The End of October: A Journalist Writes a Pandemic Thriller

Review of Lawrence Wright: Online presented by Seattle Arts and Lectures

Written by Teen Writer Yoon Lee and edited by Teen Editor Anya Shukla

End of October

There’s a certain existential dread that comes with reading pandemic stories, but compared to the other major book about massive, species-threatening diseases (World War Z), The End of October has a certain flair of dread: influenza. As I learned during Lawrence Wright: Online, a recent event at Seattle Arts and Lectures (SAL), the author has surprisingly firsthand knowledge of infectious diseases.

The flu is so common that the “usual” variants of the disease are seen as regular occurrences. As such, the impact of influenza is often lost on us. However, Lawrence Wright’s The End of October drives home the now all-too-familiar terror of a hidden killer that is transmitted through the very air we breathe; a danger that we cannot see.

The End of October documents an epidemiologist, Henry Parsons, as he scrambles to contain a newfound disease that has killed dozens in an Indonesian refugee camp. Deemed Kongoli flu, the disease rages through the camp and soon breaks out into Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in the midst of its three-million-strong pilgrimage—a nightmare for an epidemiologist hoping to contain a deadly disease. Now, stuck in Saudi Arabia, Henry has to figure out how to fight this epidemic as countries begin to go to war and the chances of his family’s survival in the US continue to wane.

Wright may seem an unlikely author of The End of October, as he has written extensively about politics and Al-Qaeda, both in books and as a journalist for the New York Times. However, he began his career in journalism by covering diseases.

“I think the hardest part of writing is where the ideas come from. Sometimes they take decades to become realized,” said Wright during the SAL event. “They all stem from being a young reporter in 1976, I was living in Atlanta, and that was where the Center for Disease Control was located. I did several stories out of there.”

One of the stories Wright followed as a reporter was the swine flu epidemic of 1976. At this time, many believed the disease to be a rebirth of the 1918 flu which had killed between 50 and 100 million people. “That experience was very meaningful to me. I would go over the Center for Disease Control, and the people I met there I thought were remarkable. Noble, in a way. They were intelligent, they were humble, they were brave, they would go to these hotspots that I wouldn’t be caught dead in,” Wright said. “It really made an impression.”

His roots in reporting on epidemiology are skillfully woven into The End of October. Almost every health official, epidemiologist, biologist, and researcher is portrayed as brave, intelligent, and humble, all traits that Wright evidently picked up on when reporting at the CDC 45 years ago. His experience as a political reporter is palpable. The fictional Kongoli flu first started in a refugee camp in Indonesia, a refugee camp largely made up of gay Muslims with HIV. In the novel, Henry automatically fears the political and religious outcry as conspiracy theorists begin honing in on these already oft-targeted communities. Additionally, the next major Kongoli outbreak is during a historic migration to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. Wright here excels through his experience in Middle Eastern politics and religion, navigating the significance of this event, as well as the nebulous workings of the Saudi Arabian government. He seems to make similar political commentary during the later conflict of the story, a fleshed-out portrayal of Russian cyberattacks and eventual worldwide bio-warfare. Wright covers these issues with intelligence and maturity.

I have two major complaints, however. Henry Parsons functions as a protagonist, but he exemplifies the stereotype of a good doctor with a horrible past. Other characters also lack development: almost all are either cartoonishly evil and uncaring or extremely humanist and sympathetic. (This excludes the characters that follow a subplot regarding Russian intervention in US affairs and their attempt to bring it into the public light by publishing it in a newspaper—once again, demonstrating Wright’s expertise in politics and journalism.) There are also a few, painfully-written sexual scenes. They aren’t long, at most a paragraph, but most could have easily been excluded without significant impact to the plot. These scenes often took me out of an otherwise serious and professional atmosphere.

The End of October is a bit lacking in the character department, but as documentation of a civilization-threatening disease, and the political gun-pointing that follows a deadly pandemic, is impeccably written and strikingly relevant to our current times.

Lawrence Wright: Online was presented by Seattle Arts and Lectures on February 9, 2021. To learn more about Lawrence Wright and The End of October click here.

Lead photo credit: Lawrence Wright author photo. Courtesy of Lawrence Wright website.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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You’ve Come To The Right Place

Review of A Thousand Ways (Part One): A Phone Call, presented by On the Boards

Written by Teen Writer Kyle Gerstel and edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson

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“I regard theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” - Oscar Wilde

My cellphone illuminates a face as I sit alone in my bedroom. With every answer to the AI bot’s line of prompts and questions, her figure strengthens. What is something you walk around with? A hand appears. Can you speak more on that? A limb. She sits on the carpet, rolled up in a ball. We gaze at one another, hypnotized by the strange sense of intimacy. This is more than interactive theater—it’s theatrical interaction.

When first given the opportunity to review A Thousand Ways (Part One): A Phone Call, I was slightly nervous—there’s a social stigma around experimental theater and I wasn’t sure if it would be too “artsy” for me to appreciate. At the beginning of my journey, an unsettling voice emerged, like a cross between Alexa and Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey: “You’ve come to the right place.” Had I?

That depends: did I wish to be challenged, touched, and transcended in space through the power of voice alone? In my interview with the creators of A Thousand Ways, Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone (known collectively as 600 Highwaymen), they expressed that the show was about “two people trying to imagine one another across this distance, but also about two people trying to create something together.” These ideas make the piece particularly resonant at this time of isolation without ever feeling nauseatingly relevant.

Questions, prompts, and bits of narrative are delivered by an AI bot to facilitate the conversation, establishing place and context in order to unlock less tangible details and create the possibility that audience members might be able to not only visualize each other, but gain a deeper understanding of their own character in the process.

I admit that it did feel awkward at the start, but as Silverstone said, “Awkwardness is useful—once you pass through it, you arrive at a place of poetics and comfort, you’ve accomplished something.” To engage in a shared experience at this time when there are so few was incredibly refreshing, even if it was with a stranger and an AI bot.

The show originated before the pandemic as a commissioned project for an art gallery regarding listening. “Oftentimes, we find that our first idea is not so great,” they told me, “and this idea of listening wasn’t so exciting. What was more exciting was the idea of making yourself visible and holding one another in the stillness and the darkness of this moment.” Thus, A Thousand Ways was born.

“It just started with me getting on a conference call with two people who didn’t know each other and asking them questions, giving them prompts,” Browde shared. “We would listen to how they responded, what gave people permission to expand upon things, and what sort of questions elicited reactions that we were interested in as makers. Sometimes it was the more pedestrian or simple things that felt the most meaningful.”

Silverstone added, “Early on, when we were working on this project, it always seemed like people were having a miserable time, and it took a while to get comfortable with the idea that they’re not miserable, they’re just having an experience, and even though they’re not performing enjoyment, that doesn’t mean they don’t like it.” Removing the “performance” aspect of performing arts made the experience even more provocative for me—I felt comfortable letting my guard down, which allowed me to fully participate in and enjoy the project.

Despite the immense vulnerability and active imagination required to fully participate in the piece, it’s both highly entertaining and rewarding to reflect upon. 600 Highwaymen achieved this by building the show on principles of gaming: “The audience is behaving in a way where there are incremental steps forward and a built vocabulary over time, always reaching for the thing right in front of you instead of focusing on the show as a whole.” This task-based approach makes it much more accessible than what is felt after the fact.

By requiring a “rigor to your presence as an audience member to show up, both for yourself and the other person,” A Thousand Ways fosters a connection between theatergoers that other pandemic art has failed to pull off. However, these are only fragments. “It is experienced by the participants on the call; all we’ve done is make the invitation.”

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Anastacia-Reneé Tells the Story of a Queer Black Woman

Review of Anastacia-Reneé's (Don’t be Absurd) Alice in Parts presented by Frye Art Museum

Written by Teen Writer Alyssa Williams and edited by Teen Editor Lucia McLaren

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Anastacia-Reneé’s exhibit at the Frye Museum, (Don’t be Absurd) Alice in Parts, tells the story of her character, Alice Metropolis, who is a queer Black woman living in a neighborhood that’s in the process of gentrification. The exhibit tells its story through furniture, objects, poems, and short video clips. Alice has breast cancer, a story element that sheds light on the inequities of medical treatment based on race. Not only does Alice fight cancer of the body, but she also fights cancer of the mind: white supremacy and racism.

