“Wacsmash 2020: Systems and Self” offers a glimpse into students’ lives in the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance.
Jordan Goheen, one of the show’s producers, said this year’s Wacsmash will feature a selection of dances along with an art exhibit in the following room – both presenting work entirely done by students. The show will take place in Glorya Kaufman Hall on Friday and Saturday, and aims to give students a space to apply the skills they learn in their classes, the third-year world arts and cultures student said.
“We’re setting up a space for the artists, and after we’ve set up a space for the artists, we can start talking about deeper collaboration,” Goheen said.
For the stage, third-year dance and Asian American studies student Aubrey Mamaid and second-year dance student Leonardo Flores co-choreographed a piece entitled “Lost in Translation.” Flores said it aims to return to the fundamentals of hip-hop, both in message and in movement. Flores said many identifiable hip-hop steps have lost the genre’s four fundamental principles: bounce, rock, roll and wave.
For example, “the running man” is now executed by quickly shuffling one’s feet forward and backward while simultaneously pulling in the arms. Originally introduced into the hip-hop scene in the ’80s, the step initially incorporated an undulation of the torso and head, using the principle of bounce, Flores said.
In order to return to these fundamental principles, “Lost in Translation” will incorporate the hip-hop principles in almost every step of the choreography. Flores said today’s mainstream hip-hop dances and music tend to be hypersexualized and communicate values not held by most hip-hop practitioners, such as throwing away money and discriminatory views. Their piece instead centers on eschewing negative stereotypes associated with the genre, Mamaid said.
“It’s really trying to differentiate ourselves from a culture that has really been misogynist, racist, degrading to women, nonreflective of black and Latino communities,” Flores said.
Instead, Mamaid said “Lost in Translation” focuses on hip-hop’s sense of community, as dancers acknowledge one another onstage through gesturing and eye contact. Mamaid said she hopes the piece will give the dancers a chance to reflect on what hip-hop means to them. This idea is expressed in the movement through a repeated gesture in which the dancers put their hands at chest level and look at them, only to raise them slightly above their head and pull them down in three sharp intervals. Flores said this movement was inspired by the aphorism of knowing a concept like the back of one’s hand.
“I don’t know all the marks that are on my hands, and this is something that’s on your body; you should know this really well, and I think this really ties back to the idea of looking at yourself and really reevaluating,” Flores said. “We’re really just taking this concept of hip-hop in our hands and really reevaluating what it is to us.”
Self reflection doesn’t only take place on the stage – it’s also thematically present down the hall in the art exhibit. Goheen will feature two of his poems juxtaposed with digitally rendered visual interpretations of them. One of Goheen’s poems discusses being emotionally prepared to begin writing, which he said was a topic in a poetry and spoken word class he took. Like in dance, poetry also has a performative aspect, as with all art made to be shared with an audience, Goheen said.
“You’re tailoring your language or you’re making it so that other people can understand what you’re writing,” Goheen said. “Checking the motivation behind how much of that is really for me and how much of that is really for my emotional healing (or) well-being, versus how much of it is for so that other people can see it.”
The show as a whole will celebrate the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, and will hopefully inspire more collaboration among the art disciplines within the department, Goheen said. Though students receive the same instruction, the individual application of these lessons has led to a variety of artworks that incorporate many artistic disciplines and styles, from photography and textiles to hip-hop and theater jazz.
“It’s a diverse show in terms of the (art) pieces that are selected and the formats of the pieces and … it’s pretty diverse styles of dance as well,” Goheen said. “The whole point is for people who are not in the major to see a snapshot of what our majors are about, and (to) hopefully broaden people’s perspective.”