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September 06, 2011 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-09-06

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10A - Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

iDA - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Where the big shows go
Exploring the University's on-campus
* performing arts scene
By Jacob Axelrad I Daily Community Culture Editor

Badass
ballerinas

Wynton Marsalis, Enrico
Caruso, Leonard Bernstein and
Yo-Yo Ma are only a few of the
many world-class artists who
have visited Ann Arbor over the
years, courtesy of the Univer-
sity Musical Society, one of the
nation's oldest and most pres-
tigious university presenting
organizations..
Each year audiences attend
shows of the highest caliber at
top Ann Arbor venues, including
Hill Auditorium, the Mendels-
sohn Theatre, Rackham Audito-
rium and the Power Center for
the Performing Arts. Accord-
ing to UMS president Kenneth
Fischer, these performances are
intertwined with the Universi-
ty's fundamental mission: teach-
ing, research and service.
"Research in my field means
playwrights, choreographers
and composers creating new
art," Fischer said. "Every time
those new works are performed
throughout the world they bear
the university logo on them."
As opposed to Michigan State
University's Wharton Center,
which is widely considered to
be the "Broadway house" of cen-
tral Michigan, the University
of Michigan does not generally
sponsor pop artists, rock shows
or comedians. But this was not

always the case.
"There have traditionally
been four presenters at the uni-
versity: UMS, the Major Events
Office, University Productions,
and the School of Music, Theatre
& Dance," Fischer said.
Founded in 1879 when four
local church choirs came togeth-
er to perform Handel's "Mes-
siah," UMS is an autonomous yet
University-affiliated non-profit
that rents campus facilities and
considers the University to be
its "best partner." UMS prides
itself on bringing the "town and
gown" together - exemplified
by norms such as the Berlin and
Vienna Symphony Orchestras,
the two great symphonies of the
world, making their way to Ann
Arbor on a regular basis.
Additionally, an unusually
large amount of artistic freedom
coupled with the collaboration
of over 70 academic departments
make for a premiere perfor-
mance destination with a twist:
The University's stages are not
just stop-off points for a touring
show. They're an extension of
the classroom.
"We always let the artists play
what they want to play, and they
love seeing young people and
students in the crowd," Fischer
said. "Scholars and students

Wynton Marsalis is one-of the noted artists who have been presented by UMS.

come together to make what's on
stage understandable."
From its partnership with the
Royal Shakespeare Company - a
series of residencies that includ-
ed classes and symposiums
geared at deepening audiences'
understanding of the plays - to
performances of contemporary
music of the Arab world, UMS
inhabits a large niche of the per-
forming arts. It is not, however,
one that caters to what Fischer
terms "bus and truck shows."
With UMS specializing in its
own brand of the performing
arts and University Productions
and the School of MT&D focus-
ing on student shows, it used to
fall to the Major Events Office

to produce large-scale commer-
cial concerts. For a long time,
this is just what it did. Accord-
ing to Fischer, the Major Events
Office brought Elton John, The
Grateful Dead and Bill Cosby to
Crisler Arena.
A combination of differing
objectives between the Universi-
ty and its East Lansing neighbor,
a lack of the necessary facilities
at the University and advance-
ments in Detroit created a situa-
tion in which the University was
unable to remain a feasible des-
tination for touring pop artists.
MSU emerged to fill thisvacuum.
"There are certainly program-
matic differences between what
See SHOWS, Page 12A

'Rip Tide' floats dreamily on
By Julia Smith-Eppsteiner C Daily Arts WriterA

n a recent midnight
excursion to Wal-Mart,
my friend and I found
ourselves wandering aimlessly
down the Home Goods aisle when
we were sud-
denly blinded
by an over-
whelming
explosion of
pink ribbons,
pink sequins
and pink
glitter. The LAUREN
preschool-age CASERTA
bedding set -
that was the
source of the ocular assault had
been plastered with seam-to-seam
images of cartoon ballerinas, each
accompanied by the phrase, "I'm a
Pretty Pretty Princess!"
"Either Wal-Mart just doesn't
care, or they honestly don't know
the difference between a princess
and a ballerina," I mused out loud.
"Probably a little of both," my
friend admitted as she examined
a tulle-covered lampshade. "But
aren't they essentially the same
thing at heart? I mean, a ballerina
is just a damsel in distress that
has to walk on her toes."
Her opinion is understandable.
Not many people have seen a bal-
let in person, and I've received
more than one sarcastic excuse
when I've asked people to tag
along to a show with me ("Sorry,
I left my top hat and monocle
at home.") Popular media and
advertising outlets tend to portray
ballet performances as snobby,
shallow and lighthearted romps
whose female characters have
been cobbled together from a
mixture of sunshine, glitter and
marshmallow fluff- not exactly
feminist role-model material.
Thankfully, the idea that
female dancers are trapped in bal-
let roles that frame them as naive
and submissive dolls is way off
target. In fact, even a quick glance
at some of history's most popular
shows proves that many female
characters not only defy common-
ly held gender stereotypes, but
also blatantly challenge society
and the supernatural while deal-
ing their enemies a (metaphori-
cal) kick in the tutu.
Just look at the heroine's cour-
age in "Giselle," one of the roman-
tic era's most popular ballets. It's
a typical story of boy meets girl,
except the boy eventually sur-
prises her with his aristocratic
lineage and she has heart failure.
She is then summoned from her
grave as a ghost by vengeful Slavic
spirits called Wilis. (Ever wonder
where the phrase "gives me the
willies" comes from? Now you
know.) Despite beinga zombie-
ghost, Giselle puts her foot down
and refuses to let the Wilis's
queen dance her ex-boyfriend to
death. She ends up holding off the
hoard of angry spirits alone for an
entire night, sending him safely
on his way at sunrise.
"Coppilia" features a protago-
nist whose cleverness ends up
saving her boyfriend's immortal
soul. Swanhilde is horrified when
she discovers the local life-sized
dollmaker has kidnapped and
drugged her fiancee so that his
life force can be used to power his
most beloved creation. Knowing