One part of the exhibit that stuck with me long after the show was a short clip of Alice holding a bottle of alcohol and talking to the camera. She talks about how when she goes through tragedies and unimaginable hardships in life because of her race, she has to just “keep it moving.” This speaks to society’s expectation for Black women to be caretakers in the home, in society, in the Black Lives Matter movement—to care for everyone but themselves and never slow down. The bottle of alcohol symbolizes how these standards damage her mental health and cause her to be in desperate need of a break.

At the end of the exhibit, Alice dies from cancer. There is no victory in Alice’s story. Her story sends a message about how we as a society have failed Black women, how receiving support has to be destigmatized, and that we have to give more support to each other. Alice physically died from cancer, but she also symbolically died from facing the cancer of white supremacy and racism without the support that she needed. (Don’t be Absurd) Alice in Parts is not just Alice’s story. It’s the story of many Black women living in America today. Anastacia-Reneé. Alice in Parts. 2020. Photo by Michael B. Maine.

After virtually visiting the exhibit, I listened to Anastacia-Reneé and her team discuss the exhibit and its messages (this discussion is available on the Frye Art Museum YouTube channel). Her team is a wonderful group of Black women who are deeply in touch with today’s societal issues, so listening to them was an eye-opener for me. They said that Anastacia-Reneé’s work represents the words that Black women fear to say in public today. These words are about how people treat Black women like puppets and make decisions for them and define how they should act. These words are about the expectation for Black women to be “strong” and get through everything on their own without struggling. These words are about not feeling safe in their own home.

Despite their struggles, they also talked about having hope, finding support among each other, experiencing joy in their hobbies and in life, and continuing to fight back. When asked “when the fight (for racial justice) is over,” one team member responded saying that the fight won’t end until people like Alice can go to sleep at night not wondering if they’ll become the next hashtag (a reference to Black victims of police killings), and until they can go out in public bringing their full self and not worrying about retribution. We have a long way to go as a community, but I believe that this exhibit is a message of hope for the future.

This exhibit and its messages around affordable housing, police brutality, and gentrification are especially important in the perspective of recent events, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, the storming of the capital by white supremacists, and the inequities and discrimination in America based on race, class, gender, or ability becoming more apparent. The exhibit was wonderfully put together and made me think deeply about where we are as a society with respect to race. I highly recommend this exhibit to those who want to better understand the struggle of living as a Black woman today.

(Don’t be Absurd) Alice in Parts is available to view at the Frye Art Museum from January 30 - April 25, 2021. For more information see here.

Lead photo credit: Anastacia-Reneé. Alice in Parts (video still), 2016. Digital video (black and white, sound) 30:36 min. Courtesy of the artist.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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Mark Haim: Finding a Place Within the Wider World

Interview with choreographer Mark Haim, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Lucy Carlin during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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Staring. Bending. Waving. With intention, these movements are all dance. Dance is everywhere. Each and every human being can find it within themselves. From the most well-known choreographer to an individual dancer just starting their career, everyone represents tiny parts of a greater community. This concept, being small parts of a whole, is the driving force behind choreographer and artist Mark Haim.

Vibrant, laughing, and quite talkative, Haim draws people in. His words and storytelling have a unique quirkiness to them, moving the conversation along in a fast-paced yet informative manner. These personal qualities are reflected in many of his works. His dances open up into impactful and profound reflections of his thinking. Watching clips of his The Goldberg Variations, This Land is Your Land, Overflow or any one of his multitude of works, it takes only a few minutes for the depth of his ideas to hit, pushing one to break down greater reflections on concepts such as humanity and time. In This Land is Your Land, dancers move along a pattern, then explore mutations of it carrying coffee cups, plastic guns, and even cellphones. The bright colorful costumes and everyday objects paired with his choreography in This Land is Your Land are a doorway into Haim’s thoughts on consumerism. There is thoughtful passion and humor in his works emphasizing the connectivity of life. Each little person, concept, and object is relative to the other, their presence ebbing and flowing with the rise and fall of each.

Haim’s choreography is a spirited, everlasting dance of balance between purely beautiful movement and firmly intentional timed expressions of thought. His experiments with this relationship are present in every piece.

“If I’m working on movementjust trying to develop movementI start to look for the thing that isn’t there, which would be the expression and vice versa,” he said. “I don’t know if I am able to do just one. I think it's important for anyone who is making creations to feel like everything is in everything. There might be less of one thing than another but they’re all still there”

Fans of contemporary dance might remember his piece from 2019, Parts To a Sum, which explores how Haim is impacted by those dearest to him. He created a solo incorporating movements sent to him from 371 friends and relatives, ages ranging from 1.5 to 93. Videos averaging 15 seconds filled with jumping, falling; slow, focused arm movements; and even eating were sent with love and support. The final performance of these movements honored the interconnectedness of humanity. This emphasizes the building of a great artist from a foundation of many, and how the end result is the sum of all those efforts.

Haim is not interested in perfectly packaging his work, preferring to allow audiences to draw their own ideas with his choreography. Audiences are given the freedom to interact with his work in the moment rather than come to a performance with set parameters of how they should experience it. In his newest piece, choreographed in quarantine for film, his goal was to “almost get the focus to go from me to what was around me.” He hopes the audience will engage with parts that speak the most to them. Here, he again explores the theme of a greater whole, however instead of a community of people, it is humans, trees, wind, and air adding up to make the environment. Demonstrating a goal of chipping away at the self-importance of humans and to build towards working in unity with life around us; to respect the environment. Aiming to be part of something that is more than just himself, Haim’s choreography in this piece is almost secondary to the movement of nature around him.

When faced with challenges or lack of motivation in this time of isolation, Haim again brings back the idea of smaller parts of a whole. In the face of uncertainty, he advises people to break challenges down and approach a single part first to trick themselves into achieving the larger goal.

Haim awaits the day people gather together to experience live music and dance as part of a whole audience rather than separate viewers. He recounts “I started to cry… feeling the music live...you can’t replace that'' after watching a live dance performance by Whim W’Him in Volunteer Park this past summer where a mariachi band nearby happened to be playing. Assembling to experience a live performance is something many are craving, and he hopes the pandemic will show people the importance and universality of dance.

In Haim’s upcoming dance film WALDO: 2020 for CHOP SHOP’s virtual contemporary dance festival, viewers can watch him give back to the world around him, blending into the trees and shrubs that characterize the beautiful scenery of the Pacific Northwest. Filmed in the I-90 corridor and on the lands of the Muckleshoot, Coast Samish, Duwamish, and Tulalip peoples, Haim provides a space for people to reflect on being part of a greater whole and humanity in relation to themselves as they are presented during the viewing experience. Emphasizing dance’s ephemerality compared to the seemingly everlasting presence of plants, this work is inspired by his reflection upon nature and its generosity in quarantine. He explores the ways he takes up space in comparison to the greater community and world. Try to spot him, first obviously in the frame, then partially hidden amongst the foliage, and finally almost disappearing into the woods to give the plants a chance to speak. Catch the world premiere of this work on Thursday, February 25, 2021.

You can see Mark Haim's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead photo credit: Mark Haim performs his solo Parts to a Sum, photo by Deb Wolf.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshop was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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Mark Haim’s Everlasting Creative Process

Interview with choreographer Mark Haim, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Wyoming Rios-Brennan during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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This year Chop Shop Contemporary Dance Festival is bringing a variety of talented choreographers. One of those creators is Mark Haim. Haim has resided in the Seattle region for about 17 years now, since he got a job offer at the University of Washington to be artist in residence with the dance department back in 2002. In the Seattle dance scene, he is well known for his work and unique creative process. Dance has been his outlet of expression and movement for 35 years. And in those 35 years, he has developed his own individualistic way of expression through the art of dance.

“That being said, I’ve been choreographing for 25 years before I got here so I already kind of had a way of choreographing and an idea of what my work was about.” Was Haim’s response when asked how living in Seattle affects his work.

Haim’s love of dance started when he realized how isolating playing piano was, after playing it since he was six years old. He was already someone who liked to move, so dance was the obvious next step due to its incorporation of movement and human connection.

Haim considers his creative process to be “illogical” and “scattered” so he has an appreciation of dancers who trust him and his process. He ensures that movement and expression are balanced in his work because he feels the utmost need for both.

When Haim reaches a block in his creative process, he takes it step by step. He always tries to keep moving forward by breaking the choreographic process down. And just trying to get something done and tricking himself into getting the task completed by making himself think he is getting it completed. He continues moving forward even when it is hard.

