It Takes Two to Tango.

It Takes Two to Tango.

TBG Editor and ballroom dancer Marla Kalmbach takes you behind the scenes of MSU’s Ballroom Dance Team.

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Scene and Heard

Scene and Heard

SCENE

“The Bremen Town Musicians”

November 27-29 & December 4-6, 2009, Riverwalk Theatre Mainstage

A family friendly show about animals looking to live the good life and be musicians.

HEARD

Re:Action Battle of the Bands

December 4, Erickson Hall Kiva, 7 pm, Free

Ten of MSU’s organizations are collaborating to bring 4 local bands to campus and raise awareness for their work to make better world.  It’s a “social event for social justice.”  Bands include: Fields of Industry, Januzzi Watchmen, Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate), and Res Publica.

How the Fifth’s Stole Christmas

December 4, Kellogg Center, $5 tickets at the door

Every Sparty
Down in Sparty-ville
Liked Christmas a lot…

But the students,
Who had to take midterms,
Did NOT!

They hated semesters end! The whole midterm season!
They wrote papers, made projects and wrote blue books for no reason.
High stress during this time of year did not seem right.
Someone must do something, please put up a fight!

To distract all the Sparty’s who long for some cheer.
But, wait. What are those wonderful noises you hear?
The sound wasn’t sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so!
Midterm season was scary!

The students opened their doors and opened their ears.
And 16 lovely voices ended their exam fears.
They then heard a sound rising over the snow.
It started off low, then it started to grow…

They were “Rockin’ the Suburbs” and asking “Whatcha Say”?
“Falling Slowly” and saying “Hey girl, hey!”
Their heroes had come and at the perfect time
A week before exam week, a time that is fine.
State of Fifths was their name, they had both girls and boys.
They knew that the stage would be filled with lights and toys.

“Let’s walk towards the sound and see this glorious show!”
So they walked and they walked and they trudged through the snow.
Their feet led them to a beautiful scene
The Kellogg Center was before them and their bright lights gleamed.
Inside they walked and for only five bucks
They could watch the show, because studying sucks.

December 4th was the day of this festive event
Even some of Oakland University’s Golden Grizzlies went.
They came to hear the sound of the Vibrations
When the Fifths and GV joined forces they honestly change nations.

So come to hear the sounds that sparked this tale.
And I promise if you leave your books you will not fail.
Come hear the songs that I got to hear
Then after the show have some egg nog and/or beer.

Maybe Christmas, this year, will come after all!
So come hear State of Fifths, you will have a ball.

–      Dr. Steven Seuss Book

MSU’s Home for the Holidays

December 5, Wharton Center, 8pm

Celebrate the holidays with MSU’s Symphony Orchestra, Men’s and Women’s Glee Clubs and the MSU Children’s Choir.

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Sustainability Specialization Jeopardized

Sustainability Specialization Jeopardized

Two falsely-named correspondents take a playful approach to a serious issue.

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Scene and Heard

Scene and Heard

SCENE

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

November 17-22, 2009, Wharton Center Pasant Theatre

New asylum inmate, R. P. McMurphy, is placed under the watchful eye of Nurse Ratched. Tensions mount as he gains the allegiance of his fellow patients, leading to the play’s shattering conclusion.

“The Seafarer”

November 12 – 15 & 19 – 21, 2009, Creole Gallery – 1218 Turner St, Old Town Lansing

A play about alcoholism, redemption, and family ties, the Seafarer follows James “Sharkey” Harkin and his friends as they sort through life’s ups and downs during the holiday season.

“The Bremen Town Musicians”

November 27-29 & December 4-6, 2009, Riverwalk Theatre Mainstage

A family friendly show about animals looking to live the good life and be musicians.

HEARD

Bowling for Soup

November 15, Small Planet, 7pm

An indie-punk rock group best known for the songs “1985” and “Girl all the Bad Guys Want.”

The Macpodz

November 19, Mac’s Bar

An Ann Arbor jazz group that mixes big band sounds with more modern jazz techniques.

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The Theater Underground

The Theater Underground

When most people talk about the Lansing theater scene, they mention the BoarsHead Theatre, Williamston Theatre and the Lansing Civic Players. Featuring shows like The Glass Menagerie and Fiddler on the Roof, these crowd pleasing subscription house theaters enjoy a place of popularity among the Lansing theater community.

