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April 05, 2007 - Image 12

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2007-04-05

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4B - Thursday, April 5, 2007

{the b-side} The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

More than
dancing
SENIOR THESIS CONCERT COMBINES
CHARITY WITH ART

By CAITLIN COWAN
Daily Arts Writer
It seems as if many artists - even the
starving ones - want a piece of the pie. Be
it Mike Baldwin's "Will Work for Food"
cartoon series or the Cunninlynguists's
sublime underground
rap album Will Rap for Will Dance
Food. Six seniors in the
School of Music, The- fOr Food
ater and Dance will per- Today,
form their senior thesis tomorrow
concert "Will Dance for and Saturday
Food" tonight, tomor-
row and Saturday at the at 8 p.m.
Betty Pease Studio The- $5
ater, located inside the Atithe Betty Pease
Dance Building next to Studio Theater
the CCRB at 8 p.m.
The public perfor-
mance is a requirement for the bachelor's
of fine arts in dance degree. "We each had
to choreograph a solo, and we also choreo-
graphed a group work," concert participant
Natalie Griffith said. In addition to dance

elements, the dancers used a range of dif-
ferent multimedia components in some of
the solos, which feature projection videos,
photographs and music created by Univer-
sity students.
While planning their concert, Anna
Bratton said she and her fellow dancers
began to think of their graduation and
agreed the future of a dancer is unstable at
best.
"Dancers don't make any money. We
joked that we might have to dance just to
get food. And that was it! We decided to
call the show 'Will Dance for Food,' " she
said.
But for these dancers, a snappy title
wasn't enough. "We got the idea to make
it a service-oriented show," Griffith said.
They decided to take their dance concert
out of the realm of pure aesthetics and turn
it into a socially conscious art form. "We
thought we could take food donations,"
Bratton said.
The performance and the six young
women behind it have partnered with the
Ann Arbor Food Gatherers, a food rescue

4

Six Dance senior performa scene from their collaborative thesis project, "Will Dance For Food,"

program founded by Zingerman's Delica-
tessen in 1988 that supplies food to soup
kitchens, daycares and other institutions.
But instead of a monetary donation, the
dancers instead chose to donate another
commodity that's even more precious to
the Food Gatherers: food itself.
"We're asking the audience members to
bring canned goods or nonperishable food
to donate," Griffith said. The dancers have
used their publicity to solicit food dona-
tions from faculty, students, friends and
family this week, and hope their food drive
will culminate in a crowning moment at
the show this weekend.
While all the dancers in the show are

involved in the community, they've never
partnered with a local organization to
bring art and service together until now,
so the Food Gatherers were eager to work
with them.
"They seemed really excited about this,"
Bratton said. "They dropped off three big
barrels for us to fill up with food. And I
hope we can fill them, and maybe more."
The dancers have chosen to use the event
to solicit food donations, but the show itself
isn't concerned with food or eating. "It's a
really diverse show," Griffith said. "There
are hip-hop elements, jazz, modern dance,
ballet movements and lots of variety in
music styles."

Each dancer will perform a themed solo
piece. "My solo is inspired by the Yoruba
culture in West Africa," Bratton said. "It
doesn't really mimic the movement of the
Yoruba people but it uses their ideas on art
and life."
Nicole Jamieson's solo blends themes
of personal experience and weather to
create a piece in small sections with titles
like "Severe Thunderstorm" and "Partially
Cloudy With a Chance of Rain."
The dancers believe activist art is espe-
cially relevant to the world today. "Art for
art's sake is one thing," Jamieson said, "but
art that betters the world and the commu-
nity is even better."

TASSI
From page 1B
that shark-like grin of his.
Robert DeNiro, since playing
a young Vito Corleone in "The
Godfather Part II," has contin-
ued his mobster parade in new
classics like "Goodfellas," "Casi-
no" and "Analyze This." Both of
them could retire from acting
forever right now and still be
remembered for giving some of
the best onscreen performances
in history, but they soldier on,
bringing their old school work
ethic to each new project. Our
young actors stand to learn a
thing or two from them.
Out of our "new school" of
actors, who will be remem-
bered? I don't mean whose
names will we still recognize
when we get older. I mean
whose names will our children
recognize, who will be born
years after these actors were at
their peak? As sad as I am to say
it, I'll probably remember who
Ben Affleck is my entire life,
and I know I'll never forget Vin

Diesel. Over time, both will fade
from the public's memory.
Will my kid know who John-
ny Depp is? Hopefully. Orlando
Bloom? Hopefully not.
I can see the future: My teen-
age son stares at me skeptically
as I tell him Keira Knightley
used to be hot, and instead he
points to the posters on his
wall of Shiloh Jolie-Pitt and
Suri Cruise, nodding his head.
My daughter flips through the
Oscar issue of People magazine
where a silver-haired Leonardo
DiCaprio finally wins his first
statue after being nominated
13 times. I gather them up for
family movie night, and natu-
rally, we have a library of clas-
sics that I've schooled them in.
My son yells "Die Hard" and my'
daughter pleads for "Titanic."
We settle on the most timeless
love story and action film of my
generation, "Top Gun." Some
things just have to live forever.
- Actually, Tassi already
has a couple of kids: Topper
Harley and Neo. E-mail him
at tassi umich.edu.

RAMAYANA: its own x
story in a different place

Disagree? Agree?
Can you defend yourself?
Come on over and grab an application.
413 E. Huron St.

