Review: Wow…Fondly…Fervently…Just Wow

Incredible. Absolutely unbelievable. These are words that I would use to describe Saturday night’s production of Fondly Do We Hope…Fervently Do We Pray by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. Indescribable. It really is. The show was something that you really had to be there to understand anything that I will tell you, but I’ll do my best.

The group is a contemporary/interpretative dance company led by renowned choreographer Bill T. Jones. I’ve learned that the Power Center doesn’t put on ‘small’ shows. The performance utilized the power of words and dance to express its deeply rooted identities. It tells the story of Abraham Lincoln, his death, the war against slavery and that against the same forms of oppression in today’s world.

The only bad thing I have to say about the show, and I’m getting it out of the way first, is that I didn’t personally like the singers, but this is just my opinion. There were only two of them, and the only thing about them that I did not fall in love with was their voices, because what they had to say and what they represented was deep, cultural, and deserving of every ounce of respect one can muster. The music they played and the songs they sang did exactly what they were supposed to do; when the music was angry-I felt angry, when it was mourning-I cried for the death of Lincoln.

That is something I want to get across about this show. It was powerful; so full of emotions and pain that the crowd had to feel it. When I left the show I felt heartbroken, terrified, and so disgusted that I was physically gagging. That is how powerful the mixture of the dance, poetry, and music was. None of those sound like good feelings, and they weren’t, but it is good to feel them for the right reasons.

Let’s start with heartbroken. I cried at least four times during the performance. I literally didn’t smile for about three hours until a friend came and gave me hugs and consoled me. My heart actually hurt for the people in this show. They portrayed the separation of the United States, the fight against slavery, Lincoln’s death, and their ramifications in today and tomorrow’s worlds. The characters, introduced one at a time by the voice of the man that spoke to us throughout the production, came from different eras and backgrounds, but still took the story of Lincoln to heart. The movement of their bodies was so fluent and flexible, totally in tuned with the music, the story, and especially that voice.

There were two scenes that repulsed and terrified me. It sounds strange and dramatic to say that I was trying not to throw up, but that is exactly how they made me feel. The show had started with (and throughout the show, repeated) an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s “Poem of the Body”-
Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,/Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eye-brows, and the waking or sleeping of the lids,/ Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-hinges, Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition, (for the complete poem visit Whitman)” The poem continues down the human form through each physical piece of flesh on the body. The first time the poem was recited was an artistic dance. The next time started with the deafening crack of a whip and the surge of pain from the dancer on the center of the stage. The announcer voice started to recite the poem, the whip kept cracking as the dancer went through the same motions of the first dancer, but this time as an item to be auctioned off. The announcer continued the poem and became an auctioneer as the speakers began to spew out the horrifying reenactments of a slave auction. Shouts and bids yelled into our ears, verbal abuse, the sound of that whip and the convulsions of the ‘slave,’ the shame and pain that the audience was feeling. I can honestly say that this is one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve ever had, but in a different way than normal things terrify a person. These people were bidding, offering amounts of money, for the life of another person; for the legal right to possess another human being. Jones built the show so perfectly that those speakers and that dancer made me feel like a slave at auction, or even like one of those people bidding. It was terrifying to find myself a possession to be tagged for certain parts of my body and I was disgusted with the screams of the auction attendees. Even now, writing this, I get the sickest feeling in my stomach and I feel the need to think of something happy, but I know that only by continuing to think of the issue can the problems that Lincoln and MLK stood for ever be resolved. So when I say that I was physically trying not to regurgitate, it isn’t a bad thing, the show was that amazing. So deep that there was no way to avoid the feelings that it put into our hearts.

The other scene that got me was a debate that has happened throughout history, reenacted by the performers. The argument over slavery, segregation, inter-racial relations, the idea of liberty mixed with security, and the separation of powers. It was hard to integrate the different thoughts without infringing on someone’s liberty, yet by keeping them separate, one group was granted full liberty and the other was left second-class citizens.

The last dancer, and issue, to be introduced was the announcer. His character was born in 2009 and he is now one hundred years old. Times have changed, but people still fight in wars, kill each other, and are treated unequally, but love and friendship still exist, and so does the urge to do right and promote moral action. He left us with an image of hope, not of peace, but hope. With the knowledge that war is terrible, no matter what, but that some things are worth fighting for (personally I do not believe that anything can be solved by war and that this violent, murderous invention of our species only makes things worse and that diplomacy and the active delivery of love are the only moral solutions to ‘conflicts’). The message is still clear. Human rights are worth protecting, love is a value that cannot be destroyed, and possession of your own physical and mental choices and actions is an inalienable right.

Every generation has a civil rights movement and every one of these movements finds its roots in the words, actions, and spirits of people like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., The Beatles, and Judy Shepard. Equal civil rights under the law for all races, gender identities, sexual orientations, socio-economic classes, and religious affiliations is our goal. Our current movement is that of LGBTQ rights and equality. How will our generation make MLK’s dream come true? How will we continue Lincoln’s work? How will our children correct the crimes committed in the name of hate, such as the deaths of Lincoln, MLK, Harvey Milk, and Mathew Shepard? These are questions I asked myself when thinking about this show, and I hope that they are questions the other audience members were thinking of as they left the Power Center on Saturday night.