But what about the other theaters in Lansing? Do the names Peppermint Creek, Sunsets with Shakespeare, and Icarus Falling ring a bell? These Lansing community theaters, while they may not have the same prestige as some of the city’s larger equity venues, are hidden gems. They usually offer cheaper prices and are able to push the boundaries of theater in a way that many mainstream theaters cannot. I recently sat down to talk to the actors, the directors and the owners of some of Lansing’s more obscure play houses to find out just what’s up with Lansing’s underground theater scene.

Left of Center: Peppermint Creek Theatre

The Cast of Peppermint Creek's Dog Sees God. (Toby Hemker)Peppermint Creek is perhaps one of the newest theaters in Lansing. Founded in 1995 by Chad Badgero, the company is beginning to make a name for itself as a “fresh and vital performing arts group” that takes chances and believes in the power of performance.

Lela Ivey, a guest lecturer for the theater department at MSU and a former director for Peppermint Creek, describes the company’s past seasons as left of center and alternative. “But I don’t think [Chad] deliberately goes out and looks for stuff that is alternative or dark or whatever. He looks for pieces that he connects to and that he’s not straitjacketed in to having to please somebody,” Ivey said.

Ivey also said it is Peppermint Creeks left-of-center, thought provoking productions that set the theater apart. “You know what the problem is when you get a Williamston and a BoarsHead, is they’re all subscription houses and they have to please their audience. So if they start, you know, trippin’ over to the dark side there going to have a lot of unhappy subscribers and board members,” Ivey said. “It makes you [wonder], is a theater’s responsibility to keep their audience happy and feeling good at the expense of making them think, and possibly making them uncomfortable while they do it?”

The cast of Peppermint Creek Theater's Dog Sees God. (Toby Hemker)But there is more to Peppermint Creek productions than just making the audience think. The shows themselves are deliberately picked to send a message and start a dialogue in the Lansing community.

“Chad is so passionate about the plays he chooses,” said Toby Hemker, a Japanese, theater, and psychology junior and former Peppermint Creek actor. “He does his stuff not to put on a show that will make profit, but to put on a show that will send a message that is important to him. All of the plays he picks have a strong message because for him art is his mode of expression. He once said to me that he is not the type of guy to go storm city hall when he thinks something is wrong, so he uses theater as a mode to get across his opinions.”

Shakespeare for the Masses: Sunsets with Shakespeare

On the other end of the spectrum of Lansing’s underground theater scene is Sunsets with Shakespeare, created by Lansing native Todd Heywood. Performing mostly classics, such as Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliette, Sunsets strives to provide quality performances free of charge to the Lansing community. Toby Hemker, who played Mercutio in Sunsets’ production of Romeo and Juliette last summer, said the theater’s mission is “to make Shakespeare available to a public that would never get the chance to see it.”

Hemker said he loves the community aspect of the Sunsets company. “Were a community theatre, we’re high schoolers, junior high kids, and elderly people who’ve never acted before getting a chance to do things that they never got the chance to do,” he said. “It is good entertainment, it is art, and it is something that, you know, people are coming together to make.” For Hemker, Sunsets “really has the community of community theatre.”

Hemker said the community has really joined together to support the theater donating supplies, money, and volunteering their time and services to help the theater.

“To see the community getting behind something like that, that is the purpose of community theatre,” Hemker said. “It’s not about putting out a great work of art; it’s about pulling the community together as human beings.”

Since the company does not charge for its shows, financing the productions has also been a community effort. Hemker said they often have to find ways to save money creatively building their own sets and designing costumes on a budget. “We built our own set out of old sets that they had used in the past,” he said. Along with community Sunsets also receives help from other theaters including the Lansing Civic Players who allows them to rehearse in their space when they’re not using it. They also save money by holding most of their rehearsals outdoors.

Toby Hemker playing mercutio in Sunsets' production of Romeo and Juliette. ( Toby Hemker )

New Plays by New Playwrights: Icarus Falling

Started nine years ago by co-founders Jeff Croff and Daryl Thompson, Icarus Falling is an acting company dedicated to “challeng[ing] its actors, its technicians, and its audience alike with new works, [new conceptions of old works], and innovative dramatic forms.”

“Our primary focus when we created [Icarus Falling] was recognizing that Lansing has an amazing collection of theatre,” said Croff, who is also the artistic director for the company. “It’s absolutely fabulous, most of the theater you find in Lansing. But we felt that there was still a gap that we could come in and fill, which was to give voice [to some] productions that you wouldn’t normally get to see. Some of the more well established theaters, or, you know, the equity houses, have a bottom line they’ve got to be sure they hit.” Icarus Falling does not.

