Might As Well Jump, Jump, Jump: Igor and Moreno's "Idiot-Syncrasy"



Igor and Moreno jump around, jump around, jump up, jump up and get down.

thmpf thmpf thmpf thmpf thmpf thmpf thmpf thmpf thmpf

You know what that sound is? It’s jumping. Not just a jump, but jumping -- ongoing.

Maybe you have a muscle memory of trampolines, or a visual memory of kids’ games, or an ancestral memory of the bouncing that shows up in so many folk dances, but you know jumping. And Igor Urzelai and Moreno Solinas -- the London-based dance duo known as Igor and Moreno -- are counting on that, counting on our shared understanding of sustained thmpf thmpf thmpf for the success of their show Idiot-Syncrasy, which has its U.S. premiere at the Arthur Miller Theater this weekend, sponsored by http://ums.org/performance/idiot-syncrasy/University.

Igor and Moreno bounce throughout the show, with their jumping being a simple strategy to bring the group -- them and us, the audience -- together. We all tap into the shared pulse; we feel it together, in synchrony. The jumping, like a pulse, becomes a bass line for other, more nuanced activities Urzelai and Solinas carry out. And when that jumping keeps going and going, we understand that, too. We know about endurance and about exhaustion, so we’re right with them when what had been something playful becomes something more serious and powerful when it “spirals to a darker place.”

The streamlined nature of Idiot-Syncrasy’s central premise -- just two bodies, singing and dancing and jumping -- came originally from an economic crisis in 2013 when they made the work. There was a desire, and a financial imperative, to do “more with less,” to strip down to very simple means. “You really only need a little for something quite big to happen,” Solinas said.

Word Up: U-M's Zell Visiting Writers Series Winter 2017 Lineup


Zell Visiting Writers Series

Writing becomes reading at U-M's Zell series.

Bestselling author Colm Toibin’s November 2016 reading/talk in Ann Arbor -- part of the U-M’s fantastic Zell Visiting Writers Series -- drew a big enough crowd to not only fill all the 185 seats in UMMA’s Helmut Stern Auditorium, but also the wall end of both side aisles and the back wall.

Toibin, best known for his novel Brooklyn, the basis for an Oscar-nominated film, was one part of ZVWS’s star-studded lineup for fall 2016, which also included Everything I Never Told You author (and U-M MFA program grad) Celeste Ng and Tony Award-winning playwright/actress and Michigan native Lisa Kron (Fun Home).

“That was a large turnout for one of our readings, but not unprecedented,” said Douglas Trevor, director of U-M’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program, in reference to Toibin's event.

With big and/or rising literary stars on the roster, and increasing community awareness of the series, Trevor and HZWP assistant director Maya West (who oversees the reading series) should probably expect more full houses in future.

“Our list to date is pretty incredible,” said Trevor. “We really hope and strive to provide more opportunities for literary engagement in Southeast Michigan.”

“And we’ve cast a wider net with our marketing, especially in the last year or two,” said West, who noted that Literati has partnered with the series to be the bookseller on-site while also including the readings on the indie bookstore’s event calendar.

The new semester’s lineup includes:

Everybody's "Fools": Rebel Kind


Rebel Kind

Kind rebels are the Rebel Kind. Photo by Alex Glendening.

“They call us the rebel kind” goes the chorus of the 1966 New Zealand garage-rock jam by The Chicks that gave Rebel Kind its name. But the Ann Arbor band also takes other cues from The Chicks: spare guitar lines, bold but sweet vocals, and the earnest DIY swagger that has launched a million punk bands.

Rebel Kind is celebrating the release of its new album, Just for Fools (Urinal Cake Records), with a record-release show on Saturday, January 7 at Arbor Vitae in Ann Arbor. The LP is a solid jump from 2014’s Today and the cleaner production allows you to hear how much tighter Autumn Wetli (vocals, guitar), Amber Fellows (drums, vocals, etc.), and Shelley Salant (bass, etc.) play as a unit now.

But at the core of Rebel Kind’s appeal are Wetli’s songs, which are personal without being overconfessional. She often takes a kernel from something in her own life and writes lyrics around it while exercising the artistic license to add fictional details as needed.

