Tag Archives: dance

Dance Recital Sparks Conversation Among USF Crowd

Crouching at the edges of the stage, two students slap shoes on the ground in a slow, steady beat. A group of women step barefoot to the rhythm, staring ominously into the audience. As they reach the other side of the stage, a dancer throws her head back and releases a howling note. A few nervous chuckles arise from the audience, startled by the unsettling first minute of the fall dance concert Edge of Inquiry.

The show has begun nearly 20 minutes behind schedule. Overwhelmed by a demand for seats, the ushers took the extra time pack in extra chairs and to fit attendees into the isles of Studio Theater. Silently, we all wait for what is already unfolding as a slightly strange performance.

“This concert is based in contemporary dance and experimentation, rather than strictly entertainment value” Edge producer Megan Nicely had told me. “It is meant to provoke thoughts and reflection.” The show is comprised of five modern dance acts—four collaboratively choreographed by USF students and four different Bay Area choreographers, and one by guest performer and female drag queen Fauxnique.

The acts are marked by moments of grace, cacophonous shouting, bizarre flailing, melancholia, and confusion. In the enigmatic fourth act “Corked,” a dancer shouts through clenched teeth “You make me feel so good!” as she repeats a series of energetic leaps and contortions that involve slapping herself over and over in the same places on her body. Like much of the show’s choreography, it looks exhausting, painful, and is totally mesmerizing. The boy seated in front of me leans closer to his friend in the fifth cycle of this routine and (loudly) whispers, “What the f-?”

My neighbor is not alone in his perplexity. At intermission, sophomore Andrew Foy reviews the first half of the show. “It’s really good!” He pauses. “But I have no idea what it’s supposed to be representing.”

“Corked” finishes with six women on stage in ‘50s-style dresses singing Etta James’ “At Last” through gritted teeth after hitting each other with giant cardboard signs inscribed with the song’s lyrics. While still slightly puzzling, this is probably the clearest imagery in the show, with the exception of Fauxinque, whose sardonic ode to fashion, high heels, and consumerist couture started off the second half. Other acts feature dancers solemnly gliding offstage tangled in track lighting, women holding drawings of facial expressions in front of their own faces, and figures staggering around to “This Magic Moment” like Frankenstein’s monster, to name just a moments of the 1.5 hour show.

Though the imagery is not completely cohesive, the performance effectively evokes reflection. When the house lights come up, the audience bursts into conversation, revisiting different scenes. “I felt like it was a lot about oppression and fighting back,” 20-year-old Molly O’Shea Smith says after the show. “The dancers emphasize that really well. You can see their pain when they’re dancing. I think it’s about past eras and moving through it.”

As I exit the theater, I once again cross paths with Andrew Foy. “I think it was about emotion and lying about your emotions,” he tells me. “It was so good, but really hard to interpret.” If the purpose of Edge of Inquiry is to promote deeper thought and discourse, the show is an undeniable success. Whether they liked the show or not, audience members walked away with something to say.

Ho’ike Tells the Story Behind Hula Dancing

Although the Hawaiian Islands are over 2,000 miles away from California, a group of students managed to deliver the warmth, food and aloha spirit of Hawaii to USF.

With a night filled with Hawaiian foods like kalua pig and guava cake, McLaren Hall was transformed into an intimate venue for USF’s Hawaiian Ensemble. The Ensemble’s annual Ho‘ike event showcased a variety of Hawaiian song and dance.

Although some may associate the hula with grass skirts and coconut bras, Ho‘ike aimed to clarify stereotypes. “We want to educate people who don’t know a lot about Hawaiian culture,” said Mahe Lum, co-founder of the Hawaiian Ensemble, which was formed in 2007. According to Lum, hula is “all about the hand movements and the message conveyed—the story. It’s not about trying to look pretty…it’s a dance of strength.”

Through the performance, Lum hopes to “show the history of the Hawaiian people” while educating others of “critical points in Hawaiian history.”

The Ensembles fourth annual production, Ke Kaonai Ke Mele: The Story Behind the Dance, is a mix of “theater, dance and song.”

“Hula is the soul behind the music, the heart of the Hawaiian people,” explains Hawaiian Ensemble President April Tungpalan.

“Behind every movement is a reason, and with every reason comes a story.”

Cast members told this story with a variety of hula dances, ranging from the traditional form Kahiko to the contemporary form Auana. Students from Menlo College’s Hawaiian club also helped with the production as dancers and crew members. The Hawaiian Ensemble is comprised of both Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian natives.