The name of company came from the co-founders belief that, just like the mythical Greek boy Icarus who flew to close to the sun, they could follow their dreams and create a theater company. “I think there’s a certain naïveté that we just didn’t know we couldn’t do [a] show,” Croff said.

Unlike poor Icarus who fell to his death, Icarus Falling is still entertaining audiences and turning out quality performances despite its monetary restrictions. “It is absolutely possible to do well acted well told stories on a shoestring budget,” Croff said. “We’ve always felt that making sure the acting is strong and that the stories are string [is most important], and we have been lucky enough that there is an audience locally. Certainly not an audience that can sustain a $1,000,000 a year budget, but, you know, but the audience has been strong enough and consistent enough that we h
ave been able to keep doing shows.”

Icarus Falling stands out in Lansing’s underground theater scene as the venue that often features the works of first time writers and new playwrights. Unlike Peppermint Creek, which often produces Pulitzer prize winning and off-Broadway shows, Icarus Falling tends to focus on shows that are “a little more off of the [radar] than that,” Croff said. “We typically try to focus at least one spot [in our season] on original works.” Whether they be playwrights from the U.K., Australia, or Madison, Wisconsin, Icarus Falling has featured a myriad of fresh authors.

The Show Must Go On

While a lot of students may not be aware of the alternative arts culture here in Lansing, the fact of the matter is that there is a thriving underground theater scene here in the city. “I think that folks can go almost any weekend in the Lansing area and find three or four productions going on. And whether their taste runs to The Sound of Music or runs to the much more gritty avant-garde, they’re going to find it. We have a wonderful collection of theaters in the Lansing area,” Croff said.

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The Theater Underground

When most people talk about the Lansing theater scene, they mention the BoarsHead Theatre, Williamston Theatre and the Lansing Civic Players. Featuring shows like The Glass Menagerie and Fiddler on the Roof, these crowd pleasing subscription house theaters enjoy a place of popularity among the Lansing theater community.
But what about the other theaters in Lansing? Do the names Peppermint Creek, Sunsets with Shakespeare, and Icarus Falling ring a bell? These Lansing community theaters, while they may not have the same prestige as some of the city’s larger equity venues, are hidden gems. They usually offer cheaper prices and are able to push the boundaries of theater in a way that many mainstream theaters cannot. I recently sat down to talk to the actors, the directors and the owners of some of Lansing’s more obscure play houses to find out just what’s up with Lansing’s underground theater scene. [Ivey]
Left of Center: Peppermint Creek Theatre[dogpic]
Peppermint Creek is perhaps one of the newest theaters in Lansing. Founded in 1995 by Chad Badgero, the company is beginning to make a name for itself as a “fresh and vital performing arts group” that takes chances and believes in the power of performance.
Lela Ivey, a guest lecturer for the theater department at MSU and a former director for Peppermint Creek, describes the company’s past seasons as left of center and alternative. “But I don’t think [Chad] deliberately goes out and looks for stuff that is alternative or dark or whatever. He looks for pieces that he connects to and that he’s not straitjacketed in to having to please somebody,” Ivey said.
Ivey also said it is Peppermint Creeks left-of-center, thought provoking productions that set the theater apart. “You know what the problem is when you get a Williamston and a BoarsHead, is they’re all subscription houses and they have to please their audience. So if they start, you know, trippin’ over to the dark side there going to have a lot of unhappy subscribers and board members,” Ivey said. “It makes you [wonder], is a theater’s responsibility to keep their audience happy and feeling good at the expense of making them think, and possibly making them uncomfortable while they do it?”[pepperpic]
But there is more to Peppermint Creek productions than just making the audience think. The shows themselves are deliberately picked to send a message and start a dialogue in the Lansing community.
“Chad is so passionate about the plays he chooses,” said Toby Hemker, a Japanese, theater, and psychology junior and former Peppermint Creek actor. “He does his stuff not to put on a show that will make profit, but to put on a show that will send a message that is important to him. All of the plays he picks have a strong message because for him art is his mode of expression. He once said to me that he is not the type of guy to go storm city hall when he thinks something is wrong, so he uses theater as a mode to get across his opinions.”