Rebel Kind largely sticks to a jangly sound reminiscent of 1980s indie guitar music, particularly bands from England, such as Television Personalities and The Pastels, and New Zealand, such as The Clean and The Bats (both of which recorded for the legendary Flying Nun label). But with the full-time addition of guitarist Alex Glendenning (who performs on two Just for Fools tunes), Rebel Kind is becoming a little noisier, a little punkier ... a like more like The Chicks, at least in attitude and spirit.

We talked to Wetli about Just for Fools -- and embedded the album for you to hear -- as well as her wanderlust, what happens when the songs dry up, and why she’s put music on the backburner.

Ann Arbor District Library 2016 Staff Picks: Books, Movies, Music & More

Ann Arbor District Library 2016 Staff Picks

We don't just lend media; we indulge in it, too!

The Gregorian calendar rules most of the world, but time is a continuum. That's why our 2016 Ann Arbor District Library staff picks for books, music, film, and more include items that go back as far as 1865. Our list is comprised of media (and a few other things) that made an impact on us in 2016, no matter when the material came out.

Libraries have always acted as curation stations, helping sort through the vast amount of media released every year. On our website, we have more than 50 staff-curated lists of recommendations, but we don't just advocate for things digitally. We share our "picks" in person every time you step into the library. Books with prominent positions in our spaces, whether facing forward or on shelf tops, are chosen by staff members because they want you to pick up those pages.

Consider the massive post below featuring 55 books, 25 films and TV shows, and 20 albums -- plus a few odds and ends -- as a continuation of those curated lists, those forward-facing books, and the Ann Arbor District Library’s ongoing mission to bring high-quality art, entertainment, and information into your lives.

So, ready your library cards: Most of the recommendations below are in our collection; just click on the {[AADL]} link at the end of each pick to be taken to the item's page on our website.

Spontaneity on Cue: Batsheva Dance Company



It's the Last dance but the first chance for North American audiences to see it.

People are going gaga for Batsheva Dance Company -- in part because of its complex and compelling system of movement called "Gaga."

Based in Tel Aviv, Batsheva is considered among the foremost contemporary dance companies on the planet, its reputation resting on both artistic director Ohad Naharin, whose innovative dances have earned him international recognition, and the dancers -- strikingly beautiful, preternaturally facile people capable of movement that can be breathtaking, quicksilver, poignant, contorted, edgy, quizzical, bombastic, and much more. They have a totally engaging hyper-presence.

The University Musical Society-sponsored Batsheva performances at the Power Center on January 7 and 8 are the North American premieres of Naharin’s 2015 provocatively titled Last Work and kicks off a six-week tour that will take the company to major cities in U.S. and Canada. The tour is also the first chance U.S. audiences will have to see Batsheva live since 2014.

Talking with Luc Jacobs, a former Batsheva dancer who now serves as Naharin’s rehearsal director, afforded me the chance to get an insider’s perspective on Batsheva, Naharin, and Last Work. Fittingly, our conversation began and ended with "Gaga," Naharin’s invented movement language that allows him to communicate more directly with the dancers.

New Year's Japes: 50 First Jokes at The Ark


Fifty Jokes at The Art

Start the new year laughing to keep from uncontrollably crying.

Organizing 50 people to be part of a show is never easy. But organizing 50 comedians?

“It’s cuckoo,” said Shelly Smith, who programs and hosts Ann Arbor’s 50 First Jokes show at The Ark, happening Tuesday, January 3 at 7:30 p.m. “It’s completely ridiculous.”

But that’s part of the fun, of course.

The show was the brainchild of comedian John F. O’Donnell, whom Smith met as part of the Ann Arbor comedy scene in the early 2000s. When O’Donnell moved back to New York more than a decade ago, he had the idea to gather comedians in Brooklyn to deliver their first new joke of the year.

“The first show was not exactly super-organized,” said Smith.

Now, though, 50 First Jokes has taken root in 10 different cities across the country, and three years ago, at O’Donnell’s urging, Smith brought the annual tradition to Ann Arbor. The show combines comedians of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels -- from headliners to those now earning their stripes -- and seats 25 at a time on stage, where they have a maximum of two minutes to lay their first joke of 2017 on the crowd.

“It goes really fast,” said Smith. “It’s like, name, joke, name, joke, name, joke. The energy is crazy, but it’s so fun.”

