Review: Student Choreography Showcase

After a long break, the dance department’s Student Choreography Showcase (SCS) made a much-anticipated comeback. This year, I decided to take part in choreographing and performing a solo for the showcase. The months leading up to the showcase were filled with creativity and excitement as I, along with other dancers, began creating our works. For dancer majors, SCS is a unique opportunity to choreograph and perform work, and that usually doesn’t happen until their senior year. So, SCS became the perfect platform for dancers to finally showcase their creativity and performance abilities! On March 30, majors, minors, and non-affiliated students all came together for a night of love, heartbreak, and fun!

The performance showcased interdisciplinary works like Ladina Schaller’s solo, which involved a projection with a video that she edited herself. Her work was an ode to her home in Switzerland, featuring beautiful landscapes and her navigating interesting sculptures. Nicola Troschinetz, a musical theatre major, choreographed a duet with Evan Tylka, also a musical theatre major, that brought extremely engaging dynamics and interesting partnering techniques. It was extremely exciting to have musical theater majors and Audrey Andrews a theatre major perform in this show. Expanding the love of dance beyond the dance department welcomes new people to the program and opportunities to perform in this beautiful art form. The talent and dedication of these performers was truly inspiring, showcasing their creativity and passion for dance. 

The last three pieces were solos performed by Claire Schick, Amelie Vidrio, and me! I bring these up because–as most audience members can also admit–the last three pieces were especially sad and emotionally heartbreaking. Claire’s solo was to the song “Audrey” by Bread, a song that she heard often throughout her childhood. It mixed youthful elements like cartwheels with complex floorwork and music-based quick movements. Amelie Vidrio’s solo was to “Sayonara No Kane” by Hako Yamasaki, a 70s heart-wrenching Japanese ballad. Amelie used a chair throughout the piece in unconventional ways: as a dancing partner, a tool to balance on, and eventually spun in a circle with it and threw it to the audience (creatively avoiding hitting anyone,of course!). My piece also utilized a prop, a house lamp, and a pile of clothes. Robert, the lighting designer, did a great job at creating the perfect atmosphere that worked with the onstage lamp perfectly. Toward the end of the piece, I took off the shade of the lamp, and that created a huge shadow of my body onto the backdrop. It was better than I could have imagined. 

This event will hopefully continue each semester from now on, giving more students the opportunity to choreograph a dance piece and perform on our amazing stage. I highly recommend coming to the next show to see a diverse range of dancers and styles performed with creative lighting that is unlike any other show you will see at this university.

REVIEW: Impulse V: Roots (hosted by MEMCO)

Another unforgettable MEMCO (Michigan Electronic Music Collective) Impulse event at Club Above!! The theme of this month’s event was: Roots. It celebrated and highlighted black DJs, reminding all of us of techno music’s history–it was created by black people, specifically not too far from Ann Arbor in Detroit, Michigan. This event was paired with a film premiere of a new documentary (12 years in the making) about Detriot techno called God Said Give Em’ Drums and a panel discussion with legendary Detriot Djs like Stacy “Hotwaxx” Hale, Delano Smith, John Collins, and DJ ETTA. I sadly was unable to attend the screening and panel but the good news is the film will be in theaters soon! So when you are all able to, go watch it!!!! Then, come celebrate at a MEMCO event. If you haven’t been to one yet this is a great time to start, and if you want a preview of what you could experience…keep reading! 

I go to most MEMCO events, but I was especially excited for this one. I am originally from Los Angeles, California, and coming to Ann Arbor, Michigan, it was hard for me to feel a part of the community. I don’t like sports games, I don’t call soda “pop,” and I’m not sure I could tell you anything about the automotive industry (not to diminish Michigan culture to these three things, but I hope you get the point). Learning about the origins of Techno music and going to my first MEMCO event, I felt right at home and proud to call Michigan my new home. Roots was the first MEMCO event I’ve gone to with only black DJs. It was some of the best sets I’ve heard. There wasn’t a moment that I didn’t want to dance and move my body. Even when DJs switched the transitions were smooth and intentional–there was never a moment of stillness. 

