Author Archive for Heather Burcham

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REVIEW: American Reunion

Thursday March 22nd at 9 p.m. students filled the Lorch Hall AskWith Auditorium, to see a sneak preview viewing of the upcoming movie, American Reunion, the fourth in the American Pie film series, and to see four of the cast members from the movie live and in person! After being escorted to a rare available seat in the auditorium by a security guard from Universal Studios, Eli Yudin, a student comedian from the University of Michigan, announced that the cast members were walking to the hall for a question and answer session. The crowd screamed and yelled in electric anticipation to host famous movie stars on the university’s campus. When the MFlicks crew, who hosted the event, were given the signal that the cast members were on their way, Eli suggested that the crowd sing the Michigan fight song as the movie stars enter the auditorium, as a few of the cast members are University of Michigan graduates. The auditorium full of students sang the fight song and fist-pumped as the cast of American Reunion walked from the back of the auditorium, through the aisles, taking pictures and video on their phones of the crowd.

For about 20 minutes Eli asked the cast members questions written down by students in the crowd, most questions directed to Jason Biggs, the main character of the series, about the number of pies used in the famous scene from the first movie, and a request to do a dance from a previous American Pie movie, which he did with the girl from the audience who made the request. The cast members were funny, and the crowd was engaged and entertained throughout the interview.

Soon, the interview was over and the crowd went wild one last time as the stars exited the auditorium, the lights dimmed, and the movie began. Personally, I have never seen an American Pie movie before (shocking, I know!) so I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting myself into. In American Reunion, the original cast of American Pie come together again for their 13-ish-year high school reunion (class of 1999!). (It was mentioned in the interview portion that the idea came up for an American Reunion movie at the 10 year anniversary, and unfortunately it takes time to make a movie, so that’s why by the time the movie came out, it was actually 13 years since the characters graduated! ) Some characters have gotten married and settled down, and others have focused on their careers, but they all realize how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same, through the crazy antics they experience at home during the weekend of the reunion.

Now, do you want my opinion? I really hated the movie! No wonder I never watched the others… The entire movie was nothing but gross-out, dirty jokes, sex, and nudity. I knew it was a comedy, but I thought that there would be some genuine situational humor, not just cheap sexual jokes. Women were relentlessly objectified, and I felt somewhat uncomfortable throughout the entire movie. Aside from the sex, any other plot line or humor used in the movie was so incredibly cheesy and shallow–about 30 minutes in, I wasn’t sure how much more I could take. I know American Pie has a huge following, and the auditorium was filled with university students who were totally into the movie–everyone was saying how great it was as we filed out of the theatre after the show. I suspect my opinion is the minority, so if you disagree with me, or you want to go see American Reunion for yourself, the movie is being released to theatres on April 6th. Check out the website for more information!

http://www.americanpiereunion.com/

REVIEW: North Campus Photo Competition

Photos from the first North Campus Photo Competition, sponsored by Living Arts, were on display in the Duderstadt connector from March 12-16. Students were given the opportunity to capture North Campus as they see it in a photo, and submit it to Living Arts to be judged for the competition. Winners were given cash prizes–first place was given $300, second place was given $150, and third place was given $75. 125 photos were submitted, and only three winners were chosen!

First place went to Peter Shin, for his beautiful depiction of the nature and culture of North Campus.

Peter Shin

Peter Shin

Second place was awarded to Daniel Chern, for his depiction of the North Campus fountain at night, the still water reflecting the lamps and the trees like glass. (As a North Campus resident myself, the fountain, especially at night, is a really cool place to hang out in the spring and summer!)

Daniel Chern: Reflecting Pool

Daniel Chern: Reflecting Pool

Third place went to Jerald Shi, for capturing the North Campus Belltower, surrounded by the fall foliage, and of course, the most sure sign of fall having arrived, a student walking to class with his backpack.

