PREVIEW: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre

The Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan will be performing at the Power Center on Friday October 21st and Saturday October 22nd at 8 p.m. The company will perform Water Stains on the Wall, artistic director Lin Hwai-min’s newest piece. The work is a metaphor for the exquisite beauty of Chinese calligraphy, the dancers’ movement like flowing ink on pure rice paper. With dancers trained not only in ballet and modern dance, but also tai chi, meditation, and Chinese opera movement, the unique quality and control of the movement is sure to be breathtakingly ethereal.

For tickets visit the UMS website:

And to get a taste of the art of Chinese calligraphy before seeing the show, come to the Power Center from 7-7:45 p.m. on Friday and Saturday to work with local calligraphers.

Clip: Water Stains on the Wall

Review: Creation. Life. Legacy.

Metallic industrial, organic robotic, digital bug, fluttering verbs.

Form can sometimes be constricting, only allowing for certain expressions while disallowing others. While watching Merce Cunnigham Dance Company perform, I could not align what I was watching with any concrete words. How to translate a dance performance into a concise review seemed like a daunting task, but alas, I will do my best.

Merce Cunningham
Merce Cunningham

For those of you unfamiliar, Merce Cunningham is one of the most innovative choreographers of the last century. Spanning across genre and discipline, Merce Cunningham is perhaps most known for his longtime collaboration with partner and radical composer, John Cage, also working with fellow artistic visionaries such as Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, and Warhol. The Legacy Tour honors Cunningham, who passed away in July 2009, as well as his 70 years of expansive work. Culminating in 2011 with the disbanding of the company, this is the last time his work will ever be performed and UMS was one of the lucky few locations to host the Company. (Check out this Merce Cunningham Interview)

The curtain was up before I had time to anticipate what was hiding behind it. Blinding spotlights on impossible elevation of cinderblock walls. Large green recycling bins and containers, exposed with sheet metal and wooden planks. As anyone’s guess, this was the natural look of the Power Center. My attention was drawn to an acrylic white court surrounded by luminescent astroturf as 4 dancers in steely athletic wear arched across space, while many others watched in the background.

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[V][S][A] Annual Đêm Việt Nam Culture Show 2011

It’s a night of Vietnamese culture.  It’s a night of dancing.  Most of all, it’s a night of great fun.

Saturday, January 29, 2011 was the night of Đêm Việt Nam, VSA’s annual culture show.  It was listed as a 7 pm show, and started promptly at 7:20 pm.  (Which, coincidentally, was exactly when I arrived – don’t try to park on Central when the folk festival is in town!)  This was the fourth Đêm Việt Nam show I’ve attended, and on Saturday night, I was delighted to see all the changes that have taken place since I started going.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m graduating, or if the effort was indeed larger this year, or a combination of both, but this 2011 show felt like a culmination of many years’ worth of work and publicity.

The first thing that struck me was attendance.  While the balcony of the Lydia Mendelssohn theater had been reserved for performers in years past, this year, it was almost full.  (It’s where I was sitting!)  The entire audience felt free to cheer for their friends on stage and converse with the emcees, giving the night a collaborative, comfortable atmosphere.  I could tell how much everyone onstage enjoyed and appreciated the energy from the crowd.

The show itself was bigger and better than ever, too.  One of my favorite segments was a dance that highlighted the way in which the Vietnamese have been influenced by Indian customs.  In a way, the night has always been a study of Vietnamese culture meeting and combining with culture in the United States, examining both the tensions and triumphs of living in a place where people from all over the world live and work side by side.  The addition of the Indian-inspired dance further explored the fluidity of cultures around the world.  The title of the show, “The Way We Are,” was especially fitting in this context.  In this day and age, nothing is static.

Speaking of collaboration, VSA had a lot of help this year:  CSN joined the women from VSA for a beautiful ribbon dance at the beginning of the show, and Element 1 joined in for the hip-hop portion of the evening.  The extra voices made the night even richer.

