Mac Dance’s annual showcase carries on despite COVID-19
Performing arts have the power to, for a brief moment in time, bring people together in a shared experience. This year’s Mac Dance showcase The Show Goes On is a reminder of the students’ ability to come together, albeit online, to share their love of dance. The group features a range of styles: from jazz and tap, to musical theatre and Bollywood.
Last year, Mac Dance’s annual showcase was held at Mohawk College and was almost entirely sold out. This year, the show will be held virtually as a YouTube live stream on Feb. 27.
“We want to make it feel as much like a typical show as possible, so we made a show order, a virtual program, we’re having an intermission and we’re having raffles. Chance [Sabouri, Mac Dance president] is going to do a little speech at the beginning. The biggest difference obviously is that you’re not going to be sitting in a chair screaming at people on stage in front of you,” said Lauren Shoss, a fourth-year health sciences student and secretary of Mac Dance.
In September, choreographers and dancers began the process of preparing dances for the showcase. Each piece is two to three minutes in length and it is up to the choreographer to choose the music and set the choreography for their group.
Dance classes this year have been taught over Zoom, posing its own unique set of challenges, from half of the choreographer’s body getting cut out of the frame to dancing in cramped spaces to getting kicked out of the call due to unstable internet connections. However, through mutual support, everyone moved past these challenges together.
“We've heard from a lot of our dancers that people are just so thankful. They see dance as a break and escape from the stress of school. I know that's how people feel in a typical year — you go into the studio and you kind of leave the rest of the world behind [to] focus on dance for a bit and just let yourself really get into your movement, so it's really nice that people are still able to get that from the year,” said Shoss.
The Silhouette interviewed some of Mac Dance’s choreographers to get an in-depth look at some of the pieces that will be performed this year.
Going Home by Kevin Vong
Vong described his piece’s style as a type of hip hop fusion that blends contemporary and hip hop styles.
Choreographed to Sonn and Ayelle’s Lights Out and Vance Joy’s Going Home, the piece pushes traditional definitions of hip hop. Where hip hop is typically defined by its hard-hitting movement, Vong brings out the texture and subtlety with particular attention to emotion in his piece.
“Especially during the pandemic, [I was inspired by] going home to reconnect to what is important to you instead of looking out to the material world. Sometimes family, home, is what you should rely on and it’s really important,” explained Vong.
For Vong, dance has become a form of home and he hopes that the audience will feel that through movement. Currently in his fourth year of linguistics, Vong said dance will forever remain as a source of inspiration and for all intents and purposes, his second home.
Got It in You & Grave Digger by Lauren Shoss
Shoss roots her dance pieces in storytelling. Drawing from her personal life experiences, her two pieces Got it in You and Grave Digger are two halves of a whole, with antagonistic but related storylines.
Got It in You, a lyrical dance set to the song of the same name by BANNERS, is based on the idea of finding the strength and power within yourself to overcome life’s obstacles and challenges.
Complimentary to Got It in You,Grave Digger is a contemporary piece exemplifying the feeling of being weighed and held down. Set to the song by Matt Maeson of the same name, Shoss described the piece’s darker and more aggressive tones as a welcome challenge, as she branched out of her comfort zone to create the more intense piece.
Now in her fourth year of the health sciences program, Lauren is considering pursuing a master’s degree in sports psychology, with the intention of working with athletes from a mental health perspective.
“I think [work with athlete mental health] is really needed in the dance world. I've seen a lot of my teammates suffer from body image issues, low self-confidence, perfectionism and eating disorders . . . It is a very neglected population, but they're in need of support,” explained Shoss.
Burlesque by Hannah Armstrong
Armstrong’s jazz group is channelling their inner Christina Aguilera in her piece entitled Burlesque, inspired by the film. In her first year choreographing a jazz piece, Armstrong decided upon the theme of burlesque as a fun and uplifting dance concept.
“The biggest challenge was probably just trying to envision how I wanted the routine, while also trying to make it [conducive to] online [viewing] . . . What can make a jazz routine really great are the transitions, group formations, interaction between dancers and just the energy on stage, so trying to replicate that online was probably the biggest struggle for me,” explained Armstrong.
As one of two co-vice presidents for the recreational dance team, Armstrong admires that Mac Dance connects diverse individuals by their mutual love of dance. In the spirit of The Show Goes On, she detailed how the Mac Dance community has impacted her as a dancer and as a person.
