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Spring Sing 2023: Outspoken emphasizes joyful self-expression through a novel melding of art forms

Members of Outspoken wave their arms outward. The dance, music and spoken word group will make its return to Spring Sing on Friday. (Brandon Morquecho/Daily Bruin)

By Cailey Beck

May 19, 2023 1:47 a.m.

Outspoken is speaking out on the value of art.

The student-led performance group is making a return to the Spring Sing stage this Friday following its win last year. In addition to its traditional melding of various art forms such as music, dance and poetry, the group is introducing the use of a live band as well as original music, said music director and fourth-year geography student Zev Marx-Kahn. Through these varied methods of expression, the group hopes to utilize Spring Sing’s platform to emphasize and spread awareness about the importance of art in society, said director and co-choreographer Jessica Warshal, who is also a fourth-year dance student.

“Our piece being (is) really rooted in speaking up about the importance and value of art in society,” Warshal said. “I really want people to remember that – and not only in whether that’s for themselves and finding their own way to be artistic and creative in their own lives, but also in just supporting artists, supporting our community, really coming to events and fighting for laws or bills that promote arts education or give more funding to arts programs.”

Warshal said her UCLA education, specifically her visual and performing arts education minor, inspired her to share with other people the value of art. In one of the courses she took, Warshal said she learned about the fundamental importance of art within education as a whole – not just subjects related to the arts – and its positive impact on developing minds. After having gone through most of her education without the inclusion of art, Warshal said she felt the tangible value that art added to her education needed to be expressed, especially to other students.

[Related: Spring Sing 2022: Izzy Escobar seeks to bring spirit of youth, hope to students in ‘Jenny’]

Warshal’s education directly influenced the artistic direction of the performance, as she included elements of modern floor work in the dance inspired by teachings from Gracie Whyte, a contemporary movement lecturer at UCLA, she said. Whyte was a critical influence on Warshal’s development as an artist, she said, broadening her perspective of what art could be.

Warshal said the people around her were equally as important to the creative process, specifically Marx-Kahn, her co-choreographer, Travis Lim, a fourth-year dance student, and Gina Basile, a fourth-year dance student who composed the spoken word portion of the performance. The melding of various diverse methods of artistic expression is central to the heart of Outspoken itself, Warshal said.

“I really deeply believe that all the elements of art … that I feel has come together is really based on the people who really have inspired me and who create Outspoken and have that heartbeat of what we are about,” Warshal said.

The idea of celebrating different artistic identities and bringing them together is reflected in the performance, Warshal said. In one section of the piece, the dancers and band interact with one another, Marx-Kahn said, presenting a theatrical exchange in which they give each other space to perform and thus display their individuality. By trading the spotlight back and forth, the group makes space for each form of artistic expression, Basile said, allowing the individuals to shine. The theme is also more literally reflected in the group’s attire, with members encouraged to dress in whatever they want to wear onstage, Basile said.

“Jessica said … to wear your wackiest clothes and really just find something in your closet that resembles you in a really quirky way,” Basile said. “That would probably be the theme – people bringing their individual outside of them and making their visuals a representation of their artist selves.”

[Related: Spring Sing 2022: Resonance empowers members, embraces diversity in a cappella performance]

Outside, Outspoken huddles for a group photo. Fourth-year dance student and director and co-choreographer Jessica Warshal said this year's performances aims to reflect the value of art across disciplines. (Brandon Morquecho/Daily Bruin)
Outside, Outspoken huddles for a group photo. Fourth-year dance student and director and co-choreographer Jessica Warshal said this year's performances aim to reflect the value of art across disciplines. (Brandon Morquecho/Daily Bruin)

The theme of exuberant self-expression is one that Basile said she heavily drew upon when writing her spoken word piece for the performance, using that sentiment to share her own message of joy. For Basile, the joy of art comes not just from making and sharing one’s own art but from witnessing other people’s art as well. Being able to express oneself in ways one may not be able to do in everyday life is a source of special moments that can only happen within art, Basile said.

Through the performance, Warshal said she hopes the audience will come to agree with these ideas about art and not only appreciate art for a moment in time but bring that awareness into the rest of their lives. By experiencing the joy of art that Outspoken strives to convey in its performance, Basile said she believes audiences will be inspired to find a place for art in their own lives.

“The message for the show … is that art is still alive, and it is still breathing and well. And no matter what happens in life, there will never be an end to people making art, and there will never be an end to people appreciating and loving each other’s art and loving each other through art,” Basile said.

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