From page 1B
pretation with the aforementioned
artistic modifications, performed
in Indonesian (English for Sunday's
performance) and less than two
hours long.
The husband-and-wife team
of Soegito and Yulisa Mastati are
the creative minds featured in this
year's performance. Both gradu-
ates of STSI Surakarta, the most
highly regarded institute for the
arts in Indonesia, Soegito and Mas-
tati have spent the last two years at
the University teaching puppetry
and Javanese dance classes respec-
tively.
Mastati dances professionally in
Indonesia, having studied the tra-
ditional form since she was eight
years old, and Soegito has also
been invested in his specialty since
childhood.
While there have been other
wayang kulit performances in the
U.S., this will be the first combined
gamelan/dance interpretation of
the Ramayana, Kimura said. Last
year the group did a wayang sando-
sa production of the Mahabharata.
Although the University has
hosted visiting Southeast Asian
artists each year for the last sev-
eral years, Soegito emphasized the
importance of appreciating what
they have to offer now as it's not
always guaranteed that the Uni-
versity will have the opportunity
- or funding - to invite guest art-
ists.
"We are so proud and so lucky
because we had a good opportuni-
ty to introduce (our) culture, and
I hope the Javanese programs like
puppetry or dance can continue
at the University of Michigan,"
Soegito said. "I think it's good for
American students."
Another decidedly different
take on the classic Sanskrit epic
is the multimedia performance
piece Pornrat Damhrung's Thai
theater class has been working on
this past semester. "Seeda, Tell
Our Stories" focuses on the Sita
character's point of view instead

of the hero Rama's. Two years ago,
Damhrung put together a similar
production, "Sita: Sri Rama?" The
piece asked whether Sita serves
only the honor of Rama, or if she
deserves to be a richer, more com-
plex character. But Damhrung will
readily tell you she is not the first to
take on what some would deem a
feminist take on the Ramayana.
"Even in the history (of) India
itself, there's a lot of stories about
her," she said, "women writing
about her in particular local com-
munities - they have songs dedi-
cated to her and her life."
The character of Sita remains
especially interesting because she's
seen as the ideal woman in many
societies where the Ramayana
spread. Portrayals of Sita in Thai-
land usually marked her as a quiet
character, faithful and waiting to be
saved by her valiant husband. But in
Thailand there are also many folk
stories illustrating the sheer power
of women. Stories with female war-
riors and fighters, wise and knowl-
edgeable women, great travelers
and even tricksters, instead of sim-
ply, as Damhrung said, "being quiet
and being the good supporter, the
good wife."
"Those types of things made me
interested in why Sita in classi-
cal literature has become an ideal
image of women, an ideal image for
society to teach how girls behave
- because there are other ways to
believe aswell," she said.
Thus, Damhrung's project
became not just a Sita-centric ver-
sion of a legendary tale, but a social
commentary.
"I had to look beyond Thailand:
'OK, this is not just Thai problems,
it is everywhere in South Asia and
Southeast Asia,' "she said.
In contrast to the more modern-
ized interpretations of the Ramaya-
na by the dance/gamelan-ensemble
and Damhrung's Sita-centric the-
ater piece, Sreyashi Dey will lead
her dance company, Srishti Dances
of India, in a more traditional per-
formance - Odissi.
"(Odissi) is visiually very strik-
ing - there's a lot of very elaborate
hand gestures and facial expres-
sions, very fast footwork," Dey said.
"It's a very expressive form of dance
... a combination of graceful and soft
and strong movements.
-- -'- -'pe rAaln ha - -

TOP: Soegito instructs the actors. ABOVE: Gamelan players rehearse a gongan

MIDNIGHI MOVIES
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JEAN RENO NATALIE PORTMAN
THE PROFESSIONAL
SATURDAY, APRIL 7 @ MIDNIGHT
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terized by elaborate, brightly col-
ored silk costumes, said Dey, who
performs across the United States
and India. Before relocating to Ann
Arbor, she recently taught Indian
classical dance at Carnegie Mellon
University.
Dey's performances on April
13th and 14th will correspond with
the Thai performances. Before Dey
and her company tell Rama's epic
through classical movement, there
will be an invocation to the gods.
With performances this coming
Sunday and the followingweekend,
the Indian, Thai and Indonesian
versions of the Ramayana are "all
a combined effort ... to ensure the
diversity of the Ramayana across
Asia," Dey said.
Originating in India sometime
between 500 and 100 B.C., the
Ramayana spread throughout Asia,
and different traditions and ver-
sions of the story sprung up over
the last two and a half millen-
nia. The Thai version is called the
Ramakien and its faithful wife is
Seeda instead of Sita; that version's
Kh' a rn -- i ba -- -- crr n

the Reamkr. In some interpreta-
tions, Sita dies or is cast off to a dif-
ferent land at the epic's conclusion,
and in others she asks the earth to
swallowher whole.
"I think people will be able to
see the similarities and differences
(between the performances)," Dey
said. "The source is in India and
(the story) traveled to these other
countries - (the audience) will be
able to see the regional differences
in these other performances."
Sullivan echoed Dey's comments.
Hesaidthepointis toshowthe mul-
tiplicity and diversity of the Rama-
yana but also show that they're all
part of the same story.
"(The Ramayana) has all these
variations ... sort of an example
of early globalization," Sullivan
said. Just as different goods spread
through Asia via trade, the Rama-
yana traveled and evolved through
storytelling. "(The versions) take
on their own meaning. They have
their own cultural identity in (each)
space," he added. "Even though it's
all related it's still recognizable as
its own story in a different place."

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