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February 11, 2016

UMS Night School: Constructing Identity Together – Session 4 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.

This past Monday, I attended my second UMS Night School session. For this week’s session, we discussed this past weekend’s performances by Tanya Tagaq and Taylor Mac.

The discussion focused on how Taylor Mac and Tanya Tagaq made their performances accessible and relatable to audiences; some of the UMS Night School participants noted that Taylor and Tanya’s performances were “welcoming” and “inviting.” Talk about constructing identity together! These two artists really went above and beyond in engaging their audiences, whether it was physically (like Taylor Mac) or emotionally (like Tanya Tagaq), or both!

We then moved into a discussion of upcoming performance of Camille A. Brown’s Black Girl–Linguistic Play, occurring this Saturday, February 13, 2016 at 8 pm in the Power Center. This time around, the discussion was lead by guest speakers Robin Wilson (Associate Professor of Dance) and three University of Michigan students in the School of Dance: Michael Parmelee, DeeDee Fattore, and Selena Moeljadi, all of whom had the experience of being involved in Camille A. Brown’s City of Rain.

 Camille A. Brown’s City of Rain, performed by the Mason Gross School of the Arts.

While the video above does not feature our awesomely-talented guest speakers, it does feature some of the emotion that our speakers said they’ve learned to channel in their performance of City of Rain, which was featured in the University of Michigan Dance Department’s most recent showcase, Momentum, which ran from February 4-7, 2016.

Robin Wilson shared her experience of what it was like to be the Rehearsal Director for City of Rain, while the students shared their experience of being in the midst of City of Rain.

What did you learn?

Jim asked the guest speakers what they learned from their experiences of City of Rain. Students mentioned “grief” and “sadness” in the physical movements that they experienced. They had to dig deep to successfully understand those (and other) emotions in the choreography. The students could’ve simply emulated the emotion that Camille A. Brown suggested, however, this would be similar to an instrumentalist emulating the emotion that a composer intended in a piece, or similar to an actor emulating emotions onstage. Sure, that might look and sound fine and dandy, but it would be different from the real thing. The real thing is when students draw upon their own grief, their own sadness, their own emotion to make Brown’s choreography much more powerful. 

Robin Wilson, as Rehearsal Director, assisted in this process. She summed it up nicely: “We want a cake with the rum soaked through [not a cake with frosting on top]!”

Student DeeDee Fattore said that in her research she has found that she really loves that Brown’s work is so relatable; anybody – dancer or audience member – can relate to the movements and emotions in her work. Fattore says this is something that she would like to be able to do in her own work as a choreographer.

Black Girl – Linguistic Play

Camille A Brown Black Girl 2 by Christpher DugganWe shifted gears toward the end of the class to talk about Camille A. Brown’s Black Girl – Linguistic Play, which will be performed this Saturday, February 13, 2016 at 8 pm in the Power Center.

Asked what “Black Girl” really means, Wilson pointed out that it’s an important specificity. “Black” in this context is vernacular, being unapologetically oneself, and also implies that the work is perhaps intentionally less refined than and less conforming to the African American cultural identity. “Girl” in this context is associated with sass, playfulness, being yourself. Camille uses the title “Black Girl” to hone in on the identity and experience of being a “Black Girl.” Tickets to the performance are still available.

This session really pumped me up for the performance this weekend, and I walked out of the Alumni Center feeling inspired and full of new perspectives and insights.

I’m telling you, if you are looking to expand your horizons, these classes are amazing! There is only one session left, so join us next Monday, February 15, at 7 pm in the Alumni Center for Reflection and Graduation.

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