mean literally sparkled.  I couldn’t wait to see what they looked like under the stage lighting.

The show opened with a video introducing each competing team.  The great thing about this competition was its positive atmosphere.  I never heard one negative comment from any of the teams, never any booing or cackling.  Each team was extremely respectful and potentially overly supportive of the other.  The positive energy in the room was inspiring.

The first team to take the stage was Georgia Institute of Technology, and I was completely blown away.  I have never seen so much energy and enthusiasm in a performance group.  Each and every member of that team was completely dedicated to what they were doing, and they made the audience believe it.  These kids were not faking anything.

And the costumes…. Whoa the costumes!  I mentioned earlier that I was excited to see the effect of stage lighting, and I was not disappointed.  As the dancers spun around, changing formations and the like, their costumes shimmered like nothing I had ever seen before.  It looked as if an arsenal of fireworks were being set off on stage.  Arguably one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  I feel as if I’m being overly dramatic about this experience, but my thoughts are completely genuine.  The show was filled with so many beautiful performances.  As time went on it was difficult to differentiate each team’s performance, as they started running together.  Regardless, the experience was unlike anything I could have imagined.

At the end of the night, Rutgers University took home first place, followed by the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.  Unfortunately I cannot comment on the validity in these placements, as each performance was beyond incredible to my eye.  I highly recommend dandia Dhamaka 2012 to anyone who is in the Ann Arbor Area next year.  Not only is it a cultural and educational experience, but it is just too much fun!

PREVIEW: dandia Dhamaka 2011

Today, the University of Michigan Raas Association will host their 10th annual intercollegiate raas competition, coined dandia Dhamaka. According to the dandia Dhamaka website, this competition marks the birth of intercollegiate raas competition in the United States. While similar competitions continue to be created across the country, dandia Dhamaka remains the oldest and largest of its kind.

Dandia Dhamaka will showcase the South Asian traditional dance form of raas. I’ve seen a few performances by the Michigan Raas team and their energy is unlike anything I’ve seen out of a student performance group. The show will feature 10 of the best raas teams from around the country. This year, the 10 competing teams will be Georgia Institute of Technology, Loyola University Chicago, Michigan State University, Purdue University, Rutgers University, St. Louis University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, University of Texas at Austin and of course the University of Michigan, who took 2nd place at last year’s competition.

Be sure to check out this incredible cultural event!

Venue: The Michigan Theatre
Date: Saturday, January 29th
Time: 6:30pm
Tickets: Main Floor – $18
Balcony – $14

Catch you at the show!

REVIEW: Gibson Fleck

There are not words in the English language that can adequately describe the way I feel about Gibson Fleck, an original musical written by U of M students in the department of Musical Theatre. The show made its debut last weekend in the Arthur Miller Theatre, which provided an intimate and appropriate space for the stellar show.

Gibson Fleck tells the story of a young man searching for a place to call home. Born without a family or a home, Gibson travels the country as a nomad. He prides himself in his ability to never stay in the same place for an extended period of time until he comes across a little construction site in New Haven, Connecticut. Here, Gibson finds a home he had never known before. After some time, Gibson discovers that his biological mother has past away and has left him with everything in her name. Gibson then travels to Vienna, Virginia in search for his mother’s home. While in Vienna, Gibson stays with his mother’s parents and eventually finds her diary. By reading this diary, he discovers the truth about his family and his home. Throughout this heart-wrenching story we see Gibson struggle with family, friends, love and his idea of home. We finally realize, along with Gibson, that home is not defined ‘family,’ but by people who love and care for you. We see Gibson make this realization and finally return to New Haven, the place he has come to call “home.”

Ali Gordon’s genius shines in this book, as the show features a cast of extremely well developed characters. This is one thing that impressed me so much about the show. I was so amazed that I could walk out of the show feeling like I knew the story behind each and every character. In addition to the fantastic book for Gibson Fleck, the score was equally incredible.

I am very excited to see what happens with this show. I will be very disappointed if it is not picked up. Even in its earliest stages, Gibson Fleck feels like a classic.

PREVIEW: Gibson Fleck

When I think back about the talent here at the University of Michigan, odds are high that Gibson Fleck will stick out in my mind.  I cannot explain to you the itching anticipation I’m experiencing for this show and I hardly know anything about it.  Gibson Fleck, presented by the Department of Musical Theatre, is an original production with music and lyrics written by A.J. Holmes and Carlos Valdes and book by Ali Gordon.  These names may sound familiar to you, and they should.  The creators of Gibson Fleck are all current U of M students.  This impressive and ambitious young team has worked incessantly to produce a show that is sure to continue the university’s tradition of innovation and creative genius.

Gibson Fleck, a story of a young man searching for a place to call home, incorporates a blend of both folk rock and musical theatre idioms.  The show is sure to be an emotional rollercoaster, as Gibson is faced with the enduring uncertainty of the meaning of “home.” I have no doubt that the inspiring story of Gibson Fleck will take you into a world unbeknownst to you.

Gibson Fleck will run throughout the weekend in the Arthur Miller Theatre on North Campus.

Thursday, November 18th: 7:30 PM (SOLD OUT)

Friday, November 19th:  8:00 PM

Saturday, November 20th: 8:00 PM

Saturday, November 20th: 2:00 PM

Sunday, November 21st: 2:00 PM

Limited tickets available at the League Ticket Office: 734.764.2538

Cost: $24/$10 with student ID