Shakespeare for the Masses: Sunsets with Shakespeare
On the other end of the spectrum of Lansing’s underground theater scene is Sunsets with Shakespeare, created by Lansing native Todd Heywood. Performing mostly classics, such as Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliette, Sunsets strives to provide quality performances free of charge to the Lansing community. Toby Hemker, who played Mercutio in Sunsets’ production of Romeo and Juliette last summer, said the theater’s mission is “to make Shakespeare available to a public that would never get the chance to see it.”[Hemker]
Hemker said he loves the community aspect of the Sunsets company. “Were a community theatre, we’re high schoolers, junior high kids, and elderly people who’ve never acted before getting a chance to do things that they never got the chance to do,” he said. “It is good entertainment, it is art, and it is something that, you know, people are coming together to make.” For Hemker, Sunsets “really has the community of community theatre.”
Hemker said the community has really joined together to support the theater donating supplies, money, and volunteering their time and services to help the theater.
“To see the community getting behind something like that, that is the purpose of community theatre,” Hemker said. “It’s not about putting out a great work of art; it’s about pulling the community together as human beings.”
Since the company does not charge for its shows, financing the productions has also been a community effort. Hemker said they often have to find ways to save money creatively building their own sets and designing costumes on a budget. “We built our own set out of old sets that they had used in the past,” he said. Along with community Sunsets also receives help from other theaters including the Lansing Civic Players who allows them to rehearse in their space when they’re not using it. They also save money by holding most of their rehearsals outdoors.[sunsetspic]

New Plays by New Playwrights: Icarus Falling
Started nine years ago by co-founders Jeff Croff and Daryl Thompson, Icarus Falling is an acting company dedicated to “challeng[ing] its actors, its technicians, and its audience alike with new works, [new conceptions of old works], and innovative dramatic forms.”
“Our primary focus when we created [Icarus Falling] was recognizing that Lansing has an amazing collection of theatre,” said Croff, who is also the artistic director for the company. “It’s absolutely fabulous, most of the theater you find in Lansing. But we felt that there was still a gap that we could come in and fill, which was to give voice [to some] productions that you wouldn’t normally get to see. Some of the more well established theaters, or, you know, the equity houses, have a bottom line they’ve got to be sure they hit.” Icarus Falling does not.
The name of company came from the co-founders belief that, just like the mythical Greek boy Icarus who flew to close to the sun, they could follow their dreams and create a theater company. “I think there’s a certain naïveté that we just didn’t know we couldn’t do [a] show,” Croff said.
Unlike poor Icarus who fell to his death, Icarus Falling is still entertaining audiences and turning out quality performances despite its monetary restrictions. “It is absolutely possible to do well acted well told stories on a shoestring budget,” Croff said. “We’ve always felt that making sure the acting is strong and that the stories are string [is most important], and we have been lucky enough that there is an audience locally. Certainly not an audience that can sustain a $1,000,000 a year budget, but, you know, but the audience has been strong enough and consistent enough that we have been able to keep doing shows.”
Icarus Falling stands out in Lansing’s underground theater scene as the venue that often features the works of first time writers and new playwrights. Unlike Peppermint Creek, which often produces Pulitzer prize winning and off-Broadway shows, Icarus Falling tends to focus on shows that are “a little more off of the [radar] than that,” Croff said. “We typically try to focus at least one spot [in our season] on original works.” Whether they be playwrights from the U.K., Australia, or Madison, Wisconsin, Icarus Falling has featured a myriad of fresh authors.

The Show Must Go On
While a lot of students may not be aware of the alternative arts culture here in Lansing, the fact of the matter is that there is a thriving underground theater scene here in the city. “I think that folks can go almost any weekend in the Lansing area and find three or four productions going on. And whether their taste runs to The Sound of Music or runs to the much more gritty avant-garde, they’re going to find it. We have a wonderful collection of theaters in the Lansing area,” Croff said.