Ke Kaonai Ke Mele opened with a scene of three girls sitting on a couch, watching late-night television. After skipping through reruns of Jersey Shore and The Office, the trio decided to watch a documentary on the hula. Throughout the performance, the Ensemble put on a show portraying the love story between Hawaiian gods and goddesses and the progression of the world-famous dance through the decades.

Hula by Emily Bogden

Members of the USF Hawaiian Ensemble perform to Ala La ‘o Pele I Hawaii. (Emily Bogden/Foghorn)

The haka performance riled up the audience with shouts and applause. “This dance does not fit into the history of hula, but it did tie into our theme of having a story behind every dance,” said Tungpalan. “It’s a calling out to our ancestors to help us in this world with their guidance and knowledge.”

In this New Zealand dance style, a group of men yell Maori chants, boasting fierce facial expressions and slapping their bare chests and other body parts.

In addition to traditional Hawaiian routines, a few members of the Ensemble also put on a Tahitian dance in which dancers vigorously shake their hips to the quick beat of the drums.

Other USF clubs participated in the production, posing as actors during the “commercial” breaks, showing off their talent and advertising upcoming on-campus events.

Although a majority of the audience members were local students and parents, many family members traveled from other states to support loved ones and the production. Mark Nishiyama flew in from Oahu, Hawaii with his wife and in-laws to watch his daughter, Alison Nishiyama. “We’ve been hearing about this all winter break,” he says. “The guys and girls put in a lot of effort. [The production] was very enjoyable.”

For freshman  Chelsea Tom, this was her first time seeing a Ho‘ike performance. “I thought the show was great. The information was pretty accurate. It’s really nice to see people not from Hawaii dance. The show made me miss home,” she said.

Students who were unfamiliar with the Hawaiian culture expressed much appreciation for the show. “I felt like I experienced a genuine rendition of a Hawaiian performance,” said USF student Erwin Sunga. “The dinner was good too. It tasted authentic.”
In keeping with the authenticity and depth of the history of hula, members of the Hawaiian ensemble are taught the meaning behind each dance, according to Tungpalan.

Tungpalan said, “‘Ho‘ike’ is literally translated as ‘to show.’ That’s exactly what we wanted to do: to show and express a deeper understanding of the Hawaiian culture beyond what has been commercialized.”

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief Copy-Editor: Natalie Cappetta

News Editor: Ericka Montes

CAB “Back in Black” Back-to-School Dance Fiesta

The USF Campus Activities Board hosted “Back in Black,” a welcome back dance for students, Saturday Jan. 29 in Xavier Chapel. Students enjoyed dancing, mingling, and refreshments provided by CAB

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Students show off their best attire and pose for a big entrance (Photo courtesy of CAB)

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Party-goers encourage solo dancers as they get down (Photo courtesy of CAB)

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USFers caught in a genuine moment of silliness and bliss made perfect with their crowns. (Photo courtesy of CAB)

USF Students Found Detour Dance Company

Kat Cole, a recent graduate with a BA in English and a minor in dance and performing arts, and Eric Garcia, a performing arts and social justice senior, have already accomplished something pretty spectacular. Together with their USF dance experience and the guidance of their professors, they have created a dance company named Detour Dance.

Their show “Along the Way” debuted last weekend at CounterPULSE. “It made more sense to make a company,” Cole said. “For publicity, it was easier to have a website where people could see what we were doing.”

They applied for a spot in the performing arts and social justice cabaret season. The cabaret they proposed—Inhabiting Spaces—was only the second dance cabaret ever produced. It now resides as the first piece in their company’s debut show. Their show is three modern dance pieces that began at USF and a dance film that premiered at the show. The film, “Drift,” featured two hitchhikers in a ghost town.

Jocelyn Hall, a senior dance student, watched the show and said, “As a friend of both Eric and Kat, it was great to see them branch past USF and create something on their own. It’s kind of inspiring when you think about it, because they’re the same age as me. Overall, the show was great. I’ve seen the first piece but it was refreshing to see it again. It was just fun to see all of their hard work and their styles come together to create this show.”

“Drift” was the highlight of the show. Hall agrees, “I like the chicken part the best,” referencing a moment when the hitchhikers (Kat and Eric) randomly pass a chicken on the road that decides to join them on their journey. The film is about a journey but through the lens of modern dance. Their pieces represent everyday people and everyday situations; therefore, the pieces featured everyday movement. Movement such as a simple hug at one moment conveyed so much emotion behind the gesture. The pieces came alive in the details like flexed feet and free flowing motion.

Detour Dance has performed at various venues across the city, from USF to Berkeley. “It’s insane how in the past two months doors have been opened for us,” says Garcia. Since last year, The Garage, a dance and theatre venue, and a middle school is interested in having them perform.