Other favorites of my own include:

A beautiful mosaic wall (though I’m not sure where this is located on North!) by Nadine Dyskant-Miller,

Nadine Dyskant-Miller

Nadine Dyskant-Miller

the shadowy modern lines cast upon the stairs on North Campus, by Daniel Chern,

Daniel Chern

Daniel Chern

and the architectural “Reflecting Upon the Reflecting Pool” by Nathan Hartmann,

Nathan Hartmann

Nathan Hartmann

Though the exhibit in the Duderstadt hardly did these photographs justice, I hope that anyone who sees these photos recognizes the beauty of North Campus that many students never take the time to appreciate. Come see the beauty of North Campus for yourself, through your own personal lens!

To find out more about the North Campus photo competition, check out the website: http://livingartsatum.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/living-arts-photo-competition/

REVIEW: Jazz Jam

Last Thursday, March 15th, from 8-10 p.m. 4 music students took the stage at Pierpont Commons, performing improvisational jazz for students in the lounge.

Pierpont Commons was transformed into a quaint coffee shop/lounge, with the lights dimmed and a spread of free coffee, tea, and delicious fudge  brownies and fruits. The musicians, students in the Department of Jazz and Improvisation Studies, were incredibly talented. They rarely took a break from playing, obviously enjoying playing music together. The evening didn’t feel like a performance, but rather the opportunity to sit in on a jam session. The informality and playfulness of the performance reminded me of a blues bar I visited in Chicago, but college-student style. It was really enjoyable to sit in the comfy chairs in Pierpont Commons, listen to the relaxing jazz music, and work on some of my homework. (While drinking FREE coffee and eating yummy FREE brownies I might add!) The opportunity to hear some live music in a relaxing atmosphere makes for a good night of studying.

Jazz Jam happens every other Thursday at  Pierpont Commons on North Campus. If you’re looking for a change of pace in your studying routine, or just something relaxing to do on a Thursday evening, come check out Jazz Jam! For more information, check out the website: http://www.umich.edu/~uuap/programs/performance/jazz.html

REVIEW: Defining Movement

Tuesday February 21st at 7 p.m. Washtenaw County Community College’s (WCC)  Dance4Unity resident dance company performed their choreographer’s showcase, Defining Movement. The show was held at WCC’s Towsley Auditorium, a really impressive small auditorium, perfect for intimate shows like this one.

The evening showcased the original choreography of the dancers in Dance4Unity. There was a range of dance styles showcased, with several hip-hop numbers, and a few modern/contemporary pieces as well. The show was aptly titled, as each student choreographer was given the chance to define movement in their own way, through their own original work. It was really wonderful to see students so inspired by movement, expressing themselves through dance. That students showcased their own personal expression through movement choreography on stage for an audience is really wonderful and inspiring to me personally, as a dancer and aspiring choreographer. I often feel too critical of myself as a dancer and a choreographer that I keep myself from choreographing or showcasing my choreography out of fear, but the bravery and openness of the students in this show really impressed me and inspired me to be braver in sharing my creativity through movement as well.

That being said, though the show was really strong in a variety of interesting concepts, many of the dancers’ technique was lacking. However, there were a few dancers that really stood out, like a male hip-hop dancer who performed a solo in “Second Chances”, a piece to Justin Timberlake’s “Losing My Way”. His movements were both sharp and on-point, and smooth and emotive. He could have used more of the stage, but overall he was a really impressive hip hop dancer. Another dancer who caught my eye was a female contemporary/hip-hop dancer who performed in “Chasing Memories”, a really innovative dance set to acoustic music, in which three people walked across the stage, as if they were walking down the street in every day life, then they froze, and she began dancing in a very mechanical way, posing and hitting certain points in the music, creating beautiful contemporary shapes with control and articulation. The dance conveyed a very interesting concept, and she danced beautifully. There were also some really great dancers in the hip-hop ensemble that performed several pieces in the show. However I sometimes felt that in these pieces the choreography was lacking innovative movements, and that the dancers could have used the stage more, creating different formations and using traveling movements. And with the heavily mixed music of today’s club hits, and the frequent booty-shaking, I couldn’t help but think, “This is the stage, not the club!” Most people can dance in a club, I knew these dancers were capable of higher performance-quality movements. I would love to see them raise the bar and work toward this in their next performance.

