The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Ariel Abonizio (Page 1 of 3)

The Spring Dance Concert Puts Forth an Incredible Program

It was Friday 7:30 p.m. after a long week and I could not wait to see the performers lineup at the 2018 Spring Dance Concert. I have attended most if not all of the large dance concerts at Bates since I arrived in 2016. The broad range of performances and styles never ceases to surprise me. I often see the dance concerts as the frontline of celebrations of student achievement, along with the Mount David Summit and the Arts Crawl. The 2018 Spring Dance Concert is a great example. In this concert, dance didn’t strike me as an end-point as much as it is a method for student research. All of the pieces were well grounded in the history of dance and movement as well as on contemporary discussions on culture and identity. One can see student achievement particularly in the senior theses choreographed by Sofia Elbadawi ’18 and Jorge Piccole ’18. These artists have come a long way in their Bates career. In their unique styles and discussions of culture on their own terms, both Piccole and Elbadawi’s choreography revealed the power of critical minds using movement to create and communicate complex ideas.

The 2018 Spring Dance Concert was divided in two programs, Program A and Program B. Program A started with “El Oh Vi Ee,” choreographed by Elbadawi in collaboration with dancers. The piece reflected much about social norms and personal feelings surrounding love today. The use of repetition was particularly interesting and complex during this piece in which even the saying of one letter could take on many different meanings depending on body language, movement, and intonation. It seems to me that Elbadawi perfectly balanced pedestrian movement in the piece, which was simultaneously intriguing and hilarious.

In sequence, “Shape the Groove” choreographed by Danielle Ward ’20 explored movement with a nice attunement to rhythm over the song Ghostwriter by RJD2. “Tell Me Again,” choreographed by Libby Wellington ’20 also intrigued with three very talented dancers on stage. Helen Carr ’21, Shae Gwydir ’20, and Dawrin Silfa ’21 conveyed a range of different moods with incredible clarity. Together, “Shape the Groove” and “Tell Me Again” interested me as formal explorations of movement. Following them, “Jezebel Dagger,” choreographed by Samuel Hersh ’18 put forth something that was more familiar to me. The performance used downstage light to project the performers’ shadows against a white screen, which created a powerful effect. The classy costume design and the simulacra effect of the shadows immersed me immediately in this piece.

“Connection Beneath, Colored the Same Within,” choreographed by Mickai Mercer ’19 presented a dance piece about skin and its connotations. Following the juxtaposition characteristic of postmodern dance, Mercer overlapped movement and voice to put forth concerns about skin, this entity that lives somewhere between the realm of biology and social life. “As It Is,” by Sara Hollenberg ’19 followed up with a performance that seemed at first deceptively simple, but then revealed technical complexity. The use of retrograde and the clarity of movement stuck with me. Another great performance followed: “Between Dinner and a Show,” choreographed by Shae Gwydir ’20. I found this piece particularly humorous and intriguing. The playful use of sharply performed pedestrian movement made of this piece one of my highlights of the night.

Closing the broad range of performances on Program A, “What Are We Dancing To” will stay on my mind for some time. Choreographed by Piccole, this piece focused on the social world that comes along with hip hop. The performance combined audio recordings with music. Seeing the dancers’ hip hop moves while listening to a person talking about authenticity escapes my power of description: it was powerful and intelligently arranged. Caleb Perlman ’19, one of Piccole’s dancers, talked to me about the piece a bit and told me that it is “both personal and universal in its message,” which is a great way to put it. In this brilliantly choreographed performance, one is reminded that dance exist in a complex cultural and social world that is worth consideration.

Having seen only Program A, I cannot wait to see Program B. Program B has four other intellectually engaging pieces; with a total of 12 unique choreographers, the 2018 Spring Dance Concert is an incredible burst of creativity and research.

Drew Murdock ’21 performs. JAMES MACDONALD/THE BATES STUDENT

“Dear Mom,” Portrays a Hidden Side of Bates

 

 

It was an honor for me to get to talk to Chaesong Kim ’18 about her senior thesis performance, 엄마, (“Dear Mom,”). I could already tell that her show would be surprising, and I could not wait to peek behind the curtains of Gannett Theater last Thursday, March 22. I got the chance to talk with Kim a few hours before the performance premiered, and both she and I were thrilled. I have always admired Kim’s ability to patiently explain the most complex ideas and concepts in the simplest ways; in talking about 엄마, (“Dear Mom,”) with me, Kim went above and beyond. The show, which is a letter to Kim’s mother, explored Kim’s personal story and trajectory at Bates with a particular emphasis on her identity politics and South Korean identity. Kim, who wrote and directed the show, crafted a method and process to communicate with her mother and gain agency over her personal story.

