Review: Yuja Wang-Diva and Pianist?

The arts season has started here at the University of Michigan and I am so excited!!! There are so many great performances and events this semester that I’ve basically booked myself for at least one show a weekend. That being said, I’ve already gone to three amazing shows this semester; Mark Morris Dance Group, John Malkovich in The Infernal Comedy, and Yuja Wang. Mark Morris gave us an excellent show of both modern dance and creative use of historical narrative in his last act “Socrates” which

told us the physical and emotional story of the death of the beloved philosopher. John Malkovich, in his one-man show “Confessions of a Serial Killer,” performed for us once again why he is an acclaimed classic American actor, whose name everyone knows even though they cannot remember a single movie, except “Being John Malkovich,” that he’s been in (Just so you know he was also in Con Air and Good Night Gracie). He was absolutely fantastic in this strange postmodern production of the life of a serial killer. What I really want to get down to though, in this review, is Yuja Wang.

This young pianist in the looming Hill auditorium is a light that brings to the audience a sense of depth, excitement, and inner turmoil. It’s hard to distinguish the peace that she creates inside of us and the passion that she pushes into the piano with her delicate, yet powerful fingers. I’ve never been to a piano recital before, so I should probably start off by saying I know nothing about piano except for what I hear in movie soundtracks. I do know, however, that Ms. Wang is a wonderful and talented artist. She plays the piano with so much more than her fingers. Her entirety goes into the keys, into the strings and the hammers. It becomes both a lover and an enemy. The piano is her therapist, and she pours everything into it, onstage, for us.

Thats passion
That's passion

I’m not going to act like I know anything about composers or the pieces she plays, and if you do then awesome! So instead of listing the program, I’ll just give you the website.
If you clicked on that, it means that you saw the four, count them, FOUR encores that the fabulous Ms. Wang performed. This is why I say Diva. Yuja not only has one of the most dynamic and elegant bows I’ve ever seen, but she Diva’d her way into four amazing encores and she had a costume change! From one elegant red gown that she took the stage with to the little black dress with a slit up to here and a back down to there. Both were breathtaking and powerful. She belongs onstage. Thus, Diva! Even sitting at the back of the balcony, this woman made me feel the music and took me by complete surprise.

I also really appreciated the quick glimpse of my childhood in one of her encores. Dukas : “The Sorceror’s Apprentice” arranged by Yuja Wang. Also known as “Woh! It’s that song from Fantasia with Mickey Mouse!!!!” I think “The Sorceror’s Apprentice” sounds classier though.

Aside from Yuja, because I know we’re all busy and you can’t spend all day reading my random stream of consciousness, I wanted to let you know what to expect from me the rest of this semester. Some pretty awesome stuff. This weekend I’m seeing the Full Monty (yes because it’s naked guys on stage. You don’t have to speculate. That IS the reason I’m going) and the Cloud Gate Dance theater. I’ll also be going to the Gate Theater of London production, Diego El Cigala, and the Beijing Guitar Duo. These are only the UMS shows I’m going to however. I’m sure I’ll be going to other SMTD productions, and I know I’ll be at the opera. So keep reading me and I hope to tell you a little of what I think of these shows, because, realistically, you couldn’t ever live without my opinion and this isn’t just a great way to procrastinate…Did anyone believe that? Because I said it and even I saw through it. Whatever. I hope you enjoy reading my reviews, and if not, I really just want you to go see everything you can. So like I always say, get out there on campus and see some of the amazing things it has to offer.

Sending you love and light,

Danny Fob

p.s. “Sending you love and light” is a quote from my favorite TV show. If you can figure it out, I’ll give you five points. Or buy you a coffee

Review: Little Women, An Opera?

Yes folks, Little Women, the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott, has gone from book to play, musical, movie, and Opera. The Libretto was written by Mark Adamo and performed by UofM’s School of Music, Theater, and Dance at Mendelssohn Theatre in the League. I had

never read the novel, but since I love the operas presented here at the University, I went to see how it turned out. This past weekend the only day I had free was Thursday, so I went then and thouroughly enjoyed the show.

Like all the operas at the university, this one had subtitles projected above the stage so that we could all understand the libretto. Even though it was sung in English, it was still hard to hear exactly what they were saying through the vibrato and the many operatic accents that make classic operas what they are.

I loved the story of the show. Though I’ve never read the novel Little Women, I am now planning on reading it this summer. It’s the story of 4 sisters and their best friend and the process of change that cannot be stopped, no matter how hard you try in life. One sister gives up so much just so that her family won’t change, and in the end it just leads to her regretting and realizing her mistakes. It’s a harsh lesson, but an important one to learn and understand. Another theme the story touches on is that of art verses entertainment. Jo begins to sell out on her story writing because people will pay her for trashy stories. Her artistic talent is pushed to the wayside until a suitor made her question it and learn to embrace her originality and creativity.

The performers were wonderfully talented, providing us with just the right amount of humor and depth. We laughed often at the clever comedy and at the reenactments of childhood memories, and then cried as the changes of the characters’ lives emerged. I think that the School of Music, Theater, and Dance has found another magnificent production and by making it their own they’ve connected with audiences and families from all over Ann Arbor. This show receives an A+ from me.

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

PREVIEW: Detroit’s Got the Funk

Celebrate the last Friday of every month dancing to funk music downtown. This Friday, February 25th, Motor City Funk Night presents artist Dennis Coffey and Will Sessions Band. Funk Night will be held at Detroit’s Majestic Theater
4120 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, MI
and goes from from10:00pm-4:00am. Tickets cost $10.00 at the door but bring extra money if you’re interested in buying handmade tee shirts, which are sold inside. Local vendors showcase Detroit-made products, but be sure to check out Funk Night’s fb page for more information and pictures:
Funk Night

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: All Fried Up?

So yeah, The Friars. I’m not exactly sure how to say this, and it kills me to do so, but this show was not all we thought it would be. I had seen some stuff from the Friars before, and I’ve seen many of the other a Capella groups on campus, but this concert did not live up to my expectations or the level of talent of the other groups. It was really sad too, because the Friars have always been a really talented and entertaining group full of laughs and craziness with amazing voices. This year they do have very talented singers still, but there were fewer. And the show wasn’t as funny as in earlier years. Don’t get me wrong, we still enjoyed ourselves. The songs were still original and funny.

I think the main issue with the performance was that the group tried singing way too high. They needed to take a lot of the songs down at least an octave. There were so many songs that are song in a high pitch, but these guys all had low voices and sounded pitchy trying to reach the notes. Their voices cracked and they just needed to sing some lower keys.

There were some amazing parts though. The original songs were the best. They were funny and they were sung really well. “Facebook Me” to the tune of “Lean on Me” was really funny and we all laughed so much, plus they had one of the best singers solo for it. And then “We are the Nerds” based on “We are the World” was hilarious. We were rolling (not literally but it is a fun expression). The song is very clever and makes fun of nerds in the best kind of way. Another one that did the same thing was “How to Get a Life” sung to “How to Save a Life”. It was wonderful. Those were my favorite songs for the night because of their comedy and the talent of the soloists that sang them.

I’m sure the Friars will develop more as the year passes, they just hit a rough patch for this concert. I won’t stop supporting them; the Friars are a 55 year old Michigan tradition. It was a lot of fun and they raised a substantial amount of money for Dance Marathon and all of the Mott’s children that they support. As usual, I want to encourage everyone to go out to concerts, plays, performances, and other art events throughout the year. Relieve some exam stress, have some fun with friends, take a night off from partying, and go support some of your fellow students, colleagues, friends, and faculty. It’s a great time no matter what.

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