Haim stated that “all artists are queer in their own way.” He means that artists all go in their own artistic directions even if it goes against norms in this “capitalistic, commodity-driven society.” He wants to create works that are different—even if they are harder to sell or a struggle to create—because he believes that dance is constantly evolving. He wants art to be shared with the community and is something that helps people to bond.

You can see Mark Haim's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead photo credit: Mark Haim performs his solo Parts to a Sum, photo by Opal Patterson.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshop was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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The Power of Improvisation: How Daniel Costa Discovered His Love of Dance

Interview with choreographer Daniel Costa, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Carolyn Davis during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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The dancer gracefully approaches center stage, wearing a tight yellow bodysuit contrasting the deep red lighting. He pushes the ground away from him with each step and the smooth movement gives the illusion of the dancer gliding on water, his feet slicing through the surface and stopping cleanly at the center of the stage.

Upper and lower body movements coincide with the beat, creating funky and rhythmic movement while sustaining the grace of traditional dance. Energy moves through his body and distributes force, allowing powerful and delicate movement. His torso and head simultaneously swayed slowly, while his limbs moved silently and smoothly.

What the audience were oblivious of was some of the dance was never choreographed step-by-step. It was instead improv that impressively looked natural on-stage. The dancer closes the performance with a cartwheel into a kneeling position and a downward gaze. It officially concludes when the ruby lights turn off, and all the audience members begin to clap and cheer for the adept dancer. Audience members erupt in applause in response to this transformational experience.

Daniel Costa is the choreographer who incorporates the “beautiful mystery” of improvisation into performances.

“I love freestyle,” he said. “I love dancing—the way I’m feeling to the music, to my body—at that day, at that time, at that hour. It’s going to shift and change all the time so it’s the most authentic, I believe, through improvisation.”

Costa is a multi-faceted artist whose style exists at the intersection of hip-hop, ballet, and contemporary dance. He believes dance can be used to express one’s true self, especially when it’s through improvisation. He understands the power of dance and how it can connect to many aspects of one’s identity.

At 16, Costa’s passion for improvisation was ignited. He enjoyed watching others improvise on YouTube, and these videos inspired his own direction as an artist. At 17 or 18 years old, improvisation furthered his devotedness to dance to the point where he woke up early every day to improvise in the theater before classes began. His beginnings in hip-hop also let him carry his love for improvisation throughout his career, connecting him to his authentic self any time he improvised.

The first person to formally teach Costa improvisation was Laura Peterson, a professor at Rutgers University at the time (where he got his BFA). Her teachings inspired him as he continued to study dance. Costa has always been drawn to improvisation throughout his life and career as a dancer and choreographer.

Sometimes it is important for people to distance themselves from their corporate reality, and Costa understands that movement is a gateway to one’s spirituality, physicality, and sexuality among other things—all aspects of authenticity. Authenticity is an essential part of dance, which is exactly why Costa begins choreographing dances by improvising. He believes it is the best way to communicate with others and “access a part of ourselves that we cannot articulate with other forms of language.” He continues to make improvisation a large part of his choreography, though the audience never knows how much is incorporated. Check out Costa’s upcoming performance as a part of Chop Shop’s annual contemporary dance festival.

You can see Daniel Costa's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

*The dance described in the first paragraph of this article is not a depiction of an actual performance, but instead a creative depiction by the writer inspired by Costa's style of movement.

Lead photo credit: Daniel Costa, photo by Michael Esperanza.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshop was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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Dance as a Form of Self-Expression: Daniel Costa Dance

Interview with choreographer Daniel Costa, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Yoon Lee during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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Daniel Costa entered the dance scene as a hip hop dancer, but even before going to college he knew he wanted to be a choreographer. Moreso, he wanted people to connect his name to the art he made.

Costa wanted his company to bear his own name because he wanted the work he created to be connected to who he is as an artist.

“The reason I wanted to start Daniel Costa Dance was to make my own work, to be on my schedule, and to focus on what I found important in dance and important in my training,” he said.

Dance as a form of self-expression, a means to share one’s art and emotion with others, is not a novel concept, but it is one that becomes further lost as the dance scene struggles and stumbles. One can only add so much to their particular version of The Nutcracker. One can only deviate from the script by so much.

But with expression comes connection, a chance to show off one’s self to the community around them. And dance is a way to do that, a chance to form powerful connections with audiences and other artists through the expression of their own bodies.

“And how to connect to community and other dancers I feel this powerful connection [with]... and to also know that my work will never be just mine, it’s always in collaboration with other folks.” Costa said.

It is this connection, this collaboration, that forms the basis of Daniel Costa Dance’s contemporary style. Each piece is unique, either through improvisation and/or unique personalization based on physicality or articulation. Costa’s role in this style of dance is not to be a hard-set director, but to be a creator of “dance vocabulary.” This style of working together allows the dancers to manipulate their own movements, altering Costa’s choreography, to their physicality, to their self. This is where dance comes in as self-expression. The dances come about through the expression of the dancer, and of the choreographer, but also through the connection and community they share.

Everything can be embodied in dance: emotions, spirituality, personas, authentic self, physicality, sexuality, gender expression.

“Dance is embodying a language that is beyond words, more primal, for lack of a better word. It is more connected to before we had language; we always had bodies, we always had movement.”

You can learn more about Daniel Costa Dance, and its titular artistic director, at the Daniel Costa Dance website.

You can see Daniel Costa work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead photo credit: Daniel Costa, photo by Michael Esperanza.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshop was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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Is Disney Ever Going to Stop Making Live-Action Remakes?

Editorial about Disney's live-action remakes

Written by Teen Writer Valentine Wulf and edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson

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In 2010, Walt Disney Studios remade their 1951 animated adaptation of Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a live-action film. The cult of Walt had dabbled in remakes before, with their first live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book coming out in 1994 and two live-action adaptations of One Hundred and One Dalmatians released in 1996 and 2000, but none of them had made anywhere close to the whopping $1.025 billion that Alice in Wonderland made.

Disney’s next live-action remake, Maleficent, riffed on their 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent made $700 million at the box office. After that, the live-action remakes of classic Disney-renaissance era animated films became more frequent, creeping into movie theatres like an infectious, CGI-heavy plague. Cinderella came next, then The Jungle Book. The most recent films (with the exception of Mulan) all made over $1 billion at the box office.

Despite doing well at the box office, Disney’s live-action remakes are all widely agreed, by both critics and audiences alike, to be pretty mediocre. They receive lukewarm reviews and are torn apart online, especially on Twitter, with tweets like “I think I’ve finally come to the realization that I can’t wait to die so I won’t have to be around for the animated remakes of the live-action remakes of Disney Animated Films” (Hernandez 2021), and “The amount of people willing to die on this hill of defending the live-action remakes makes me wish the world ended in 2012” (Gladiator 2020). Twitter user @danny8bit says, accompanied by images from four Disney remakes, that they are “forever grateful to these movies for proving, once and for all, that animation is superior to live-action” (Barnes 2020). Mairi Ella Challen and Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland (2010) © Walt Disney Studios 2010

The downgrade from animation to live-action is what puts many people off. Disney’s excessive use of autotune and CGI in their remakes creates a soulless carbon copy of the original, with an uncanny valley spin. Alice in Wonderland is the only film that attempted originality in its design, with its relentlessly bleak post-apocalyptic Wonderland. It’s visually interesting, but substanceless. In my opinion, the original charm of 2D animation simply doesn’t translate well to live-action.

But my opinion means nothing, nor does anyone else’s. Critic and audience reception is meaningless to Disney, and it’s clear they’re going to continue churning out remakes so long as they’re making a profit, because to them, the number on Rotten Tomatoes means nothing compared to the number next to the dollar sign.

There’s a reason people keep coming back. Clearly, from the reviews, it’s not because of the quality of the films. It’s the nostalgia. The adults who grew up on their animated films and now have children of their own watch them with their kids to relive the memories and then complain to said kids about how much better the original was. The adults without kids also watch the remakes to relive the memories and then complain on the internet about how much better the original was. Either way, there’s a lot of complaining happening. Mena Massoud and Will Smith in Aladdin (2019) © Walt Disney Studios 2019

It’s clear from the criticisms of these remakes alone that the sole motivation behind people watching them is nostalgia. No one goes to watch a Disney remake expecting fine art. You watch a Disney remake expecting to see the exact same scenes from your childhood redone with three-dimensional people instead of two-dimensional people. This lust for the familiar comfort of the original films stifles any room for genuinely reimagining them. Audiences complain that the movies are exactly the same as the originals, and then complain when they’re not exactly the same as the originals.