The performance was complex. Stories about Bates, identity, violence, Kim’s mother, and social activism, all mixed together in a dazzling combo of narratives. I was particularly interested in Kim’s representation of the daily micro-aggressions that international students suffer every day at Bates, from misconceptions to exoticization. While Kim represented her own experiences, the violence of the performance was very close to home for me as a Brazilian student who had just had the displeasure of hearing that “Latin America is a weird, cool place.” In the performance, Kim asks “What is that supposed to mean?” and I asked the same question countless times over and over again. While Kim’s performance is deeply her own, the personal quickly becomes political. Kim told me in interview that she took her performance as a research process to delve into questions such as “Who gets to be canon? And who gets to own what rhetoric?” Kim tackled stories that need to be heard, from a representation of a mother-daughter relationship to the history of late 1980s social activism in South Korea. Even though Kim’s performance portrays fragments of her personal experience as a South Korean woman studying at a liberal arts college, there was a collective dimension to it for me.

The performance was selectively bilingual; sometimes Kim would speak in English and sometimes in Korean. Subtitles appeared on and off and gave a poetic atmosphere to what seemed to be a very literal script. The videos, animations, lighting, and sound also added another dimension to the otherwise raw stories. I felt like both an insider and an outsider simultaneously in an interesting way; the performance was both too close and too far away from home for me. A few things were hard for me to grasp, such as what the relationship between Kim and her mother is, the details of the June Democracy Movement in South Korea, and the symbolism of 당산나무 (Dang-san Tree). Other times, the performance was relatable and shocking to me.

Kim is aware that her senior thesis is a one-of-a-kind, and there haven’t been many other works like that at Bates before, if any at all. “It is amazing the amount of support that I got . . . but it was definitely something new that some people had trepidation about,” Kim told me in explaining how the multimedia and multidisciplinary piece came together through empathy and good hearts. Innovation comes with challenges. Kim told me that there were times in which she questioned herself in creating this: “Would people be interested in this? . . . People are not interested in this. They want to hear Shakespeare. Who would want to hear a woman of color, super young, doesn’t speak all that fluently, not hugely talented technician in any field?”

Kim is particularly brave in undertaking the heavy performance as a letter to her mother. In the interview, Kim told me that at her last dress rehearsal, her mother was present virtually via Skype. “It was a surreal experience. . . She was bawling her eyes out; I was bawling my eyes out,” Kim described, after telling me that the performance was a surprise to her mother.

Kim combined many complicated issues in this piece. Discussing empathy, violence, and personal relationships is no easy task. Arranging that in two languages, different artistic mediums, and academic vocabulary is more than challenging. Transforming that into a collaborative endeavor and into a letter seems unimaginable. I look forward to seeing this piece go forward – as Kim tells me, “this is not an end-point.”

 

 

 

Photography Scholar and Artist Gu Zheung Visits Bates

On Friday, March 2, Bates was honored to host Chinese photography scholar and practitioner Gu Zheng as he gave an informal talk the Bates Museum of Art. In the Synergy Space, in the lower floor of the museum, Professor Gu introduced the audience to ten of his black and white photographs from the Shanghai Series (2004) that are owned by the Bates Museum. The photos were stunning and also stunningly simple, combining street photography with a sensitive leaning towards surrealism. One of my favorites was a well-composed shot of a person riding a horse in front of KFC; although simple, there was an ordinary magic in that atmosphere that escapes language and engaged me as a viewer. In their own individual ways, the prints portrayed the everyday breaking with the ordinary that marks much of street life. Professor Gu seemed to be very pleased to revisit some of his works as if he had not seen a couple of them in a while. With modesty and a light sense of humor, Professor Gu shed some light on his works as well as on documentary photography more broadly.

