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: Michigan’s Got Talent

Wolverine’s Prove “Michigan’s Got Talent”

On Tuesday February 20, I used my Passport to the Arts to attend Michigan’s Got Talent, a talent show for the University of Michigan student body. The event was hosted by MUSIC Matters, a student organization that organizes music events on campus. Performed for the Lydia Mendelson Theatre’s packed audience and a panel of three judges, the night was act after act of inspiring creative force.

The event was MCed by two members of student improv troupe ComCo and judged by former president of MUSIC Matters Anna Lair, as well as the University of Michigan’s Vice President for Student Life Martino Harmon, and Mark Clague, an SMTD musicology professor whose scholarly interests center on the role of music in community building.

Student Band “Mahogany”

The range and variety of talent in the Michigan student body was on full display, from the upbeat k-pop covers by Korean American band Seoul Juice to the rhythmic flair of the Michigan Ballroom Dance Team. Individual talents and student organizations alike shined their light on stage. The audience was moved by vocal performances by Jeheil Butt, who also performed with DJs Acapella, and singer-singwriter Jacqueline Dianis whose buttery smooth rendition of Tennessee Whiskey was powerful and sincere. Student jam band Toast gave a zippy and energetic performance, and nine man band Mahogany connected to the audience with upbeat grooves.

Apparently on a whim, the ComCo MCs asked if anyone in the audience had a talent they’d like to share, and a brave audience member climbed onto the stage to perform an impromptu tap dance. After that, several other audience members volunteered their talents at the piano during set changes. There was a magic in the air of rooting for someone to make the change from audience member to performer at a second’s notice.

Outrage Dance’s Final Pose

Outrage Dance gave an energetic and technically impressive performance that knocked the audience’s socks off, winning the Crowd Favorite Award. Trenton Michael (featured image) and his saxophone performed an upbeat, spunky, and honest original song that had the audience clapping along, winning him Most Original Performance.

My favorite act was probably Tola Kilian and Miguel Retto, who represented the Michigan Ballroom Dance Team with a performance of Pink Panther. The suave and sassy dance was truly a pleasure to watch, and reminded me of my days studying abroad and dancing the Tango in Argentina.

Tola Kilian and Miguel Retto of The Michigan Ballroom Dance Team

I left Michigan’s Got Talent moved by the talent of my peers, and glowing from the chance to catch and reflect the shine of my classmate’s creative expression. The opportunity to see students in the audience sit up from their velvet seats and show that they too had something to share, imparted a whispered awareness of the energetic creativity that hums in the people around you. Michigan’s Got Talent was a celebration of music, and of life. I think performers and audience members alike walked out of the theater feeling inspired, and a little more talented.

Music Matters hosts other events to promote the arts and music on campus. You can check out their instagram to learn about upcoming events like Spring Fest in April.

REVIEW: Pivot

 

 

On Thursday I had the chance to go see Pivot for free at the Duderstadt Center Gallery (which is located in the connecting hallway between Pierpont commons and Duderstadt library). The exhibit is the senior thesis of Rileigh Goldsmith, a dance student at SMTD. The exhibit combined dance with virtual reality, and it was unlike any dance performance I had ever seen before. The gallery itself was fairly closed off, and Goldsmith arranged the space in a way where curtains blocked off the performance space. It was almost laid out like a maze on the inside, which made the overall experience more private and gave the exhibit the feeling of going on a journey.

The exhibit featured the use of virtual reality, which Goldsmith took special care to fully explain at the start of the performance. She included a video on how to use all of the equipment, which made it all the more welcoming to someone like me who’s never used anything like that before. The performance itself was thoughtful, beautiful, and used dance in a completely novel way. Some major themes of the performance were transformation, reflection, and seeing things in a new way. Despite the fact that the performance was viewed through virtual reality, she also paid a lot of attention to the physical space itself, which was decorated in a simple but elegant way. Using virtual reality she was able to transport her audience to completely new places with each act. Including one act where she was even able to give the audience the feeling of being a part of the performance.

I saw the exhibit after going to class, it was open from 12-6, and I was able to see it before going home for the day. The performance only lasts for about 20 minutes, and because of it’s location, it’s easy to drop in and enjoy the exhibit during the work day. I was a little nervous going in, because it’s so unlike anything I’ve ever done before, but upon arriving I felt welcomed and everything was made accessible. Seeing the exhibit ended up being the highlight of my day, and I found myself thinking about it on my way home and the days since. It was a nice break from what I had going on, and a chance to reflect and enjoy the talent and hard work of everyone involved.

The exhibit is still happening, and stops running on January 21st.

 

Photo from the School of Music, Theater and Dance website.

