By Willa Wu
Reflecting back on the classes I have taken from freshman year until graduation, it amuses me that the two most impactful classes I have taken throughout my college experience were two that I decided to take on a whim, not for the extra credit hours or any major requirement. FAA 110, one of such classes, has forced me to sit back and spend time appreciating the creativity in the arts, which I have very rarely done due only focusing on STEM subjects most of my life.
Unlike other classes that I have taken in high school, FAA 110 focuses on exposing the students to as many different aspects of the Fine Arts as possible, rather than staying on one piece of art for the entire semester. This made every meeting and class feel more exciting, as I was never sure what to expect. I appreciated that there was no overall “theme” for the class, such as comedy, tragedy, etc., because this allowed for me to experience a little bit of everything. Coming with experience in only a sliver in the broad field that is Fine Arts (piano) , I was extremely unaware of what different types of performances existed. After taking a look at all different types of performances, I now have a much better understanding and appreciation for the creativity that goes into the field.
The professors for this course, Dr. Collins and Dr. Robinson, did a wonderful job of providing an open environment during the in-class meetings. Class discussions used to be an extremely anxious task for me, but I felt very relaxed in the classroom setting. Everyone’s opinions in the class were not criticized nor put down, which led to an inviting atmosphere. The tasks that we did in class, whether it be discussion or creating our own masks, always involved the own student’s creativity. The mask designing was my favorite activity, as it was both calming and fun to draw while at the same time thinking about the deeper meaning of masks.
The structure of this class was very creative as well. Writing blog posts rather than typing up monotonous essays gave creative freedom to us, the students, by allowing us to write our blog posts in a way that speaks directly to the “audience” of the blogs. I thoroughly enjoyed writing the posts post-show and reflecting on the powerful performances, oftentimes realizing then what specific design and lighting choices led to a respective effect.
Being Chinese myself, this was a beautiful performance to watch while feeling proud of my own heritage. The love story told of the butterfly lovers brought in a mix of tragedy, romance, drama, and a sprinkle of comedy. The dancers were incredibly athletic and in sync. The costumes were by far my favorite part, due to the bright colors and whimsical design.
This performance was an awakening experience. It still baffles me how I did not know that the multicultural show performance back in my high school was actually stepping – I did not know that stepping existed as a separate form of dance. After watching this powerful and energizing performance, I have newfound respect for my high school classmates who attempted to choreograph their own stepping routines.
The special aspect of Somi was that she was raised in Champaign, IL. Her origin immediately created a bond between her and the audience. Her unique voice and phrases echoed throughout the room as she switched between different themes, which caused a standing ovation. Her orchestra was phenomenal and had their separate solos, where they could demonstrate their talent.
One of the most unique in-person performances was watching Anna Deavere Smith perform her personalities. At first, I was extremely confused, but as the show went on, I began to immerse myself into the stories that she was telling. Because the quotes come from real people, it sounded both genuine and compelling to the audience.
My favorite part about this performance was the set placements and usage. The actors seamlessly were able to convert a couple sets into dancing routines, hotels, party rooms, trains, etc. without losing the audience at all. It was clear at all times where they were, and during the dance routines, they even began to rotate the sets that dancers were placed upon, creating a very dynamic environment.
Metamorphosis, the first online performance I watched, was quite disturbing, although that is exactly what it is supposed to be. Gregor as a bug made me extremely uncomfortable, with the uncontrollable erratic movements and strained words. The entire play consisted mainly of only four actors, who overtook the part of the narrator as well.
This dance performance began extremely slow paced, with me actually mistaking one of the dancers standing in the front row as an audience member. The rest of the performance highlighted each dancer’s individual movements, with them rarely moving completely in sync. Unlike the Shanghai Ballet, where everything was very rigid and tight, the movements in Virago-Man Dem were very loose and flowing.
The last online performance and performance in general, The Container made me walk away feeling very unhappy and disturbed. Perhaps it was because of the reality that it portrayed, which is applicable to the entire world. The struggle of refugees is still a problem today, and unlike Gregor turning into a bug in Metamorphosis, the pain of refugees is our reality.
Overall, not only did I enjoy this class very much, but I also learned and was exposed to many new forms of art that I was unaware of. Thank you Dr. Collins and Dr. Robinson for a wonderful semester!