“I did competitive dance throughout high school and I always assumed that that would be the end of my kind of dancing career, but coming to university and then finding this team [allowed me to] keep doing what I love. . . I'm very thankful that everybody is here because they want to [dance] for fun and because they're invested,” Armstrong said.
Vienna by Abby Buller
When finding inspiration for her piece, Buller found that she clicked instantly with Billy Joel’s Vienna. As a tap choreographer, she liked the song for both its musical elements in combination with tap sounds as well as its message.
As tap dance is largely dependent on dancers’ timing of tap sounds with each other and the music, creating a tap dance in an online environment poses its own set of challenges. With technical difficulties in teaching over Zoom, Buller pointed to the timing of intricate steps as one of her greatest challenges.
Buller described her creative way of splicing dancers’ videos together for her dance’s showcase performance.
“When I get dancers to send me their videos, I want [to coordinate] their feet sounds, but I need to [overlay the] music in with it. I was so happy when this worked out — the [entire group] has Bluetooth headphones, so they're going to listen to the song through their headphones, film out loud so the can get their feet [sounds] and then I'll put the music in over top,” explained Buller.
The Mac Dance team hopes that The Show Goes On will bring people together in an otherwise distant time, reminding them that even though we are physically distant, we are still all in this together.
“Mac Dance reminded me of what the dance community is supposed to be just like. A bunch of people coming together to have fun, to share a common passion, to create something really beautiful and meaningful together and just having a great time,” said Buller.
One of the biggest talking points that most candidates make when running for a seat on the Student Representative Assembly is transparency. The word has been tossed around so much that it has basically become a buzzword. But transparency is more than just a talking point; it’s an incredibly important behaviour that the SRA needs to adopt.
During the SRA meeting on Jan. 20, the SRA discussed how they can make their assembly more survivor-centric. Namely, a motion was passed to task the vice president (Administration), in collaboration with the sexual violence response coordinator Meaghan Ross, to develop an amendment to the constitution which includes an emergency response procedure for sexual violence.
This occurred after an SRA member was accused of engaging in sexual assault and another member supported that member. As of now, the SRA cannot ask these members to step down from their positions, only suggest that they should.
The proposed changes to the constitution could allow the SRA to remove such members from their assembly. This is important news in support of survivors, but unfortunately this information has not been made widely available.
Navigating the SRA website is far from an easy task. While the interface itself is user-friendly, information is difficult to find. For example, one would think that meeting minutes from SRA meetings would be listed under SRA minutes but this webpage only contains broken links from April 2018. The actual minutes from SRA meetings are posted under SRA documents amidst other documents and memos.
The minutes themselves are lengthy and filled with unfamiliar jargon that the average student should not be expected to know. This length and volume leads to the vast majority of students not reading the minutes and remaining unaware of the changes that are occurring within the university.
Beyond the content of the minutes, it is also unclear when the meeting minutes are posted. Two weeks ago, on Jan. 9, I was searching for the Jan. 6 meeting minutes, found nothing, and was forced to watch the hour-long livestream to understand what happened.
Though the Jan. 6 meeting minutes are posted now, they are posted under the Jan. 20 heading. I’m not sure when they were posted considering that nowhere on the SRA site do they state when they post meeting minutes after each meeting. Students should not be expected to consistently check the site or watch hours of livestream footage to stay informed.
Instead, minutes should be posted as soon as they are available. A three-day turnaround seems more than reasonable.
If the meeting minutes take long to post, at the very least the SRA or its individual caucuses should create summary documents for students to review. These documents can forgo the jargon and essentially list the important details that were discussed.
Students interested for more information can then consult the meeting minutes, or better yet, review a transcript of the livestream, which remain available to view after the meetings occur. I understand that it is difficult to transcribe a live meeting however, in the interests of accessibility, SRA meetings should be transcribed afterwards to allow individuals who require accommodations the ability to access the livestream videos.
Moreso, when watching the Jan. 20 livestream, a comment was made that some of the information that was discussed would not be included in the meeting minutes. There must be a reason — not all comments made are deemed important enough to include in the minutes — but if the SRA would like to be considered transparent, these comments should be made available for students to interpret on their own. A transcript of the meetings could provide this transparency.
This is not the first time that the SRA has been called out for its lack of transparency. As a governing body that is meant to represent the entire student body of McMaster University, the SRA has a responsibility to do better. The SRA is making some important, positive changes for the university — if only students were aware.