As for how they came up with a name, Garcia said, “The name came after everything. We sat down and pulled common themes. We like to look at everyday spaces.” Cole added, “We were looking at roadsides and things people see everyday.” Each piece is unique in that they use everyday objects and incorporate each object in their dance. From thumb wars and dancing on a bench to communicating with feet, their dancing relates to all audience members. “We pride ourselves on our quirky, detailed movement…We pull from pedestrian movements,” said Garcia. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be like a literal moment, it can be little movements.”

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief Copy-Editor: Burke McSwain

Scene Editor: Tamar Kuyumjian

Chris Moore’s Small Suggestions for Big City Livin’

Oh, how impressionable are all you newcomers to San Francisco. I can already see the freshmen naively dancing with the dirty, burnt-out, deadheads on Haight Street and in Golden Gate Park. I can hear the rush of scraping heels and shuffling sneakers swelling on the sidewalk in front of Rickshaw Stop, Ruby Skye, Madrone and many other clubs, all to experience city life. And yes, even all you who have returned to the city are just as guilty!

It’s easy to fail to explore this city because the Richmond is pretty comfortable. Strictly taking the Muni to accessible popular downtown places is pretty comfortable, too. Hell, even religiously eating Papalote, the only decent burrito place around school, is pretty comfortable. For all those in the City who are curiously new, or complacently old, here is a crash course guide in diving into the San Francisco scene through music, of course!

DJ’s have always been the architects of hip-hop and the privileged few trusted to get the people moving with fresh beats. Normally hip-hop is restricted to a guy or gal rapping over two plates of wax or mp3s, but the weekly Afrolicious party at the Elbo Room takes the dance experience to the next level. A wide array of live percussion instruments, DJ’s and guest MC’s combine forces as a wonder team to save your feet from a horrendous dance night. Their beats have exotic sensibilities that improvise on heavy African tribal music, fiery Spanish salsa, bass-y electro and even tasteful dubstep.

Never underestimate the art gallery scene in San Francisco. Whenever you get a chance, pick up a copy of the San Francisco Arts Quarterly publication and mark some of the many interesting gallery events.

The popular Divisadero and Lower Haight art walks, as well as the open gallery first Tuesdays, guarantee live music and good local art. There are so many artists and so many spaces in San Francisco fighting to get some love that the young ones generally are not snobs and throw a party for their new exhibits. Lift the black tarp around your imagination and let your brain breathe in some colorful visuals to the score of ambient disco rockers.

San Francisco can be a mean place for punks, metal heads and rockabillies. It seems 90 percent of venues are not all-ages and all the decent acts play at bars.

So, if you’re not 21 and just want to release some energy, where can you stomp around? Submission on Mission St. has hardcore music playing in all genres practically every week. The Thrillhouse on 30th and Mission invites bands from all over the state to play in a dingy, sweaty living room every now and then. Thee Parkside, next to Bottom of the Hill, has purebred local acts play for an all-ages hour during the day. 924 Gilman in Oakland is also a cornerstone all-ages venue for the Bay Area. SF State’s The Depot brings in some quality up and coming acts. But, nothing proudly expresses “Independent” and “Anarchy” like the occasional free generator shows at 16th and Mission BART station.

When you just want to sit and listen to music in a pleasant atmosphere with diverse people, go to Revolution Café on 22nd and Bartlett. Every day there are jazz or gypsy bands playing beautiful renditions of old standards.

At night, nothing is more enjoyable than sinking into a seat, letting warm dusk pass over you and listening to Beethoven, Brahms or Debussy played by classical musicians from the Conservatory of Music.

Going to Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square are not enough to say you live in San Francisco. To really begin to know the City, you’ve got to walk down the unimportant streets, duck into the random coffee shops and explore what is not on the maps. These interactions with new people, new places and new sounds will eventually guide you to that perfect niche that you can claim as your spot in the harlequin tapestry of San Francisco.

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy
Chief Copy-Editor: Burke McSwain
Scene Editor: Tamar Kuyumjian

Hawaiian Dancers Persevere, Prove Strength Through Annual Ho’ike

Rich deep voices rippled out in song, call and response. Colorful cotton dresses swished and swayed. Bare, smooth pectorals and shoulders glinted under bright lights. And bare feet danced, ran, danced over a stage littered with the occasional plastic leaf fallen from a bushy headdress or bracelet, like a sign of changing seasons. “Changing of Time,” or Huli Au, was the theme of the Hawaiian Ensemble’s third annual ho’ike, which took place in the Presentation Theatre on April 9 and depicted through song and dance the history of Hawaii and its modernization.