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Vaginas Speak

The idea of getting up in front of a large audience of people terrifies social relations and policy junior Katelyn Charbeneau. “I have stage fright. I am actually very scared of being on stage,” Charbeneau said. “I get really nervous, especially in front of a big crowd.”
Yet, on February 20th and 21st Charbeneau will be making orgasmic moans and screaming “vagina” at the top of her lungs in front of hundreds of her peers. Charbeneau is a cast member of MSU’s 2009 production of the provocative and controversial “The Vagina Monologues.” [andi]
While some might be taken aback by its name, “The Vagina Monologues”, written by Eve Ensler in 1996, is a show full of vignettes that portray women’s experiences with their vaginas. Comedic one woman acts discuss visits to the gynecologist and cold metal duck lips and serious monologues discuss sexual violence and sexual repression. The Monologues make known a wide range of issues surrounding the vagina, the women who posses them, and the men who love them.
Unlike New York performances of the Monologues that have featured such renowned actresses as Calista Flockhart and Jane Fonda and big name celebrities like Oprah, this years MSU production features women majoring in everything from journalism to pre-nursing. Some have acting experience and others do not, but all of these women will take to the stage with the hopes of enlightening the MSU community about womanhood, sexuality, and, of course, vaginas. [vagpic3]
MSU’s production of the Vagina Monologues, however, is about more than just female bonding or discussing shockingly taboo subject matter. The show itself is an extension of the V-Day movement, which is a campaign to stop sexual violence against women and girls. What does the V stand for you might ask? According to vday.org, the V stands for “Victory, Valentine, and Vagina.” While past V-Day themes have included the women of New Orleans and Iraq, this year’s V-Day theme is about combating sexual violence in the Congo.
2009 marks the ten year anniversary of the V-Day movement, so this year’s cast of “The Vagina Monologues” is celebrating by giving back to the MSU community. They have turned the Monologues into a registered student organization and this years directors, Krysta Michorczyk, Amanda Dubey and Shannon Nobles, have arranged for 90 percent of the shows proceeds to go directly to MSU’s Sexual Assault Program. The remaining 10 percent will support the worldwide V-Day cause – ending sexual violence in the Congo.
“When all three of [the directors] got together, we [decided] that start-up costs were not so ridiculously unachievable that we couldn’t raise the money ourselves,” journalism senior and Monologues director Krysta Michorczyk said. “If we sell out all three shows and do great we can kick back a ton of money. We really want educating the MSU community about sexual assault to be a year round thing, not just one weekend every February when the Vagina Monologues is on stage.”
With the sustainability of sexual assault prevention programs in mind, the directors began working with Shari Murgittroyd, the program coordinator for the MSU Sexual Assault Program.
“I just feel so honored that they choose our program,” Murgittroyd said. Buried on the basement level of the Student Services Building, the MSU Sexual Assault Program will not only receive funding from the Monologues, but also some long needed promotion of the program itself.
[krysta2] “I think [this partnership] is going to help us get our name out there too as a resource so that students know we exist,” Murgittroyd said. “A lot of people go to the Vagina Monologues, but with a campus this size they don’t even know that there is a sexual assault program until they need our services.” Murgittroyd said she wishes that students were better informed about the programs existence because many students could benefit from their services like counseling and providing information on sexual assault prevention.
The MSU Sexual Assault Program offers other services too including a 24-hour crisis hotline, medical advocacy at Sparrow Hospital, sexual assault therapy, and support groups. The Program is asking the cast and crew of the Monologues to direct the usage of the funds within the program in whatever manner they think would be most helpful.
“We want to empower the cast and the directors,” Murgittroyd said. “We want them to tell us how [they] want us to spend this money. On our resource library? More books and educational videos, documentaries? Direct services to clients, like emergency transportation needs? Legal advocacy? Things like that.”
The cast members of the Monologues themselves all have very different reasons for getting involved with the production. For many, like MSU alum Andi Osters, just seeing the show itself was incentive enough to want to participate. [shari]
“I was unfamiliar with the Monologues until a friend of mine was in the production last year,” Osters said. “I went to the show and just fell in love with the stories and the cause. I think that the main reason I decided to audition was because I really wanted to get involved with this cause, especially with some of the money going to the Congolese effort.”
Other women, like Charbeneau, were introduced to the Monologues through a women’s studies class. “I took ‘Women in the Media,’” Charbeneau said. “I had a radical male professor who just completely opened my eyes [to the Monologues]. He started reading from the Monologues every day in class. When he started to read the not so happy fact [about female genital mutilation] I remember starting to cry in class; this was the first time I had ever cried while hearing a theatre piece before. Then we started to talk about violence against women and it made me sad that this is such a common thing.” Charbeneau has been involved with the Monologues ever since.
[vagpic4] For the women who love the Vagina Monologues, the show is all about female empowerment, respecting the female body, and starting a discourse. According to Amanda Duby, an MSU alum and co-director of the Monologues, the Monologues are about unity. “I think it lets women know that they’re not alone, that maybe a lot of things that they have been concerned about and wondering about, you know, that there are a lot of other women who share in those concerns. I think overall that the show just has a message of breaking the silence and being able to talk about our vaginas, you know, talk about being a woman because for so long we weren’t able to do that.”
However while most women agree that the Vagina Monologues promotes female empowerment, not everyone agrees that “The Vagina Monologues” are the most effective way to inform people about sexual assault. “It only addresses a small portion of people, mostly theater going people and it doesn’t attract a lot of men so the message about sexual violence that they are trying to spread doesn’t always reach the right people,” psychology senior Heather Atkins said. “Most sexual crimes are committed by men and since few of them are receiving the message I don’t know if the Vagina Monologues is doing much good in that regard. However I do feel that it still spreads an important message to women about empowerment.”
As the Vagina Monologues prepare to take center stage at the Fairchild Theatre this February, both supporters of the Monologues and its critics will have to agree to disagree on the effectiveness of this provocative production’s method of ending sexual violence. Whatever one’s opinion about the show itself is, it cannot be denied that this cast and its directors are going to make an important impact on the MSU Sexual Assault Program this spring.
Whether you are comfortable discussing your sexuality and screaming “vagina” at the top of your lungs like Charbeneau, or you feel that such a theatrical discussion of sexual violence does not get to the right people, in the end, the monologues have made you think critically about its subject. If the show has affected you, if it has attached an emotional feeling to an otherwise ignored or forgotten issue, then the play has done its job. So enlighten yourselves, have an opinion, and go see “The Vagina Monologues.”

