Multiverse of Body, Sound, Light

26th annual Random with a Purpose opens at the mainstage

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From “imagination” to “transformation” to “multiverse,” the theme of this year’s Random with a Purpose explores the ways different mediums of art can contribute to performance. UC Santa Cruz student directors Jacob Caldwell, Chloe Rosen and Alyssa Soderberg spent the next year bringing “multiverse” to life, pushing the show’s vision beyond choreography.

Opening on UCSC’s Mainstage on Feb. 16, this year’s dance-only tradition is also incorporating new art mediums from student art, such as light, sound and costume. These embody a theme that embraces the various and distinct ways humans exist.

The show’s three co-directors were recruited from a pool of individual choreographers, fellow students and the entirety of Haluan, UCSC’s largest hip-hop team. The performances reflected social issues, such as social media’s mark on interpersonal relationships and the stigma and the time warp that is ADHD by projecting fast-playing images on a back screen to accompany two sets of dancers moving to different times.

Weekly meetings with theater advisersandchoreographersallowed them to wrangle their limited budget and create the show’s design. Choreographers worked on their specific sets with digital arts students on projections. They also worked with student musicians on sound composition.

“Normally a theater production is directed by someone and you have some type of script or something that allows you to have a context and structure,” Soderberg said. “[In this show] a bunch of choreographers audition to have their work shown in the show and to collaborate with us. It’s very idea-heavy, we want to make sure they don’t just want to show off their choreography.”

The 13 pieces featured over 100 dancers, exploring a stylistic range from hip-hop to contemporary to a blend of tap and ballet.

This year’s choreography explores social settings that tie into cultural identity. In MeliSaúl García’s piece, “Cuerpo Hogar,” the third-year feminist studies major danced fluidly through pools of projected light with ayoyotes and sonajas around their ankles and in their hands, subtly shaking the traditional Aztec jingles that imitate a rattlesnake and the movement of water.

Some sets also provided spaces for individuals to explore the tangible effects in a world of lost land and forced migration. The performance explored how queerness, identity and relationships are formed by Chicanx and indigenous oppression in the U.S. Spoken word poetry echoed into the hall as the dancers’ bodies leaned into one another.

“The world that was created in my piece is one that’s really complicated by histories of migration and displacement, histories of forced migration, but also about the ways in which we’re still able to find a way to exist and a way to love each other,” García said.

The variety of musical arrangements, most of which were instrumental, were predominantly student-composed. Fourth-year psychology major Stefan Frazier produced the eerie and piercing sounds accompanying “Sensorium,” choreographed by Megan Schneider, that centered on the idea that everyone perceives existence differently.

“The beginning of the piece is going to be the beginning of life, [so I] brought in ambience synth, so that’s why the piece starts off really slow,” Frazier said. “You can hear wind chimes playing two or three times in the piece because one of the dancers felt really touched and resonated with their universe.”

He also included a recorded loop of breath that moved through a projection of a beating heart and a light switch flickering on and off, both sounds that resonated with the dancers’ sensory universes.

Frazier attended last year’s Random with a Purpose, “Rooted,” and felt there more exploration from individual artists was present in this year’s performance.

“There’s a lot more diversity in dance [this year], the spectrum felt really more contemporary and experimental,” Frazier said. “It felt more inclusive in general.”

“Multiverse” will be held on the Mainstage this coming Thursday through Sunday starting at 7:30 p.m. and is free for UCSC students with a student ID.