There were also a few pieces in which it seemed the student choreographers were not taking the show seriously. It was hard to believe they were allowed to have a place in the showcase. For instance, in “Tainted Love” two girls dressed in lingerie and garter belts, one in a bondage-type outfit, the other a french maid outfit, both leaving little to the imagination, danced a gothic bellydance number, to a heavy metal version of the song “Tainted Love”, with a man tied to a chair on the stage. I don’t recall seeing any actual bellydancing, but they did do a lot of crawling on the floor and prancing around the man in the chair on stage. It was very inappropriate and held no artistic value whatsoever. Another dance, a solo called “Everybody Boogie” was also questionable, and could have been emitted from the show. A woman danced around the stage as if she was dancing around her house with the radio on for several minutes. It was very drawn out, and did not appear to be choreographed in the least bit. It was great that the showcase gave everyone a chance to perform, however it sacrificed quite a bit of merit in allowing individuals to perform in the showcase who did not put time and serious effort into choreographing a dance.

All in all, Dance4Unity did a wonderful job in putting on their choreographer’s showcase, and I give them kudos for being creative and expressive through movement! It’s wonderful to see what nearby colleges are doing in the arts, and I will certainly be on the lookout for more performances at WCC.

REVIEW: Random Dance

Saturday February 18th at 8 p.m. 10 incredibly talented dancers filled the stage at the Power Center, together comprising Wayne McGregor’s contemporary company, Random Dance.

The dancers were amazing! I sat in awe the entire performance of their incredible technical ability. They had the strength and control of seasoned ballet dancers, with an added fluidity and emotive quality that I’ve never seen before. The movements were very detailed, and choreographed down to the slightest finger movement or eye gaze, however the dancers moved as if they were creating the movement as they went along, oozing passion and self-expression. The choreography was so genius. I love that Wayne McGregor has such a strong ballet background, that shone proudly through his choreography, but with brilliant alterations to the classical ballet steps, the slightest tilt or turned-in position, or flexed foot making classical steps new and surprising. The dance flowed so beautifully, from one section to the next, with the dancers’ incredibly supple, flexible, expressive bodies moving fluidly but with such control over the slightest movements made.

The piece performed, FAR, inspired by Roy Porter’s “Flesh and the Age of Reason” was very inventive and original, using mixed media to complement the movement. A huge screen of LED lights was used throughout to create a very sci-fi, technological feel, also allowing for sort of a creepy, shadowy mood throughout the piece. Various lighting effects were used throughout the piece, with a warm amber glow covering the stage at one point, and two illuminated circles on the black floor in which the dancers moved the only light in the auditorium at another point in the piece. The music also varied quite a bit, with some moments of loud, mechanical sounding noise, building in intensity, and others of tender ballads with lyrics. The piece flowed so smoothly, however, that this wide variety did not feel choppy or out of place whatsoever, but instead made the piece that much more enchanting and engaging.

The piece was so expressive and meaningful, though I can only speculate as to what Wayne McGregor and his dancers were thinking as they created the movements showcased in FAR. The piece seemed to have a very animalistic quality in parts, and a very tender, intimate quality in others, making me think the piece said a lot about the tension between instinctive animalistic desires, leading to lust and conflict, and tender, loving  human relationships, and the intimate moments we share together. At one point in the piece, the LED screen appeared to be a timer counting down, as the dancers moved each in their own set of choreography, a jumble of dance on the stage. This made me feel as if they were saying something about time and movement, and even about dance itself, being confined to time, and the often mechanical quality of the movement of the human body, even in dance. There were so many great ideas and emotions conveyed in this piece–I could see it many more times to extract more and more meaning. I have gained such a profound respect and admiration for Wayne McGregor, and I will definitely be watching his creative career! I’ve found a new favorite in Random Dance.

To learn  more, check out their website: http://www.randomdance.org/

PREVIEW:Random Dance

Tonight, Saturday February 18th, at 8 p.m. Royal Ballet choreographer Wayne McGregor’s company, Random Dance, will be performing a 60-minute showcase of McGregor’s original choreography. The performance will be taking place at the Power Center, and tickets range in price from $20-50. I am so looking forward to seeing the company’s contemporary style, fused with McGregor’s strong classical ballet background. Come check out some quality dancing tonight!