REVIEW: Kidd Pivot – Tempest Replica

REVIEW: Kidd Pivot – The Tempest Replica

This first UMS show kicked the season off with a bang. Kidd Pivot’s production, “Tempest Replica,” was one of the most beautiful performances I’ve ever seen. Robotic-like movements contrasted flowing gestures, moments existed where the characters appeared to roll across the stage, bouncing so quickly from lying down to standing up to lying down…etc. It was astounding. The staging of the performance was definitely the most impressive of any dance company I’d ever seen. They had a giant white screen that floated as a back drop to the play, upon which they were able to project words, quotations from the text, and act and scene numbers. Not only was it helpful, but it also created a blank slate before which the action of the play proceeded. It was incredible clever and oftentimes the screen would waver about, causing a sort of ripple effect which only served to make it look even cooler.
I think everyone would agree that the shipwreck scene at the beginning was the most impressive moment of the play, staging wise. The play began with a man folding paper-boats on stage, from the moment you entered the auditorium, he was hard at work. He passes one boat to the spirit Ariel, and demands “Shipwreck!” She hesitates, and then shoves the boat in her mouth as a crash sent shivers through the audience. Suddenly, the white, billowy curtain falls and an image of rain is projected in one corner while a man writhes below. Flashes of lightening light the stage, and behind the translucent curtain are three men dressed completely in white, white masks covering their faces, roll from one edge of the stage to another. I truly felt as if the entire stage were pitching and rocking about in the sea. It was immensely impressive.

I haven’t read the Tempest, but I was able to follow the storyline for the most part. It seemed to me that it was a story of creator vs. creation, in the same avenue of Frankenstein, honestly. Many of the characters were posed and prompted by Prospero, this god-like man who could create creatures out of thin air by magic. Many of his creatures either tried to kill him, run away, or both. One of the final scenes had me a little lost because it showed three white-masked figures following the steps of Prospero, and I thought it symbolized the whole repetitive cycle of this man’s life: creates, wishes to destroy, beings too powerful, creature in control, he creates his own creation…etc. Or it could have been a way for the narrator to look back upon the events of his life, retrospectively wishing for a different life. It was thought-provoking and the dance was beautiful, but I was a little lost.
That brings me to another point: timeline. Granted, I haven’t read the book, but I was completely confused as to where in time we were left during Act V. Entire scenes seemed to repeat themselves and suddenly we were off this alleged “island” where Prospero and his daughter were vanished and into the real world with doorbells, dinner parties and the like. It was bizarre! At least on the Island I could suspend disbelief of the events that sequenced, but smushed up against the real world, I was lost in what remained reality and what was solely absurd.

Cyrstal Pite who created this piece is to be hailed for such a successful performance. The choreography, staging, and actors were so well-aligned; it was a seamless production and a beautiful show. I would gladly see another show by Kidd Pivot, and am super excited to read the Tempest in one of my classes later this year to fill in the plot gaps. Tremendous and awe-inspiring, I’m glad I attended.

PREVIEW: Kidd Pivot – Tempest Replica

“All things in common nature should produce / Without sweat or endeavor” (Shakespeare, Tempest, 2.1)

This weekend, Kidd Pivott will be in town performing their interpretation of the Tempest as set to modern dance. Their dance company is based in Vancouver since 2002. Under the artistic direction of Crystal Pite, this performance is sure to blow you away. A tale of revenge, redemption, and passion, the stormy spectacle is definitely worth your time. Ballet Tanz says, “Pite’s as energetic as a sparkler and fluid as quicksilver.” Although this “common nature” definitely involved some “sweat” and “endeavor” it is a performance not to be missed.

Kidd Pivot, Tempest Replica will perform at Power Center on the evenings of this Friday and Saturday (9/21-22). Tickets still available!

PREVIEW: F.O.K.U.S Vanguards

F.O.K.U.S Vanguards

If you are strolling through the Diag this Saturday, April 14th, you will see something like a circus taking place. A velcro wall, a bicycling, skateboarding, and bedazzling stations, throwback food, live music, live artwork, and, of course, lots of dancing. The student group F.O.K.U.S (Fight Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success) is holding its 8th Annual Vanguards Event. Music by Maimounna Yousef and other fabulous performers will be sounding from the Diag from noon to 5pm, so be sure to walk by and add a little flavor to your Saturday. I attended last year and had a celebratory time being creative and collaborating with other students who were excited about creativity and social justice through the arts.

