REVIEW: For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow’s Enuf

Basement Arts presents their first show of the season: For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Suicide / When The Rainbow’s Enuf  by Ntozake Shange. The 1976 piece is presented as a choreopoem, a unique collection of spoken poems that intertwines staging and fluid movement. Director Sarah Oguntomilade works alongside choreographer Gilayah McIntosh to navigate Ntozake’s lyrical prose to create a piece illuminating the complexities of Black womanhood, friendship, and identity with unwavering grace and power.

In the show, each character is depicted as a color of the rainbow with the addition of brown. They perform some poems alone, but in other moments come together to deliver a unified story, creating a mural of emotions. Characters were acutely aware of one another, offering solidarity when some were delivering heavy-hearted monologues and experiencing saturated joy together for others. The performers breathe life into the individuality of their roles, showcasing a kaleidoscope of personalities that are both vivid and distinct, yet reminiscent of Ntozake’s personal experiences and emotions. Oguntomilade clearly holds a deep understanding of theater and poetry, as her direction was fluid and honest, capturing the essence of each moment poetically and dramatically. Accompanied by McIntosh’s seamlessly exciting choreography, the piece was aesthetically magnificent.

The authenticity of the choreopoem form shines through Ntozake’s meticulously crafted words, breathing life into the performance while speaking radiant visions of her experiences to the audience. The ensemble expertly navigated exhilarating highs and heartbreaking lows with unwavering conviction, leaving the audience both beaming with love and holding back a rush of tears. The poems fearlessly take on topics such as abuse, sex, and emotional trauma—it is a show to be emotionally prepared for while inviting audiences to confront the complexities of the African-American experience with unflinching honesty and empathy. The show humbly forms a mosaic of poetic brilliance that lingers long after exiting the theater.

For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Suicide / When The Rainbow’s Enuf  is a deeply touching piece about the resilience, bravery, friendship, strength, and beauty of African-American women, and went out last week with roaring success. Basement Arts will perform two more shows during the Winter season: Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties directed by Brynn Aaronson and Falsettos directed by Naomi Parr. Auditions and performance dates are posted on @basement_arts on Instagram. 

 

More about Ntozake Shange and her legacy here.

Image thanks to Basement Arts. Performed in the Newman Studio on North Campus. 

REVIEW: PIVOT

At SMTD, every senior is encouraged to craft a thesis project, serving as a culmination of their artistic endeavors throughout their university studies. Rileigh Goldsmith (BFA Dance 24’) chose to create a unique experience to observe dance. Goldsmith presented an immersive sensory journey through the layers of creative consciousness through the lens of virtual reality. This was certainly one of the most unique presentations of dance I have ever seen.

The setup was at the Duderstadt Center, in a room nestled in the hallway leading to Pierpont Commons. It was set up like a black box with an unassuming maze. Each “room” contained a VR headset that the viewer would put on to briefly exist in the little world of Goldsmith’s creation.

The experience commenced in three parts. The first: “Question”, offered a thought about how often we notice our often concealed inner tranquility. It presented beautiful 360-degree landscapes with a gentle voice reciting a poem by Goldsmith herself. Act II was entitled “Untether”. Her program note mentioned: “PIVOT is a movement narrative which explores human resilience amidst comforting constraints, choice paralysis and fear of the unknown.”  This act featured Goldsmith’s reposeful frolics in a bright and grassy field while performing choreography of her own. It was ethereal and cherubic, exemplifying freedom and bliss. Act III was called “Pivot”. This act featured a collection of dancers fading between a 1930s-themed number and a stark contemporary piece.  She left the note: “In some realities, you were meant tethered, apathetic, and stagnant. In others, you are unbound, confident, and empowered.” 

A corresponding hanging door matched each act, labeled I, II, and III. Subtle decor lined the outskirts of each room, calling back to motifs of each act—tea candles, dainty white ribbons, and blue lamps.  The design was visually impressive and satisfying. It submerged the viewer into the creative realm of Goldsmith’s consciousness.

 

Goldsmith challenges the viewer to find freedom within their creative mind. She epitomizes power, maturity, and poignance in her choreography and design. The exhibit is open Tues – Fri, 12 to 6 pm, and Sundays, 12 to 6 pm. (from Jan. 10 through Jan. 21.) 

 

Order of Acts:

I. QUESTION

II. UNTETHER

III. PIVOT

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: Philippine Culture Night

My friend (left) and I (right) in the PCN Centennial jeepney cutout.