Gu Zheng is a Professor at Fudan University’s School of Journalism, Vice-Director of the Research Center for the University, and a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University. His scholarly practice is around the history of Chinese photography and 20th-century avant-garde. He is the leading academic on Chinese documentary photography and also a well-known street photographer. In the late 1990s and in the 2000s, Chinese contemporary art became more present in the American art scene. Following this emerging interest, in 2004, Gu Zheng curated the exhibition Documenting China: Contemporary Photography and Social Change at the Bates College Museum of Art. The exhibition portrayed glimpses of the incredible economic growth that happened in China after 1978 through the eyes of seven contemporary Chinese photographers. According to the catalog essay by Professor Gu, “the exhibition is intended to illustrate changes in Chinese society to an American audience.”

Professor Gu mentioned that the fast-paced social changes that were happening across China correlated with the growth of documentary and street photography in China. The appealing nature of photography as documentation was appealing to artists trying to record both social change while simultaneously recording their own view of the world. In the informal talk, I asked Professor Gu if there were any elements that were distinctive of Chinese documentary photography in relation to its American counterpart. While he had mentioned that American and Chinese documentary photography have been mutually influencing each other, he said that if there was such distinctiveness it would appear from the nature of the changes in Chinese society or from the reactions artists have to these changes. Assistant Professor of Asian Studies Mia Yinxing Liu, whose expertise is also in Chinese contemporary art, promptly mentioned that one should avoid essentialism in interpreting the photographs – an extremely relevant consideration.

Today, the Bates College Museum of Art has a strong collection of Chinese contemporary photography. The collection has been growing fast over the last couple of decades. Before joining our college as the Director of the Bates Museum of Art and Lecturer in the Humanities, Dan Mills co-curated a groundbreaking exhibition named Regeneration: Contemporary Chinese Art from China and the U.S (2003-06). Informally, Mills told me that this was most likely the first Chinese Contemporary Art show to travel around the country. Now as the Director of our museum, Mills seems interested in continuing to develop the collection.

During the informal talk, Bates Museum of Art Curator William Low estimated that we have around 120 Chinese documentary photography prints! These works of art are fantastic primary source documents and a great resource for students; we can contact the museum and get access to the collection for free. I hope that future Batesies are able to take advantage of the wealth of international art located right on our campus as well as the artists and curators we host. I know I look forward to the next Gallery Talk in Olin, and hope to see many of you there!

 

Arts Crawl Features a Year of Creativity

The Arts Crawl is one of my favorite events at Bates. The campus-wide celebration of creativity and arts happens once a year and represents the daily work of amazing students, faculty, and staff. After being fascinated with the Arts Crawl in 2017, I had the opportunity to join the Bates Arts Collaborative, who are the ones responsible for organizing the event every year. The Collaborative, co-chaired by Lecturer in Education Bronwyn Sale and Associate Professor of Dance, Rachel Boggia, is responsible for representing the performing, literary, and visual arts at Bates. We advocate for and organize the arts programming, making sure it fits the community as best as possible.

This year, the Arts Crawl was spread across three different locations: Olin, Commons, and Chase Hall. In Olin, there was a series of events. There were open-studios for those who are interested in seeing the amazing work in progress of senior Arts & Visual Culture students. There were also student pottery sales, student classwork showings, and an incredible animation screening with live performance. In the Fireplace Lounge, a number of A Cappella groups entertained the community. In Chase Hall, there was an otherworldly installation in Skelton Lounge: literary readings, theatrical excerpts, dance, and musical performances. “It is an opportunity for the Bates and LA communities to see and experience the results of the hard work and intense discipline that students put into their artistic practices,” Professor Sale writes. With three hours of programming, there was something for everyone.

There were a few new events in Arts Crawl 2018. The Video I and Animation I classes, taught by Assistant Professor Carolina Gonzalez Valencia, are relatively new additions to the Arts and Visual Culture Department at Bates. For the first time, there were video and animation screenings in the Arts Crawl – the animation screening, together with live performance, was a powerful display of students’ dedication, passion, and creativity.

The screenings were not the only novelty; Visiting Assistant Professor Julie Fox organized a “flash-mob-like” event traveling from Olin to Chase Hall. Professor Fox restaged a dance parade called NELKEN-Line, by famous dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch. The composition was originally part of a larger project called “Carnations.” With a simple score of four movements that mimic the seasons, the NELKEN-Line is an elegant and accessible dance event that the Pina Bausch Foundation has made available for people across the globe to restage. Amateur and professional dancers alike have restaged the NELKEN-Line in the past, submitting recordings to the Pina Bausch Foundation.