that ahead-on assault would be
useless against an evil wizard-
toymaker, she breaks into his shop
and secretlytakes the doll's place.
After completing an impres-
sively improvised dance routine
to convince the sorcerer that his
spell has succeeded, she winds
up every doll in the room and sets
them loose, allowing her to drag
her woozy beau to safety during
the ensuingchaos.
And that's just the start. Kitri
of "Don Quixote" follows her
heart and refuses the arranged
marriage her father desires.
The eponymous protagonist of
"Scheherazade" uses her wisdom
and creativity to weave the 1,001
stories thatkeep a murderous
king from killing her. A refreshing
departure from Disney's version,
Ashton's "Cinderella" takes place
in one chorus dancer's fairytale
daydream about becoming a
prima ballerina, which she later
makes a reality after exploring
her identity and proving to herself
that she was capable of the part
all along.
Of course, a few exceptions
do exist. The title of "Sleeping
Beauty" is self-explanatory and
the ballet makes no secretcof the
prince's desire to save the prin-
cess based solely on her attrac-
tively snoozing face. Modern
versions have even changed the
gift given by the fairy to the infant
princess from "an ear for music"
to "wisdom" in a halfhearted
attempt to give her character
some substance. I suppose it's the
thought that counts.
Sugar and spice
and not so nice.
But for every sleeping beauty,
there's a fiery Carmen - the
toughest character to ever wear
a tutu. Based off of her operatic
counterpart, Carmen is a gypsy
who (depending on which varia-
tion is performed) smokes cigars,
escapes from police custody and
even stabs another woman in the
face with a knife. Capricious and
free-spirited, this feminist will
allow no man to tie her down. Her
scandalous promiscuity through-
out the ballet highlights the
double standards associated with
female sexuality, and it comes as
no surprise that the independent
Carmen can only be subdued by
death when she is killed by one of
her jealous lovers.
Whether through the raw
power of a firebird or the well-
timed wit of a schoolgirl, ballet
has quietly fostered a stunning
cast of competent and courageous
women. Although obscurity and
popular culture often dilute them
down into bright and bubbly air-
heads, it would nevertheless be
unwise to underestimate abal-
lerina in character. Far from mere
damsels, these heroines have
bested fate, death and everything
in between - all while standing
on the tips of their toes.
Caserta is a damsel in distress.
To be her knight in shining armor,
e-mail caserta@umich.edu.

q
0

The nine-track listening
experience of Beirut's late sum-
mer, moderately anticipated
album is bet-
ter than the *
title The Rip
Tide suggests.
It's the ideal
album for a The Rip Tipe
train ride, or Pompeii Records
any ride, for
that matter.
Drive, allow thoughts to trail
off with the scenery or nod into
dreamland.
The simultaneously baby-faced
and sexy New Mexico native
Zachary Francis Condon has led
the six-person, rotating lineup to
worldwide alternative success for
the past six years. As The Rip Tide
keeps its leisurely distance from
the Eastern European, gypsy-
rooted sound of the band's debut
record, Gulag Orkestar, our ears
are left vaguely missing the spice
of past worldliness.
The Rip Tide is not the most
exciting album to peek its indie
crown out of the studio, as some
of the tracks can blend together
in a whirlwind of horns - but it's
still a complex and goosebump-
inducing product. Although
drawing less from his Balkan
influences and now nestling
somewhere into American pop,
Condon manages to generate a
sound that is undeniably his cre-
ation, and it's a simple beauty.
For his third LP, Condon has

complete recording rights of The
Rip Tide under Pompeii Records,
which he founded this year.
Lead single "East Harlem"
strikes at the album's reverent
cord. Aside from this expected
leader of the pack, "Goshen" and
title track "The Rip Tide" reach
a level of intimate, calming ear
candy like the best-flavored
Chamomile tea around.
"Santa Fe" lifts the album out
of its solemn persona. On this
refreshing track, with a beat
pleasantly easy to pick up on,
Beirut will set
listeners adrift,
but won't rock
the boat.
Condon's voice is deeply brewed
as he delivers, "Your days in one
/ This day undone / The kind
that breaks under / All day at
once / For me, for you / I'm just
too young." The tender lyrics of
"Santa Fe" abstractly relate to
the young man's experience in
his hometown.
In an interview with Time
Entertainment, the 25-year-old
Condon said, "As a teenager I felt
like everything I experienced
wasn't very relatable or exciting.

0
6
6

"Wait I thought you said ladies love the accordion?"

So I developed this sort of wan-
derlust as I tried to find my own
identity."
It seems he has always had
an aching to try on music from
other cultures, but on his junior
effort the sound is more self-
pronounced and impactful as
he breaks away from his world-
music-guy stereotype.
If there's one complaint about
The Rip Tide, it's that it's too

accessible. On tracks like "The
Peacock" and "A Candle's Fire,"
it is easy to passively accept the
instruments' sway. Risk has
been left untouched here.
Take The Rip Tide in with
welcoming arms as a staple food
to save for the storm, for when
you need that calming sanctu-
ary. But have no worries, Con-
don is still the same charming,
ukulele man-boy.

a 1 11 mm MMMFMPmmmmmllNML= I

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