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Kyreeana Alexander’s ‘We Cool’ reimagines childhood hope for today’s adults

A chalkboard reads “Kyree’s room” as Kyreeana Alexander kneels during a rehearsal of her whimsical, mixed discipline performance, “We Cool.” Organized by Crayons and Cookies, Alexander’s choreographic inquiry capstone will take place on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. (Nina Schmidt/Daily Bruin)

“We Cool”

Cookies and Crayons

Kaufman Hall

April 12-13

8 p.m.

By Puja Anand

April 10, 2024 12:06 p.m.

This post was updated April 11 at 7:16 p.m. 

Kyreeana Alexander and her three teddy bears are tapping into the wonder of childhood.

The graduate student in choreographic inquiry is set to perform her capstone project “We Cool” on Friday and Saturday evening in Kaufman Hall. The production is presented by Crayons and Cookies, a Los Angeles-based arts education organization spearheaded by Alexander and her brother. The organization aims to foster a sense of community through shared creativity. “We Cool” delivers on the mission, Alexander said, consisting of an amalgamation of digital projections, original soundtracks and tap dance that exemplify her childhood.

“‘We Cool’ is childhood imagination, childhood diary come to life,” Alexander said. “With the overall theme of being like, ‘Don’t lose touch with your imagination,’ because your imagination, your childhood memories hold a lot of valuable information and a lot of love, which can help get you through life.”

As a child, Alexander said her brother would often sneak into her room and give voices to her three teddy bears. Through such imaginary skits, their interaction was fueled, she said. Hence, a key aspect of her project is film snippets of conversations with the bears, which are a representation of her conversations growing up and her relationship with her family, she added. The art forms represent two main facets: The more literal film snippets are supplemented with colorful, abstract art creations to represent her internal thoughts as a backdrop to her tap dance.

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Alexander said the show’s multisensory elements represent her as an artist and are meant to fully immerse the audience in childlike wonder. The name Crayons and Cookies is deeply visceral and evokes a sense of childhood with the smell of cookies and the texture of wax crayons, she added. Furthermore, she said the digital projections of her teddy bear interactions are an ode to her own multidisciplinary education. For instance, the bears are adorned in her school merchandise – the blue and gold UCLA bear speaks to Alexander of her time writing and creating skits, while the Berkeley bear reminisces about the music she made, she said. As such, she said the bears metaphorically represent the merging of disciplines through her educational journey and what she has internalized each step of the way.

David Roussève, a distinguished professor of choreography in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance and Alexander’s faculty advisor, said Alexander’s project captures the department’s vision. By creating a piece revolving around tap dance and interweaving the show with music, visuals and film, Alexander is pushing the boundaries of art and adopting a highly encouraged modern lens, Roussève said. Moreover, her project proudly showcases various facets of her skillset as a multifaceted artist, he added.

“Kyreeana really reflects the department in many ways. She’s really pushing boundaries,” Roussève said. “It’s very forward-thinking and thinking of how we can redesign choreography and the arts in a very progressive way that’s as relevant as possible to the world in which we live.”

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Alexander’s production assistant, graduate student Gurmukhi Bevli, said tap is rarely seen as the focus and is often instead an accessory in mainstream proscenium stage work, which makes Alexander’s project stand out. By centering tap dance, Alexander said she taps into her own tendency to process emotions and express herself through creating rhythm with her feet. She added that she takes immense inspiration from American tap dancer Savion Glover. When attending his shows, she said the soulful energy and authenticity of his performance fascinated her. Beyond the performance and the concentration of tapping to the beat, Glover bared his soul in his work, communicating his feelings in a way that transcended words, Alexander said.

“I felt like it wasn’t about the performance – it was about his soul,” Alexander said. “It was about him sharing this feeling that he was having, and it was very expressive in a way that he didn’t need to say words or sing about it. It was carried in the way that he was dancing.”

Dtawing inspiration from childhood, the set elements for "We Cool" include a chalkboard, yoga mat and keyboard. Alexander said the performance draws inspiration from her teddy bear-led conversations with her brother, whom she founded Crayons and Cookies with. (Nina Schmidt/Daily Bruin)
Drawing inspiration from childhood, the set elements for “We Cool” include a chalkboard, yoga mat and keyboard. Alexander said the performance draws inspiration from her teddy bear-led conversations with her brother, whom she founded Crayons and Cookies with. (Nina Schmidt/Daily Bruin)

Though childhood can be a turbulent time, Bevli said Alexander’s performance depicts childlike wonder that comes with a lack of inhibition from societal expectations without portraying the experience as solely positive. Through detailed interactive elements, such as an attached crayon to the program for coloring, Alexander said she hopes audiences can reconnect with their own childhood imagination. With her project, she said she strives to provide viewers with joy and a sense of hopefulness that comes with childhood and inspire them to revive their own dreams.

By taking part in this multidisciplinary, contemporary display of tap and visual art, viewers are made aware of the possibilities of art and the many facets it can encompass, Roussève said. Furthermore, the piece demonstrates how where one comes from and the experiences they’ve had can inform the person they are today, Roussève added. As Alexander lays bare her vulnerabilities, joys, obstacles and fears that have led her here, Roussève said he hopes audiences look back and recognize their own journeys. The title “We Cool” speaks to the elements of her life that have shaped her, Alexander said, adding that she stands tall today despite the difficulties. 

“I didn’t want to dwell on what happened, but more like, ‘I got through it, I’m still here,’” Alexander said. “There’s this overall feeling like maybe some stuff didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but in the end, it works out. ‘We cool.'” 

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