Another intriguing event this year was the immersive installation in Skelton Lounge, created by Emily Jolkovsky ’18. The piece, named “Heavy on Air,” invites the audience to walk around clouds, fog, and lights. Handmade “clouds” made of stuffing hang from the ceiling, ascending from one side of the room to another. A fog machine blurs real clouds with the fake clouds. A number of lamps are spread across the lounge, increasing the sense of an elusive, ephemeral atmosphere. Students were simply mesmerized, myself included. The interactivity of the piece allowed people to play with clouds in a space that requested no specific action of them but their presence. Even though the arts have a limited physical space available on campus, I heard a number of requests for more works of this kind during the academic year.

If there is one thing that I take from the Arts Crawl this year, it is that our community is full of life and creativity. For students, professors, and staff alike, the Arts Crawl is the moment to see all the arts and artists come together at once. Professor Boggia writes: “One of my favorite things about Arts Crawl is that I never fail to learn something new about one of my students. I had one student in several dance classes and thought I knew him quite well. When I heard him sing at Arts Crawl, I was absolutely floored. It was a side of him that had been invisible to me until that moment.” I second Boggia’s words, as I was, and still am, surprised by the incredible breadth and depth of the arts that live right here on our campus. For me, this summarizes the Arts Crawl – Bates is a community of incredibly talented people.

 

Bates Nights: Students Steal the Scene

It was a cold Thursday night at Bates College. After Tall Heights was done playing in the Village Club Series, I strolled around academic buildings looking for something, anything that would keep me busy. I was just too awake to bear with the silence of the campus. It was then that I heard some squeaking, grunts, and screaming coming from Chase Hall, and I knew this could only mean one of two things: either someone urgently needed help, or the karaoke night had started. Cider and singing for all ages and musical tastes were the prospect of the night

I had to mobilize the forces quickly. It was around 10:30 p.m. and, knowing Bates, I knew it wouldn’t take long for people to disperse. My younger friends didn’t seem very excited for sober and well-lit karaoke; I managed to convince a couple of 21-year-old sophomores to keep me company.

At the door of the Little Room, security looked at my earnest, cold sober, solemn, steady friend Abraham Brownell ’20 and said: “I bet you’re outta here within ten minutes after the hard cider is done.”

“Nahhhhh,” I replied respectfully for my pal. I thought to myself that maybe they got it right. Alcohol is not a requirement for fun . . . what really worried me was the lighting and the absence of greasy food (looking at you, mozz sticks). There are places in my heart that a full plate of cookies and hot cider cannot reach.

“Mild inebriation merged with amateur vocalizations to create an atmosphere utterly unique to Thursday night college karaoke” is how Brownell described the scene. “Hopefully that’s not too pretentious,” he added. After the first hard cider or so, Brownell and I agreed that we could not really listen to the full gamut of impressive human noises that were being projected in the Little Room. My friend got up to help the organizers make sure that the technical quality was top notch. “Clipping was the problem, proper gain staging the solution,” Brownell told me later. He did deserve accolades but the music nerds were mostly absent at the moment.

The night saw some impressive performances, starting with “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” the 1998 song from Mulan, and through with country classics and Miley Cyrus. The heartfelt interpretation of Tim McGraw’s song “Live like You’re Dying” was absolutely hilarious – Anna Roy ’18 and Hannah Slattery ’18 rocked it. “The crowd was singing even louder than us at some point,” Slattery told me. The awkward empty space in the mid of the room was slowly being filled with people, and, by 11 p.m., the Little Room was well attended. “Everyone really enjoyed the new additions to the Little Room,” Slattery mentioned, referring to the pool and ping pong tables that were across the door from the karaoke.

The hard cider ended not all that long after our arrival, almost as if the administration was aware that the following day, Friday, would be a busy day for some students. My friends and I did leave shortly after, but for other reasons.

Cider and Singing: Winter Carnival was a Bates-sponsored event, part of a larger commitment by the college to improve the quality of social life on-campus. By providing the space, supervision, food, and, occasionally, alcoholic beverages for students over 21, the college has been providing students an extra chance to gather and have fun.

