Student-hosted WACsmash event brings dance and art into the digital space

WACsmash reconfigures its rhythm with an online showcase broadcast live.

Traditionally a three-day event, the student-run dance showcase and visual arts gallery is emerging as a remote event in its 21st year. All the producers, choreographers and artists of the gallery are students of arts and world cultures or dance who collaborate and organize the event since the beginning of the fall term. This year’s theme is ‘Reconfigured,’ and fourth-year dance student and producer Justin Gamboa said that signifies how those involved have had to adapt to the complex set of challenges associated with being involved. ‘be online.

“(This year’s show) is very different. … If you just look at the production itself, it’s completely new. Very few things sound like they usually are because… they’re also pre-recorded and not live, which means it’s a lot more premeditated and a little less spontaneous, ”Gamboa said. “But at the same time, there is a lot more flexibility in the way the choreographers wanted to present their work.”

WACsmash came into being in 2000 as a way for students in the World Arts and Culture / Dance Department to create their own performance opportunity separate from those offered by the department, Gamboa said. Traditionally held at Kaufman Hall, he said the show has grown into an annual event, with three screenings of the production. This year the show is fully online and will have a live broadcast with a recording of the production remaining on the website for a year, Gamboa said.

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Almost every aspect of the show – auditions, collaborations and choreography – was conducted online, said Katelyn Olsen, a fourth-year dance and physics student. Due to the online format, Gamboa said choreographers need to be very careful with copyright and music licensing. As a result, many choreographers reached out to UCLA student musicians and poets to choreograph pieces of their work, Olsen said.

“For the online format, we had to film everything,” Olsen said. “So in some ways (the dance pieces) turned into video projects. … Sometimes there are screen projections that are behind (the dance being performed). Every now and then there’s a live musician, but for the most part it’s a very dance-oriented show.

The online aspect offered more chances to collaborate, and Olsen said she co-performed a dance piece with fourth-year dance student Madeline Nobida because they both wanted to focus on topics. linked to climate change. Nobida said the couple worked in a linear fashion, with Olsen teaching sections of the dance on Zoom to their dancers, then filming that particular section, repeating the process for all sections. There was a combination of dancing together in small groups and individually with Nobida taking on the editing role, she said.

“Editing is always my favorite part of creating dance work,” said Nobida. “It was nice to have already arranged the sections of the dances, so with these phrases, I just inserted them. From there, I took all the extra photos and woven them into the room, accompanying the music and poetry. “

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In addition to the dance showcase, the performance will also have a gallery page for the artwork. The art to be presented includes a film directed by Roma Edwards, a first year student in world arts and cultures and her two co-collaborators, as well as a collection of paintings. Edwards said his participatory film is about the experience of existing in a community even though everyone is separate. It is made up of a collection of videos of 35 students in various locations mounted together to give the impression that all the students are in the same space. The visual arts component adds an interdisciplinary aspect to the show, which Edwards says shows the different ways in which art can approach what the world is currently experiencing.

Nobida said this year’s theme is a reflection on the process of adapting to the online platform and letting go of what we are used to. For Edwards, the theme shows how artists can put a positive spin on the pandemic, as pieces like his film would never have been created without COVID-19. Being online has made people more aware of the different places and experiences that others come from because the separation can be seen physically, Edwards said.

The COVID-19 restrictions opened up many possibilities for choreographers in their creative process and challenged them to dance for a digital space, Nobida said. The ability to film in different locations was beneficial in communicating their play’s message and did it better than a live production, Olsen said. Although building an online community is much more difficult, Gamboa said organizing WACsmash has been a difficult but rewarding experience.

“(The show) is called WACsmash and we always honor that this is a traditional, annual event,” Gamboa said. “But it’s reconfigured,… everything is still familiar but it’s also different and (the theme) helps organize everything into one concise idea.”


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