In addition to the new dances, all the old favorites were present on stage.  The traditional fan dance was energetic and well-choreographed, men and women danced together in Vietnamese garb, and B2Viet returned to showcase their boy band capabilities.  The highlight, as always, was the hip-hop segment, which is only getting longer and more popular as the years progress.  This year, there was even a song dedicated to breakdancing, which was an awesome thing to watch.  A fashion show closed the evening, showing off the traditional dresses that are so beautifully vibrant.  The hour and a half had passed by in a blur of color, music, and camaraderie.

Review: Grupo Corpo – Modern or Chorus Dancing?

This weekend I saw Grupo Corpo, a Brazilian Dance Company, at the Power Center for the Performing Arts. It was…interesting. They were amazing dancers, and all had background and technique in ballet, so don’t get me wrong. I thought the performers were very impressive, but the choreography had some issues, which is really unfortunate. But I guess I should start out with the Arts&Eats portion of the night.

Arts&Eats was great. The pizza was good, there were a lot of people, and the room was absolutely beautiful. The room that it was hosted in is in the Alumni Association building; it’s a very large room with blue carpeted walls and four fireplaces. There were small tables to eat and chat at and we even got to meet some new people. The tour director of the dance company came out and talked to us about the group. She told us how they travel all over the world for performances and how the same people who started the group 36 years ago are the people now administrating, choreographing, and training the group. It’s really quite amazing that they’ve stayed together so long and have been able to create a world renowned group.

The show itself started out with a very strange and dark dance. All of the performers were clad in black, full body leotards and they did this portion starting in a sort of crab walk position and sticking their feet up in the year on certain beats. It was strange, and even though it’s modern dance, I really didn’t expect some of the things that started happening. My largest complaint, which is not the fault of any performer on stage, was how synchronized and repetitive the entire performance was. Each move was incredible, but then we kept seeing it. Again, again, oh there it is again, and look! That pair of professional dancers can do the same move as the one we just saw! And now they’re doing it in rounds! And the music, it’s been the same rhythm for this entire section of the dance. What are they playing at?

Of the two shows they performed that night, Parabelo and Ímã, Ímã was the better show. Even though most of the show was the same dancing, each dance was interesting enough in itself to keep our interest and be artistically appealing. And the concept of the show was beautiful. Called Ímã, meaning “magnet,” the show embraces an idea of not falling apart, of always connecting with something else, or pushing away from it. The dancers push and pull, lean on and support one another like magnets. As they get closer to one another, the barriers start falling down and articles of clothing are shed one by one. Soon the dancers are open to each other and we can see it through their undressing process.
And of course the solos in both shows were amazing; so full of talent and character. Here is where I add in a shameless explanation of the reason I went to the show in the first place.

Yup, that’s right. I’m not even going to say it. You know what I’m thinking, and yes, this solo was fantastic! The crowd could barely contain themselves; at least that’s how I felt as my boyfriend constrained me. But all you have to know that it was so beautiful and sensual and creative and mmmmhhhmmmmmm!

I don’t want to bore you with too many of the details, but the last thing that I really thought was important, something really unique and revolutionary in the world of dance. The infusion of Brazilian culture into the dancing. The music and the movements were very Latin, especially the use of Cuban hips in the modern/ballet dancing. It was exciting to see such a mixture of ballet and dance culture and the sensual and exotic flavor of Brazilian samba. It really was wonderful and worth every minute of repetition.

As always,
This is Danny Fob: Artist and Art Reviewer

Preview: Grupo Corpo

Hello again Michigan art goers! Break is over and classes have started again. You’re back to procrastinating, partying, “studying,” and skipping class. With all of that slacking to you might forget about some of the awesome opportunities that the university provides for you to do just that. For example, my next planned procrastination is happening on Friday, January 21st at the Power Center for the Performing Arts. Grupo Corpo, a Brazilian dance company, is coming to the University of Michigan for two magnificent performances. Grupo Corpo came to the university once before in 2002 and now they’re back to dance for another batch of interested and excited students.

This dance company mixes traditional ballet, modern dance, and cultural flair to create an elegant and sensual sensation for all to see. If you love the beauty of dance and a bit of Latin flavor, you should go to this show.