Reviving the Romance: Ann Arbor Musical Theater Works' "Love Story"


Love Story

Love is all around, no need to waste it.

Mounting new musicals that haven’t been locally staged before is quickly becoming Ron Baumanis’ calling card.

“It’s one of the things I love to do,” Baumanis said.

In January 2015, for example, Baumanis directed an Ann Arbor Civic Theatre production of the stage musical Bonnie & Clyde,” which won over audiences so much that Baumanis went on to stage the same musical at Dexter’s Encore Theatre and Wyandotte’s Downriver Actors Guild. Now, Baumanis’ company, Ann Arbor Musical Theater Works, will present the regional premiere of the stage musical adaptation of Love Story at Ann Arbor’s Children’s Creative Center from January 5-15.

Based on the 1970 bestselling novel by Erich Segal -- with a book by Stephen Clark, music by Howard Goodall, and lyrics by Stephen Clark and Goodall -- Love Story tells the story of a young man (Oliver) from a wealthy East Coast family who falls in love with a poor young pianist (Jenny) of Italian descent. Against his father’s wishes, Oliver marries Jenny, so then he must find his way in the world without his family’s wealth. He goes to law school while Jenny works as a teacher, but when bad news arrives, both Oliver and Jenny have no choice but to alter their plans for the future.

“The musical is based more on the book than the [1970] movie, which kind of ‘60s-ized’ it,” said Baumanis. “It takes a lot of that stuff out of it and goes back to the basics of the story.”

A Deep Welles of Ideas: “It’s Still Terrific: Citizen Kane at 75”



A stand-up Citizen

Get over it: Citizen Kane is smarter than you. It’s smarter than any and all of us—or even its own creator, for that matter.

It’s smarter, because—if as has sometimes been said—the making of any movie is a miracle, then Citizen Kane is more than a miracle. It’s the Mona Lisa of film-making: inscrutable, ineffable, and unfathomable to whomever views it.

It’s also not a bad effort for a 25-year-old first time-out-of-the-chute theatrical amateur who by his own admission in the University of Michigan Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library’s It’s Still Terrific: Citizen Kane at 75 tells us that he had no real idea of what he was doing.

Indeed, as this exhibit at the U-M Hatcher Graduate Library Audubon Room illustrates through both sight and sound, it’s very likely the film is superior because enfant terrible Orson Welles didn’t know what he was doing. Which, of course, only makes the film that much more impressive.

Swinging Into the New Year: Pete Siers and the King of Swing


Pete Siers

Pete Siers is a good man on the drums.

“It's a sense of melody, harmony, rhythm, and simplicity that is of interest to all of us,” said drummer Pete Siers about what Benny Goodman's music means to him.

In fact, Siers is so in love with the King of Swing's sound, his band recorded a second CD dedicated to the great clarinetist: Goodman and Beyond Vol.II. The band will celebrate the release by swinging into the new year at the sold out Kerrytown Concert House on Saturday, December 31. Siers will be accompanied by the virtuosic pianist Tad Weed and clarinetist Dave Bennett, a Goodman devotee.

The Ann Arbor-based Siers is focused on the core elements of jazz -- swing, improvisation, etc. -- but he’s not bound by tradition. Instead, his concept is to expand on those vital elements and take jazz into a personal realm, which has always been the objective of any skilled musician not dictated to by commercial constraints. Siers also considers Goodman’s music to be modern as opposed to vintage because, given the entire history of music, jazz is chronologically modern.

Everyday They Write the Books: Mittenfest XI Returns to Rock for 826michigan



Mittenfest celebrates readin', writin' & rock 'n' rollin'.

Mittenfest is the annual three-day music festival benefiting 826michigan, the nonprofit center at 115 East Liberty St.
in Ann Arbor that helps school-aged kids express themselves through creative writing. 826michigan also offers drop-in tutoring, after-school programs, and help for those learning English.

Basically, it's good people doing good things, which is why 21 bands are playing for free to raise money in support of 826michigan.

Mittenfest returns for its 11th iteration, December 29-31, and it’s again taking place at Bona Sera in downtown Ypsilanti.

We did interviews with four of the bands playing the fest:

The Belle Isles
The Avatars
Blue Jeans

And below is the full festival lineup, plus sound samples, dates, and times for all the Mittenfest bands: