Elizabeth Lee '16 weighs in on the positive aspects of the ASL Ice Bucket Challenge.Read More
Re-remembering ‘The Immigrant’
Our country’s memory of immigration in the early 20th century is often romanticized as an optimistic promise of new beginnings. Interwoven with the American Dream, the trials and tribulations of starting a new life in the United States have been left in the distant behind, ultimately deemed worth wherever we have arrived today.Read More
Dear CCBDC, A letter to the Claremont Colleges Ballroom Dance Company
There are those who look on from afar with intrigue or envy upon the common sighting of a team jacket around campus. There are also those who are dismissive of CCBDC as a band of misfits, an arrogant cult, or even a semi-dangerous web of bedazzled obsession. I saw a potentially safe and familiar space as well as an excitingly new experience to take on. I have been a part of Team for a year now, really just a semester, and how quickly that semester has passed. And yet so much has happened since I joined that the beginning already seems long ago.
This is a love letter, yet make no mistake—it is not one written without honesty or consideration of more than just the amiable aspects. Since joining, I have come across many who are remarkably caring, beautiful, and inspiringly strong, as well as jerks and spineless “syndrome” sufferers. Oftentimes they’ve all even existed within single individuals, and I have loved and appreciated the many identities that constitute the whole.
Even within Team, among the most dedicated members, there are those who eventually stop feeling like it is worthwhile. It is actually quite common among those to whom it matters most when the ultimate reality “tumbles short of [their] dreams,” as Nick Carraway puts it. There is a life course that sometimes ends in not only accomplishment and personal transformation but also exhausted disillusionment. I, however, am still just at its beginning.
You could say that I have little experience with Team on which to develop my perception of it or that I can’t ever know how it used to be, but one thing being on Team has taught me is that a lack of experience or knowledge does not necessarily mean I have nothing worthwhile to offer. This letter of gratitude, while perhaps small, is a reflection of my own experiences, which matter significantly to me. I thought about publishing this letter anonymously, because it is one that could reflect the experiences of and therefore could have been written by many others. But my identity would not be so hard to determine for those to whom it could possibly matter, and the inclusion of a name validates this account as undeniably real. Perhaps the effect of being on Team is individually unique and not eventually without its drawbacks, but there are still so many meaningful things to be and that have been gained.
Last semester, after only spending a few hours a week on Beginners team and a Beginning Social class, I decided to show up to a weekend workshop. Upon my arrival, I watched shyly and uncomfortably for a few minutes from the side, not knowing anyone, as the highest-level team dancers practiced for Nationals. Thinking I had come at the wrong time, but mostly just intimidated, I left, pretty certain I would not return. That night I received a message from one of those advanced dancers saying they were sorry they had missed me and hoped I would come back. It was one of the first of many times I remember someone making me feel visible and extending a hand, and it is an example of those many small moments I have experienced with CCBDC that would end up making all the difference.
The next weekend, I came back. And from there, I started attending more workshops, even letting myself be convinced to come back early from winter break to learn things far beyond my level at the time. Since I survived those, I figured I may as well try the advanced classes, which were challenging but manageable enough to encourage me to audition for Tour team. Again, team members went out of their way to help me work on the new material, and in that process I met who would become my close friend and competitive dance partner.
Up until then, my prior experiences with dance, specifically ballet, competitions had been relatively unpleasant and even damaging, but after much encouragement, I decided to give competitive ballroom a try. Along the way, I met an incredibly supportive group of people, developed a far more positive perception of competitive dance, ate an absurd amount of Subway sandwiches, danced a foxtrot with a cross-dressing Marilyn Monroe, came to accept hair gel as a necessary evil, and even learned some ballroom dancing and won a few ribbons. Joining Team provoked a domino effect that has helped and is still helping me build confidence and become less afraid or shut off from the world. It is a process throughout which the CCBDC community has been present all the while, yet which I expect to continue long after my time with it is over.
Many of my other CCBDC experiences and relationships I consider important extend beyond the realm of Team; however, they are still unofficially associated with it in my mind. There are so many interesting conversations to be had among people of such diverse backgrounds when they are all united by a common interest and hours spent in practice. I’ve had so many new songs, old quotes, random articles, movie nights, unhealthy snacks, and funny links shared with me. I’ve enjoyed silent and understanding company while watching a lunar eclipse and while waiting for the sun to rise. These experiences, while they have little to do with dancing, happen because of what Team is and because of the people who make it that way. Members end up discovering new aspects of themselves and are inspired to see things differently or make changes in their own lives, because ballroom becomes so embedded in our lives overall.
For me, it became about conquering fear—not learning to ignore it or eliminate it but being able to know it and face it. There is the fear of the new or unknown that upon learning to improvise, social dance, or just give in to ridiculously silly impulses seems more within your control. You learn to make the distinctions between protecting yourself versus holding back, losing yourself versus self-discovery, passively and unconsciously fumbling along versus letting it go (yes, that was a reference to this year’s anthem). There is the fear of honesty and openness that recedes in light of what might be gained and makes hiding less appealing when being asked to dance inspires the courage within you to start asking others to dance with you. And there is the fear of caring—of letting others become meaningful parts of your life and of letting yourself become part of a larger existence and network of support—a fear that becomes worth overcoming. There are not many rules, expectations, or assigned roles in this community that determine any individual’s value or how members are allowed to interact with one another. Instead we all belong to a larger family in which every individual is important and cared for in a safe and comfortable space. It is a system that is not also without some confusion, disappointment, or pain to complicate the relationships within it, but it is also quite simple. If you need care, why shouldn’t we provide it? If you want to offer care, why shouldn’t we accept it? This caring often takes a variety of forms, but they all contribute to the overall sense of nourishment that Team provides.
Maybe a year from now I will have turned more cynical towards Team. Maybe I will have grown weary with frustration and disappointment at its having failed me or in my own failing of it—maybe even enough to leave Team, as all are bound to do at some point, if at different times and for different reasons. All things in life, including the things we love and even we ourselves, inevitably change or drift apart but they are all forever impacted by their interactions with each other. For now I am still enamored with what there is to gain—happy memories to look back on, new experiences from which to learn, and relationships with people who make those things matter even more. Now is what is real. It is what makes this all worth saying and makes everything we put into and get out of Team worth experiencing. But these “now”s will also stay with me personally for a long time and have irrevocably affected the course of “now”s to come.
With love and gratitude,
Brutality & Beauty in “Flowers of War”
Film Columnist, Elizabeth Lee, reviews “The Flowers of War” (2011) an emotional experience that will not easily leave you.
No Escape from “Melancholia”
By Elizabeth Lee '16
Perhaps it’s the finally-darkening Southern California skies or the daunting season of finals and endless papers looming ahead, but I’ve decided that it is, at last, time to talk about “Melancholia.” The name alone is quite formidable, but the lyrical way the word rolls off the tongue is enough to draw you in and make you fall under its spell, for better or worse.
The 2011 film, written and directed by Lars von Trier, stars Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg as sisters Justine and Claire in the dark, yet strangely beautiful, world that is a manifestation of both Justine’s and the director’s own experience with depression. There is a story, but it’s not exactly the main focus of the film. It follows the impending threat of Melancholia, a little blue planet making its way towards Earth, as the characters are forced to helplessly count down the days until total extinction.
What makes the film so compelling is in how Von Trier’s apocalypse is unlike any other. There is no ounce of hopeful optimism or even a frantic attempt to check off items on a bucket list. There is utter calmness in the inevitability of both the movie’s destructive forces—Melancholia on Earth and Justine’s deep and poisonous depression on everyone around her, especially her sister. It is made clear from the opening that there is no escaping either, focusing the attention away from the excitement of a “will they or won’t they survive” plotline to a hypnotically serene darkness as we simply observe the destruction unfold.
The film is actually a much more sensory experience than anything else. Despite the utterly heavy dreariness of the story, you can’t help but be drawn in by the overall feeling of it. It’s incredibly immersive on the big screen, on which I was lucky enough to have been able to see it. And once the film ended, there was a deafening silence as everyone in the audience remained still in the dark room for a full five minutes, processing what they’d just seen and taking the much needed time to pull themselves out of the world of the movie. I was alarmed, and yet not entirely surprised, to realize that my mother, who rarely feels she has the time or patience to see anything more than once, went back to the theatre not once but twice more to reenter the “Melancholia” experience.
The visuals, especially those of the introductory sequence, though they later become in a sense realized during the main course of the film, are mesmerizing. Much like the David Michalek “Figure Studies” currently on display at the Pomona College Museum of Art, they move slowly, to the extent that at first glance you can’t really tell that they are even moving. Still, they move enough that you can’t help but become completely focused on them. All of a sudden a simple image becomes captivatingly beautiful and unreal. A stunning bride, determined to move forward while suspended at an angle, rips free of the suffocating tendrils that coil desperately around her limbs. A daunting yet stunning blue planet edges ever nearer to ours. Meanwhile, a score that moves fluidly from ambient music to the grandiose theme of Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” overcomes all external sound and somehow becomes an almost physical sensation.
It is a film unlike many others—all at once dark and beautiful, both terrifyingly serene and irresistible, and simultaneously real and unreal. The “Melancholia” experience is completely immersive if also strangely abstract, as you realize the true meaning of the phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On.” While I don’t recommend watching it three times in a row, once is definitely worthwhile.
“Melancholia” is available on Netflix Instant Streaming.
AFRICAN-AMERICAN VISIONS EXHBITION OPENING
The formal opening of the “African-American Visions” exhibit occurred on Sept. 22 at Scripps College’s Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery. The exhibit features the collections of esteemed former Scripps professor Dr. Samella Lewis and celebrates the art and history of African- American culture. An accomplished artist, writer, filmmaker, and educator, Dr. Lewis has dedicated herself to the success of young students by featuring the work of lesser known artists in her own galleries and through direct interaction with her own pupils. In honor of her accomplishments and devotion to students, a panel discussing the importance of artistic experience in liberal arts education was also held on the day of the opening. The featured speakers included Claremont Orchestra Director David Cubek, visual artist and educator Claude Fiddler, and jazz musician and professor Bobby Bradford.
Though the discussion centered on the impact of art on students’ lives, there was a surprising lack of students present. Still, the passion and wisdom behind each speaker’s insights and anecdotes came across as valuable advice directed towards those absent college students preparing to define themselves.
Cubek began with a detailed analysis of how specific music classes create the basis for artistic and human development. Through ensemble orchestras students learn to live up to their responsibilities as part of a harmonious community. Repertoire classes serve to share the transformational power of aesthetics, while peer tutoring introduces the idea of open-minded learning without the formal distinction between teacher and student. Cubek remarked on the pride his students have developed as a result of their diligent work and accomplishments in music. “The hardest things,” he concluded, “are often the most rewarding.”
When describing what art is, Fiddler gave a rather broad definition that seemed remarkably close to a definition of life. Art is not something hanging in a gallery, but rather the process of “digesting the world around us,” he said. He continued with the point that art upsets and affects us. It’s looking forward with respect to the past. It’s the power for social and political change. Art is the development of our own minds and is therefore relevant to everyone’s lives.
Instead of giving a theoretical explanation of art’s significance, Bradford told the audience a story. Jazz, although not the only form of art that does so, requires improvisational skills. In his scenario, a man preparing to play with Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall turns to Davis moments before going on and asks, “What are you going to play when you get out there on stage?”, a question that frighteningly sounds like “What are you going to do when you get out there in the real world?” Davis answers, “I don’t know yet.” Still, he goes out and begins the rehearsed part of the performance. Seconds before the improv section he asks again, “What are you going to play?” “I don’t know.” When faced with the prospect of finally having to take a chance, Davis shows no fear, only trust in his ability to pull through. Suddenly inspired by the rhythm of the drums, Davis begins to play.
The “African-American Vision” exhibit stays at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery until Oct. 14, 2012, open 1-5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
CLAREMONT COLLEGES BALLET COMPANY DEBUT
Last weekend the newly formed Claremont Colleges Ballet Company celebrated its first public showing at Scripps College’s Richardson Dance Studio and made its debut as a guest during the 5CDC performance at Garrison Theatre. Modest but lively, the performance included a choreographed warm-up, a refreshingly comedic group piece, and classical variations en pointe. It reflected an eagerness within the budding company to develop and share with the Claremont Colleges the lasting, but often ignored or misunderstood, world of ballet.