REVIEW: She Loves Me

This past weekend, I watched the musical She Loves Me (1963), a romantic comedy with a classic enemies-to-lovers trope set in 1934 Budapest, Hungary. The male lead is Georg Nowack, the hardworking manager of Maraczek’s Parfumerie. He’s always at odds with the female lead, Amalia Balash, an employee who’s not the best at her job and believes Georg always has it out for her. There’s a unique array of workers at the parfumerie. There’s the playboy Steven Kodály, the innocent delivery boy Arpad Lazslo, the sexy lady Ilona Ritter, and the cheerful father Ladislav Sipos.

It’s a frustratingly slow-burn romance; most of the first act is unraveling the main character’s mysterious love interests, their “dear friends,” and getting to know the other employees. In the second half, though, the romantic development quickly speeds up and She Loves Me plays, my favorite musical number. I enjoyed watching the usually serious Georg dancing around the stage and singing his heart out, giddy with love.

The show was completely run by the Golden Theatre Company (GTC), a student organization that strives to spread the joy of musical theatre and create opportunities for all students to be part of the production and performance process. When reading the program notes, I was fascinated that quite a few members were freshman or not musical theatre students; one was even a Mathematics and Computer Science major! Furthermore, everything was done well. The stage props for the parfumerie were adorable and intricate, the outfits were gorgeous and elegant, fitting for the era, and the microphones and music were clear.

As suggested by their name, the GTC only performs musicals from the Golden Age of musical theatre (roughly mid-1940s to late 1950s) or musicals sung in the classical style. I look forward to their next semester’s performance because I’m sure they’ll choose a wonderful musical to perform with the highest quality.

REVIEW: Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

On Sunday Afternoon, I went to the matinee showing of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. The show was produced by In The Round, an inclusive student theater group on campus. It was in the Arthur Miller Theater, a relatively small venue, but the closeness of the space made all the wonderful performances of the night feel much more personal. Seats were right up against the stage, with some audience members sitting on the edge of the stage itself. Most of the big performances of the night happened in the middle of the room, including the opening number which involved every member of the cast singing and dancing in unison. The actors would sometimes sing directly out into the audience, which made it all the more captivating and engaging. I’ve never seen theater so up close!

The show itself is a self described long and complicated Russian novel, with a laundry list of characters. In The Round provided virtual programs, including a chart (with pictures) of every character in the show and how they’re related. Natasha and Pierre are the two main characters of the play. Natasha is young, in love, and devoted to her fiancé. Pierre, on the other hand, has resigned himself to devoting his life to his studies. A main theme of the play is love, and making the right choices when you’re in the thick of it. Even though the play is based on War and Peace, which was written almost 150 years ago, the things the characters struggle with are similar to a lot of the things young people struggle with today. Falling in love and preserving it, knowing when someone loves you in earnest, and reconciling with people you’ve wronged are all things universal to the human experience, but I found myself relating to the characters way more than I thought I would. Great Comet does a wonderful job of describing these feelings in a way that feels new.

Overall, I’m so glad I went to see Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. The performances of the cast is what stands out to me as one of the most compelling aspects of the show. But the performance by the pit orchestra, the songs sung by the actors, and the inclusion of electronic music in the score, made Great Comet a fun and worthwhile watch, and a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

 

Picture from Michigan Union Ticket Office website 

REVIEW: Imogen Says Nothing

Imogen Says Nothing by Aditi Kapil is a spinoff story of the character Imogen in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. She’s a character some have interpreted as a typo because she says nothing. However, Kapil turns this character, who serves no purpose in the original, into the main character of a “revisionist comedy in verse and prose” that SMTD describes on their website as a “feminist hijacking of Shakespeare that investigates the voices that have long been absent from the theatrical canon and the consequences of cutting them.” It highlights how women have historically been only seen as an image and deprived of their words. The play not only puts a big emphasis on the power of speech but the power of writing too. 

The premise is a bit confusing: Imogen is a bear disguised as a woman and has been living as a woman for a few years. She travels outside of her small village to the bigger cities and along the way gets dragged onto the stage in the middle of a performance of Much Ado About Nothing. In Elizabethan England, all female characters were played by men because only men were allowed to act. As a result, Imogen has to pretend to be a man playing a woman, and that woman is Imogen herself. In other words, she’s a bear disguised as a woman who pretends to be a man acting out a woman.

It has heavy themes of violence and animal abuse and there are explicit drinking and sex scenes. Furthermore, Imogen is constantly degraded for being female and fat; she even says that her only talent is “whoring”. When she is praised, it’s for her ability to make others laugh but it’s usually because she’s mocked for her background and intelligence. 

Nevertheless, it’s still a comedy and masks the darker content with humor and fun character dynamics. My favorite character was Nicholas Tooley; in the beginning, others always teased him because he was so innocent and pure, but in the end, he was so sassy and dramatic. It was also really funny when there were modern versions of objects on set. For example, for the alcohol they used White Claw, and when checking their contact information they would pull out their cell phones. 

Overall, I highly recommend watching it. It’s a play that’s hard to grasp but fascinating, especially the ending which was the best part. It took a sudden abstract twist that circled back to the underlying message with a single chilling line directed at the audience: “Exit man.”