Category Archives: Dance

100-year-old architectural gem still sparkles on Walnut Street

Photo by Molly Petrilla

In 1911, fresh from their success with the New York Public Library, noted architects Carrère and Hastings turned their attention to Philadelphia. Known for their Beaux-Arts creations, the New York-based duo was asked to design a new house of worship for the First Church of Christ Scientist. The result was the Rotunda – a striking building that still stands at 4014 Walnut Street, but now with a very different mission.

After purchasing the building in 1996, the University transformed the Rotunda into the thriving and diverse performance space it is today. Both students and community members perform and attend a variety of arts events there, from concerts and film screenings to dance and theatrical performances.

Gina Renzi, the Rotunda’s director, was kind enough to meet with me to discuss the 100-year-old space’s history, architectural elements, and cultural offerings. Here is the resulting video, chock full of photos and interesting facts:

Also, if you happen to be in Philadelphia this weekend, the Rotunda is presenting three performances of Le Dada Va Gaga dans 2011 — a site-specific dance/video work created for the Rotunda’s rarely seen sanctuary (seen in both the video above and the photo below). You can find all the relevant details on that performance here.

Photo by Molly Petrilla

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Filed under Dance, Film, Heard on Campus, Music, Student Life, Theatre, Visual Art

PennDhamaka prepares for upcoming season of performances and competitions

PennDhamaka‘s annual campus show isn’t until February, but the dance troup is already hard at work rehearsing for upcoming competitions, including PhillyFest. The Daily Pennsylvanian–which has been adding more video content to its site this year–recently posted this “Spotlight on Dhamaka” video. In it, members discuss their rehearsal process, upcoming performances, and post-rehearsal ritual.

Want to see more Dhamaka? Check out the troup’s website for a complete list of performance videos here.

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Filed under Dance, Student Life

Trish Sie C’94 directs and choreographs OK Go’s viral music videos

Odds are that if you had an Internet connection back in the summer of 2006, you’ve seen OK Go’s music video for “Here It Goes Again.” (Hint: It involves treadmills. Lots of them.)

While the band’s playful, charming members were crucial to the video’s success—it’s garnered nearly 53 million hits on YouTube and a 2007 Grammy award for Best Short-Form Music Video—its creative vision, choreography, and direction came from Penn alumna Trish Kulash Sie C’94, sister of the band’s frontman, Damian. Late last month, Sie and OK Go took YouTube by storm again with a new music video. “White Knuckles” received more than a million views in the first 24 hours it was posted, and has since been watched more than six and a half million times.

But long before this latest success, and even before the treadmill video, there was this low-budget, high-charm backyard music video:

“These guys aren’t dancers,” Sie says, “and the ‘backyard dance’ video used pretty much all the moves they knew. When it came time for their next video, we realized that they needed a new gimmick.” Fortunately, on a recent trip to her gym, Sie had noticed something: “People were marching sort of in sync on their treadmills, I think partly because of the music the gym played,” she says. “They would get into a groove, and it was like they were all in this unwitting choreography together.” And so, when it came time for the new OK Go video, “Here It Goes Again,” Sie suggested choreographing a dance on treadmills.

Unsurprisingly, Sie says there were “a lot of bloopers and a lot of injuries” along the way. “All the treadmills met in the center, so if you fell and slid down a treadmill, you were trapped in this undulating sea of moving rubber parts and you couldn’t really get up. It looks so playful and fun in the video, but actually, it was pretty dangerous. We almost canned it because people were afraid they’d break bones.”

Sie helped the band rehearse the dance round-the-clock for 10 days before filming it. On the day of shooting, they went through the dance about 10 or 15 times on film, then picked a version. (One of the unique things about Sie’s OK Go videos is that they’re presented in a single, uninterrupted shot—quite a rarity in today’s music videos. As Sie puts it: “I’m more interested in the performance and event that’s happening. I can’t wrap my brain around all the technical gear and camera tricks.”)

“It was never our intent to have a big audience for it,” Sie says of the Grammy-winning video. “I think we were hoping that a select group of fellow freaks would be into it, but we certainly had no idea it would blow up the way it did.”

Since the success of her “Here It Goes Again” video, Sie (pictured at left) has found herself in high demand. A former Penn music major and member of Penn Dance, she says she’s “been a dance person my whole life, but I’m starting to get more work that’s not dance-related, along with more choreography opportunities.” That’s included commercials for Target, Sony and Old Navy, along with an upcoming movie-musical project with Bobcat Goldthwait. Sie says she’s always on the lookout for “any strange or interesting project. I know the people I want to work with when I see them.”

As for her work with OK Go, Sie is already looking forward to their next video, which she says is “the most exciting one yet.” She and the band will start work on it this December, and hope to release the new video at the end of next summer if all goes according to plan. YouTube: Consider yourself warned that Sie’s next sure-to-turn-viral music video is on its way.

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Filed under Alumni, Dance, Music

Dance groups join forces for annual benefit

Student group Penn Dance

In 1995, Emily Sachs died from complications due to a severe asthma attack. She was a sophomore at Penn, a member of the Arts House Dance Company, and winner of Miss Dance Pennsylvania and Miss Teen Dance New York City titles.

The dance community has come together to celebrate Emily’s life every year since through the annual Emily Sachs Dance Benefit. The tradition will continue this Friday and Saturday, as 12 Penn dance groups join forces to raise money for the American Asthma Foundation and Philadelphia Art-Reach programs.

“Not only does [the benefit] pay tribute to a wonderful dancer we lost over a decade ago, but it provides a fantastic opportunity for our groups to work together for great causes,” said Ty Furman, director of University Life Arts Initiatives. “And where else can you see this kind of diverse dance styles in one show?”

This year’s benefit will feature performances by each group in the Dance Arts Council, including African Rhythms, Dhamaka, Onda Latina, Strictly Funk and the West Philly Swingers.

The benefit will take place Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m. at Iron Gate Theater. For ticketing information, click here.

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Filed under Dance, Student Life