The constant buzz around every new live-action remake, whether negative or positive, just means more money for Disney. In fact, they’re already planning on remaking Snow White, The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hercules, to name a few.

Maybe you love Disney’s remakes, maybe you hate them. Maybe you agree that they’re outstandingly mediocre. So is Disney ever going to stop making live-action remakes? The record-breaking box office numbers speak for themselves: nope.

Lead photo credit: Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in Beauty and the Beast (2017) © Walt Disney Studios 2017

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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How to Create Change in the Dance World: A Lesson from Omar Román De Jesús

Interview with choreographer Omar Román De Jesús, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Gracie Galvin during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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2020 was a year marked by social uprising. From protests regarding Covid-19 to the Black Lives Matter movement, change has been seen in all aspects of our lives. But when it comes to the dance world, artists are often left functioning in stagnant and outdated norms. Whether it is strict dress codes that discriminate against dancers of color or harsh competition that infringes on artistic freedom, the dance community fails to allow for individual expression. According to Omár Román De Jesús, the reason why is simple: choreographers and dancers spend too much time comparing themselves. There is not enough support for one another in the dance world.

Jesús’s reasoning comes from a place of worldly experience. His choreography has been shown at a multitude of competitions including at the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Festival. His theatrical contemporary dance is one that spreads positivity and highlights human empathy. From Seattle’s Chop Shop to Panama’s PRISMA Dance Festival, Jesús has made his mark. And his company Boca Tuya plans to do the same.

But this poses the question, how does one go about making said change?

For Jesús, it starts with focusing on oneself. During the pandemic, he took time to reflect within: to think about what he stands for, what his company is about, and how he can make an impact. In short, he reaffirmed his identity. However, this task of self-reflection is hard to do in a world that he defines as “a constant competition.” He noted that jealousy and comparison outweigh the amount of support artists give each other. He came to the realization that his choreography will never fit into a certain set of expectations. Rather, his art is constantly evolving to fit his desires and the desires of his audience.

As one reflects internally, they must do the same externally by shifting their energy to those around them. Jesús pointed out that his dance is for his community—those who relate to his message. He extended advice to others: if you want to make change within your environment you must “bring dance to that community in a format that can touch [them].” And that’s exactly what he did. Jesús found a cause close to him that needed help from the arts. Boca Tuya has an ongoing connection with Red Rhino, an organization based in North America that makes dance accessible to neurodiverse individuals. Jesús’s company supplies the dance teachers for Red Rhino’s classes and performances that unite the community. Both groups are centered around inclusivity, making this connection even more impactful.

Creating dance that leaves an impact and a lasting image takes time. When referencing the time period choreographers are often expected to make pieces, Jesús stated, “Three weeks isn’t enough to create something memorable.” It takes time to reflect, it takes time to find your community, and it takes time to physically create the art itself. Jesús finds it a challenge to accomplish all three, as his identity and goals are always changing so his dance must follow suit. In order to do so, Jesús has found himself relying on his dancers and on their artistic ability. Rather than follow the standard choreographic process, Jesús has allowed his dancers’ personalities to inform his works. Their individuality is what makes his choreography so relatable; audiences see the unique emotions of each dancer on stage.

Jesús’s lesson on making change can be summed up in a few comprehensible steps: reflecting inwardly, connecting directly to those you want to impact, and taking time to thoroughly think it through. To see how Jesús’s dance follows these steps watch Boca Tuya’s performance at Chop Shop’s virtual festival here.

You can see Omar Román De Jesús's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead photo credit: A still from Los Perros del Barrio Colosal, choreography by Omar Román De Jesús, performed by dancers of Boca Tuya, videography by Drew L. Brown.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshop was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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How Quarantine Sparked the Re-Evaluation of Omar Román De Jesús’s Artistic Process, Values, and Mission

Interview with choreographer Omar Román De Jesús, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Elena Hamblin during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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There’s no denying that Covid-19 changed peoples’ lives immensely. And for many, that impact has been devastating—especially for dancers and choreographers. As lockdowns were mandated and studios shut down, the dance community persevered, doing relevés and pirouettes in living rooms and choreographing pieces in narrow kitchens.

Therefore, one might assume that up-and-coming contemporary choreographer Omar Román De Jesús would speak of the immense challenges of producing dance over Zoom and being unable to work with dancers in person. Instead, he described the pandemic as “enlightening”.

This optimistic outlook perfectly represents Jesús, who speaks with an easygoing smile and articulates his experiences with deeply introspective, open-hearted, and honest thoughts. And although Jesús admits Covid “wasn’t good for him,” he seized the opportunity to re-evaluate his priorities as a choreographer and the impact he wants to make in the dance world.

Jesús has an impressive resume from performing internationally in Japan, to creating works for the Joffrey Ballet, and winning multiple choreographic competitions. However, he felt pressure to constantly create groundbreaking works to please his growing audience and gain more recognition as a choreographer.

During the pandemic he’s been using his free time to sit and think about what his company, Boca Tuya, is about and what he stands for. He began to pay less attention to people’s expectations and focus more on the company’s central mission of “spreading sensitivity, kindness, and joy in humanity.” Now, every time he goes into the studio he explores new genres and focuses on bringing lighthearted joy to audiences.

And the driving force for his inspiration is the diverse artistic backgrounds of his dancers. Unlike many choreographers who force their dancers to mold to their creative vision, Jesús prefers to take a freer route, letting his dancers and their unique stylistic backgrounds influence and shape the piece.

Furthermore, Jesús sees this collaboration of experiences and styles as the driving force of the central challenge to “find the world where we exist together.” He believes letting the dancers’ personalities inform what the characters are makes things more genuine, and brings out the best of them. And by watching his works, one can see his philosophy come to life. With dancers leaping into air with exhilaration and traveling through abstract patterns, the viewer can feel freedom and self-expression within the dancers that is only possible with an open-minded choreographer like Jesús.

Not only have Jesús’s dancers been shaping his works, but the themes of his work have begun to shift. When starting out, Jesús, like many young choreographers, tried to make his mark by creating pieces that were profound and about social change. And although he acknowledges dance is a powerful tool to communicate these ideas, he states that “to create social change you have to work with the community directly.” And true to his message, Jesús now works in partnership with a community organization called Red Rhino, to teach dance classes to people with disabilities.

But with recent social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, he feels that the dance world has become oversaturated with artists trying to make bold statements about social justice Therefore, he is beginning to transition into focusing on relaying a much-needed message of hope, and a sense of continuity and joy. For example, his premiering piece for the local dance festival Chop Shop is similar to a soap opera and is a more theater-dance style. The piece is called Los Perros del Barrio Colosal and follows six characters that face unique challenges in an adventure-filled imagination.

This evolving growth of Jesús’s style and content of his works seems to be an eternal journey. “I don’t want to be recognized as the person who does one thing. Like the guy who does Hispanic pieces,” he says.

Instead, during the pandemic Jesús realized that he values quality over quantity. Like many well-known choreographers, he doesn’t want to create a hundred thousand pieces all focused on a similar idea. For the future, Jesús is inspired to create work that is progressive and memorable, that “spark conversations or make people feel something.”

Those in the arts world who are struggling with similar obstacles may find inspiration in Jesús. Even in dark, unprecedented times, people can find time to reflect on our values, and our future. And hopefully that reflection lets people discover their real priorities, in spreading kindness and support. Because when it comes to change in the dance world, Jesús said the constant competition is toxic, and the community should “support each other.” This wise yet simple message isn’t only applicable for dance, but an essential message to remind all people of the power of reflection, community, and kindness.

Learn more about Jesús’s company at bocatuya.com. You can see Omar Román De Jesús's work Los Perros del Barrio Colosal, at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead photo credit: A still from Los Perros del Barrio Colosal, choreography by Omar Román De Jesús, performed by dancers of Boca Tuya, videography by Drew L. Brown.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshop was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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The Ripples of a Single Life: A Film About A Father Who

Review of A Film About A Father Who, presented by Northwest Film Forum

Written by Teen Writer Jaiden Borowski and edited by Teen Editor Mila Borowski

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A Film About A Father Who is a documentary that slowly untangles the grand web of secrets of the family, unveiling the mystery of its story through a kaleidoscope lens of points of view. Directed by Lynne Sachs, this film is about the love life of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., and the resulting complications in the lives of his lovers and children. Taking the audience down a progressively darker path of secrets, this film unleashes a detailed and multifaceted history to the viewer through simple moments of reflection and powerful shots of people’s raw truth.