F.O.K.U.S. strives to create and foster a diverse community by using the arts as a common medium.
We encourages artists, art enthusiasts, and other communities to work together and expand their comfort zones
through arts-related events and dialogues; we provide inspiration for artists to follow their dreams,
for perspective artists to attempt an art and for audiences to enjoy it all through our productions. F.O.K.U.S. events
attract artists and audiences from all walks of life as we see this inclusive nature as the only way to truly grow and
develop as a community. Since 2003, F.O.K.U.S. has been creating exciting spaces for people to explore themselves
and widen their appreciation for the arts.

art is…what unites us.

For more information, check out their website and Facebook event. See you there!

Photos from last year’s Vanguards

PREVIEW: Intersections at the Rabbit Hole

Intersections at the Rabbit Hole

The U of M Department of Dance and Rackham Graduate School present a unique, contemporary dance performance called Intersections at the Rabbit Hole. This work stands as Tracy Halloran Pearson’s final thesis in her study of the field of choreography. As a Master’s in Fine Arts candidate, and-not to mention-my ballet teacher, this show is bound to be a creative exposition of talent and hard work. The show will be held at a venue in downtown Detroit. This will be the first time a Master’s candidate from the Department of Dance will have their thesis performance off campus.

About the representations explored in the piece, the press release says:

“Intersections At The Rabbit Hole draws on themes from the classic children’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It creates a world that explores female identity formation by investigating the personal experiences of the Choreographer and her six dancers. The performance focuses on themes of childhood memories, sibling relationships, the growing confidence as one passes from adolescents to adulthood, and the impact of unique personal experiences on artistic identity.”

Tracy Halloran Pearson has been preparing this particular work since last July. She first conducted research in New York City, then returned to Ann Arbor where she held an audition at the start of the school year for undergraduates in the department. The pieces within this work are either a solo or a duets inspired by the specific personalities of the dancers who perform them. The creative process is an expression of the way in which fellow dancers influence the choreographer’s personal experience of movement. The black box theater in which the show is performed is “The Rabbit Hole;” the interaction among the artists is the “Intersection.”

Intersections At The Rabbit Hole draws on themes from the classic children’s
book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It creates a world that explores female
identity formation by investigating the personal experiences of the Choreographer-
suggest you use your name and her six dancers. The performance focuses on themes
of childhood memories, sibling relationships, the growing confidence as one passes
from adolescents to adulthood, and the impact of unique personal experiences on
artistic identity. This will be the first time a Master’s candidate from the
Department of Dance will have their thesis performance off campus and in the city
of Detroit.

Saturday, March 17

6 pm and 8:30 pm

1515 Broadway, in Detroit

$10 adults, $5 students

(The theater is quite small; to book tickets in advance contact Tracy Pearson at

PREVIEW: Things Both Hushed and Grand

Performance Ark presents

Things Both Hushed and Grand

Performance Ark is a U of M “student-led hub for developing artists looking to collaborate.” As part of a two day event, the group is producing its first ever evening length performance, titled Things Both Hushed and Grand. According to the artists, “this performance applies ‘dance party colloquialisms and tailored contemporary technique to a lo-fi bedroom pop sound to investigate the courage it takes to be “an absolute nobody.”

The piece is choreographed by U of M Department of Dance students Tehillah Frederick, Julia Smith-Eppsteiner and Katy Telfer. Dancers include Tehillah Frederick, Edith Freyer, Allie Harris, Natalie Niergarth, Maddy Rager, Molly Ross, Julia Smith-Eppsteiner, Katy Telfer & Cara Zonca, also students in the department. The show is paired with music by funky, up-and-coming local band Fthrsn (click here and here to get a sonic taste test).

I asked Julia Smith-Eppsteiner a few questions about her collaborative work and she gave me a hearty glimpse into her process:

Is this related to school at all? Yes and no. We have established ourselves as a student organization at the University, all the dancers we’re using are in the dance department of SMT&D, as is the musician, and we are partially funded by Arts at Michigan mini-grant. But in a lot of ways it is independent from the school … Firstly, we met Macklin Underdown (fthrsn) at a music concert/dance party at Arbor Vitae. Secondly, we also are funded by independent donors via Kickstarter. And most importantly, we’re doing this production on our own time. This isn’t our BFA Senior Thesis, we’re not getting any credit for it and aside from the assistance and encouragement from faculty members we approached, this project is independent of our departments.

