Category: clubs

Founded in 2007 by five professional ballet dancers enrolled at Columbia University, CBC (The Columbia Ballet Collaborative) is comprised of students from all of the University’s undergraduate colleges and affiliates.

On April 15th, the Columbia Ballet Collaborative held their Spring Performances celebrating the CBC’s 10th anniversary season.

A performance set in seven acts, the program showcased ballerinxs (ballerinas and danseurs) of every level, including several professional alumni of years passed. In a packed Miller Theatre, these students past and present brought to life the stunning choreography of seven different nationally-recognized choreographers, including George Balanchine, Caitlin Dieck Locke, Richard Isaac, Barry Kerollis, Emery LeCrone, Craig Salstein, and Claudia Schreier.

While choreographers have the responsibility to shape the movements of the dancers, ballerinxs invest their time, sweat, and emotion into making those pieces translate from the page to the stage.

In the first performance of the night “Five Songs for the Piano” (2010), five ballerinas combined classical movements with loose hair, gestural port de bras, and a constant opening and regression of limbs that mirrored their intense expressions as strands of hair swept back and forth with each motion, obscuring them from view. The piece was not the most technically demanding of the night, but the coordination and skill invested by the dancers, as well as the technical lighting that cast each effort into relief, did more than justice to LeCrone’s construction across five intensely expressive musical pieces.

Choreographer Emery LeCrone: “This piece is about exploring the deep root of our identity and trying to tap into that uniqueness on stage.”

"Five Songs for Piano" choreographed by Emery LeCrone; original score by Mendelssohn. Photo: Eduardo Patino — featuring Elizabeth Ratze, Sophia Salingaros, Sophia Loo and Allegra Herman.

“Five Songs for Piano” choreographed by Emery LeCrone; original score by Mendelssohn.
Photo: Eduardo Patino — featuring Elizabeth Ratze, Sophia Salingaros, Sophia Loo and Allegra Herman.

Altogether, “Five Songs for Piano” told a story of coming into one’s own identity, a moment of growth and personal exploration that could also be witnessed on the stage as the ballerinas each brought to life a song with the support of her sisters en attitude.

The second piece “Les Neuf Danseuses” featured a cast entirely composed of CBC Alumni. A beautiful demonstration of coordination– and an impressive set to manage on a small stage– lit up the Miller Theatre as the audience witnessed the CBC’s trademark choreographic meld of modern styles with classical techniques and control.

The key to the audience’s heart, however, came with the third act, when they were introduced to the show-stealing sophomore Nicholas Rio in Claudia Shreier’s choreographic masterpiece “Harmonic.” The ballerinas and the danseur moved through the choreography naturally, as though they were familiar enough with the piece to perform with their eyes closed. Their lifts were smooth and showed no strain, their facial expressions were matched perfectly to the mood of the music and choreography.

A short intermission was followed by several more moving pieces, including master choreographer Barry Kerollis’ “Diagnosis,” once more starring Nicholas Rio and introducing into the spotlight other stars of the night, including ballerina Clara Monk, whose control and flexibility left the audience breathless. The difficulty level of these pieces (including some stunning excerpts from George Balanchine’s masterpiece “Serenade” and the flowing interpretive work of Richard Isaac’s “Troublemaker”) was on par with that expected from a fully professional dance collaborative, and the emotion in their expressions was genuine, affecting the whole audience as they became more than observers in the dancers’ struggle– as can be previewed in the video sample of “Diagnosis” below (gracefully provided through Kerollis and the Columbia Ballet Collaborative):

The night closed with Craig Salstein’s “Blooming Bouquet,” a clever piece that imitates the playful interactions between practicing dancers with rapid sequences of grand jetés and contagious laughter as the delightful young ballerinxs chase each other across the floor, seemingly weightless.

"Blooming Bouquet" choreographed by Craig Salstein. Photo: Eduardo Patino — featuring Alex Susi and an unidentified ballerina at Miller Theatre at Columbia University.

“Blooming Bouquet” choreographed by Craig Salstein. Photo: Eduardo Patino — featuring Alex Susi and an unidentified ballerina at Miller Theatre at Columbia University.

Smiles remained, but tears bloomed as the dance came to an end and the audience regretfully bid goodbye to the show and the graduating seniors who performed one last time as active Columbia students. The audience could only hope that they would return as alumni for future CBC performances; this hope came through loudly in a cacophony of cheers and a raucous standing ovation that lingered in the air even after the ballerinxs exited.

Illustration by Laura Elizabeth Hand

 

Prior to the Columbia University Orchestra performance at Alice Tully Hall, my most recent event at Lincoln Center was Yo-Yo Ma’s breathtaking cello performance of Symphonie Fantastique. Yo-Yo Ma climbed to the highest note of his cello while we climbed to the edges of our seats. Here, instead of the back corner box, I am in the front, my gaze catching on an audience that has exchanged black gowns and reserved enthusiasm for H&M and outright fervor.

The spring concert will lead with Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde (1868), and then eventually trail into Columbia’s own rendition of Symphonie Fantastique with a different cellist starring. Alec Hon’s performance of Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D Major (1783) is set to follow Tristan and Isolde first, however, ushering the packed— sold-out— hall into intermission and then the closing march of Berlioz’s Episode from the Life of an Artist: Symphonie Fantastique (1830).

Heels and blue jeans, overexcited parents and a girl in a blue down jacket (leaning in to gesture frantically at a distracted violinist) are the signs marking the rapid growth of our audience as they press into the general admission seating. The vibrations and eerie peels of the stringed instruments begin as they warm up for the highly-anticipated spring concert. Soon enough, the wind instruments’ lend trills to the rising atmosphere.

In the final moments before Tristan and Isolde begins, there is a brief interlude of frantic applause followed by absolute silence.

Then the sound and the silence that punctuates its phrases begins and the audience is spellbound. Even Yo-Yo Ma did not command this degree of respect from his audience. The musicians and the conductor are clearly responding, as the synchronized sweep of elbows gains in pace and coordination. If music is not their first love, as is the case for Chris James, violinist first-year studying psychology (whose proud uncle sits next to me with his torso half twisted over the edge of the balcony box for a better view), it may yet prove to be their finest.

The musicians move with the music, and the audience is moved. Perhaps a finger slips with perspiration here or there, but the overall effect of the students’ passion is unmistakable and impossible to ignore. In a perfect cycle, a moment of silence, then thunderous applause also carries the piece to a close.

After a few minutes of the muffled brush of gowns, squeak of instruments, and squeal of shuffled chairs, all of the sounds of musicians rearranging themselves for a piece, the strings once more coral the audience into submission for Alec Hon as he takes his cello and takes center stage.

During the Cello Concerto, he pants against his cello as the music rises, sweat visible on his forehead, effort and nerves carrying a different tone into the bars. As each run ends, his right shoulder drops and the bow falls back, leaving the responsibility of the piece to his fellow musicians, who perform the piece with frantic energy. When his part comes again, Hon plays without reference or prompt, and the only moving bodies in the room belong to Alec and the third bass player, who attempts to surreptitiously duck away for a second’s relief from the heat of the lights and his stifling formal wear.

When they come together again, the piece comes to a close, ending with a bow and a fond pat on Hon’s cheek by the pleased conductor. The audience rises to a standing ovation.

Intermission is accompanied by the inevitable gush of exiting audience members bottlenecking in the halls and loudly declaring their opinions on the pieces performed thus far. The discourse seems overwhelmingly favorable.

As the audience members make their more subdued return to their seats, there is renewed enthusiasm for Symphonie Fantastique, which I share but pair with some trepidation. Having recently viewed the undisputed master of the cello take on this piece, how will I review an admittedly incredibly talented student orchestra?

I needn’t have worried. While the piece is nearly unrecognizable from the psychedelic interpretation of Berlioz Yo-Yo Ma and the New York Philharmonic offered, it clearly demonstrates budding mastery of a different style. This is perhaps most evident in the softer percussion and the presentation of the Fourth and Fifth movements. Instead of pushing forward with the shrill nerves of the dream as I first heard it played, the Columbia University Orchestra offers rolling swells of music that invoke a deeper introspection than the NYPhil’s lucid dreams.

Indeed, after the concert ends and the applause grows louder than ever before, I find myself thinking it would be hard to find a member of either audience who did not fall in love with Berlioz and the musicians who brought him to the stage.

The night closes with a lingering audience and many proud tears, the Spring Concert happily demonstrating itself a roaring success.

Photo Courtesy of The Varsity Show.

The 123rd Annual Varsity Show has released tickets today via the Arts Initiative, so buy your tickets to this time-honored tradition before they sell out! There will be four different performances throughout the last weekend in April: Friday, April 28th at 8pm; Saturday, April 29th at 8pm; and Sunday, April 30th at 2pm and 8pm.

Tickets are tiered with GA Cinema/Balcony costing $8 with CUID-BCID/$12 Non-CUID, GA Floor costing $10 with CUID-BCID/$13 Non-CUID, Priority/Front Floor costing $12 with CUID-BCID/$17 Non-CUID, and VIP/Front Row costing $50.

You can purchase tickets here and RSVP on Facebook here.

MMC students and teachers pose for photos after the winter recital. (Photography by: Jamie Grafton)

 

“Remember what we said about your princess posture!” No, this was not a line from Brave or The Princess Diaries. Rather, it was heard—of all places—at a music lesson.

Teachers from the Columbia University chapter of Musical Mentors Collaborative (MMC) have been giving lessons at P.S. 145 every week since 2008. Instruments taught—free of charge—include piano, violin, guitar, and voice.

Most of the over 50 students in the program would probably not be able to take lessons otherwise.

“We are a school where the majority of the population are working-class immigrants,” Carlos Salamanca, the Parent Coordinator of P.S. 145, explains.

“It’s important for the Latino and Black communities to have the opportunity to play musical instruments. This is the chance that they have–this Musical Mentors teaching.”

The MMC program leads to many exciting learning experiences. Last Saturday morning, Stephanie Rager, a sophomore in SEAS who is a Co-President of MMC, taught Sophia–after reminding her to stand like a princess, of course–what a half note is.

Stephanie Rager, CC ‘19, with her student, Sophia

Stephanie Rager, SEAS ‘19, with her student, Sophia.

First, Stephanie clapped quarter notes with Sophia. Then, she sang the last three notes of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”–quarter note, quarter note, half note–while Sophia continued to clap. Stephanie explained that the last note she sang was twice as long as the two prior. After some time of working on the measure–both with and without her bow–Sophia’s face lit up: she had “got it.”

Watching students’ reactions made me smile more times than I could count. I now understand why James Valentini often talks about “Beginner’s Mind”: these elementary school students were incredibly eager to learn and bubbled with joyous excitement when they did.  

Music lessons can even be mathematical. This week, Alexia Le, a junior music major in CC, taught Vanessa 3/8. Explaining time signatures can be complicated: it oftentimes involves fractions, which some students have not yet learned.

Alexia solved the difficulty by finding a different way to explain it. She described how it was similar to 3/4–which Vanessa played earlier in the lesson–in that there are three beats per measure, yet different because the eighth note gets the beat.

These challenging pedagogical moments are rewarding for teachers. Julian Vleeschhouwer, a sophomore in Columbia College, values his new role as piano teacher.

“I really enjoy teaching—prior to this I never really taught music before, I’ve always been the one taking lessons—so to be able to give back a little is really fulfilling for me,” Julian says with an assuring nod.

“It’s helped me to realize the role music can play in different people’s lives; I think that I always took it for granted in my life.

Julian Vleeschhouwer, CC ‘19, and Nicole at the winter recital (Photography by: Jamie Grafton)

Julian Vleeschhouwer, CC ‘19, and Nicole at the winter recital. (Photography by: Jamie Grafton)

However, despite the positive interactions I witnessed, the realities of the program are sobering. Some pianos are extremely out-of-tune (almost a half-step flat). The school’s music program does not include band or orchestra, so most students are unable to develop their instrumental skills during the school day. Instruments are provided by P.S 145, which means there’s a what-we-have-is-what-you’ll-play policy.

Perhaps most disheartening of all: MMC ends after elementary school. Without an instrument, let alone a teacher, many students stop playing.

“Vanessa’s older sister was also in the program, but now that she is in middle school, she doesn’t play violin anymore and doesn’t remember how to play,” Alexia recounts—her voice diving down, crestfallen, at the end of her phrase.

With more teachers the program could expand to the local middle school, ensuring that students can continue making music after graduating.

An increase in instructors would also help at the elementary school level: P.S. 145 often has more interested students than available instructors.

“We always need more!” Salamanca emphasizes.

Recent fundraising from the Columbia Festival of Winds will definitely assist the program: MMC anticipates using the several thousand dollars collected for new classroom pianos.

However, the larger problem–governmental support of art and music programs in public schools–is insurmountable for MMC. Despite written acknowledgement (see page 2) of the arts’ educational value, the Department of Education (DOE) is clearly not doing enough to foster art in schools, which MMC’s very existence and the sad story of Vanessa’s sister illustrate.

These MMC lessons demonstrate, though, just how beneficial and necessary music making in schools is; they show why additional and continued governmental support of the arts is a good—to put things in blunt financial terms—investment in a child’s future.

How do these lessons prove why music has educational value? Take, for example, Alexia’s relationship with Vanessa.

In the lesson that I observed, Alexia spent nine minutes working with Vanessa on just one measure because of its rhythmic complexity. Alexia’s focus on the passage demonstrates her great commitment toward Vanessa’s learning.

Their determined work leads to success: Alexia beamed when describing how proud she was while watching Vanessa’s end-of-semester recital. Throughout our discussion about Vanessa, Alexia’s voice oozed with warmth and care.

Jonathan Herman, SEAS ‘18, looks on after Angel’s performance at the winter recital (Photography by: Jamie Grafton)

Jonathan Herman, SEAS ‘18, looks on after Angel’s performance at the winter recital. (Photography by: Jamie Grafton)

Alexia has helped ignite Vanessa’s passion for music. Nowadays, Vanessa often seeks out pieces to learn from YouTube and even composes her own music.

In reality, Vanessa would not have been able to work with–let alone discover–her musical interests without the MMC program. Because of the opportunity, Vanessa has developed not only her musical abilities but also the virtues intrinsic to learning an instrument: independence, patience, and a strong work ethic.

Vanessa’s growth illustrates the benefits of a music education. Her story speaks directly to the NYC Department of Education, proving that music programs are needed in schools.

“I feel like I’m making a difference; I see the progress,” Alexia confirms.

“I think that I’m helping her realize, hopefully, a lifelong love of music.”

 

 

Photo Credit  Maddy Kim

At their Artist Release Party Friday, the Bacchanal Committee announced that the lineup for this year’s concert includes AlunaGeorge, DRAM, Mykki Blanco, and Almand.

For those new to Bacchanal, the group organizes a yearly concert held on Low Plaza. You can get a ticket to the show via this link at the following times:

Friday March 31st 11:30 a.m. (500 tickets)

Saturday April 1st 11:30 a.m. (1,000 tickets)
Monday April 3rd 8:00 p.m. (1,000 tickets)
Tuesday April 4th 2:30 p.m. (1,000 tickets)
Wednesday April 5th 8:00 a.m. (1,500 tickets)

Keep in mind, tickets do sell out fast — most often within seconds of release — so get ready.

For those unable to get tickets, The Lion will be sharing photos from backstage and of the campus throughout the event.