The intentional layout of this film allows the viewer to access increasingly adverse secrets about Ira as it progresses, heavily contrasting the fun-loving man the audience is initially introduced to with the final depiction of the man. This juxtaposition was at first offsetting, as the tone at the start is loving towards Ira, while the end showcases all of the hurt relationships Ira leaves in his wake. However, this closing quote by the filmmaker explains these discontinuities of emotions, saying, “This is not a portrait. This is not a self-portrait. This is my reckoning with the conundrum of our asymmetry.” Asymmetry is quite the word choice for the concluding emotion provoked by this film. From the variety of perspectives, one is never given a universal opinion of Ira shared by any of his relations. However, that comes as no surprise because of the variety of family members Ira had amassed throughout his unusual life.

The interviewees’ view Ira from a range of perspectives, seeing him as an exciting and adoring father to someone who was barely ever there at all. The filmmaker herself continually attempts to take a neutral if not forgiving tone as she has many happy memories with Ira. But as other voices are heard, such as the then 19-year-old Diana who Ira brought to the U.S. and started another family, the happy-go-lucky tone of the film is drowned out by the hard realities.

Ira’s complex family dynamics stemmed from the secret family he created. After divorcing the filmmaker's mother—Ira’s first wife Diane—due to an affair he had, Ira takes Diana to be his new companion and has several children with her. Although the film’s title refers to Diana as Ira’s second wife, Ira himself says he was only married one time, to Diane. Ira goes on to have more children with other women, but believes he must keep these children separated from his first family and his mother in order to receive his inheritance. This separation is very damaging to these “hidden” family members and his relationships with them.

A quote from one of the “hidden” daughters, Madison, contains the pain that this unusual family dynamic caused. Through tears she describes a simple dream that was unattainable for her in her youth: “That’s what I’m going to strive for, not a perfect family, but to have a dad and a home.” Clips of her wedding pass by on-screen. The value that has been instilled in this dream was clearly caused by the lack of its fulfillment in her childhood. This moment is just one of many that provide an intimate glimpse into the relationships of this family.

This deep dive into such an interesting family dynamic and the varying perspectives it contains was eye-opening. Having the long-term perspective of 35 years of filming as the filmmaker looks back at her childhood as an adult gave this film a more sophisticated tone. Instead of reacting to Ira’s actions in the moment, the audience is given a variety of different reflections to his behavior seen through the lens of many years. The relationships between Ira and his children are powerful because in spite of the distance he placed between them and himself, they each created their own unique form of love for him. Their mature and varied reflections give the audience powerful food for thought and room to form their own opinion of Ira’s choices. This film contains so many real life details that flesh out what it really feels like to live in a complicated world. I would recommend not only watching this film once, but many times in order to absorb all the intricacies of this richly detailed documentary.

A Film about a Father is available to stream on the Northwest Film Forum website from January 22 to February 21.

Lead photo credit: Lynne Sachs, director of Film About A Father Who. Courtesy of Cinema Guild.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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Two Takes on Isolation and Connection

Review of Choreographic Shindig VI presented by Whim W’Him

Written by Teen Writer Valentine Wulf and edited by Teen Editor Triona Suiter

Whim W Him dancers Michael Arellano seated and Karl Watson in Madison Olandt Mike Tyus Elsewhere for Choreographic Shindig VI Filming and direction by Quinn Wharton

Whim W’Him’s Choreographic Shindig VI is a collection of two filmed dance pieces (Elsewhere and Grassville) that both touch on similar subjects. Confinement, isolation, and our relationship with technology and nature are addressed in both pieces, albeit in vastly different ways.

Elsewhere by Mike Tyus & Madison Olandt begins with dancers in a bleak warehouse, their faces covered, as they leap across the concrete floor, trying to escape from whatever it is that’s trapping them. As the piece goes on, they hold TV screens in front of each other’s faces, showing the faces of other dancers on each other’s bodies. The dance is brilliantly choreographed and the use of the TV heads conjures familiar images of video conferences with rows and rows of disembodied heads in boxes on a screen. The imagery becomes more striking as it transitions from television screen to a field, where the dancers look around—at first confused, and then relieved, as they fall into a pile on the beach and soon end up back in the warehouse. The dancers move with incredible precision and in perfect time with each other—it’s clear this piece has a message to convey, and the dancers execute it brilliantly. While we once used television screens and the online world as a form of escapism from the real world, now that we’re forced to be onscreen and are forbidden from even so much as stepping within six feet of other people, it’s the outside world that seems like a novelty. The message is clear and thought-provoking.

The same cannot be said about Grassville by Anabelle Lopez Ochoa. The brief description accompanying the piece mentioned it was about connection to nature and reconnecting with each other, but this isn’t clear from anything in the houseplant-brandishing choreography. You watch in anticipation for something to click and the message to suddenly make sense—but it never does. Something about the piece feels incomplete, like it desperately wanted to go somewhere profound but wasn’t quite sure how to do it.Whim W'Him dancer Andrew McShea in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Grassville for Choreographic Shindig VI. Filming and direction by Quinn Wharton.

Despite the unclear message, the dancers are phenomenal. Wearing houseplant headdresses designed by Mark Zappone, they leap and twirl through a stark white house that feels like something you’d see in a dream. The choreography is as bold and striking as Elsewhere, and the dancers move in such perfect time with each other that it’s like watching one person. Grassville teeters on the line between self-aware humor and raging pretentiousness, but the dancers alone make up for the mediocre through-line. The bizarre camera angles and shaky shots don’t do them justice.

Elsewhere fully embraces the reality of the world we’re living in right now and takes advantage of the opportunity to perform a dance on film. The special effects, cuts, and transition between warehouse and shore would have been impossible to convey effectively in front of a live audience. Part of where Grassville fails is that it doesn’t do this. Grassville immediately stands out as something that should have been performed on a stage. It feels forced and strange on camera, which takes away from the message that choreographer Ochoa was trying to convey—connecting with nature and adapting during a pandemic.

Choreographic Shindig VI is intended to be two pieces about the pandemic. Elsewhere is so obviously about the pandemic that it’s clear even without reading the synopsis. Grassville, on the other hand, could have been about anything. A houseplant rebellion? Not watering your plants? Maybe the real message of Choreographic Shindig VI is that I need more heavy-handed symbolism.

Choreographic Shindig VI premiered online in September 2020 and is available to stream on the Whim W’Him website.

Lead photo credit: Whim W'Him dancers Michael Arellano (seated) and Karl Watson in Madison Olandt & Mike Tyus' Elsewhere for Choreographic Shindig VI. Filming and direction by Quinn Wharton.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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Outside the Narrative of Capital-D Dance: Respecting Worth and Identity

Interview with choreographer Lauren Horn, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Paige Olson during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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Lauren Horn is reimagining her dance career by shaping it around her own joy. She was dancing in a studio before she learned to read, and “the dream of dance” was explained to her very specifically: Practice dance. Practice some more. Then join a “Capital-D Dance” company.

“Barely anyone can get to that,” Horn said.

Majoring in Psychology as well as Theater and Dance, Horn took a different route with her work. Now, she is working towards the lifelong goal of having a sustainable dance career—one that works for her and brings her joy.

Growing up in small-town in Connecticut, Horn’s vision of dance was shaped largely by the African culture and community fostered in her studio. She was put into class at a young age for exercise. But dance would eventually bring much more to her life. Horn was shy, and used movement as an outlet, starting with tap, moving on to modern and ballet—she just kept dancing. The fact that she didn’t talk much in her youth is ironic—considering that much of her career now is talking while dancing. In the present, she is still struggling with her goal. The thought being ingrained into her that her ideas mean less because she is not in the “Capital-D Dance” industry, Horn is constantly striving to accept herself outside of that narrative, and respect her worth as an independent artist.