How did you get the idea to make this performance happen?
The three of us (Tehillah, Katy and I) have been interested in each other as collaborators/choreographers/movers for a long time and sort of joked about making a show together at the end of our freshman year (we’re all juniors currently). Tehillah brought it up to us again at the end of this past summer and until we saw Mackie perform at a party in October we didn’t get concretely going on anything. Once he was on board and making songs, we were pushed to make it actually happen and create deadlines for ourselves to generate movement phrases and keep us moving forward (deadlines such as Collage Concert and a Telluride Lecture Series we did titled Defining Movement). We’ve been seriously working on Things Both Hushed & Grand since November, us four responsible for everything on both the creative and business sides of the production.

Who did the posters? Jessica Ford, a BFA student in the Art and Design School, with a focus in painting. She’s been a dream.

All performances are free of charge and open to the public. For more information on the show, check out the Performance Ark Facebook page. One of the exciting and novel things about this particular performance is that it will shift venues with each of the three iterations:

Friday, March 23rd

Studio 1 black box theatre in Walgreen Drama Center on North Campus

Doors are at 4:30pm, performance at 5 pm.

Friday, March 23rd

Ann Arbor Art Center, 117 W. Liberty St

Exhibition Gallery

Doors at 8pm, performance at 8:30

Saturday, March 24th

Campus Chapel, 1236 Washtenaw Ct.

Doors at 1:30pm, performance at 2pm


The Oscars happened last Sunday and The Artist was a sweep. But this time next year, look out for the film Pina. See it in theaters now, remember it when awards season rolls around in a year. This spectacle is bound to be a hit.

Based on the life and work of German choreographer Pina Bausch, this 3-D film mixes an explosive combination of mediums: film, dance, choreography, set design, music, sound, lighting, language, graphics, special effects, cinematography. A sensational splendor.

Pina’s work in modern dance escalated in the 1970’s and continues to be influential today. Her role as a director is most prominent in Tanztheater, which translates to “dance theater.” She spearheaded a company in Germany by the same name, though throughout her career she worked with the gamut of cross-continental dance fame. In Tanztheater, Pina created celebrated pieces such as Rite of Spring (1975), and Café Müller (1978). Both are exemplary of her outrageous style: in the former, dancers move about on stage completely covered in soil and in the latter, they aggressively crash into chairs and tables on a café set. Both are reenacted beautifully in the film.

Image from Café Müller

Image from Rite of Spring

So thats the overview of who Pina is: a creative, expressive, and innovative movement artist. And now about this crazy movie that she inspired: Oscar-nominated film maker Wim Wenders has been a fan of Pina since the 80’s and decided to document her work in action. His crew followed hers long before the project took off, building artistic relationships between those in front and behind the camera. Unfortunately, days  before the shooting began, Pina died unexpectedly of a sudden cancer. The fim, therefore, began a tribute to her life more than just a portrayal or her work ethic.

The sets incorporated a wild combination of elements. Here, I mean earth elements: dirt, mountains, water, plant life. Some performances were filmed on a traditional stage, while others sought peculiar venues like rooftops, subway trains, swimming pool decks, or glass paneled houses in the woods.

The dance numbers were performed by professionals from Pina’s company. Their segments were separated by close- ups combined with voice overs in the variety of languages spoken by the worldly crew: Spanish, French, German, Portugese, Japanese, Chinese, English, and more. They talked of Pina as a guiding artist and all that her ingenuity and freedom of expression taught them about themselves, their bodies, and their work.

Counter to the common conception of dancers as always youthful, these workers ranged vastly in their ages. I found this point to be very curious. It spoke to the life long development of artists and how they become enriched as they ripen in their craft. Their ages may be have been evident on their skin, but the astounding strength and nimbleness of the dancer’s bodies far from gave them away. In fact, there was one piece in which dancers of various eras of life were dressed in identical outfits, confusing the audience about who was who. It was a number that could only have been performed for screen dance. I don’t see how this switching of characters could be performed live without the trickery of editing.

I asked my cousin, who works as a professional ballet dancer for the Boston City Ballet, his opinion on the work. “I thought it was beautiful,” he said. “She’s so unique in her choreography.”

And I agree! Watching Pina was one of the most visually pleasing experiences I have had in a long time.It was creative, stunning, marvelous, and inspirational beyond belief. I would feel badly for anyone who misses the opportunity to experience it.

Hurry up and see it! I’m serious, this was a very powerful artistic undertaking. The documentary has already swept up  The European Film Awards and German Film Awards, as well as receiving nominations or Official Selections from The Academy Awards, New York, Telluride, and Toronto Film Festivals. Pina is only playing at the Michigan Theater through this Sunday, March 4th. Check the Michigan Theater website for show times. Also, here’s and interview with director Wim Wenders from the New York Times. For more background on the production, check out the movie’s website .