Category: Arts and Culture

Cultures Dance their way into Austin

 By: Nick Castillo, Sara Eunice Martinez, Kaylee Nemec

10 IMG_0666_20

 

Bright dresses and choreographed dance moves captured the stage at the Austin Earth Day Festival on Saturday.  

The Mueller Lake Park event highlighted multiple social dance styles, including flamenco, ballet folklórico, square dancing and tango.

Oaxaca: Arte en Movimiento, was one of the dance groups at the event. It presented a traditional Mexican dance from Oaxaca. Edgar Yepez dance instructor at Oaxaca, said the dance represents Mexican heritage.

“It’s a Mexican tradition,” Yepez said. “It’s a Mexican folklore.”

Arte en Movimento’s goal is to be a growing space for culture and art, while promoting diversity, opportunity and cultural expression. Yepez said they’ve been around for a year and have seen their program grow tremendously from four participants to 40. He credits the growth to style of dance.

“The main difference in the style of dance is Guelaguetza,” Yepez said. “No one is doing Guelaguetza in Austin. That’s the main difference between other kinds of dance.”

Oaxaca showcases the vibrant social dance culture in the city.

But Austin isn’t always as kind to professional dance. Austin’s professional dance culture has the same issues as other major cities. According to Caroline Clark, who is working on her Ph.D. about Austin dance, said the only dancers who make a salary are ballet dancers. There’s also limited space. But she added that “that’s true everywhere.”

While professional dance has its troubles in the city, Clark said the most important thing about Austin’s dance culture is its growth.

 

Origins of Dance Cultures

Infographic Created By: Kaylee Nemec 

 

“The most important thing to know about Austin dance is that as Austin’s population grows, the diversity of dance forms that one can do here increases,” Clark said. “There are many kinds of dance here, from African forms to Hispanic forms to European folk forms to Asian forms. And, don’t forget the big Native American powwow that takes place every November. And, the very influential Texas dance hall tradition.”

Some of the biggest reasons for social dance’s popularity in Austin is it’s fun atmosphere. Mickey Jacobs, a senior tango instructor at Esquina Tango Cultural Society of Austin, said people attend tango classes at Esquina for the relaxed environment.

“We laugh a lot,” Jacobs said. “It’s a very open, and welcoming community. That’s really what esquina is known for and that’s what brings people back. It’s not intimidating … We make it easy to take that first step.”

Jacobs said Esquina offers a wide variety of classes. The main focus is Argentine tango, which places emphasis on the dance partners’ connection. Jacob’s performed a tango routine with fellow instructor Orazzio Loayza at Saturday’s festival, which displayed the dance’s heavy reliance on a duo’s embrace, and it additionally showed the technical side of the dance.

“It’s a couples dance first and foremost so learning to have the conversation, if you will, between the follower and the leader, but instead of a verbal conversation, it’s a conversation with your body,” Jacobs said. “It’s a very sensual dance. It’s all about responding to each other’s body movement … It all goes back to an embrace. The dance position is called the abrazo, which means embrace, and that’s where everything originates.”

Jacobs added that Esquina isn’t the only place in Austin teaching tango. She said the tango culture in Austin, much like the city’s overall dance community, is alive and well.

“There’s a very vibrant community,” Jacobs said. “There are a few 100 people, who regularly dance tango. There are definitely people around town, who are great, that serve people all around Austin … There are good teachers throughout the city, and a very vibrant active community.”

 

 

Meanings of Bharata Natyam Hand Gestures

Photos and Cutlines By: Kaylee Nemec

 

 

Photos and Cutlines By: Nick Castillo

 

Videos filmed and produced by: Sara Eunice Martinez

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=en5fkzMcs7c

Texas Revue: Diversity Meets Worlds of Talent

By Isabella Bejar, Marina Chairez and JD Harris

Beat boxing, dancing, rapping, singing, and many more unique talents drew a full crowd at Hogg Memorial Auditorium on April 23, 2016. Nearly 1,ooo people attended the University’s largest talent show, Texas Revue.