The event was the labor of love of Mahe Lum, senior and one of the founders of the Hawaiian Ensemble in 2006, and its theme was also a change from the performances before it. “In years past, we focused Ho’ike around mythological stories in order to exibit the values and traditions of the Hawaiian culture,” said Lum. “This Ho’ike revealed the real political and social issues that the native Hawaiians have faced over time. We expose their struggle, but highlight their strength.”

To do this, a combination of Hawaiian chants and dancing–by men, as well as the requisite women in grass skirts–were employed, most of them the fruit of hard work by the Hawaiian Ensemble. The dances included traditional Hawaiian myths of goddesses like Pele, as well as depictions of history, such as an enactment of Captain Cook’s arrival in the Bahamas and a fusion of Old World waltz and native Hawaiian hula, performed to the lilting strains of freshman Kyle O’Brien’s violin and musician Sam Ikea on piano. All of the songs except for the beginning and finale were composed by the members of the club, as was all of the choreography. The songs and chants were mostly performed by USF alumna and co-founder of the Hawaiian Ensemble Jenna Waipa, backed up by Kainoa of Menlo College’s Hawaii Club and Sam Ikea of the Hawaiian band 309th Ave. The event’s narration, a thread of story and history that wound throughout the performances to hold them together, was performed by Waipa and Lum.

While the creative side of the ho’ike was an effort by the club, the event itself was held together by funding from outside of USF, which was yet another difference from the past, where, Lum said, “We had always received funding from Superfund.” Because of this, the group could no longer afford to host the ho’ike in the McLaren Complex, where until now a stage had been installed expressly for the performance so that audiences could eat dinner and enjoy the dance at the same time. This year, however, the members of the Hawaiian Ensemble were denied funding because of their outstanding Superfund loan from Ho’ike 2008. This caused a rocky road for the production of Huli Au.

“The most frustrating part of the planning process was that we were not given a straight answer from Superfund regarding the effect of our outstanding loan on this year’s application. We sought counsel from the Superfund committee, who encouraged us that showing strong potential and committed effort to pay back the loan could more likely lead to being funded this year, especially if the committee agreed on the value of the program,” Lum said. “We were advised that “depending on the committee, they may or may not” decide to fund us because of the loan.” After a 4-week ordeal, Lum said, Superfund finally granted the Hawaiian Ensemble $0.

Ultimately, Lum said, things worked out, and this year’s show was completely funded by a donation made by Ali’i Pauahi Hawaiian Civic Club and any revenue generated by Ho’ike ticket sales. Despite this happy ending, Lum still feels that the process she had to go to could have bene avoided.

“These bylaws should have been revealed to me straightforward and at the very beginning of the application process,” Lum said. “The result was my scrambling to find a more affordable venue and other alternatives, which compromised the tradition of Ho’ike.” While the Superfund committee was “very supportive of our program and very helpful,” she added, “their lack of communication and clarity almost led to no Ho’ike this year.”

However, ultimately all the scrambling, the struggle, and the stress paid off. And, after all, this effort and perseverance is part of the tradition. Ho’ike can also be translated as “a test or examination,” said Lum. “Our dancers have been training for the whole year, learning different facets of the Hawaiian tradition, attending  our weekly workshops, performing what they’ve learned for the larger community– and so it is fitting that the culminating event should be a test to the dancers’ selves and their mentors that they are prepared enough to not only learn hula but also pass their knowledge to someone else by performing it.”

The main goal that Huli Au sought to achieve, Lum said, was to show viewers a truer portrait of Hawaii. “Not many people know of the critical points of Hawaiian history– only that Hawaii is a beautiful place to vacation, surf, and retire. We hope to express to the audience the importance of looking beyond stereotypes and to understand the past in order to move forward,” she said.

This knowledge was imparted to the audience–mostly family members and friends–who showed their appreciation through applause. Visiting San Francisco State student Alexis Rivera, who came to the event with a friend of Waipa’s, said that until then she knew close to nothing about Hawaiian culture, and thus found Huli Au enlightening and entertaining.

“I liked it,” she said. “It was beautiful, how they did interpretive dance. I kind of want to learn the moves now.”

As Lum said, “It was a very inspiring performance [and a] very ambitious storyline.”

Huli Au was also an ambitious undertaking, and as such, Lum said that, like any show it could have been better. She personally felt that if she had stuck to being simply a coordinator, not a performer as well, the event would have been organized better.

Also, she said, “I feel that with one more day, our performance could be the closest to perfect. Unfortunately, we only had the morning of [the performance] to rehearse in the theater with the lights, sounds, and full cast and crew– all due to our limited funding,” she said. “Nevertheless, our dancers did very well, and the main thing is that they understood the story behind their dances. If you do not know what you are dancing about, then you should not be dancing it.”