Grupo Corpo Video Preview

One last detail that you may find interesting; this is one of the many Arts and Eats events hosted by UMS. Tickets cost $15 and the seats are great + it includes a pizza dinner before the concert and a 10-minute talk by a seasoned expert about the evening’s performance. (Note: you can attend Grupo Corpo without participating in this Arts & Eats opportunity.) It’s going to be a great night (and it makes a great date night if you are looking to ask someone out)!

So once more, here are the details:

What? Grupo Corpo (Arts & Eats Tickets available here)
When? Friday, January 21, 2011 8:00pm
-or- Saturday January 22, 2011 8:00pm
Where? Power Center for the Performing Arts
How much? $15 Arts & Eats tickets, $10 Student Rush tickets

As always,
This is Danny Fob: Artist and Art Reviewer

Review: Sankai Juku

First there was the sound of a drop.

A drop fell from one of  the props (beautifully ornamented top-shaped  glass receptacles with mini-pipettes that was suspended from the ceiling) into one of the  huge shallow transparent bowls  that were arranged in a  wide U-shape around the stage. The bowls were filled with water and looked out-of-the-world in the almost-dark stage that was covered with fine white sand (I learnt later that more than 2 tons of sand was brought in  from the shores of Lake Michigan).

Then there was complete silence.

Dancers covered in white rice powder entered silently like ghosts and lay in fetal positions near the bowls. To the sound of drops, they slowly unfurled themselves to life. And the journey began.

This was how Sankai Juku’s “Hibiki: Resonance from far away” started.  To say, the first dance “Drop” was beautiful would be a huge understatement. It was mesmerising. The dancers slowly came to life- shown by exquisite but very controlled repetitive movements of the dancers rising up and then back down.

To summarise, Hibiki is about the stages of life expressed in a very beautiful, calm and slow manner. It starts with the showing the change of  embryos. Then as they come into the world, there is tension and there is resonance due to this tension and also, due to lack of it. There are changes in the body due to its reaction to the world outside it. Then there is calm inner reflection. And finally there’s light and peace and we go back to where it began. The cycle  repeats, as Ushio Amagatsu says, “this million year drama”.

Sankai Juku’s performance was mindblowing. The dance philosophy that Ushio Amagatsu follows is based on butoh. Slow controlled deliberate movements with focus on the execution rather than on grace and then repetition- these were some of the differences in his style. The dancers were all mature and older and the average age would have been at least 6 years higher than a that of any other dance group. I think  hte experience of the dancers helped to add  more gravity to the dance.

The music was brilliant. There were couple of themes (like “displacement” and “reflection”) which I found was too heavy and tedious for me. And the music at places sounded disturbing (weird too). But it matched the moods and the choreography so well.

The lighting arrangement for Hibiki was exceptional. For instance, the way they showed darkness enfolding was awesome! Two sets of screens  were pulled in two directions( vertical and horizontal) towards each other over a lighted background (when I mean lighted, imagine the brilliant suffused yellow glow of the sun at dawn) thereby creating a shrinking window of light. And then in the end, there was light again!

Outer limits of the red
“Outer limits of the red”, courtesy, “Pomegranate arts”

For “the outer limits of the red” sequence, red dye was poured into one of the bowls and the light shone over it creating a red glow which was in contrast with the pure white gowns of the dancers (they were all male but they wore some form of a corseted gown) and the effect was just breath-taking.

During the dance, the sand was kicked up a bit and the lighting effects made it seem as if rays of light were streaming through misty climes thus casting a very mystical and ethereal aura on the stage.

According  to me, the way these lighting effects, props and movements melded together was what makes Sakai Juku such an unique group. Here’s something to think about.

“An embryo, one month after conception, will
From ichthyic to amphibian,
Reptile to mammal.
This million year drama,
Emerging upon the shores of the
Paleozoic era,
Is enacted by an embryo
Within a matter of days.”- Ushio Amagatsu

Isn’t that beautiful?

Do you know what I was remided of when after I saw “Sankai Juku”? Earthbenders in the series “Avatar:the Last Airbender”.  (If you haven’t seen “Avatar:the last airbender” anime series,oh my god, what are you doing?  But, oh well,  I will save it for another time! :-))

Still Enamored, yours truly