My personal favorite sets were from DJ ETTA and MEMCO’s own NAPHTHA. DJ ETTA’s set was extremely fun, mixing hip-hop music with funky techno beats. She did an amazing job pacing each track and the evolution of each sound, i.e., adding sounds, distorting them, and playing with pacing/types of beats used. NAPHTHA was surely my favorite, though. His set had everyone dancing and gasping at the perfect transitions from track to track. I remember Club Above turning the lights on at the end of the set, and a group of us were so distracted by his set that we wouldn’t stop dancing. It’s one of those things where “you had to be there”. Looking up at the DJ booth, it looked like NAPHTHA was a scientist and was carefully using the mixing board–he knew how to use it so well I swear he could’ve made the board himself. It made me so excited that NAPHTHA is a UMICH student, and that someone so talented gets to share the campus with all of us. He is also currently a junior and will be around next year, DJing for more events so if you get the chance you must hear him play!!! I would not recommend anything more. The next MEMCO event is on April 20th at Club Above. The theme is Femme Fatale, and all of the DJs will be femme DJs!! Another very exciting event ending the semester with a BANG!

REVIEW: Impulse III: Triple Threat (hosted by: MEMCO, WCBN, & A/SQUARED)

Yay!! Another Memco event! This was their third Impulse event, and it was a collaboration with WCBN (the student radio) and A/Squared (a student fashion and culture magazine). There were two DJs from Detriot, Max Watts and Miguel Cisne, part of the Limited Network, a Hamtramck-based recording label that focuses on Detriot-based techno, echoing the pioneering of the Underground Resistance. The event was at Club Above again, which, as I’ve mentioned in my previous posts about Memco, is my favorite club off campus. There is always ample space for dancing, talking, laughing, playing pool, and more. 

Photography by: Noah Jackson

It is apparent the more I come to Memco events, the more comfortable I feel at them, or rather the less self aware I am. Triple Threat enticed a massive crowd of people to come, and it was easy to get lost in the mass of people. Usually, the thought of this scares me, but going with a group of close friends I feel comfortable with ultimately eases my fear. There weren’t any strobe lights this time, which I was mainly happy about, but I did wish there was more exciting lighting throughout the night–it seemed to stay the same the whole night. I will say if you go to Club Above, it is always fun to wear white because it is glow-in-the-dark there! 

I ended up spending most of the night on the platform with the DJs and speakers, which has taken me a while to build the courage to do so. I guess I felt especially comfortable that night, probably because I knew what to expect (other than the music). If you can’t tell, I am a creature of habit. It is also fun to go to Memco events to see people’s outfits, especially the kids from A/Squared, who have a particular interest in fashion. Although I am not a part of the club, I will say my friends and I love to dress up. It’s nice to look and feel good about yourself, especially as the weather gets colder and finals draw near.

I will say, hands down, my favorite part of the night was watching the crowd dance. Some parents in the back danced without a care in the world. It was sweet. Something about watching the parents dance reminded me of my parents. I sat there admiring their enjoyment in a space heavily dominated by college students. I wished my parents could find some sort of break from work to dance and enjoy themselves. Take themselves a little less seriously and let go of all the tension in their bodies by moving to some quick techno beats. I hope everyone can do this, take themselves less seriously, and dance. I promise when you let go and close your eyes, the music becomes stronger, and your body starts to take control over your brain. You find freedom in that moment, away from school or work, and I may be simplifying one’s problems, but I believe the sentiment remains. Try a Memco event and dance, and let me know how it goes!

REVIEW: Hourglass Showers: A Senior Dance BFA Thesis

It is my favorite time of the year: Dance BFA Show Season! The pinnacle of the dance degree and the one thing every undergraduate student looks forward to is their Senior Thesis. This is made up of a solo and group piece (mostly made up of other undergraduate dance students, dance team members, or even theater students) choreographed and directed by each graduating senior. It is the one time students get the freedom and opportunity to create their own works with the mentorship of any of the dance professors. Needless to say, it is a very exciting three nights of shows that will make you want to come all three nights if you can get the tickets…they sell out usually an hour before the show. 