One part of this goal is her culture and ancestry. Racial diversity in “Capital-D Dance” is lacking, and Horn is proud of her Blackness. She described this feeling as that she is the sum of her family and her ancestors—a powerful message. Her stage name, Lauren Horn//Subira Vs. Movement, embodies this. Subira is her middle name, something that feels central to her. It is a word with origins in Swahili, and means “Patience is Rewarded.” Horn is constantly trying to be patient—a quality she feels is hindered by the use of social media.

Lauren Horn is Subira Vs. Movement. This is not only a movement company, it is also text based. Essentially, she talks while she dances. This however, is a gross understatement of what her work is. It is not only an exploration of her own identity, but encourages the audience to reflect on themselves. She brings things back to the present: how does one’s interactions through technology make a person feel? Watching Horn perform is an immersive experience, with deliberate setting, lighting, and costuming.

Like many, she has struggled to navigate creating art through the pandemic. “I miss the stage,” Horn says, speaking for both herself and for many performers globally. She asks herself, “What is the standard for art in a pandemic?” and “How does one even create dance when you are stuck inside?” Dance-lovers have plenty of interesting options to choose from as artists try to capture their attention through the screen. However, her work is unique in that even before COVID-19 it involved many digital elements. In fact, technology is the focus of many works of hers. Horn’s personal favorite of her pieces—Techn0Whore explores identity and the internet, in the same space. She assumes her online personality and asks questions about what identity is on the internet. In talking about the background behind the piece, Horn mentioned the question “Why did posting in seventh grade feel so fun, and now it doesn't?” Asking questions like these is her constantly changing process in creating—having conversations with people about her feelings, and their feelings, channeling that into movement. She had a lot of fun creating this piece, something that ties back into her goal of working to bring herself joy.

Horn has been thrown into the focus of her work, namely technology, which is a lot. Her upcoming piece @Me, will be showcased in the CHOP SHOP: Bodies of Work festival on February 4, and explores this concept. In her words, @Me is an immersive piece that looks at the chaos of being trapped in a pandemic with a computer being the only outlet to reach people. This piece made Horn realize what her art is and how it makes her feel. It helps her deal with the struggle that her art is smaller right now than it ever has been. She questions herself—“Maybe I’m a Luddite,” or wakes up wishing she was a “Capital-D Dancer” at times. But that is the point of her work, to ask questions, and to explore them.

You can see Lauren Horn's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead Photo Credit: A still from @Me, choreography, videography, and performance by Lauren Horn.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshops was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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Lauren Horn: Dancing Her Way Through the Unanswerable

Interview with choreographer Lauren Horn, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Esha Potharaju during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival

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Illuminated by cool lights that switch from moonlight blue to pale green to an ethereal violet, Lauren Horn dances lithely. Her powerful figure, clothed in loose white pants and a flowing shirt, catches text and images projected onto the stage. She is dancing her own choreography, in a piece called Techn0Whore. Through this dance, she takes on the personality she assumes online and through social media to invoke the audience to question their own internet identities. To Horn, that’s what her work is about: Using performances to incite conversations about one’s identity and worth. Worth can mean a lot of things. The worth of an art form. The worth of a person. The worth of a relationship.

Some of the first things people tend to notice about Horn are her brilliant grin and clever words. When asked about her stage name, Lauren Horn // Subira Vs. Movement, she responds that it reflects much of her identity. Subira is her middle name, which means “patience is rewarded” in Swahili. Horn constantly challenges herself to be patient. “Vs. Movement” is a postfix communicating how she never cowers in the face of new things, but rather prefers to face them head-on. On the topic of identity, Horn has deep pride in her Blackness, a core piece of her work.

“I’m proud of the fact that my family is here,” she said. “I’m proud of the fact that I’m the sum of my family and the sum of my ancestors.”

Horn’s work is unique. A movement-and-text-based artist who describes herself as one-of-a-kind, she fuses written text, speaking, and dance into beautiful performances. Her choreographic process begins with an exploration. First, she comes up with a prompt, or some sort of question she wants to answer. Then, she answers organically—both through her words, and through movement. Talking while dancing, that is her craft. After going through multiple prompts, her body and mind are in the zone to create. This art form that she has created for herself is expressive and distinctive.

Professional dancers often face many external obstacles in their careers, but Horn’s biggest struggle is the “dream of dance.” In the professional dance industry, the worth of a dancer depends on their success.

“If you’re good enough, you can make it to a top dance company, perfect and happy. But what happens to everyone else who tried to get to the top? If I'm in a higher level dance company, that means my ideas are meaningful and others’ aren’t?”

Battling with the lie that is “what it means to be a dancer,” Horn is always asking herself how to make dance something for everyone, without some people’s ideas being deemed unworthy.

Horn spoke about how shifting as a dancer from in-person to virtual performances has affected her work. “Smaller,” she started. She doesn't like to feel this small. The shift made her realize what matters is not what her work is, but what her work makes her feel. @Me, her newest piece premiering in the CHOP SHOP 2021 festival on February 4, is immersive, meant to express these feelings of being trapped in a house in a pandemic with a computer as her only outlet.

Horn’s big-time goal is to create a sustainable career for herself. Not something determined by external standards like whether or not she’s a dancer from a prestigious company, but a career where she can set the standards herself. She seeks creative liberty, and wants to be compensated for her worth. And that’s what she’s all about. Always seeking to make choices that respect her worth.

The worth of artists is often dismissively decided on the surface level by viewers who will never glimpse the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the artist’s work. But Horn pushes back by determining her own worth. She’s unique for getting her viewers to reassess their own worth. Dancing her way through unanswerable concepts like worth and identity is what makes Horn an artist.

You can see Lauren Horn's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead Photo Credit: Lauren Horn performs her work FemmeFactional.mp4, photo Ernesto Galán.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshops was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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Nicole von Arx Explains Her Creative Process During a Pandemic

Interview with choreographer Nicole von Arx presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Kenna Peterson during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival

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A trio of dancers flow through breathtakingly graceful motions. They fly across the stage, sweeping their arms up above them and reveling in the fluidity of their movement. Audience members sit before the performers. Many of the viewers appear to be lost in awe at the artistry and communication between each dancer.

Audiences are essential to the performing arts. A piece might be thought-provoking for a viewer, or make them see a reflection of themselves in the work performed on stage. Dancers on stage paint a vivid image; it’s up to those seated under the dim light of a theater to interpret it.

Unfortunately, audiences no longer get to experience the thrill of live theater. COVID-19 has put a temporary halt on the world of live performing arts that dancers and audience members alike crave. Over the course of the past year, many artists have had to alter their creative process due to challenges, such as social distancing, putting the dance community on hold. Brooklyn-based choreographer Nicole von Arx, for example, is exploring ways of performing to reach a new audience in a new world; in many cases, that audience is a virtual one.

Her dance film titled Bright Night, premiering at Seattle’s virtual dance festival CHOP SHOP on February 4, embraces these challenges that quarantine has brought to both performers and audience members. As the pandemic rages on, theaters that many dancers call home and the hundreds of seats that fill them have been left dormant. Von Arx’s latest piece is inspired by the feeling of isolation the pandemic has brought. While filming Bright Night, she felt a lot of sadness, as did the dance community as a whole, not being able to perform live or connect with audiences in real-time.

“I didn’t want to put a facade on top of that feeling,” von Arx said. “I actually really wanted to embrace that feeling of desperation and loneliness.”

The title of the piece is a contradiction in itself; it’s about brightening the darkness we feel. According to von Arx, “... it’s important as artists to allow people to feel sad, as well as happy.”

Von Arx has a powerful relationship with her dancers who bring her visions to life and play a key role in her work. She often collaborates with dancers who are already familiar with her movement style and choreographic vocabulary, in order to communicate with them best.

“There’s a moment in the rehearsal process where I really have to step back and look at what I have to say,” she said. “You can give emotions and imagery to a dancer, but there’s a point where you have to step back.”

What she has to say with her choreography often has a lot to do with the audience.

Von Arx explains that her recent creative process has more to do with the audience ark, what the audience members feel, than the performance on stage. She believes a performance is relative to the viewer, and instead of just the performers on stage going on a journey, she wants to have the audience be involved on that journey as well.

In December 2020, she premiered her solo Nine. Von Arx had the opportunity to perform for a limited live audience, in which everyone was spread apart and wore masks to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Having not performed for months, she wanted so desperately to connect with the people seated before her who were also yearning for performance. For that reason, during the performance, she incorporated moments of collaboration with the small and intimate audience. She performed a free and easy-going monologue, in which she asked questions such as, “How are you?” and “What are you feeling?”, and gave them directions to stand up or turn around 360 degrees.