The company, originally a ballet club, was formed by co-Presidents Vivian Delchamps (SC ’14) and Emily Kleeman (PZ ’14) along with Vice President Nicole Wein, who felt the need to create more performance and learning opportunities for the classically trained dancers across campus. “The hard work that … many of us in CCBC have put into ballet since we were very young should … be celebrated by the colleges,” says Delchamps. “Amazing performances of modern dance, hip-hop, and ballroom have been available to the Claremont community for years, and now it’s time for ballerinas and danseurs to get to share the stage.”
While many other genres of dance are featured in mainstream entertainment like “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Dancing with the Stars,” and just about any pop music video, ballet has somehow managed to evade the spotlight despite centuries of development.
The lack of attention the current, real world of ballet has received suggests that the general public’s disinterest stems primarily from assumptions and stereotypes. Practically everyone can now conjure up images of Natalie Portman’s temporary transformation into the psychotic and sexy black swan, but the sad truth remains that almost no one has even heard of American Ballet Theatre (ABT) soloist Sarah Lane, who has spent over twenty years training and provided most of Portman’s dance performances on screen.
Ballet has served for many years been the clandestine base for most current forms of dance while continuing to progress as its own art form. Originally a court dance of the aristocrats, ballet has undergone many phases and changes—the invention of pointe shoes, the Romantic “sylph” Era, the Classical Era (from which came the iconic tutu image), the Neoclassical free-movement Era, Contemporary Ballet, ballet comedies, ballet music videos, and so on. Most recently, world-renowned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon created an incredibly innovative ballet production of “Alice in Wonderland,” which made use of surreal video projections, ingenious puppetry, and even denim pants.
Despite all this, most people do not know much about or appreciate ballet as a contemporary art form. The CCBC hopes to spark new interest by making ballet shows and opportunities easily accessible.
“The nice thing about being an amateur company is that we’re able to take something that you usually need to have at least $100 spending money to see and make it available to literally anyone who wants to come see it,” says Kleeman. “The 5C environment is definitely a big group of art lovers … I think the difficult part is being a new company who performs something that lots of college students might think of as ‘out-of-date’ or ‘old-fashioned.’”
By exposing fellow college students to the world of ballet, the Claremont Colleges Ballet Company is helping to form a new generation of culturally knowledgeable and appreciative people who just might decide to go see a ballet production once in a while after graduation.
A WOMAN'S TAKE ON 'ZERO DARK THIRTY'
Directed by the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director, Kathryn Bigelow, and focusing on the work of a real, anonymous young woman currently working for the CIA, “Zero Dark Thirty” tells the very recent story of the post-9/11 hunt for Osama bin Laden from the perspective of a woman.
This true story is one that has been told in a variety of forms—journalism, documentary, novel, broadcast news. So why is this story worth telling so many different ways? Each time someone new tells a story, it affects the way it is told and causes us to focus on different issues and have different discussions. “Zero Dark Thirty” is a particularly bold version of this story that has caused a great amount of controversy concerning everything from its portrayal of “enhanced interrogation techniques” to its factual accuracy.
Even though the film focuses on a single woman who played a pivotal role in the assassination of bin Laden, Bigelow chose not to explicitly highlight any feminist issues, which in a way further glorifies the woman portrayed. The film doesn’t dwell on Maya’s (as the real-life, anonymous protagonist portrayed by Jessica Chastain is called in the movie) struggles to be taken seriously in a predominately male work force, her lack of a personal life, or even her lifestyle changes to accommodate a culture in which females are considered inferior.
Instead, Bigelow, much like Maya, focuses intently on what needs to be done without being afraid to let things get messy or controversial.
Some of the biggest controversies surrounding this film were in regards to the film’s depiction of alleged torture techniques, including waterboarding, used by the CIA to gain information. Several of the film’s critics accused the film of being pro-torture, portraying it as an effective method for acquiring valuable information, whereas many others say quite the opposite. In fact, one could even say that the female protagonist’s perspective and development over the course of the film condemns it. In the beginning, as a novice, Maya is noticeably disturbed by the torture she witnesses, but over the years becomes unmoved by its continued use. By the end of the film, after having accomplished the mission that had for ten years been her life’s sole focus, the hardened veteran breaks down in tears while alone. We see no celebration and begin to question what this ‘success’ actually means for our country. Have we truly won the battle against terrorism? What kind of people have we become or come to understand ourselves as due to this battle?
