June 2002 [oberlin online]
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They've Got Rhythm!
Gallery Takes Oberlin Art Global
They've Got Rhythm!

Two Students Start an ExCo and End Up with a STOMP Ensemble
by Anne C. Paine

The Oberlin STOMP performers pose with some of their instruments: (front row, left to right) Mariana Carlson '03, Laura Kepner-Adney '04, Erin Shiba '02, and Maitreya Levanchild '05; (back row) Adam Brooks '02, Barbie Paterson '05, and Jordan Balagot '03. Three members were unavailable for this photo.

A bit of Broadway's come to Oberlin, and students are stomping about it.

Stomping as in STOMP, the theater-movement-percussion sensation that began in the early 1990s as street theater in England and has since swept to worldwide acclaim.

To bring the phenomenon to Oberlin, juniors Jordan Balagot and Marlana Carlson, both avid STOMP fans, organized and taught a new Experimental College course this semester.

Response to their Oberlin STOMP course was tremendous: from among the 50 people who applied for entry to the class, the instructors chose eight and, over the course of the semester, molded them into a collaborative, cohesive ensemble. Members bring a wide range of backgrounds to the group, including tap, taiko drumming, jazz, ballet, theater, and modern dance.

The premise behind STOMP, said Carlson, is "the simple concept of making music and rhythm with everyday objects. It speaks to everyone in any language because there's no language involved."

"I had seen STOMP and found it really fascinating. It was very powerful because it made you want to get up and do it," she continued. "It's been a dream of mine, since I came here, to start a group." A theater major, Carlson boasts an impressive background in music and dance, including playing clarinet and studying contact improv and capoeira.

Balagot, a composition major, first saw STOMP when he was in eighth grade, and though he said he'd like to audition for the professional group after he graduates, he wanted Oberlin STOMP to go further than the Broadway show does.

"STOMP has only one choreographer and one composer," he said. "They don't change what they do. We wanted to come from a place where all the students were writing, creating, improvising, and incorporating new instruments."

As in the Broadway show, the members of Oberlin's STOMP ensemble use a variety of nontraditional percussion instruments: trash cans, buckets, glass jars, boxes of macaroni, steel bowls, empty cans, and brooms.

In keeping with the collaborative nature of the class, however, the instructors aren't always the teachers. In a recent session, ensemble member Adam Brooks '02 taught a routine using balloons. After everyone had inflated colorful "Happy Birthday" balloons, he demonstrated various ways to make pleasing sounds with these "instruments." Once everyone had mastered the techniques, he taught three different rhythms.

Finally, Brooks split the class into three smaller groups and assigned each group one of the rhythms. He started the first group, added the second, and then the third, and as all three rhythms were played simultaneously, the room exploded with sound and exuberance, energy and life. Though the class session was devoted to learning music, bodies began swaying instinctively. Communication flashed, unspoken, from the eyes of one performer to the next as all concentrated on the work of being an ensemble.

The Oberlin STOMP ensemble performed publicly twice during the semester, and Balagot plans to offer the class again next year.

"It's been a lot of fun," he said. "I definitely want to focus more on percussion in my own composing work now."

"It's been rewarding to see people be happy and know that we did a good job," Carlson added. "It would also be rewarding to see the group continue after we graduate."

To see video clips of the Oberlin STOMP ensemble in action, go to www.oberlin.edu/wwwcomm/ats/ and click on the Video Gallery.

Gallery Takes Oberlin Art Global

A sampling of the artworks on view at the Oberlin Online Gallery.


A new campus art gallery opened this semester in an event that would have been unimaginable just 20 years ago.

At precisely 5 p.m. on a Friday in mid-February, the doors of the Allen Art Building's Fisher Hall opened for an exhibition of faculty and student works. At the same moment, the new Oberlin College Online Gallery (OCOG) - also featuring faculty and student works - "went live."

To draw attention to the OCOG, the innovative exhibition in Fisher featured both physical and virtual works. Some 200 guests strolled among installations, paintings, and photographs shown alongside projected images of works from the online gallery. A screening of The Settler, a short film by assistant professor of art Rian Brown-Orso, and live performances of student-composed music were juxtaposed with viewing stations where guests could see and hear video and audio works from the online gallery.

The brainchild of John Appley '85, director of new media in the college relations office, OCOG showcases a wide-ranging sampling of art currently being produced at Oberlin, including photography, sculpture, installation art, video, music, and performance work. The web site also includes profiles of participating artists.

One of the best things about OCOG is that unlike the exhibition in Fisher Hall, which has long since been dismantled, the online gallery is a permanent feature of Oberlin Online, the College's web site. This extends its reach far beyond the Oberlin campus.

"Virtual, web-based galleries have global visibility," said John Donalds, media engineer for the art department and a collaborator on the project. "With this site, the College has made it easier for our community to display its artwork with the medium of the Internet."

Lauren Harkrader '02, a studio art major whose work is featured on OCOG, agreed. "We hope this will help people realize that compelling, thought-provoking works are being created at Oberlin," she said. ATS

To visit the Oberlin College Online Gallery, log on to www.oberlin.edu/gallery/.

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