On November 18th, the Filipino American Student Association put on its annual culture night: Philippine Culture Night Centennial. This year’s PCN commemorates the hundredth year of having a filipino club at the University of Michigan, so suffice to say it was a particularly important celebration. It also dealt with a larger context for filipino and filipino american identity with the theme of “who are you?”, seeking to ask the audience what their culture means to them. As a half-filipino american myself, I found that this theme of identity connected greatly to my own personal experience of trying to understand and discover what being filipino means to me.

Wayne State’s Fil-Soc band performance

After speeches from FASA’s co-presidents and cultural executive board chairs and a dinner filled with filipino dishes supplied by M-dining (which surprisingly wasn’t bad), the night’s performances gave way. Beginning with amazing covers of OPM music—original pinoy music—I enjoyed UofM’s own Greenwood Sessions’ renditon of “Raining in Manila” by Lola Amour and Wayne State’s Fil-Soc Band’s rendition of “Hanggang Kailan” by Orange and Lemons (shoutout to my friend Jordan with the super awesome guitar and vocal skillz 😎). OPM is a genre of music that I love; even when I don’t understand the filipino languages that they sing in, connecting to the raw music and culture of filipino karaoke makes the genre invaluable. Besides the music can just be a good vibe, y’know?

Tinikling performers wearing barong right before their performance

Under dimmed lights did Pandanggo sa ilaw come to kick off the dance performances. Pandanggo sa ilaw is a traditional filipino dance where dances balance lit candles on top of their hands and heads to simulate the flight of fireflies. I especially enjoyed their teal and orange costumes—flawlessly unwrinkled thanks to the iron the choreographers took from me (joke lang).

Perhaps one of the most recognizable dances of the night, traditional Tinikling performed with a live Rondalla performance (an ensemble of various stringed lutes). If you’ve ever walked by Mason Posting Wall from 5-10 on Mondays and Wednesdays in the past few months, then you’ve definitely seen these bamboo sticks being clapped while people dodged bruising their ankles. Additionally, Purdue’s own filipino organization performed Maglalatik (a dance performed shirtless while clapping coconut shells strung up on one’s body) while throwing a lot of their ‘behinds’ on stage. For the first time I also saw a live Kulintang gong ensemble performed by PACE-MI (Philippine Arts & Culture Ensemble of Michigan) with their renditions of pre-colonial traditional dances as well.

Now, I also was a performer in this PCN as a part of the Modern Tinikling showcase. Displaying traditions with modern sensibilities, Modern Tinikling performed to the songs “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar, “America has a Problem” by Beyonce, and “Barbie World” by Nicki Minaj (with Aqua). Not to be biased but we were pretty hype. The two modern dances that followed were pretty cool too I guess >_>. In all seriousness, I was impressed with the choreography and fun both modern dance groups showed, for I will be humming “Asan Ka Na Ba” by Zach Tabudlo for months now.

One last note on the performances as well, I was glad to see Hawai’i Club perform their traditional hula dance to celebrate their culture as well. While the night was mostly comprising filipino cultural performances, the point of the night was to celebrate identities and cultures which it was great to see them given a platform to do so.

My FASA Lineage photo in-front of the pagapir fan wall

I would say that my first PCN experience set a high bar for next year. So, I’d especially like to give a big thank you to FASA’s cultural chairs for organizing the event, Philip Churchley and Isabelle Lamug (my ate, pictured above in the middle of the photo). I look forward to my involvement in FASA and their respective events moving forward, and I’m super glad to be a part of this amazing community!

REVIEW: The Inspired Show

Every fall semester, Kappa Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc. hosts the Inspired Show; this year it was on Saturday, November 11th from 4-6 PM at the Ross Robertson Auditorium. On Instagram (@umichkpl), the sorority said this event “seeks to showcase a variety of cultural performances, mixing modern and traditional elements to bring Michigan exposure to various Asian performing arts,” which it certainly did.

There were 8 performances. In order they were:

Female Gayo (@femalegayo)

Photonix (@umphotonix)

Kappa Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc. (@umichkpl)

DB3 (@db3_umich)

Seoul Juice (@seouljuice.umich)

VeryUs (@veryus.umich)

Revolution (@revolutionyoyo)

Moli (@moli.umich)

K-Motion (@kmotion)

I’ve watched and reviewed the majority of these groups before, many of which performed at Celebrasia. However, although the Inspired Show was only a week later, Female Gayo had a completely new set that ended with an original choreography they made to the song Money by Lisa from Blackpink and had the fun addition of shooting dollar bills into the air at the end.