For von Arx, witnessing these moments of interaction, laughter, and joy after months of their absence was extremely compelling. In regards to her creative process and inspiration, she said, “I think that’s my journey and how I’m going to delve more and more into connecting with audiences and taking them into a journey because, why not?”

You can see more of von Arx’s work on her website.

Nicole von Arx's work is featured in CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead Photo Credit: A still from Bright Night, choreography and performance by Nicole von Arx, videography by Dan Gross.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshops was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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Nicole von Arx: Changing the Definition of What It Means to be an Audience Member

Interview with choreographer Nicole von Arx presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Clara Kang-Crosby during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival

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In our world today, we eject our opinions onto others. We lack the capacity to merely listen. However, choreographer and artist Nicole von Arx does not want to continue with this norm. With her art, she hopes to connect with the audience and give viewers a space to raise questions, find answers for themselves, and be able to engage in ambiguous discussions with those around them.

During the pandemic, people have been isolated in their homes, not interacting with others as much as they used to. The global pandemic, social unrest, and changing economic situation has led people to question the world that we live in, and finding answers to those questions proves to be extremely difficult. But, von Arx offers audiences a unique and fulfilling experience through dance; one that is not typical to stumble upon. She provides an immersive experience where the audience is a part of the journey that the dancers are creating. Through this mutual relationship between the audience and von Arx’s choreography, emerges an area for one to unpack questions and attempt to find the answers we all need.

Open, grounded, and present. Inquisitive and real. Strong, passionate, with expressive brown eyes; von Arx is a storyteller, not only through dance, but also through words. Earlier this year, she was able to performoutdoor and socially distancedher solo Nine. There’s a part in the show where von Arx is not dancing, but instead asking the audience specific questions such as: “Hello. How are you?” and “How are you feeling right now?” In addition to her monologue, von Arx incorporates moments of interaction and has the audience stand up, do a 360 degree turn, or raise their hands.

She vividly remembers the audience laughing, engaging with the show, and talking to those around them.

“It was beautiful… To be on stage and witnessing that after months and months of not interacting with audiences and having them go through all of these emotions, was super powerful,” von Arx said. “I think that’s my journey and how I’m going to delve more and more into connecting with audiences and taking them into a journey.”

This was the moment von Arx knew she wanted to make art not only for herself and the dancers on stage, but for and with the help of the audience.

The revolutionary idea von Arx has reintroduced of allowing others to work ideas out for themselves starkly contrasts with how our society operates. Instead of viewers choking on a barrage of various opinions, von Arx instead allows one to breathe and think for themself.

“I want to raise questions that give answers,” von Arx said. “I’d rather give a chance for people to express themselves than try to tell them what to think.”

Von Arx stands out in the dance community. She is an artist who cares about the audience and whose purpose is to connect with them in order for the viewers, or rather participants, to grow individually.

A pivotal moment in von Arx’s creative journey was when she received an enlightening piece of advice. The advice? Listen to others. When the moment comes, when one feels like inserting a comment into another’s story, “That is the moment where you have to take a deep breath and let the person tell the whole story,” von Arx said. “Let them shine and go through that journey because they also need to let out those emotions and tell you that story. And it will feel different… you have to let people express themselves.”

Von Arx allows her audience to shine and have the space to disassemble and explore ideas, so that we can better understand ourselves and each other. And from there, move forward.

And now, von Arx is giving audiences a chance to utilize this priceless space to engage in her journey and explore ideas for themselves. On Thursday, February 4, CHOP SHOP is presenting the world premiere of von Arx’s dance film Bright Night.

“The moment we filmed it, I had a lot of sadness, and I think in dance, there is a lot of sadness right now for our community and not being able to perform and connect with audiences. I didn’t want to put a facade on top of that feeling, I actually wanted to embrace that feeling of desperation and loneliness.”

It’s a contradiction between the utter darkness of the night and how we can brighten up those moments. In von Arx’s short film, she allows us to reflect on those darker moments and validate them, so that we can begin to engage in conversation around our harder times.

See the CHOP SHOP premiere of von Arx’s short film Bright Night on Thursday, February 4 to embark on a journey, explore questions and answers, and to participate in von Arx’s connective craft.

You can see Nicole von Arx's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead Photo Credit: A still from Bright Night, choreography and performance by Nicole von Arx, videography by Dan Gross.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshops was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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CHOP SHOP: From Studio, to Stage, to Screen

Feature on CHOP SHOP’s adaptation to COVID-19 and the future of dance

Written by Jack Haskins during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival

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Mere weeks after a successful CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival in February 2020, the world was fully enveloped by the maw of a 100-year pandemic.

When festival administration duo Lizzy Melton and Eva Stone began conceptualizing what next year’s performance might look like they were left wondering…

“How do we plan for this?”

What quickly became clear was that CHOP SHOP would rely on artists unlike ever before in the event’s 13-year history as a virtual approach—while uncharted territory—was a given.

“[The choreographers are] all artists that have already been presented at CHOP SHOP, and they’re artists that we each chose...not just for loving their work, but because we thought they would have a particularly interesting perspective creating dancework in this moment,” Melton said.

Rather than following their typical process and operating under an application period, Melton and Stone believed letting go of the reins was a more appropriate model for this season.

“We love these artists and we trust them so...we just got out of the way,” Melton remarked. “Artists are dealing with enough, they don’t need a couple of arts administrators telling them what to do.”

The virtual format also lent to surprisingly broader horizons that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. For instance, at least four different states were represented in a Zoom Master Class hosted by choreographer Nicole von Arx last month, a scenario which would have never occurred any other year.

Accessibility is a recurring theme this year, and not only with respect to schedule accommodations or distance. All of the programming involved with CHOP SHOP 2021 is either free or “pay what you can.” Melton reported that such a model wouldn’t be possible if they were dealing with the typical challenges and costs associated with gathering in a physical space.

“I think we have to explore these opportunities because even after the pandemic, so much has to change...this moment is asking us to get more creative than we have been in the past, and I think we have to.”

When asked for her prediction on where the arts will fit into society in a post-pandemic world, Melton’s definitive appreciation for creators is more than apparent.

“If you’ve enjoyed [books, music, movies, TV, furniture, housing, food] and any of those things have made the pandemic easier for you or lifted your spirits, then you have relied on arts and culture to get through this,” Melton said. “I think we have to honor that.”

Following a year marked by civil strife, loss, and isolation Melton believes artists should serve as a primary inspiration as people move forward.

“Artists embody so many qualities that I think we need more of in the world—collaboration, recognizing each other for our unique gifts, willingness to be vulnerable with one another and share, the way artists build trust with each other to get their work done...I want to see arts and artists embedded into every aspect of society”

In the meantime, Stone and Melton will continue to serve their community the way they know best, and that’s through sharing the joys of dance.

"As the producer of CHOP SHOP, I am thrilled that despite a pandemic and a devastating blow to the dance community, we have kept this festival alive!” said Stone. “Creating a platform for these brilliant choreographers to be innovative during a very challenging time is the one true joy. With careful thought, collaboration with our artists, and good planning, we found a way to pivot our festival to an online format that supports these incredible artists and benefits them as well as our viewers."

You can see CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offerings of dance films on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead Photo Credit: Fausto Rivera and Michele Dooley of Spectrum Dance Theater perform Donald Byrd’s OCCURRENCE #8 REDUCED at CHOP SHOP 2020, photo by Bret Doss.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshops was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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New Hope?

Teen Editorial Staff February 2021 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Lily Williamson and Triona Suiter

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It’s finally February, and while 2021 has been more like 2020 than we’ve hoped, things may be starting to look up. Spring is coming, Washington is in Tier 1 of the vaccine rollout plan, and you can even see art in-person at museums now. With all that, we’ve decided to bring you art this month that is, in some sense, optimistic, including new and unconventional works from Seattle Shakespeare Company and On the Boards, and events in celebration of Black History Month.

This month, On the Boards continues their optimistic pandemic project, A Thousand Ways. The unconventional performance begins in February in the form of a phone call with a stranger—two members of an unseen audience following a set of directions for conversation. Though the dates are not yet set for parts two or three, On the Boards hopes to be able to gradually progress to in-person performances over the next several months, starting with small audiences and growing larger as restrictions begin to lift.