The University of Texas at Austin began hosting their annual student-run talent shows in the 1960’s and then re-established in 1995. The Texas Revue is composed of individuals and various student organizations. Different talents continue to bring the UT community together for one night, while showcasing a variety of talented acts.

Over 55 acts auditioned, but only around 10-12 acts can be featured each year. Performers compete in a Texas tradition to win the “Best Overall” award and $1,500, while the titles of “Crowd Favorite” and “Technical Excellence” are also up for grabs.

Many may have different goals, but it is truly shown that all contestants give their heart out on the stage and hope for the best. Ray Villarreal is the first solo rapper to perform at the Texas Revue.

“I would like to get known here at UT because that would be really big for me and great exposure. I would feel on top of the world. Either way it’s been a fun ride. I’m having the time of my life and being able to do these things that not a lot of other people can say that they’ve done is great and it’s all because of music,” said Ray Villarreal.

With only five minutes on stage to showcase their talents to a panel of judges, the real work goes on months and maybe even years in advance. Each individual puts in hours of practice and sacrifice, but when doing something you’re passionate about, all that practice doesn’t feel so much like work.

“Entertaining a crowd is my favorite part of performing because I think I’m a good artist, but an even better performer. I think that’s what makes you stand out – engaging with people and getting them to sing along or even jump in the crowd and crowd surf. I think it’s fun,” Villarreal said.

The audience is really able to reflect on the importance of interpersonal cultural diversity, while being exposed to the many cultural performances. From Bollywood to mixes of hip-hop and traditional Bhangra, each performance is judged on things like creativity, technical achievements and skill.

“I was very engaged by the cultural dance and music groups who not only presented strong, well-rehearsed pieces, but also aimed to share cultural dance and music forms with a broad UT audience,” said Rebecca Rossen, judge and professional dancer, choreographer, and assistant professor in UT’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

“I was specifically looking for strong collaboration in group pieces, clarity and excellence in concept and execution, skill, uniqueness, and stage presence,” Rossen said.

That stage presence translated into social media using “#TexasRevue” which managed to reach over 60,000 people through personal tweets, media coverage and Instagram. Posts of friends and fellow students rooting on such a variety of artistic styles goes to show the diversity in the UT community.

Riju Humagain, logistics officer for Texas Revue, said “I think Texas Revue is unique because it honestly showcases such a diverse set of talents that is present in this University.”

All those components came together when Texas Nach Baliye, a traditional Indian dance team received the “Overall Winner” award at the end of the night.  

Poo Poo Platter: Serving Up Austin Drag

Jessica Jones, Fatima Puri, Shannon Smith

At 9:20, the stage manager throws open the dressing room door.

“Ready to go on at 9:30?” he asks.

But everyone shakes their head; Cupcake is running late—they’ll need more time. Seconds later, a frazzled man rushes in with a large suitcase in tow. The dressing room quickly becomes a center of chaos.

He yells that he only needs ten minutes. As Brady rips open the suitcase, one thing is clear: a transformation is about to take place.

Brady puts a hair net over his short, buzzed head and gets to work on his face. Quick brush stokes of foundation, blush, eye shadow. He swiftly applies glue to his fake eye lashes and places them perfectly on his lids. While he finishes up his lipstick, someone straps his heels. He shoves gel implants into his otherwise empty bra, and gives them a shake as he glances in the mirror. Next, he places two different wigs on his head and pins then into place.

Exactly 10 minutes later as promised, he sings, “Cupcake is reaaaady!”

Someone hands him the mic and he steps onto stage.

The dressing room looks like the aftermath of a tornado, but the five remaining queens backstage are too excited to even notice the mess. Tonight is a Poo Poo Platter show—and they’re ready to serve up the most unique of Austin’s drag.

Poo Poo Platter was formed three and a half years ago, after founding member Waldo moved to Austin and saw an opportunity to bring a new type of drag to the area. At the time, Austin drag was focused on female allusion, but Waldo knew others would want to join him in bringing a lighter-hearted, funnier type of drag to the city. With now more than ten members and at least two shows a month you could say it was a success.

Waldo, stage name Bulimianne Rhapsody, the creator of Poo Poo Platter, gets ready before the show. Photo courtesy of Shannon Smith.