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As some of you have already noticed, and have vehemently tweeted at us about, The Silhouette no longer Livestreams every SRA meeting.
“What?! How could you do this? What did the SRA ever do to you?” The answer to these questions is: yes it’s true; we did it following the guidelines of the MSU constitution and Silhouette bylaws; the SRA did nothing to hurt us, this is simply a decision of content management.
It has been brought to my attention that there has been some miscommunication about this decision, as well as some misinterpretation of The Silhouette’s role as a news outlet on campus.
According to the MSU’s operating policies, The Silhouette “shall remain completely autonomous in terms of the editorial content and the basic format of the newspaper” (Operating Policy 1.3.1- The Silhouette, section 2.9). Being autonomous means that we have the freedom to cover what we want without the influence of the MSU. This is not limited to our print product, it also includes social media such as Livestream.
Every year The Silhouette changes its social media to reflect the feedback and interaction we get from the year past. This year, we chose to add three forms of social media — Snapchat, Instagram and we joined Reddit. We also decided to stop using one form of social media — Livestream. We made this choice because we found it was a waste of our money and effort. It costs $504 a year to have a Livestream account, and when we hosted a stream of a meeting or debate, on average our links to the stream only recieved a single digit number of clicks on social media (like our last SRA meeting Livestream which peaked at 8 viewers). Compare this to the hundreds of views we get on our own videos and the thousands of clicks we get on written online articles, and it is clear that this is not the most effective form of media to get a message across to students.
We don’t hate the SRA. We cover their meetings in whatever form we deem most appropriate — whether that is with an article (in print or online), an infographic, a series of tweets or a Livestream recording.
We would have been happy to Livestream last week’s meeting as it discussed an important student issue that we have been keeping up with online and in print, but I did not feel comfortable sending one of our staff members into a meeting before having made a concrete and written decision about the long and short term plans for the future of Livestreaming. Based on the emails I have received, the messages that have been sent to us over Twitter, and the conversations I have had in person, there is a clear misunderstanding about The Silhouette’s rights, and I was not going to send my staff members into a space where they would be bullied for exercising their freedom and editorial autonomy. Instead, this week we had a reporter cover the meeting in person, and they left a recorder to get the full meeting, since they had other school-related commitments to attend to on the night of the meeting. And for the record, no one from our staff promised to cover this meeting. I mentioned that we would consider it while at our Oct. 29 Board of Publications meeting, but no one reached out to me to confirm whether we would be there or not. If someone told you otherwise, you have been misinformed.
Just as The Silhouette acts to hold the MSU and SRA accountable, these two bodies also hold The Silhouette accountable in terms of our spending and budget. The argument for consistent Livestreaming has been that a portion of the budget has been allotted specifically to this cause — this may have been true in the past, but this is not true this year. This year we have a reduced subscription budget due to a few changes within the organization, we have not allotted any money towards purchasing equipment, and none of our job descriptions require that our staff Livestream any meetings or debates as a mandatory part of their job. It is simply not true that we are going against our budget or constitution by stopping the Livestream of these meetings.
I understand that having a Livestream of SRA meetings is important for accessibility, but making SRA meetings accessible is not The Silhouette’s job. We will make news about the meetings accessible, as well as any criticisms or praise of decisions made during the hours of meetings — but the meetings themselves? That falls on the shoulders of the MSU and the SRA. The MSU needs to make its services and decisons accessible to the public. We hold them accountable for this. This being said, The Silhouette is happy to lend its equipment to the MSU when or if they decide to do this.
The Silhouette will be covering some of the future meetings with Livestream, and other meetings through a medium of our choice. But, since The Silhouette does have autonomy, we do not need to say yes to demands related to coverage from the MSU, unless they are in writing as part of our operations. If we begin saying yes to these demands, at what point do we draw the line? At what point do we stop being a paper whose coverage is run editorially independent of the MSU? At what point do we become a mouthpiece for the MSU’s agenda and become a paper that is unable to hold our university and its students union accountable?
View today's SRA meeting on our live broadcast, here.
Read up on today's agenda and supplementary documents, here.
View our livestream of today's SRA meeting here. The meeting began at noon and is expected to run late into the evening.
Read up on the agenda and the order of special events (including Speaker and MSU Vice President elections) here.
View the 2014 MSU General Assembly here.
View the agenda and more information here.
For context and a little bit of what to expect, read the Sil's GA primer, here.
View tonight's SRA meeting, beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 23, 2014, here.
View the agenda here.