Unfortunately, that may still be a long way away. So in the meantime, why not check out Seattle Shakespeare Company’s modern retelling of Hamlet in the form of the multilingual podcast, house of sueños? Or maybe tune in on February 9, to Seattle Arts and Lectures to hear Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright talk about his new pandemic-inspired thriller novel, The End of October. In addition, you can see the Henry Art Gallery’s Set in Motion, which is presented on sixty public buses throughout the Seattle area.

Or, better yet, enjoy art about, by, and for Black people in honor of Black History Month. At The Frye, experience Anastacia-Reneé’s work addressing the struggles of her character, Alice Metropolis, as she fights her way through everything from white supremacy to cancer. And, visit the Northwest African American Museum to see Iconic Black Women: Ain’t I A Woman, a visual celebration of influential Black women through portraits.

Although COVID-19 is far from over, and we’re still not close to experiencing art normally again, we have reason to be optimistic. This month, be inspired, be hopeful, and see art!

Lead photo credit: Photo by Faris Mohammed for Unsplash.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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90.TEEN: Modern Sound in an Old-Fashioned Medium

Review of 90.TEEN presented by KEXP

Written by Teen Writer Lauren Rohde and edited by Teen Editor Eleanor Cenname

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For myself and many other teens, the radio was a staple of car drives with parents. From All Things Considered to classical music stations to pop radio, the sounds of our childhoods can be easily defined by disembodied voices and sounds playing from a car stereo system. A group of teen DJs have the opportunity to hone skills such as DJing, radio technology, and curation through 90.TEEN, KEXP’s youth-run radio show. The DJs, who are part of KEXP’s Youth DJs program, produce and program the show under the mentorship of KEXP’s DJs.

KEXP, whose offices are located in Seattle Center, specializes in alternative and indie music, usually rock. Since the station was founded by undergraduate students at the University of Washington, it seems fitting that students would once again have an opportunity to contribute to Seattle’s radio scene. The four young DJs of 90.TEEN, Vega Vi, Sofiiak, Sebastian Mendoza, and 9 Coleman-Harvey, have established interests in music production and broadcasting, and it’s clear to see their joy while they broadcast. Their excitement to be broadcasting, even in the wee hours of the morning, is evident in their voices. The January 16 episode features a selection of laid-back but funky beats, each song flowing into the other and occasionally interjected by the mellow voice of DJ 9. The songs put you in moods that range from chilled-out to wanting to get up and dance, a great backdrop for homework, relaxing on the couch, or an early morning commute. 90.TEEN DJ, 9 Coleman-Harvey. Photo by Tariqa Waters

As a form of media, radio is relatively antique. Radios became popular for general use in the 1920s, where the cheap cost of broadcasting provided the masses with entertainment. Throughout the 20th century, radio has been a mainstay for providing us with news, entertainment, and background noise to soundtrack our days. In the advent of the digital age and the rise of podcasts and streaming, most radio has been relegated to the car. 90.TEEN creates an opportunity to spark young peoples’ interest in broadcasting and radio, giving the broadcasters of the future the skills they need to produce high-quality broadcasts. In a way, KEXP is keeping radio alive: driving up interest in young people and increasing their involvement in broadcast not only gives them an outlet for self-expression, but also ensures that the medium will be a constant in our lives for generations to come. Left: DJ Sebastian. Photo by Diego Mendoza. Center: DJ Sofia K. Photo by Kennady Quille. Right: DJ Vega Vi. Photo by Niffer Calderwood.

The tastes of teens often inform pop culture, and the organizers of 90.TEEN know this. By giving youth an outlet to play music they enjoy, listeners gain a better understanding of what’s “hip with the kids” and teens see their interests represented. One thing all the teen DJs have in common is their passion for music. Each of them are multimedia artists, but much of their inspiration is driven by music. Some work in record shops, some are part of high school music groups, and others even make music themselves. The teens’ passion for music shines through in their broadcasts and in their biographies on the 90.TEEN page of the KEXP website; it is clear that they take pride in their art and work hard to produce a great show.

Through 90.TEEN, young people have the opportunity to breathe new life into an old-fashioned art form. Producing sounds that are distinctly modern, youth DJs hone their skills and produce a high-quality radio broadcast that is fully entertaining and inspiring. They are provided expert mentorship and taught skills needed to succeed in an area of high interest. And succeed they have: the broadcast is a blast to listen to, not only for the selection of music but also for the clear dedication of the DJs.

90.TEEN airs live on KEXP Saturday mornings from 6-7 AM. It is available to stream anytime on the KEXP website.

Lead Photo Credit: 90.TEEN, a youth show on KEXP

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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A New Way To Interface With History

Review of Behind the Seams: Fabulous Footwear presented by MOHAI

Written by Teen Writer Frances Vonada and edited by Teen Editor Lucia McLaren

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Fashion serves as an extraordinary mark of humanity because it is such a personal channel of expression, yet countless outside forces also influence it, including the political and social climate of the time. This is why Behind the Seams: Fabulous Footwear is a window into not only the fashion history of Seattle but also the lives of people who lived years ago.

Curator of Collections at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), Clara Berg, presented this hour-long event, which is currently available for free on MOHAI’s YouTube channel. The event features 13 pairs of shoes designed or sold in Seattle, from the early 1900s to the present, sorted into categories such as “small details” or “embellishments”.

The artifacts themselves were stunning. One silver pair of shoes from the 1920s featured delicate silver and gold leather woven across the strap—a detail that could have only been hand-sewn. A pair of brown leather pumps with a narrow spike heel came straight off the runway of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, with black leather contrast around the toe box, forming a sort of harness around the front of the wearer’s foot.

A pair of 1920s evening shoes made of pale pink silk include a delicate detail at the toe: two silver leather wings clasped together by a button. The outer sides of the heels mimic this element with two more dainty buttons. Berg points out that these details were small enough that they would likely not be noticed by people other than the owner. And yet, we are privy to these details, giving us a glimpse into this person’s life. Peach silk heels with silver decoration, sold by Turrell’s, ca. 1925-1929. MOHAI.

Berg says, “Artifacts are really powerful because they’re these physical objects that have outlived people… [They] can tell you a lot about what people had valued, and what people spend time with, what kinds of things they thought to save. But there’s also this mystical quality of artifacts. We can sort of imagine it: ‘Why did they love this pair of shoes?’, ‘What did they wear it to?’, ‘What kind of events did this pair of shoes get to see?’”

The event is a feast for the eyes, but the most memorable aspect is the context that surrounds each piece, especially the shoes in the “referential” category. Inspired by previous eras, the designers of these shoes incorporated the signature silhouettes or embellishments of a previous time, creating a new piece that is reminiscent of the original style.

This type of inspiration and reinvention is not limited to shoes, and you can trace parallels in design throughout fashion history. The bold shoulder pads of the 1980s exaggerate the strong uniform lines that were fashionable in the war-time of the 1940s. Similarly, platform shoes from the 1940s also inspired the platform shoes of the 1970s. The relationship between styles in different eras connects and unifies history tangibly and visibly, which is fundamentally different from an academic understanding of history.

When I asked Berg about what the markers of current fashion are, she touched on the pandemic, the topic of race, and climate change, all of which are major issues today. In light of climate change, designers are looking for sustainable options for clothes and textiles that are created with green farming practices. Designers are also focusing on creating clothes without exploiting workers, as well as making pieces durable enough to last several years to avoid contributing to the literal millions of tons of textile waste per year. This is a tall order in addition to the effort to lift up and support Black and Indigenous designers, who have been historically sidelined in the industry.

On a lighter note, the pandemic has influenced fashion by evolving comfortable clothing to be more stylish, lending some flare to outfits for around the house. I asked Berg what she believes style will be post-pandemic, and she was unsure. Will people rush out of their house dressed to the nines to celebrate? Or will comfortable clothes prevail?

Whatever the future holds, viewing fashion pieces like shoes in this new light provides a window to a previous era. By dressing in vintage styles, studying the artifacts, or simply admiring the aesthetics, these extant pieces allow us to interact with history at an emotional level normally inaccessible in a classroom. They connect us to past lives and unite us in the long continuum of human history.

Lead Photo Credit: Hand painted "You're Turning Violet, Violet" heels, artist Rachel J. E. Sprauge for Hourglass Footwear, 2013 MOHAI, Gift of Hourglass Footwear.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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