Waldo, stage name Bulimianne Rhapsody, the creator of Poo Poo Platter, gets ready before the show.
Photo courtesy of Shannon Smith.

Although they are a troop, every member gets to design their own part of the show, from music and props right down to costumes and makeup.

“We’re very much independent contractors. Everyone does their own thing, they’re responsible for their own acts,” said queen Arcie Cola.

But being a part of the troop certainly has its benefits. It’s easier to book shows when you’re offering more than just one act, and the members understand that. Many of them had solo careers as performers before joining Poo Poo Platter, but enjoy the special relationships that being a part of this group provides.

“You can always be an individual performer, whereas being in a troop it’s a family. So for me it comes down to work and family,” said Zane Zena, who performed as a wrestler previous to joining Poo Poo Platter.

And the closeness of the group is apparent, even to an outsider. Whether they are helping each other in the dressing room, taking a cigarette break or just dancing around together during a rehearsal—it is clear that the group shares a special bond.

A big part of that bond is their agreement that “drag” is something that cannot easily be defined.

“When somebody tells you that you can’t be something—you do it. That’s drag to me,” said Zane Zena.

While Cupcake was more keen on not defining it at all, “I don’t know what is and isn’t drag… It’s not my problem to define the word, I’m not f***** Merriam Webster.”

And while the actual definition of drag may not be important, the troop agreed that there is a definite need to shine a light on drag as a real performing art.

Poo Poo Platter cast. Photo courtesy of Poo Poo Platter.

Poo Poo Platter cast.
Photo courtesy of Poo Poo Platter.

They practice hours a week and spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars, on making their own costumes. Yet, people are still quick to dismiss drag as being a real art. Respect—that is the universal word each queen mentioned. And the Austin International Drag Festival this past weekend was one step in the right direction.

An entire weekend dedicated to promoting and supporting the drag community, Poo Poo Platter was able to host events and mingle with infamous drag queens from around the world. More than anything, the second annual festival acted as a way of spreading the idea that drag is an outlet for artistic expression, not simply men in dresses.

 

cost-of-drag

Mental Health Week Seeks To Promote CMHC Services

Story Package By Will Cobb, Marysabel Cardozo, and Trisha Seelig

This spring, The University of Texas’ Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC) hosted their first Mental Health Promotion Week. The campus-wide event offered many activities to help create awareness for mental health issues and promote emotional well-being.

Last week’s events included: interactive tabling, documentary screening, a mobile mind body lab, glow-in-the-dark yoga, panel discussions, sports, sugar scrubs, and an unplug campaign. Students who attended these events received a T-shirt that read Be Kind to Your Mind, promoting the event.

In their panel discussion on diversity and mental health, Kimberly Burdine, a Diversity Coordinator and Psychologist for the CMHC, said that therapy is unique in that the focus is on you.

“What I really want to do is reduce any stigma associated with mental health,” she said.  

Every fall semester, CMHC hosts Suicide Prevention Week, but historically they have not done big events in the spring.

Linda Serna, a senior Women’s and Gender Studies major as well as a Voices Against Violence Peer Educator said that accessibility and safety are factors in students pursuing mental health services.

“You deserve to be in a place where you don’t feel like you have to justify your identity,” Serna said, “In a system that isn’t built for certain people, seeing yourself represented is so important because it also says, you belong here and you can make it.”

With the semester winding down, students’ feel more stressed over approaching finals. Alyssa Mastronardi, a junior psychology and Spanish major and CMHC Peer Educator, said that they decided to host Mental Health Promotion Week now to give students ways to cope with that stress.

Coping with stress looks different for everybody. For Mastronardi, it looks like Yoga and conversations with her mom.

Mastronardi said they’ve had good turn outs, especially to events like their play day and glow-in-the-dark yoga, but will be improving the times they host certain events next year.

UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center has a record number of likes on Facebook right now from the promotion of this week’s events. Mastronardi feels they have met their goal of spreading awareness throughout campus.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, Mastronardi said, “It’s not just about preventing tragedy, but helping everyone live better.”