 

Midnight Meow and VCS Spark New Era

This past Thursday, I found myself drinking chai and waiting for a new performance in the Benjamin E. Mays Center. As it has been for the past number of years, VCS was consistent – at 9 p.m. of Thursday, January 18, the audience welcomed two violinists with applause. Midnight Meow started their performance strong, with “We’re Going to Be Friends” by the White Stripes. The violinists Jonathan Chan and Jan Bislin mixed the picking and bowing of the strings and created a textural interpretation of the slow-paced, sweet song. I expected the night to go on to be a simple but delicate acoustic interpretation of classic songs punctuated by sips of my warm beverage.

This was not always the case; in between songs the duo was quite awkward. They talked about travelling and their hotel and about how, after the White Stripes song, we were already friends, but nothing that really hooked my attention. “Do they even know each other?” Sydney Anderson ’20 whispered to me when the performers started to stumble over each other. At first, their lack of coordination between songs was funny, but became less so over time. They shared their social media tags and whatever once towards the beginning of their set and then some six other times over the course of the night (@midnightmeowofficial for Instagram, if you were wondering).

The second interpretation by the duo was “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley. Much like the first song, the performers started softly and progressively eased their way into a lively crescendo. “They are good!” Khouloud Gargouri, French and Francophone Studies Teaching Assistant, told me while we refilled our cups of chai.

The duo’s interpretation of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” once sung by Nancy Sinatra was particularly interesting, since the duo played it all in one violin. There was a playfulness in seeing four hands and two bows moving through the tiny instrument. Towards the end of the night, Midnight Meow performed a quick improvisation piece based on audience suggestions: love and breakups. Gargouri mentioned that this part specially stuck out to her, “They make us part of their experimentation,” she told me after the show was over. “You feel the story in the way they play with each part of their body,” Gargouri emphasized the authenticity of live performances. I personally thought that part was a bit forced but interesting nevertheless.

I am a fan of VCS; everyone knows what is and when it is. While some performances are undeniably more memorable than others, I think VCS is one of the most reliable social events at Bates. Assistant Director of Campus Life Nick Dressler, direct advisor of the Village Club Series Crew, is constantly seeking to make it better for students. In regard to VCS, he said, “it was very clear to me that it was an important part of the student experience, part of the cultural fabric of the college.”

VCS has a long history and this year is its 25th anniversary, which means a quarter of a century of performances and student participation. I couldn’t help but wonder what VCS would be like in the years to come. Dressler shared with me that, when he arrived, it stood out to him that the most common performances at VCS were by folk artists. “Having only been at the college for 1.5 years, it’s hard to say what VCS will look like for the next 25… But I can tell you what to expect while I’m at Bates: variety,” he clarified, when I asked him about the future of the series. “It is my belief that VCS should embody the mission of the college by exposing attendees to performers from ​as many backgrounds and walks of life as possible;​ a diverse array of genres, and ​different kinds of performance types,” said Dressler.

Midnight Meow was not my favorite group, but I always appreciate live performances and the intimate space of VCS. I am genuinely excited to see other art forms and performers join the stage and share their stories with the Bates community. I also look forward to seeing more of the incredible performances I’ve seen in the past. Dressler confirms, “For those who are reading this who are avid VCS attendees: don’t be fearful of change – we’re still going to have our ‘regulars’ – in fact, Tall Heights is coming this week on the 25th!”

Suggestions to VCS can be submitted at bates.edu/vcs.

Jonathan Chan and Jan Bislin play the song “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” by Nancy Sinatra, on one violin. JAMES MACDONALD/THE BATES STUDENT

 

Black Mirror Underwhelms with New Season

I have been a fan of Black Mirror since it was released in 2011. I was attracted to the prospect of having a sci-fi TV show that is not in the distance, but a viable, potential future. In previous seasons, Black Mirror did an impressive job in scripting believable and emotionally-charged scenarios that lie in the margins of our techno-culture. I was always particularly fascinated with Black Mirror’s capacity to imagine a “what if” question and take it to its limits. Dealing with larger issues of memory, identity, consciousness, and virtuality, Black Mirror is a source of refined terror, entertainment, and contemporary fiction. While the show is still remarkable and worth watching, the new season was disappointing to me. The acting and production are still spot on, but the writing was a step down; new episodes reenact ideas from past episodes and extensively play with bleak cinematic clichés.