This was the first show of the year, with the four culminating seniors, Anabelle Chalmers, Katherine Kiessling, Lauren Roebuck, and Mia Rubenstein, presenting a wildly diverse show. Chalmers’ works were heavily focused on the interpersonal relationships between the dancers on stage. A highlight of her group work, I Hope We Can Resurface, was the duet with Rachel Dunklee and Kate Mitchell (both third years). Up until their duet, the piece utilized large groups of people on stage, both existing in parallel with each other and in congruence; it isn’t until this duet that we (the audience) catch a breath while strictly paying attention to the two communicate corporally–not to mention the brilliant lighting switch when the two come to focus. The dynamics both of the girls bring were drastically different but worked so well in congruence with one another. Kate was fluid and focused on her upper body, while Rachel found moments of sharpness and dedicated much focus to her lower body. 

Photography by: Kirk Donaldson

Kiessling’s works flowed into one another, unlike any of the other dances. It started with her group work, which was reminiscent of a nightclub, with moments before, during, and after; there was even a section that focused on the time one spends in the bathroom at the club. Lighting was essential for this piece, big shoutout to Robert Farr-Jones for lighting this piece and making it come to life. Kiessling also used a projector with engaging geometric visuals that faded in and out during the piece, working exceptionally well with the lighting on the screen and stage. At one point, Katherine joins the dancers on stage and grabs all of the attention, so much so that at one point, she dances in the center of the stage as the rest of her large cast surrounds the edges of the stage, staring at her. It was extraordinarily voyeuristic and meta. The audience watched the dancers as the dancers watched Katherine. 

Photography by: Kirk Donaldson

Roebuck’s works were some of the most entertaining of the night and definitely used more theater skills than the other pieces. Her group work, She Cooks as Good as She Looks, was based on the film The Stepford Wives and comprised of four “couples” representing the stereotypical 50s working man and the corresponding stay-at-home housewife. The dancing was heavily influenced by Roebuck’s training and love for Hip Hop (she is in the on-campus Hip Hop club 2XS along with many of the dancers in the piece). Throughout the piece, the “women” slowly started to revolt against their counterparts, until the morbid ending of them killing the men…Whether this is the solution to sexism or not (I kid), it made for a dramatic and polarizing ending. 

Photography by: Kirk Donaldson

Lastly, Rubenstein’s works were very ethereal and really played with the juxtaposition of the beauty and ugliness of human nature. Her solo and group work costumes were all white, and two large white sheets were accompanying her group. I thought the sheets were exciting ways of concealing bodies as well as giving bodies a new shape that molded to the sheet. My favorite part of the group work was when the lights went from yellow/white to a drastic switch to red. During this section, the dancers moved together synchronously through intensive and athletic movement, a motif of all of Rubenstein’s work. Mia may be smaller in stature, but she knows how to take up space on a large, empty stage. I thought her solo was beautifully crafted and utilized the stage in its entirety, which is not only exhausting but very challenging to do. Overall a very captivating dancer. 

Photography by: Kirk Donaldson

I will be back to write again about the next BFA show, Tales From Our Roots, which I am also very excited about. I recommend coming to one of the nights: November 30 through December 2 at 8:00 PM at the dance building. I will never stop advocating for dance, so trust me when I tell you: You do not want to miss these shows!

REVIEW: Father Who Art in Heaven; Jason Cianciulli’s MFA Culminating Thesis

“Father Who Art in Heaven” was Jason Cianciulli’s culminating senior MFA thesis. As both a student at the University and a grad student professor, I’ve watched Jason grow and worked with them over the past two years. They work with many physical theater practices as well as floor work and partnering–needless to say; their movement is extremely experimental and paves the way for the upcoming generation of dancers. I find his work especially interesting because of the merging of styles and genres, highlighting theater work, dance, music, and the visual arts. 

What distinguishes Jason’s work from other dance works, is its innovation and commitment to fusing styles and genres. With a dark and mysterious undertone, the piece began with dancer Ruby Clay, sitting at a table alone, moving extremely slowly. An otherworldly lighting bathed her body from a strategically placed television and showcased the depth of the space. The curtains were set up in a way I had never seen before; it looked like the stage was cut into a “U” shape. Although showcased only at the beginning and the end, her character stayed on stage the entire time, sitting emotionless. As subtle as it was, her addition became one of my favorite parts of the piece. 