Israel Guerrero, a sophomore Psychology major, said that he has found the CMHC counselors to be relatable and that students have a voice in getting their needs met here at UT.  

“The staff [of CMHC] really care and would be more than happy to chat with you at any time,” said Mastronardi.

Going forward the CMHC plans to hold a Mental Health Promotion Week annually, with a different tagline each year, Mastronardi said.

 

Photographs by Trisha Seelig

 

Infographics by Will Cobb

 

The Dirty Truth: Bar Closures on “Dirty Sixth” During Texas Relays

University Fashion Group in their ‘Elements’ for upcoming fashion show

Bachelorette Parties Take Over Austin


Photos courtesy of Shannon Smith

 

By: Kate Bartick, Jessica Jones, Shannon Smith

In ten days, Tori Ivanovich will marry her high school sweetheart. There are final dress fittings, menus to review and music to select. Yet last weekend, her bridal party had only one concern—relieving her wedding stress and giving Tori a weekend she would never remember.

Years ago, the bachelorette party was a celebratory girls night out, a last hoorah for the bride-to-be. But more recently, this definition has morphed into something much much grander. Why celebrate one night, when you can celebrate the entire weekend?

For Tori, this meant a trip to Austin, planned by her sister/maid of honor, Ali Girdley. With endless food options, live music and the chance to spend a night on the revered 6th Street, Girdley said Austin was the “obvious choice”.

And she’s not the only one that sees potential in Austin. Last year, The Travel Channel awarded Austin a spot on their Best Bachelorette Party Destinations list. Around 10,000 parties will come through Austin this year, according to local party planner Mandy Fortin.

This influx of pre-wedding tourists has given rise to businesses solely dedicated to planning these weekend-long celebrations.

Fortin, a party planner at Austin Detours, personally plans about 55 bachelorette parties a year. She is responsible for arranging lodging, booking meal reservations, organizing city tours and coordinating rides. However, these planners do not come cheap, with prices starting at $335 per person for the most minimal weekend package.

Even without a professional planner, destination bachelorette weekends can quickly add up. Typically, the costs for the weekend are split evenly among the women. Pricing will obviously depend on what activities the group chooses to do.

The bachelorette weekend can be as expensive as you make it… Check out the average cost per person for a pre-wedding destination weekend above! Data courtesy of Mandy Fortin.

Popular activities include visits to 6th St. and Rainey St., pub crawls, food truck crawls, city Segway tours, wine tastings and scavenger hunts.

Already familiar with Austin and with the help of Pinterest, the maid of honor was able to create a unique weekend for Ivanovich, complete with personalized shirts and matching outfits. According to the bridesmaids, they spent around $300 each on the weekend, despite having their main activity, ziplining, cancelled due to rain.

Even if costs can be steep, bachelorette party weekends allow the bride a great opportunity to relax before the stress of the impending wedding kicks into high gear. Austin, a hotspot for these events, allowed for Ivanovich and her bridal party to get in some much needed down time before her big day.

“You’ve got to come to Austin, there are so many fun things to do here,” Ivanovich said. “You’re always entertained, Austin is definitely the place to be.”

 

 

Tori’s bachelorette party theme was Great Gatsby. Below you can see the weekend’s itinerary, created by her sister/maid of honor, Ali.

OpticS

Take Back the Night 2016

Isabella Bejar, Julia Bernstein, Anahita Pardiwalla

Sometimes it’s easier to stay quiet. It’s easier to believe that what happened doesn’t matter. But life isn’t easy. To rip your heart open and put your hurt on display for millions to see is undeniably hard, but it is also what makes you strong.

Celebrities have come together to combat sexual assault with “It’s On Us,” a campaign to help survivors and end sexual assault. Their mission is to recognize and identify sexual assault situations while creating “an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.”

The campaign comes from the White House where Vice President Joe Biden accompanied Lady Gaga to speak about the message at The 2016 Academy Awards.

The University of Texas at Austin is taking a similar approach to combat this issue. Voices Against Violence, a branch of UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center hosted “Take Back the Night,” an event that illuminates the movement to end sexual assault and offers a safe space for survivors to speak about their experiences.