If we look at digital technologies today, it becomes clear why Black Mirror is critically suspenseful. Research in virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and bio-nanotechnology are on track to change how many of us understand our lives. However, as the tracks of progress seem everyday more elusive, the word ‘change’ cannot be seen as a synonym for improvement. Mimicking the unpredictability of contemporary technology and politics, Black Mirror shows a world that has the potential to be disembodied, dominated by robots, judgmental, fluid, and disconnected. That is a crucial element of Black Mirror, running throughout all of its seasons. But there was something more that made it special and engaging: the characters were believable enough to have me imagining my own life in a few years or decades. The show is particularly good at demonstrating how technology may soon impact how we date, investigate crimes, or engage in leisure activities.

Season 4 still has the signatures of Black Mirror: technological distress, excellent production, and good acting. However, only a couple of episodes really stand out. The characters have appeared to me less and less believable. In a few of the episodes from the new season, such as “Crocodile” and “Metalhead,” the characters struggle with underwhelming emotional clichés that made me question the technological anxiety that makes Black Mirror so conceptually interesting. The fake characters have me craving previous seasons’ episodes (“San Junipero” and “Be Right Back” come to mind). Even though Charlie Brooker wrote all the episodes, the excessive drama of Season 4 radically changes how the show looks, and a few critics have started wondering if this may be the beginning of the end for the show.

Luckily, “USS Callister” and “Hang the DJ” still portray the refined moral dilemmas that emerge along with technology. Maddy Smith ’20 mentioned “Hang the DJ” as one of the episodes from this season that marked them. “I really liked the plot in this one. It’s hard to tell if the characters are going along or rebelling against the system,” Smith told me. Sydney Anderson ’20 said that there was a good balance between uplifting and catastrophic episodes for the new season. “It was also cool how the new episodes referenced past seasons,” Anderson pointed out.

Black Mirror is a show worth watching. The new season is overly dramatic, but still entertaining and engaging, especially for people who are thrilled but frightened by the future of technology.

 

The Marcy Plavin Fall Dance Concert: An Homàge to Our Roots

Every year, the Fall Dance Concert provides a glimpse into the place of dance in our college. This year’s Marcy Plavin Fall Dance Concert demonstrated the importance of this combination, inviting the community to reflect on works that expand the boundaries of dance as a discipline. During the opening, the artistic director for the show, Associate Professor and Director of Dance Rachel Boggia mentioned that the pieces were inspired by questions that emerged during the ’70s and ’80s, when dancers and choreographers applied a new creative eye to the methods of dance. Dedicated to Marcy Plavin, the founder of the Dance Program at Bates, the six pieces in the show took me on an emotional rollercoaster.

“Seed Awakenings on The Eve of Blue (study 2)” by Marlies Yearby was an overload of information. The piece reflected on GMOs and food sources in contemporary society. The piece combined movement, text, and live music on stage. While the piece is visually complex, the messages displayed and sung were morally simplistic by condemning all processed, industrialized food. The complexity of the politics and the very privilege that surrounds the act of selectively eating did not come across in as much depth as I would have expected. Regardless, I am glad that the piece inspired discussions and conversations about the politics of food access across campus, revealing the importance of interdisciplinary modicums to discuss multifaceted issues.

  Son of Gone Fishin’ Restaging Project” by the Trisha Brown Company brought me a feeling of nostalgia. The piece had a blue color palette complemented the diverse movements relationships that emerged across the stage. I experienced this piece as a surfacing of connections that grew in complexity and then were drawn back to simplicity with a marvelously done retrograde. As a beginner dancer, seeing the retrograde section of the dance was an incredible experience – the technically challenging movement was nearly flawless, and I kept engaged by searching for the retrograde portions of the movement.

“Foray Forêt Restaging Project” by the Trisha Brown Dance Company, performed by Riley Hopkins ’18, was one of the highlights of my night. Hopkins danced this physically and intellectually challenging solo as the performance component for his senior thesis in Dance. “My thesis is exploring ‘performance as discovery’ as in discovering the logic of the movement while I’m actually doing it,” Hopkins explained. He also told me that the solo was made around the idea of fluidity and momentum, and their interruption.