Photography by: Kirk Donaldson

Two senior acting majors, Jack Weaver and Molly Felsher, had a couple-like relationship on stage with a sort of disdain toward one another. Their relationship added complexity to the narrative and paved the way for the overall tone. Although their acting was extremely interesting to the work, the moving of the curtains and the changing of the lighting really captivated me. Smaller curtains were seamlessly pulled on and off stage to take away, change, or add characters on the stage that set entirely new environments in the same stage space. Rather than blacking out the space, the curtains served as a continuation of the dance but altered it simultaneously. I have never seen this before in a dance performance! Jason created new shapes on the stage instead of the “normal” stage set-up that utilized the theater’s physical capabilities, unlike previous dance works I’ve seen at the University. Needless to say, I am inspired! 

Photography by: Kirk Donaldson

There were two figures with large black cloaks with a ring at the bottom and large old people masks. Because of the circular bottom, it appeared as if the figures were floating, which, again, was an interesting way to play with fabric and movement in space, that I have yet to see at the University. The two figures kiss at one point, which seemed quite absurd in the moment but in the best polarizing way possible. They remove their masks and dance with the other cast members toward the end. There was an incredible stage fighting scene with red lighting covering half the space and a strobe light section from the television with dancers moving throughout it, looking like they were traveling through space and time in real-life stop-motion animation. Again, it is extremely inspiring and innovative. 

Jason presented themself as a really intriguing figure with long fingers and an extremely pale appearance. At one point, they hid in a small box under the television (which I didn’t see happen) and crawled out like it was magic!! Clearly, playing with the audience’s focus/attention and keeping the audience on their toes. Jason uses the word “decay” when describing this piece, which is the perfect illustration of the work. I watched people decay over time, in relation to one another and alone. It was a beautiful performance art, and I hope Jason continues to show this work–as I don’t feel it is the end of it! Or I hope not, at least…

Photography by: Kirk Donaldson


Last Saturday, October 21, the Michigan Electronic Music Collective (MEMCO) held a spooky Halloween-themed techno event at Club Above from 10 p.m. to around 2 a.m. This was my second MEMCO event of the semester at Club Above, and it has to be one of my favorite clubs on campus. If you are like me, being in cramped, tight spaces with loud music and bright lights can be extremely overwhelming. Luckily, Club Above has a huge dance floor with enough room in the back for seating, a pool table, and bar. When you walk in, a wide variety of people come together to dance and listen to music. Compared to other club cultures on campus, MEMCO events are a safe space for people of all identities and orientations, the neurodivergent community, and people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Needless to say, when me and my friends go out, we go to MEMCO events.

Photography By: Noah Jackson

On the dance floor, I was surrounded by people dancing either in their own worlds or creating one with their friends. I came as the second DJ, BUBU, played their set, highlighting fracturing sounds and haunting melodies. The crowd was bouncing, grooving, and shaking their bodies with the fast-paced rhythm of the speakers. My favorite way to enjoy the music is to close my eyes and see how my body inherently responds to the music. Sometimes, I like to sway my hips and throw my arms in the air; other times, I find myself jumping on my heels with a smile because of my intense euphoria. A disclaimer: I am a dancer and study dance at the University. I firmly believe in implementing dance into more public spaces with a safe and judgment-free culture, and MEMCO’s events perfectly fulfill this. Dance should be celebrated by everyone, and Techno spaces like MEMCO’s really highlight the beauty of community building through dance.

Photography by: Noah Jackson

The third DJ, ZAGG, was my favorite. You could feel and hear his improvisational experimentation with the music in the best way possible. He created music that I reacted to by dancing, and in response, he would alter the sound just slightly, then drastically–it was highly unpredictable. Which I believe made it all the more fun. The songs were not recognizable until DJs switched, which offered a beautiful precedent for creating, receiving, and celebrating raw and spontaneous music. The music left me and the audience constantly wanting more. Mainly because the rhythm of Techno music is usually quick; it makes the body react by moving at that same speed. The fast-moving environment is compelling because of the combined energy that lifts you up and out of the dance floor and into a realm of solely music and movement.

Photography by: Noah Jackson

Although the event wasn’t entirely scary, which is honestly for the best, the unsettling Halloween Techno music was a perfect way to get into the spooky holiday season. If you can attend a MEMCO event, I highly suggest going with an open heart and mind. Also, be prepared to dance until you are exhausted, which may sound daunting but can be the most liberating feeling. For me, all of my stress and anxiety from my personal life disappeared, and all I could focus on was the music and dancing!