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January 27, 2016

UMS Night School: Acting and Dancing Identity – Session 2 Recap

By Morgan Lamonica

Please note: This post is a part of series about the free and open to the public UMS Night School. UMS Night School: Constructing Identity runs January 18-February 15, 2016.

tanya tagaq
Photo: Tanya Tagaq, who will be interviewed along with Taylor Mac at the next session of Night School on January 25. Photo courtesy of the artist.

This past Monday, I attended my first UMS Night School session. This was the second session in this year’s series, which focuses on identity and performance.

The session was about acting and dancing identity, with a focus on Young Jean Lee’s Untitled Feminist Show and Straight White Men, both of which were presented by UMS January 21-23, 2016. A discussion also prepared us for next week’s UMS Night School session with special guest artists Tanya Tagaq and Taylor Mac.

Jim Leija (UMS Director of Education and Community Engagement) and Clare Croft (U-M Assistant Professor of Dance) opened the session with an interactive movement activity. We participants picked a gesture that resonated with us from one of the shows we had seen over the weekend (if we had attended one). We were to perform the gestures without speaking, to emphasize the power of the motion we chose. We then got a chance to explain our gestures to each other.

What surprised you?

We discussed identity through acting and dancing, our expectations of the shows, and the role of society in influencing the creation and content of the shows. One of the main questions that was put on the table was: “What surprised you at the shows?” This question propelled a fantastic, insightful discussion about identity and cultural influence on identity.

Photo: UMS Night School attendees perform their sound and motion as maestro Jim conducts them.

Jim and Clare closed the session with another interactive activity in which we created a “soundscape” for a picture that was projected onto a screen. The picture was of dogs pulling a sled through an arctic setting. Our class formed groups of four, and each group came up with a sound and action that we thought described some aspect of the picture. Maestro Jim then conducted the class in performing our sounds together. The result? Super awesome! It was nice to feel a sense of community with people I had never met before.

Having no preconceived expectation of the UMS Night School series, I found the class extremely engaging and by the end, I was so positively overwhelmed with so many new and exciting perspectives that I would’ve otherwise never been introduced to.

If you haven’t yet attended one of these classes, don’t wait any longer! Join us next week for a super exciting session to learn about constructing identity onstage with special guest artists Tanya Tagaq and Taylor Mac!