While many experts have criticized the film’s inaccuracy, especially in regards to torture, there are others who have made accusations about the filmmakers’ improper access to classified information. Some prefer to claim that torture did not play a vital role in the capture of bin Laden, whereas others claim the CIA’s immoral use of torture was not emphasized enough. Given the general population’s strong reliance on the word of journalists, politicians, and clandestine services it is hard to know the truth. Bigelow and former investigative journalist and screenwriter Mark Boal have relentlessly claimed that the information used for the film was based on firsthand accounts and that the allegations of enhanced interrogation techniques were too significant to overlook when attempting to tell a story about the truth. Whether the film is entirely accurate, however, is not wholly relevant. In the end it is not a factual record or documentary but a dramatized film, a medium in which truth is stretched to mean not merely what is literally real but what feels real, what deeply affects us. We are guided through the events and reports by Maya, a fictional character merely based on an actual person, who shows us how to feel or think about them in ways that have been interpreted very differently by everyone who watches the film.
“Zero Dark Thirty” is one of the many accounts of one of our country’s darkest decades. It pays tribute to the work of not only Maya but the many people whose work, sacrifice, and focused dedication cannot be personally commended. And the personal relationship we develop with our female protagonist forces us to carefully reflect on our most recent history. When presented as a film this story becomes a way of telling us truths we do or do not want to hear, depending on how we interpret them, stirring up immense controversy and provoking the discussions we need to have as a united country and people.
GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: FORMER ATHENA, CURRENT LEADER
For those who might claim that women’s colleges prevent the development of strong and worldly female leaders, Gabrielle Giffords ’93 serves as undeniably solid counterevidence. Recently featured on the cover of “Time” magazine alongside Vice President Joe Biden and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, today she is taking her stand as one of America’s “gunfighters.”
A former Arizona congresswoman, a survivor of the 2011 Tucson shooting, and now one of America’s biggest proponents for gun control, Giffords continues to be a tough yet compassionate fighter and inspiring role model to the upcoming generations of Athenas and to many other women across the country.
At some point Giffords must have made a long list of her accomplishments, written a few essays, and with a couple of recommendations turned in her application to Scripps College. Since then Giffords has somehow managed, despite the “inaccurately idyllic setting” of her undergraduate education, to add new accomplishments to her list as well as to face down many of the world’s injustices. Giffords, a Latin American history and sociology major, was the winner of a Fulbright Scholarship. She was a businesswoman and community advocate who went on to become the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona Senate and then the “most positive person in Congress.” She rode horses and motorcycles, went on NPR to talk about her love of books, spent time volunteering to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and is the adored wife of former Navy pilot and NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.
On Jan. 8, 2011 Giffords was shot at close range in the head, one of 20 victims. In addition to a certain amount of blindness and paralysis on her right side, Giffords’s ability to verbally communicate what is on her mind was severely altered. Since then she has faced an immensely difficult but remarkably successful road to recovery. With the support of her husband, who continued to remind her that she had been “beaten up” but would never be “beaten,” Giffords has turned her own suffering into a tremendous attempt for her country’s progress.
Although a gun owner herself, she was moved by not only the Tucson shooting, but also the Aurora shooting, the Newtown shooting, and others to create the organization “Americans for Responsible Solutions” and to speak at the Senate’s recent hearing on gun violence, calling for increased measures of gun control. “Too many children are dying,” Giffords said with much difficulty and yet as much strength. “Too many children.”
In less than two years Giffords has gone from not being able to express her tormented sorrow through any word other than “boohoo” back to the bold and articulate woman of action. Within those two years of great struggle and tragedy, Giffords never lost her sense of perseverance, her radiant smile, or the sight of her role as a leader. Perhaps some of the most important qualities of great leaders are more innate, and less so the product of even the greatest co-ed or single-sex schools.