On my notebook, the words “softness” and “sensibility” stand out. I had already seen Hopkins perform a number of times, but this piece was unlike any else that I had seen by him. “It was really interesting to learn because it wasn’t made for my body but I had to learn how to adapt to it and embody the movement for a live performance,” he told me. The solo, adapted from a similar piece in the late ’80s, carries some of the key characteristics of Trisha Brown’s postmodern choreography such as the emphasis on the creation process.

“Improvisation,” presented by the Dance 270I class, cracked up the audience multiple times. The confidence of the performers and variation in the movement are beautiful and surprising; the performance was different every night.

“Turning and Other Everyday Objects” by Vanessa Justice demonstrated a few key ideas of postmodern dance, such as everyday movement and abstraction of themes. During the piece, some performers broke the fourth wall and sat in front of the stage, completing everyday activities in slow motion. Other dancers performed a series of quick and visually complex movements, creating a juxtaposition between the upstage and downstage dance qualities. I interpreted everything in this piece as historic; Justice’s piece deftly demonstrated the postmodern movement of the ’70s and ’80s.

“Passing” by Rachel Boggia and Carol Dilley was a thoughtful ending to the concert. Specifically dedicated to Plavin, this piece involves dancers imitating the portrait of Plavin outside the dance studio in Merrill gymnasium. The packed stage full of performers and colors created unique geometric shapes that entwined emotion and movement together. Sometimes, dance conveys messages that would have been impossible to express with words; only those who saw the fluidity of the performers’ movements and their relationship with time can understand the significance of “Passing.”

The combination of critical thinking, dance history, and movement was powerfully present at the Marcy Plavin Fall Dance Concert; it was a fitting homàge to the woman who created the Bates College dance program.

Diary of a Madman: From 1835 to 2017

Diary of a Madman was a show to remember. The performance happened from Thursday, November 9 through Tuesday, November 14 in the Black Box Theater; I was afraid tickets would be sold out completely, but I managed to sign my name for Saturday’s show waitlist. Prior to watching the thought-provoking show, I had already interviewed Nate Stephenson ’18; I knew what to expect. Having watched a couple other pieces of acting by Stephenson, I was sure the acting component of his senior thesis for the Theater Department would be phenomenal. Senior Lecturer in Theater Katalin Vecsey adapted and directed this show based on Nicolai Gogol’s short story from 1835, which bears the same iconic name, “Diary of a Madman.” As I walked in this one-man show, a pair of words from Stephenson’s previous interview echoed in my head: “visceral emotions.”

The original story portrays a working person that is driven insane. He works sharpening pencils in an office but has delusions of grandeur and ambition. After falling in love with his boss’s daughter, he goes progressively insane and ends up in an institution, believing he is the rightful heir to the Spanish throne. As one can imagine, the writing, in diary-like format, is emotionally intense with unique character development. In the adaptation to theater, Stephenson plays “Everyman,” the only, though nameless, character physically in the show.

“It starts off with a guy that is pretty normal; he is a little odd, […] but by the end of it he is a broken human being,” he summarized. Adapted to the 21st century, Stephenson is surrounded by 18 monitors that show dates, text, and images that bombard the audience with an extra input of information. On interview, Stephenson commented on the great timing of the show. With the recent political developments of the Catalonian movement for secession, Diary of a Madman was able to use real headlines on the monitors to bring the story to life. Adding further relevance to today’s world, the dates mentioned in the original story, such as Wednesday, October 4, happened to fall on Wednesday this year.

Stephenson spent 6 weeks in Moscow over the summer of 2017 with the Moscow Art Theatre, an organization founded by renowned director and actor Konstantin Stanislavski. During his 42 days in Russia, Stephenson saw 34 shows. He has been engaged in this show since February, when Vecsey extended an invitation to collaborate on this piece. The whole team’s preparation and research was visible in the final product.

Stephenson’s acting is honestly fantastic, especially considering that he is alone on the stage for this hour-long show. Stephenson told me that having all the information for this one show without a partner to bounce off of was a long, but stimulating process. “Relating to the character personally was more difficult for me, because there really is no character. The idea is that something like this could happen to anyone,” Stephenson said. I was astonished to see his mastery; the lines, body score, and emotional intensity rise to what seems to be one of the most challenging pieces of acting I have seen at Bates.