Photonix is a crowd favorite and I wish I got to see more of them. They use glow-in-the-dark items to create rhythmic visual art by manipulating neon lights to music in pitch blackness. Much of the choreography involves teamwork, which is super impressive since the team must work together without being able to see. My favorite parts are when they hit the floor to change colors on a beat drop. Unfortunately, I couldn’t capture their performance well enough on camera, so take the chance to see them in person if you can!

I saw the sisters of Kappa Phi Lambda perform at the Yardshow, but they prepared two additional choreographies for their event: hip-hop and cultural. Their cultural dance is pictured above and it was the highlight of the show for me. Many groups use fans or umbrellas as props, but it was the first time I’ve seen the beautiful white and red long sleeves they wore. In addition, the music they used was purely instrumental, which was a nice contrast to the other music throughout the show. It truly felt like a cultural dance rather than a dance that just uses cultural props.

The Ross Robertson Auditorium is a nice venue; the only thing I wish is that the lighting had a spotlight on the stage to give it a more immersive atmosphere. Nevertheless, it was nice being in a new and comfortable environment.

Although there are a lot of parallels to Celebrasia, I recommend attending the Inspired Show. It’s a good opportunity to see different performers, such as Photonix and Moli, and new choreographies like Female Gayo’s. All proceeds are donated to the Ann Arbor Community Center, so you can make a difference and have fun at the same time.

REVIEW: Celebrasia

On Sunday night, November 5th, the Chinese Student Association (@csaumich) collaborated with 24 other organizations to host its most popular event: Celebrasia. Each year it takes place in Angell Hall Auditorium A, making Mason Hall so crowded it’s hard to walk through and meet up with friends.

The performances were scheduled to begin at 7 PM, but like in the past, the seats were already half filled when the doors opened at 6:30 PM. By 6:50 PM, people began to sit in the aisleways and soon after, they closed the doors to the public. This year, CSA did a really good job of organizing the event; they guided the audience well, had quick transitions between performers, and there weren’t any sound issues.

There were a total of 12 groups, some familiar and new. In order they were:

Seoul Juice (@seouljuice.umich)the band under the Korean American Student Association (KASA). In my freshman year, they were a very small group, so it’s great to see how much they’ve grown not only musically but in popularity.

Annappella (@annappella.a_cappella), a co-ed Chinese acapella group. It’s the first time I’ve heard of them and they’re also the first acapella group I’ve seen on campus. They were really good at harmonizing and the male student in the center sang a majority of the melody with a soulful yet gentle voice.

Revolution (@revolutionyoyo): the Chinese Yoyo team. I always love how hype the crowd gets when watching them do tricks and flips.

Flowdom (@flowdom.umich): a co-ed hip-hop dance team. They added more flare to the selection of dance performances and I was really impressed by their charisma.

K-Motion (@kmotion): an all-female K-pop dance group. As always, they served an amazing assortment of K-pop songs with talent as well as their iconic confetti.

Blue Records (@blue_records_group): a student organized record label that arranges and produces their own music, although they did a cover at Celebrasia. The guitarists in particular stood out to me because they sounded just like the studio track.

Konnect (@konnect_umich): the largest and most inclusive co-ed K-pop dance group on campus. The amount of performers and rotations they had were astounding.

Sanya Bhati (@sanya_bhatia): a student soloist pursuing Drama in the Residential College. Her set was definitely one of my favorites. She had a charming presence and commanded the stage with only a backtrack accompanying her powerful and clear vocals.

Female Gayo (@femalegayo): the all-female K-pop dance group under KASA. In addition to their coordinating outfits,  their synchronization as a team is out of this world. From the timing of bold hair flips to the subtle flex of their fingers, nothing felt out of place when viewing them as a group.

VeryUs (@veryus.umich): an all-female dance crew that aspires to highlight multiple cultures in Asia. I appreciate that they focus on diversity and inclusion of not only cultures but music and dance.

rXn (@rxn_umich): the traditional and modern hip-hop co-ed dance group under CSA.

DB3 (@db3_umich): the all-male K-Pop dance group as well as the crowd favorite. The cheering never stopped during their entire set, which was a fun way to end the night.

The University of Michigan has so many gifted students outside of SMTD too, and I can’t do all of them justice with this review. I highly recommend attending Celebrasia in the future, even if it’s just for part of it! It’s a free event and a great way to meet more of the community.