Bill T. Jones
Bill T. Jones

So what should you, the reader, take from my review? Take the message of hope, for one thing, and that of political equality. But most of all, realize the overwhelming power of art. Let shows like Fondly Do We Hope…Fervently Do We Pray flow through you and don’t be afraid to feel the way it makes you feel. And push yourself to create your own art and to express your own identity. Art really is a beautiful thing, and it is more than being able to paint a masterpiece or sing a ballad. Art is what you make it.

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

Preview: This music will make you wanna ‘GROOVE’


If you dig percusion or love music similar to that of STOMP(who by the way get my vote for being one of the most creative and are great!) , then this show by GROOVE  is for you!

GROOVE” is University of Michigan’s very own high energy percussion group that combines use of traditional as well as non-traditional instruments (like garbage cans, poles, toothbrushes (really? ))  to bring out their own unique brand of music.

GROOVE in action!
GROOVE in action!

I watched their Polynesian Warriors on youtube. You might say that it is not an entirely original act as this has been done before (oh yeah, they say that are inspired by STOMP and use some ideas from them- especially the act with the poles, trash cans, et al). BUT,  I guess the way they meld their different sounds, the rhythmic arrangement and the choreography makes it different and refreshing. They do provide good entertainment!

When I think of percussion groups,  the traditional Japanese Kodo (these drummers are just so so fabulous!) and  Safri Duo (love their “Samb Adagio”) are my personal favorites . More recently, I watched the unique Keith Terry and the slammin’ all-body band and thought they were pretty good. Alas, I did not get to see ” The Blue Man Group” live when I was in Vegas. 

What I luuuuuuuv about percussion groups is that they are always so full of life and their enthusiasm just gets to you. You just can’t escape the rhythm and  it leaves you with a feeling similar to a runner’s high! I have huge respect for percussion groups. Nothing like attending one of those shows to get a quick dose of energy.

So getting back to the point, GROOVE will be performing  one such great show on  Friday, Dec 11th at the Michigan Theater @ 7 pm. Tickets are $5 and it is general admission.

Nothing like the some great drumming to  beat away your winter blues, huh? Get your GROOVE ON!

Krithika, for [art]seen

 Krithika is not practicing on her drum set only out of pure concern  for the well-being of her neighbors’ ears and for the minor fact that she doesn’t own one!   😉

REVIEW: IASA Cultural Show – Vistaara

Having grown up in a very American household, I was quite confused by the cultural differences in the IASA Cultural Show. I enjoyed the experience though, even though I was not able to appreciate it the way my Indian friends did.

I have heard jokes about “Indian standard time” and many of my Indian friends have told me that Indians always arrive late to events, but I did not believe this stereotype until I sat in Hill Auditorium from 7pm (the supposed start time) to 7:30 with my Indian friend, Bella, wondering when the show would start. To add to that, another Indian friend texted me at 8pm and told me he just arrived. And after the 4th act, the people sitting next to me finally arrived!

The theme, Vistaara, was prevalent throughout the performance but I didn’t notice it right away. Luckily, Bella explained that the first couple of pictures in the slide show were from movies and TV shows that were popular a long time ago, and the last couple pictures were ones from more recent films. The organizers of the show did the same thing for the music, choosing a mixture of old and new songs. At that point, part of me wished I were Indian so I would catch the references!

I watched the show and admired the costumes the way a tourist looks at a famous painting, noticing the colors and sparkles and comprehending the beauty in the costume, but not understanding the culture and history embedded in the piece of art. It was the same thing with the music; I loved the rhythm and melodies but I had no idea about the meaning or the cultural implications. Most of the songs were upbeat, and I found myself bouncing in my seat wishing I could stand up and dance with the performers!

When I realized that I enjoyed bollywood and bangra the most, I began to wonder whether it was because I was the most familiar with those two forms of dance. I thought about a previous post by Laurie about what it means to appreciate music (she wrote about the Itzhak Perlman concert in September). My friend, Bella, was entranced by the different dances and she smiled whenever a new song was played, obviously recognizing the song and catching the reference to “Vistaara – a progression through time.” However, after a few minutes of watching unfamiliar dances, I started getting distracted and made faces at the little baby next to me (by the end of the show, I had taught her how to blow a kiss!). I was able to appreciate the hard work that went into the performance, but I wasn’t able to appreciate the references and allusions to the various aspects of the culture.

I truly enjoyed the show, I just felt mildly “uncultured” and wished I had watched a few more movies and listened to different songs before the show. When walking out of Hill Auditorium, I wanted to watch a Bollywood movie and practice the new dance moves I learned watching the dancers. Unfortunately, I needed to work on homework. But there’s always this weekend…

Time to break out my bangra moves!

PREVIEW: IASA Cultural Show – Vistaara, an Eternal Progression

When: November 13, 2009 7pm

Where: Hill Auditorium

Tickets: $12, $16, $20 (plus a $2 service charge) sold at MUTO, which is in the basement of the Union. For the truly lazy or last minute people, tickets can be bought online at

Vistaara, which means progression/development in Sanskrit, is the official name of the 2009 IASA cultural show. With “time” as the theme, this performance hopes to show ways the different styles of Indian dance and culture have evolved over time. Choreographed by 22 student choreographers, the program consists of 10 different dances:

All Girls Progression
Fashion Show
South Indian
Mens Tribal

For a detailed description of the dances, see With 250 performers and 4,000 people in the audience, the IASA cultural show is the largest student run cultural show in America. And all of the proceeds from the show will go to Pratham, a charity devoted to eliminating illiteracy and ensuring that poor children in India receive an education.