On Feb 7th, 2020, “Step Afrika!”, a signature African-American drum performance was performed at the Colwell Playhouse (Krannert Center for Performing Arts); and it amazed the audiences with its special art forms, including the tap dance and stepping.
It was an amazing performance! With the strong passion, high-energy, and creativity of performers, audiences had an incredibly amazing experience. They invited audiences to fully enjoy and participate in the performance through a devised process with the cast and great interaction.
The variation in performance and the expounded exposure left me convinced of the potential in the instrumentalists in this genre. There was growth in each combos presentation. Growth that I could see at both the individual and collective level.
The tall ceilings of the Beckman atrium made sure there was room to spare in the lively performance space make-shifted for Jupiter String Quartet. The echos that reached the sixth floor muffled the voices of the introduction, but the touch of the strings still fulfilled the message quite completely.
The complicated construction and thrill of a new experience charmed my Tuesday evening in front of Anderrsson Dance and Scottish Ensemble. I believe the relativity to Spring beginnings and open ventures is what elevated the performance to another level. Orjan Andersson was walking towards the stage as I was leaving and I am glad to have sputtered at least a few words of commendation.
My evening began with a haste to the theatre. The for-shadowing of this play by its director, Latrelle Bright, instilled my own curiosity in its ever-present themes of motion and space. Space being interpreted as both the outer universe and the creativity in placement of props and people on stage. The movement was lively. The unorthodox nature of the corps presence on stage continued to expand upon the totality of what can be interpreted from this performance. Thankfully, I was greeted at the door by Dr. Collins with the spare tickets in hand.
The title of the play was my first signal of just how different this performance would be. The elongated name and thoughtful preface led me to believe the story would follow a strict mystery plot. I was happily surprised by a novel perspective on the coming of age tale of a young boy triumph over autism. Not only was the storyline engaging, the craft of the set design and movement also brought the audience that much closer to the main character, Christopher. The attention to detail in the integrated communications of all design aspects was evident in how closely each aspect of the play followed the themes of Christopher’s mind. An example of this was evident in the geometric shapes that were used to showcase and populate the stage. The lights were also an example of the transport the audience went through when Christopher spoke about his love for space. The stage was filled with stars and color to accommodate Christopher’s meticulous imagination. These details allowed for the complete immersion into the mind of Christopher. These connection engulfed the audience in the internal battle and aspirations of the protagonist.
My familiarity with this disorder gave me an even better understanding of the livelihood of Christopher and his parents. The portrayal of Christopher’s struggles paralleled the experiences that close family friends of mine have also faced. The message of endless opportunity for people of the spectrum was prominent, but there were also mirror images in the way a person could relate to the emotions that a person with ASD has. Christopher’s father reactions often embodied the clutch to bad habits and bursts of rage. I believe this allowed the audience to relate more closely with Christopher and develop a deeper understanding of his condition.
The entire production invoked an emotional adventure to me and to many of its audience members. The thoughtfulness in direction was evident and innovative. I believe this performance has a consistent ability to impact its audience. The creative decisions facilitated a captivating experience that I believe will always resonate with audience members.
This week, the Exploring Creativity in the Arts class had guest speaker, Renee Baker come in to share her story as a renowned composer creating a platform for women and people of color in the world of fine arts.
The anticipation built for a production marketed as a ‘female team an exploring how sexual violence resonates across the centuries’, was high throughout the week. This musical had the opportunity to influence the discussion of gender inequalities through the reflection of power struggles throughout the centuries. In my opinion, the performance shied away from directly addressing the issue at hand and missed their opportunity to connect to today’s climate.
From the moment the bows of the violins and cello hit the the first notes of ‘first song title’, I was captivated by the fluidity of the group’s composition.
The performance was enthralling. All the more with accompaniment of Chungliang Al Huang, a playful surprise in the formal atmosphere. The Quartet’s initial demanding synchronicity was nothing compared to the disjointed composition that they were also able to deliver.
Applause was cut short as each detailed story played out in front of our eyes. Chungliang first danced in the center of the group. His motion began to set the tempo for the musicians and they also followed suit in how they handled their instruments. The light-hearted nature of his first dance with the quartet set the tone for the duality of the music.
The group took a bow after a particularly intense piece and then the stage cleared. But it was not over. Chungliang was not the only dancer throughout the show. The final dance was a refreshing piece that to me, paralleled the deliberate and fluid nature of the music played throughout the night. The male pair was the most intriguing symbol of the ebb and flow of support the quartet gave each other throughout the night. Each instrument is strong and takes the lead intermittently during a song, as did the tango dancers.
My expectations for the performance were happily met. The beautiful architecture of the auditorium set the caliber of the experience even higher as I awaited an enriching exposure to classical music. If I were the director of this show, I would have insisted on a more rehearsals from the dancers. If they would have been able to keep the synchronicity that the musicians did, the entire performance would have had a stronger effect on me and no doubt the rest of the packed audience as well. I would have had more developed choreography as well. I think Chunliang did a great job in directing the dancers the basic motions of his Tai Ji art, but I think more complex displays could have taken the performance to another level. My perception of a classical string ensemble was surely affected by this riveting performance from Champaign locals. The same duality that they had in their performance is one that I appreciate in all areas of art.