The MSU Sexual Assault Program is located in room 14 of the Student Services Building. Their 24-hour sexual assault hotline number is 517-372-6666.

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Three Ways to a New Year

It is December 31 and excited partygoers are waiting for the clock to strike midnight. Dressed in shiny paper hats and brandishing loud noisemakers, people around America are waiting for a big silver ball to drop in Times Square. Old friends and families are reunited, resolutions are made, if not kept, and the lookers on begin to count down the end of the previous year. 3, 2, 1. The New Year begins with a bang. Couples unabashedly kiss in the streets of New York, people make champagne toasts to good fortune in the New Year, and kids wave noisemakers and throw confetti all over the living room.
However, for the many people who celebrate Nowruz, the Chinese New Year, or Diwali, celebrating the New Year does not involve champagne, giant silver balls or lots of confetti. In fact, these New Years celebrations do not even take place on January 1. Despite the blatant traditional cultural differences, however, you just might be surprised how similar the ideals of these celebrations really are.

Nowruz
Nowruz, also known as the Persian or Iranian New Year, is celebrated throughout the world on the vernal equinox, or the first day of spring. While Noruz itself is celebrated throughout the Middle East and parts of Northern Africa, this secular Persian holiday is most widely practiced in Iran today.
The date of Nowruz is determined by the solar calendar, organic chemistry graduate student Roozbeh Yousefi said. “It is the first day of the spring, so when the [Earth’s] cycle around the sun is completed, that is the New Year. So, our new year is not exactly at 12-o-clock. Sometimes it starts at 2or 3 a. m. This happens every three to four years,” Yousefi said.
The purpose of the Nowruz, like many New Years around the world, is to have a new clean start in life. Yousefi said the preparations for Nowruz are time consuming. “It starts one month early. It takes all of that month to get prepared for the [celebration]. This is the time that you clean the house; everything should be clean for the New Year,” he said. In Iran, people refer to this process as “shaking the home.” “We clean and ‘shake up’ our homes to get all of the dirt out in preparation for the New Year,” he said.
Once the house is clean, it is time to purify oneself for the New Year. This is done on the Wednesday before the New Year, often referred to as Chahârshanbe Sûrî, or the Wednesday Festival. This happens on Tuesday night right before the beginning of the last Wednesday of the year. “The last Tuesday night of the year we make a fire because in the ancient Mazdian religion people worshiped the god of fire. So people will gather in the streets, and make a fire, and jump [over] the fire…the concept is that the fire will clean all of your sins. This is the religious part of the festival,” Yousefi said.[Roozbeh2 ]
The most important element of Nowruz for most Persians, including Yousefi, is the Haft Sin table, or the “seven ‘S’ table.” “We cover [the table] with some kind of cloth, and we put different kinds of things on [it]. Most of these things start with [the letter] “S” which is the same as sin in the [Persian] alphabet,” Yousefi said. The traditional Haft Sin table, according to Yousefi “should have seven things that start with ‘S’ sounds.” These different “S” sounding items, such as samanu, which is a type of pudding, and sîr which is Persian for garlic, all symbolize different important elements of life such as rebirth, love, medicine, health, beauty, sunrise and patience. According to Yousefi, because Nowruz is a 13 day celebration, “we keep them [on the table] for 13 days.”
The Chinese New Year
This year the people of China and much of Southeast Asia will be celebrating the year of the Ox. Last year was the year of the Yang Earth Rat, more commonly known as the year of the Rat, or Wu Zi. The Chinese New Year, which comes at the end of the twelfth lunar month, has a different date each year, but is usually celebrated in late January or early February.
The history behind the Chinese New Year is a tale of monsters, death and fireworks. Human resources graduate student Mumu Yu said the word ‘year’ in Chinese is Nian. “[To the people of China] Nian is the name of a kind of monster,” Yu said. “It is said that every year this beast, Nian, comes on New Years Day to feast on the animals and people of China. The people are afraid of the monster [because] it threatens their lives.”