Who’s to say there could not be yet another Gabby Giffords growing and learning among the students of today’s women’s colleges? Who’s to say that being a woman should be considered a weakness or disadvantage in a metamorphosing world of male dominance? The world is often unjust and full of hardship, but even the graduate of a women’s college knows, “It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act. Be bold, be courageous. Americans are counting on you.”
5C LATE NIGHT STAND-UP COMEDY
Compiled by: Elizabeth Lee and Kehau Jai ‘16, Staff Writers
Q: How long have you been around?
A: I think it started unofficially around three years ago and became a real club in 2010.
Q: How many members do you have?
A: Around 10 active members.
Q: How can people become a part of your group, and what made you join?
A: Oh good, time for a plug! If you think you want to try stand-up, or just want to watch, come to our open mic which is held every Friday at 11 p.m. on the third floor patio of Pomona Hall (right at 6th and Amherst). I joined because I wanted to start doing stand-up and this was a good way to get stage time without driving into L.A. Also, starting stand-up is pretty scary, so it was nice to be able to try it in front of nice college kids.
Q: When/how often and where do you perform/publish?
A: As I said, we have that open mic every Friday. Otherwise we put on shows at Doms Lounge roughly once a month, and our next confirmed date is April 6.
Q: What makes your group so especially funny and unique? What comedy niche do you fill at CUC?
A: Well, we fill the stand-up comedy niche. Right now I think we’re really good because Ellie and I love comedy more than anything else and we want to pursue it as a career. To speak for myself, I’m absolutely a happier person now than I was two years ago because I started doing stand-up. I take it more seriously than anything else in my life, so beyond trying to write and perform as much and as well as I can, I also try really hard to put on good shows around campus—and, just as importantly, to maintain a welcoming vibe so that other people might try it too and find it just as fulfilling as I did. Also, Ellie and I know a lot of great comedians out in L.A. whom we’ve brought out to do shows.
Q: What is one word you could use to describe your group?
Q: What kind of humor do you find provokes the most successful response from college students? What does this say about us, or why do you think that is?
A: 90s references. You could just list Nickelodeon cartoons for fifteen minutes and walk away with a standing ovation. Hey, remember Doug?
Q: What is off limits?
A: To comedians, nothing is off limits (IMPORTANT CAVEAT: if it’s funny). If you’re at a show and another comic is talking about some touchy subject on stage but they’re not spinning it into anything worthwhile, or they’re just being gratuitously shocking, you either ignore it or you address it when you get on stage. But generally you won’t confront them about it afterwards or write an angry blog post or whatever. My belief is that most comedians aren’t bigoted or hateful people at heart (comedy’s a bad game to get into if you can’t tolerate different people’s viewpoints), so if they’re saying something uncouth onstage, I generally assume that they don’t really mean it. Clearly, this is different from the liberal arts mindset, in which what you say absolutely does matter. Here the defense of “but I didn’t really mean it” is understood to be fallacious and worthless. While I am partial to the former opinion, I am sympathetic to the latter. If I talk about something potentially hackle-raising onstage, and it doesn’t get a laugh, I don’t say that it’s because my audience was overly sensitive—it’s because I didn’t make it funny enough.
Q: What is the greatest struggle that comedians, in general, often face?
A: Well, once I finish college and go out to do this for real, it’ll be not making any money from it for like ten years (best case scenario). Right now, it’s people finding out I do comedy and going “Say something funny” thereby ruining any chance we previously had of having a good conversation.
Q: Is laughter truly the “best medicine”, or is there another, perhaps darker, side to humor?
A: Yes, in fact what we call “humor” and “comedy” and “laughter” is actually a nefarious pharmaceutical conspiracy. This is now the greatest piece of investigative journalism The Scripps Voice has ever published.
Q: What is the ultimate secret to making something funny?
A: Be good at doing comedy. Also the book “Git-R-Done” by Dan Whitney (AKA Larry the Cable Guy) taught me an immeasurable amount about how to write jokes and, more importantly, how to enjoy my life. If anybody wants to borrow it I have accumulated 6 or 7 copies over the years.
Q: What’s the best joke you’ve got in your back pocket?
A: This conversation is over.