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Fall Fest Variety Show delights with diversity

By Aliza Vigderman
On October 15, 2012

 When I think of a talent show, I think of the movie Mean Girls-a boy singing Christina Aguilera to a chorus of boos. As I sat in the crowded Levin Ballroom on Friday, Oct. 13, I was filled with nervous anticipation for what I assumed to be amateur performances. However, the Fall Fest Variety Show proved me wrong. Instead of boos, the talented performers were met with fervent applause-and not only because much of the audience was comprised of loyal family members.

The variety show is a compilation of different performance groups on campus, including a cappella groups, improv groups and dance ensembles. It is a chance for students to show their parents and peers what exactly goes into the Brandeis experience-which is, as it were, massive amounts of a cappella. This year, it was emceed by local celebrity and Associate Dean of Student Life Jamele Adams and the nearly-as-famous student emcee Shaquan Perkins '13. The hammy duo are natural performers and interacted with the audience with an impromptu spelling bee, shout and repeats and plenty of jokes. The most memorable emcee moment by far was when Adams brought a 76-year-old audience member on stage, who did a remarkable 30 push ups, after asking if he had an oxygen tank on standby. Audience members were laughing, smiling and generally enjoying themselves.

Adagio's Dance Ensemble began with a dance to Fun's "One Foot." As an avid Dance Moms watcher, I am a huge fan of choreographed dances. Sadly, if this were Dance Moms, Abby Lee would have put these girls at the bottom of the pyramid. The choreography fumbled, and the dancers definitely could have benefitted from more practice with a metronome.

The So Unique Step Team performance combined body percussion and dance to engage multiple senses. The performance demonstrated the dancer's personalities as well as their incredible step skills. The Bellydance Ensemble followed with a dance to "Houdini" by Foster the People. Perhaps the dancers could have benefitted from a more intimate venue; the subtleties of their performance did not seem to translate to a large audience.

Following was Jewish a cappella group Manginah with "Ito Lanetzach," sung by Jess Pullen '13, "Holech Lesham" by Matt Sidell '14 and "Ah Ah Ahava" by Coby Fleischman '14. Fleischman's standout performance conveyed her love and talent for singing, and the group's clear excitement about the song translated to the audience. Next was a hilarious set of sketch comedy by Boris' Kitchen and improvisational comedy by To Be Announced.

The show ended with a passionate rendition of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" by the Four Seasons and "My Girl" by the Temptations, sung by Voices of Soul. I was as enthralled as anyone when Kaos Kids began their office-themed dance to songs by Frank Ocean, Robin Thicke, Mikey J & The UK Female Allstars and Korean pop Internet sensation PSY's "Gangnam Style."

For me, however, when it comes to any type of performance, it is not only the talent, but also the showmanship that matters. Do the performers look excited and passionate about what they are doing? Are they projecting to the audience? Do they look comfortable on stage? Is the performer emoting using the correct facial expressions and gesticulations? One example of a group that did not engage the audience was To Be Announced. While I acknowledge how empirically difficult improv comedy is, many of the group's members had no regard for the audience and not only did not project but were often facing the wall as they spoke. The awkward, low energy scenes made for an uncomfortable audience. Also lackluster was Voices of Praise, Brandeis' one-and-only gospel choir. "The Way They Praise Him," proved to be simply half-hearted swaying while singing passionlessly.

Overall, the Variety Show was well received and went remarkably without a hitch. The performances overall were excellent and really captured the essence of performance art at Brandeis-diverse, interesting and, most of all, entertaining. 

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