Seniors Pyeng Threadgill and Ana Maria Alvarez are collaborating to produce two performances this weekend. Although one is a play and one a dance recital, the works draw from each others' genre, from one another, and from the creators' personal experiences to create what each feels is a culmination of her work so far. Threadgill, who is from New York City, wrote, directed, and performs in Fi Nan Bois (Girl in the Woods), a three-act play with a five-person cast. The play tells a story about a woman finding her voice and negotiating relationships.
"I wanted to make a show about a female developing in her life," says Threadgill. She says that she relates well to the lead character.
"When people ask what am I doing next year and I say I don't know, I feel like I'm in the woods," she says. "Even though I'm sort of lost, I know there are people watching out for me and people who have done things in order for me to get here."
Though she is taking a full course load, Threadgill believes that she must produce her work before graduating.
"It's something that I just need to do," she says. "I wanted to show myself what I've learned over the four years."
Likewise, Alvarez, a politics and dance major from Brooklyn, New York, sees her work as a culmination of her college effort.
"I'm also doing this as a farewell to Oberlin," she says. "I want to leave with a boom. I want to leave people inspired."
The nine pieces of Alvarez's senior dance show, Auto-BODY-ography, show a spectrum of dance forms, including Latin, African, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, and modern. All pieces in the hour-long performance feature Alvarez's energetic choreography.
An ensemble of 50 dancers performs in Alvarez's production. Some of them, students from her Latin Dance Experimental College (ExCo) class, will demonstrate what they have learned in "Mis Politos."
"For me, dance can be such an incredible mechanism for communication," says Alvarez. "Through dance I feel able to reach people and evoke emotions more than with words."
The performance also includes musicians, vocalists, and a DJ. "The Witch Dance" features a five-person rhythm group playing bottles, pans, and jugs. Jameson Edwards, a junior from Providence, Rhode Island, will DJ the hip-hop piece, "Respiracion."
"I want people to leave feeling excited that they've been exposed to stuff they haven't seen before and that they like it," she says. "Maybe they'll even want to try it out themselves, go to more performances, and be more supportive of this type of work."
Fi Nan Bois and Auto-BODY-ography share the dance and vocal piece, "Yes You." In both works four dancers perform steps choreographed by Alvarez as five vocalists sing the Bobby McFerrin song a cappella.
The collaboration does not end there. Alvarez and Threadgill begin Alvarez's show with the duet "Dance Like Nobody's Watching." Threadgill also a spoken-word and music piece "We Are Soldiers" in Alvarez's show.
They enjoyed working together and say that the collaboration has strengthened their own work.
"The beauty of working with Pyeng is that she is one of the few people who share my confidence and strength in being able to make changes with the arts," says Alvarez. "She gives me confidence that what I'm doing is really powerful. It is not empty support where she says everything is great."
"One of the most important and inspiring things about collaborating with Ana Maria and what makes our collaboration so special is the fact that we're two women of color," says Threadgill.
"For members of the African American and Latino community to collaborate on works that deal with our experiences growing up helps bridge the communication gap between our communities."
Ana Maria Alvarez's Auto-BODY-ography will be performed in the 'Sco at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday.
Pyeng Threadgill's Fi Nan Bois will be performed in Peters' Great Hall at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Against the Wall: Seniors Pyeng Threadgill and Ana Maria Alvarez (photo by Stephen Menyhart)
Heels over Head: Auto-BODY-ography turns Oberlin upside-down. (photo by Beth O'Brien)
Copyright © 1999, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 127, Number 22, April 30, 1999
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