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AUDIENCE REVIEW: Temple Boyer College MFA Concert: Two works by Zhu Wangbo & Hassan Syed

Temple Boyer College MFA Concert: Two works by Zhu Wangbo & Hassan Syed

Zhu Wangbo & Hassan Syed

Performance Date:
February 18th, 2021

Freeform Review:

The MFA II Thesis Concert on February 18th included two pieces by Zhu Wangbo and Hassan Syed. My initial interest in the postgraduate students at Temple’s Boyer College of Music and Dance was to experience something fresh. I was interested in how dance becomes personal, telling of the times we live in, and how individuals like Zhu and Hassan give us an aspect to think about unfiltered.

What grabbed my attention was the videography by Annielille Gavino, a fellow dance artist who I follow, and whom taught me the impetus of dance. Her partner, Jasmine Lynea a film maker in Philadelphia collaborates with other artists to bring moving ideas to the hearts of its viewers. The program, filmed and edited by Annielille, were two dramatically different concepts, but it was most intriguing to find similarities between the two dance artists. The alleyway scene, choreographed by Zhu, enters a graffiti landscape which shifted outside of a solo dance. The films juxtapose space in the environment in both sequences, and the effect of light and color transposes the world.

The program begins with Hassan’s choreography for a series that explores the next galaxy over, Andromeda. What is life like on other planets and what does it say about our way of life? The theater is a threshold for exploring space, sound, and even gravity. For choreographer, Hassan Syed, this meant a theme he was to follow through his MFA program. This piece fulfills a certainty for the benefit of those who are longing for humanity to return to us.

Andromeda, what is it? Where is it? Electric blue light, mirroring movements familiar or unrecognizable, we are wearing all-white space suits... It is charged with a slow moving replica of something like anti-gravity, and the sounds vibrate, as if, at light speed. Right away the psychological thriller with Natalie Portman in Annihilation, 2018, directed by Alex Garland came to mind. Syed choreographed it beautifully so that, for me, I continued the story from where Garland stopped short- in the movie we find ourselves, but in the dance it goes further to be more about self exploration. We go further in the dance by exposing the theater for what it is, a platform, off kilter by standards of reality, but what really is our reality? The solos, and duets redefined gravity by the effect it had on giving way to human movement. The body facilitates life, and the movement is linear; a point of departure to imagine this extraterrestrial landscape. Welcome to Andromeda, you have just exited the Milky Way.

Zhu Wangbo turns us around, and his vision reveals a plain sight, that is, what it means to live through a pandemic. Live Through The Marathon was grounding as much as it was devastating, the breakage from the other worldly still seems seamless with the previous piece. The introduction was blurring the scene in sunshine, a vignette of dancers, we are at the basketball courts in Capitolo playground in Philadelphia. It is like an opener to a Spike Lee film. Energised by quick movements, and watercolors of the outdoors, yet it is defined by facecoverings. The dancers kept 6ft apart while they made a circle. The basketball court is a sign that many of you may remember in the urban setting. If you noticed, they removed the hoops during the pandemic to ensure there were no big public gatherings.

Live Through The Marathon rings in the new year with a tone that we familiarize with slogans like #flattenthecurve , #superspreader , and #communitycontagion. It’s a move to circle around a myth or soothsayer that will somehow make it easier to understand what is going to happen next. That makes us move differently, and it stops us from socializing freely. Culture is closing in on us, like a small space for quarantine, the next scene showed Zhu bouncing back and forth across a limited space in a reverberating panic. We return outside after desperation set in, and the graffiti filled alley behind the Chi-Movement Art Center gives breath for creativity. The all-gender identity of the two dancers is a sense of modernity. Ending with a massive tree branching out, and a zoom meeting replicating a celebratory moment when the doctors and nurses on the frontline of this pandemic return home receive thanks from strangers up above in their windows.

Practicing social distancing, as we wait for a vaccine; it is devastating for learning, at basic developmental stages. Whether we are inside or outside, outer space or another galaxy there is humanity to retain. Break dancing, moon walking, Black Lives Matter demonstrations... happenings are impetus to create a better future.




Chuck Schultz


Photo Credit:
Chuck Schultz

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