[lanterns2]For the Chinese, fireworks are not merely for celebratory purposes; they are also to scare away Nian. “To kind of scare away the monster, people use a lot of fireworks, or people will cook delicious food to bribe the monster, or something like that,” Yu said. People will also wear the color red because they believe that Nian is scared of the color and because it will bring them luck during the New Year. “Then when the monster has passed, [the people] are really thankful because the monster has already been here and the [people] are still alive.” Thus begins the 15 day long festival of the Chinese New Year.
For Yu and her family, much of the importance of the New Year celebration is the quality family time that is spent together during this secular holiday. “We have a huge dinner with all of the family on [New Year’s Eve] of the lunar year, and after that we [launch] fireworks and congratulate each other on the new years. We will [also] make dumplings together as a family and sometimes we will put coins in the dumplings and whoever eats the dumplings with the coins in them [gets] good luck,” Yu said. While individual family celebrations of the Chinese New Year vary from region to region, reconnecting with one’s family is what this holiday is all about.
Diwali
Diwali, known as the “festival of lights,” is the Hindu celebration of the New Year. Traditionally celebrated as a five day long festival, the date of Hindu New Year is decided by the lunar calendar, and often takes place at the end of October or beginning of November.
[diwali]The celebration of Diwali comes from an old mythological legend that dates back thousands of years, advertising graduate student Nikita Shah said. According to a popular text called the “Ramayan,” meaning the “Chronicles of Lord Rama’s Life and Experiences,” legend has it that after being sent into exile for 11 years and defeating the evil demon-king Ravana, Lord Rama returned to civilization. “Townsfolk revered Lord Rama and lit up the entire village with lamps [upon his return]. This homecoming is Diwali; it is symbolic of the incoming of positivity and prosperity, the victory of good over the vanquished evil,” Shah said.
The decoration of choice for Diwali is lights, and lots of them. “No Diwali function is complete without the presence of lights,” Shah said. “Every nook and corner is illuminated with beautiful candles, oil lamps, floating water wicks and such.” [Shah]
But, Diwali is more than just a festival of lights; the celebration is also about the family and the community. “Diwali is the time to be kind, make New Year resolutions, spend time with family and give back to the community,” Shah said. “Families and relatives visit each others’ homes to exchange greetings and good wishes. Devout [Hindi] followers [will] conduct a religious ceremony to purify the energies in their homes and workplaces.”
To Shah, the festival itself is more about what it symbolizes than the traditions associated with it. Whether the activity involves lighting off firecrackers or cleaning the house, for Shah Diwali is, at its heart, “more a spiritual celebration than a material one. My favorite part of the celebration is the symbolism it has with being a festival of lights,” Shah said. “All the world needs something; it is a reminder to expel the darkness in our minds, in our global cultures, in our societies, and in this world as one whole entity.” Shah said that she is deeply fascinated by the energy, hope, faith and tranquility that a light source can conjure.

Whether it’s jumping over a fire, scaring off a monster, or celebrating the return of a famous deity there are many ways to celebrate the New Year. Regardless of these traditional cultural differences, however, there are still universal themes that permeate most New Years festivals. The importance of family, the necessity of purifying one’s life for the New Year, and welcoming the New Year are both ideals that transcend traditional cultural barriers.
So, with the advent of this New Year now upon us, there is much to consider about how we wish to proceed in 2009. Will we embrace this chance at a new clean beginning? Will we spend some time reuniting with our families? Whatever it is the world chooses to do on these New Year days, let us hope that these actions lead to love (Nowruz), luck (Chinese New Year), and light (Diwali).