Stephenson mentioned that this show is the closing of a cycle for him. “My first major role at Bates was as Mankind in this play called The Castle of Perseverance,” he mentioned citing the play from Winter Semester, 2015. Playing Everyman in his thesis performance, he finishes his theatrical tenure at Bates through again representing a universal condition.

It has been a pleasure for me to accompany, even if for only a couple of years, the development of Stephenson’s acting. For me, Diary of a Madman was a show of cycles, beautifully linking 1835 to 2017, and masterfully connecting an actor to his character.

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Stephenson bows afte his senior thesis performance. VICTORIA DOBBIN/THE BATES STUDENT

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Stephenson ’18 poses next to his poster. JAMES MACDONALD/THE BATES STUDENT

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Publicity poster for Diary of a Madman. JAMES MACDONALD/THE BATES STUDENT

Clinica de Migrantes and Politics: Filmaker Maxim Pozdorovkin Visits Bates

On Thursday, November 2, Bates hosted a screening of the documentary Clínica de Migrantes: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, by Maxim Pozdorovkin. The 39 minute film documented the routines of workers and patients of Puentes de Salud, a health care nonprofit organization for Latino immigrants. Beyond showing the daily workings of the clinic, Pozdorovkin peeks into the structural exclusion of undocumented immigrants from healthcare and labor rights.

The ideation of the documentary started around 3 years ago, with a possible Trump presidency slowly emerging in the horizon. The film shows a politically and emotionally charged reality that proposes a series of questions. After the screening, Pozdorovkin presented a few of his thoughts and concerns and answered questions from the audience.

Earlier that day, I had the chance to meet with Pozdorovkin in the Den along with other students interested in filmmaking. There, he explained the origin of Clínica de Migrantes. The filmmaker told us that he was contacted by HBO to investigate Puentes de Salud and see if there was a story for a documentary. Initially, Pozdorovkin was concerned that people would not be interested in having their medical appointments recorded, especially in the case of undocumented immigrants. There was a concern for the safety of the people as well as a consideration of the impact of a documentary on the clinic itself. After researching and talking to the patients and healthcare providers involved, Pozdorovkin determined that he could make a fruitful and non-invasive documentary, and he took on the project of recording the clinic.

According to the director, there was a sense of gratitude and visibility that people wanted to express. This humanity was apparent to other Bates students as well; “what stuck for me was how much the staff invested in their patients, not only in their health but in their lives,” Sydney Anderson ’20 stated.

I was personally fascinated by the ethical discussions that permeate representation and documentation. It can be challenging to portray the lack of basic rights without fetishizing pain and suffering; it seems to me that the filmmaker may have paid special attention to this question in the structuring of the documentary, which presents emotion as well as a critical understanding of American politics.

The timing of the documentary is striking. The fear of mass deportation with the Trump administration’s influence in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) puts the documentary into a new light. Pozdorovkin mentioned that Trump winning the election marked a change in the present American context of living. “It seemed prudent, especially during the current administration, to humanize the undocumented immigration issue,” Anderson mentioned.

In the Den, Pozdorovkin briefly mentioned a few of his other projects. One that stuck out to me was a short film called Our New President, which depicts the American President Donald Trump through the eyes of Russian media. The absurd situation of having a person such as Trump in power becomes even more surreal when presented alongside the fake news and state-controlled media outlets Pozdorovkin highlights in the short. The filmmaker seemed particularly excited about the lack of facts in the previously developed 12 minute short film; this short will expand into a feature-length production in the future.

Pozdorovkin mentioned the word “grotesque” to describe the state of Russian media presented in Our New President. He clarified that he used the word “grotesque” to mean a combination between the comic and the horrifying by blending what is funny and scary into one product. This definition presents a sense of bizarre hybridity that makes one uncomfortable with their own laughter regarding the current political situation.

If you could not attend the screening but would like to see the films, Clínica de Migrantes is available on HBO’s website and Our New President can be viewed on Vimeo. I strongly recommend viewing these two films; their honest portrayal of political issues in the US and abroad cannot be overstated.

 

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