Erin Burrows, the Prevention and Outreach Specialist for VAV, said she’s seen many diverse communities come together to talk about this issue.

“It is a beautiful portrait of what it means to be a Longhorn a part of this community,” Burrows said.

Paintings and Illustrations from Take Back the Night 2016

 

Over 40 student organizations are co-sponsoring this event including Texas Athletics, who joined the movement to end sexual assault with a video of their own stating, “Longhorns stick together.”

Students came together beneath the tower to offer support for their peers while learning about campus and city wide services offered to survivors.

Junior Lizeth Urdiales believed a big part is helping students overcome the situation.

“[We’re here] celebrating the diversity of the individuals that we really are,” she said.

Voices Against Violence Survivor's Emergency Fund

Keep Austin Buzzin’

By: Nick Castillo, Sara Eunice Martinez, Kaylee Nemec

IMG_3642_20_2

 

Lance Wilson has been around honey bees his entire life.

Wilson, a master beekeeper who manages hives in Llano and Travis County, was introduced to beekeeping by his grandfather when he was a child.

“So many people you’ll notice have grandparents that are involved with beekeeping and are exposed to it that way,” Wilson said. “I don’t know how you would accrue the number of years that I was exposed to it with my grandfather, but I’ve been doing it myself as an adult for about seven or eight years.”

 Wilson, president of the Austin Area Beekeepers Association and area director of the Texas Beekeepers Association, said he’s noticed a decrease in his colonies’ population size – a trend that matches national statistics which show a huge decline in honey-producing bee colonies.

BEES (1)

“There’s been a precipitant decline in the number of managed colonies,” Wilson said. “There’s all sorts of reasons for this.” He added that harmful parasites, such as mites, loss of habitat and pesticides were among the top reasons for decline in bee population.

 According to the National Agriculture Statistics Services, there are 2.44 million honey-producing bee colonies in the United States, a sharp decline from the 5.9 million colonies in 1947.

 While honey bees might strike fear in some or be seen as a nuisance during a day at the park, they play an important role in agriculture. Honey bees pollinate flowers and without them, many crops wouldn’t be produced. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year.

 Research has been conducted because of honey bees high-value in agriculture and society. Waldan Kwong, a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University, said research has been done to find the reasons behind the decline and how to reduce the loss of bee population.

bee-population-decline (1)

“At this stage, many scientists are trying to understand the causes and scale of the problem – very basic research – such that in the future, better policies can be implemented at the regulatory level,” Kwong said in an email. “For my own research, I am looking at the bacteria that live in association with [honey and bumble] bees.”

 Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are aiding in bee research. Integrative biology professor Nancy Moran leads a bee research lab in the department of biosciences. Moran and her team examine bacteria in bees and how it interacts with the them.

 “These bacteria are not pathogenic, but are rather commensals and mutualists that are part of the natural social environment of these insects,” said Kwong, who is also a postdoctoral fellow in Moran’s lab. He added that the bacteria work with the honey bees to help fight off harmful pathogens, and help with the bee’s digestive system.

Moran’s lab has 10 bee colonies on top of the J.T. Patterson Labs Building. These honey bees are used in her lab research. The hope is to see how these bacteria can protect them from negative exposure to pathogens, which would reduce the population decline.

 “There’s the hope that [the bacteria in bees] will be helpful with factors that affect the health [of bees],” Moran said. “It’s been shown that bacteria can protect bees.”

While there is a concern about honey bees rapid population decrease, Moran said the concerns should be lessened.

 “It’s not like honey bees are going to go extinct,” Moran said. “There are a lot of honey bees.”

Honey Bee Facts 

Despite his concerns about the bee population, Wilson said there is work being done to halt the decline.

 “The good thing is that there are various chemical treatments that are biopesticide or are organic in nature that means we’re finding better ways to treat honey bees and keep mites under control that doesn’t negatively impact the colonies,” Wilson said.

 

 

 

Honey Bee Terminology

 

 

 

 

Photos By: Kaylee Nemec

 

 

 

 

Videos filmed and produced by: Sara Eunice Martinez

 

Austin Community Revamps “Free Art Friday”