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In Their Own Words

“Up until a couple of years ago I honestly did not know that there were any Indians left in Michigan,” Jim Sumbler, producer and director for University Broadcast Services, said. “I had heard that there were still some in the Southwest somewhere, maybe some Navajos, maybe some Apaches, I’d heard those names, but I had no inkling that there were any left in Michigan.”
Sumbler’s misconceptions of Native Americans are not uncommon. Many people do not realize just how many Native Americans there are in Michigan. In fact there are 11 recognized Native American tribes in Michigan, a state whose history is so intertwined with Native Americans that its name came from the Algonquian word for “big lake.”
The Lansing area is no exception. Today there is a strong Native American community in and around Lansing. The Great Lakes area is home to the “Three Fires” tribal group, which is comprised of the Chippewa (Ojibwa), Ottawa (Odawa) and Potawatomi. But, due to the diverse nature of MSU’s student body, there are also Lumbi, Navajo and Choctaw members in the area as well. Despite the great diversity of Natives on MSU’s campus the culture of these people is for the most part misunderstood or not explored at all.

Misconceptions
One of the most common images of Native Americans comes from the simplistic Thanksgiving image taught in grade school classrooms. There were some starving pilgrims, some helpful Indians who wore big headdresses and war paint and a big turkey involved that we got to draw by tracing our hand and giving it legs. But for many Native Americans, Thanksgiving is not a monumental holiday because the idea of being thankful is part of everyday life. “Everyday is a day of thanksgiving,” Pat Dyer-Deckrow, a faculty advisor in Native American Indian Student Organization (NAISO) and a member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, said. “We thank the creator for everything we are given and for what we take from the land.” [birchbark]
Aaron Payment, a member of the Native American community at MSU and of the Sault Saint Marie tribe, sees the idea of being thankful as an exemplification of Native American culture. “Thanksgiving is a symbol of the welcoming nature of the Indian people,” Payment said. “The pilgrims were starving, so we shared our food and taught them how to plant their own.” To really understand Thanksgiving we have to get past the superficial celebration that public schools reduce to wearing feather headdresses and eating turkey to see the important cultural elements of openness and giving, Payment said.
Though many college students realize that the stereotypes perpetuated in the grade school image of Thanksgiving image are inaccurate, what many people do not realize is that it is just one of many contrived notions about Native Americans that many people buy into.
Sumbler, an adopted member of the Ojibwa tribe and a faculty adviser for NAISO, admits that there some general misconceptions about Native Americans that even he held when first getting involved with the Native American community. “The biggest assumptions [some people make] would be similar to the mistakes I made in trying to figure out where did all the Indians go? You know, questions like ‘Do you live in a teepee?’ and ‘Do you ride a horse?'”
These seem like silly questions to Sumbler. “The answer [from most Native American students] is generally ‘Yes I ride a horse; I have an ’84 mustang and yes I live in a teepee, it’s a great huge teepee; it’s so big that it has a name. It’s called Hubbard Hall.’ ” [Pat]
The assumptions people make about Dillon Lappe, the academic assembly chair for NAISO and a member of the Lumbi tribe, have more of a modern stereotypical twist to them. “People assume I’m a rampant environmentalist,” Lappe said. “And the casinos; people assume that I can get them into casinos or that I know someone who owns a casino.”
Journalism junior Melissa Beard, a member of the Sault Saint Marie Chippewa tribe, is bothered by the stereotypical belief that Native Americans always receive government handouts. “They do have the Michigan tuition waver, but you have to be 25 percent Native American to get it,” Beard said. “The government says that I’m only 24 percent even though my grandmother was a full blood Native American. Government tuition assistance is not easy to get.”
Another misconception about Native Americans is that they all live on reservations. But this is not the case. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, about one third of Native Americans live on reservations. The majority of Native Americans now live in urban neighborhoods.

Preserving Native American Values
Once people get past the misconceptions they have of Native Americans they will discover that there is a whole unheard of culture underneath, full of its own unique values and way of life. For Native American students who follow traditional native spiritual practices, even walking outside on campus can be fulfilling and inspiring.
Beard, who is the public relations chair for NAISO, believes that being Native American has given her a heightened spirituality and sense of the earth. “I definitely think that there is a different sense of the environment, of the earth [amongst the native community],” Beard said. She said that feels a connection with her late grandmother when she smells her grandmother’s favorite flower. “I just know that there are some days when I am walking, and ever since my grandmother died, I will smell lilacs out of nowhere, yet there are no lilacs around me. I really believe that once you die you become part of the earth again,” Beard said.
Beard’s connectedness with her grandmother is not unusual in Native American culture. Unlike American’s focus on youth, Native Americans revere their elders. “Today’s American culture is all about youth,” Dyer-Deckrow said. Dyer-Deckrow believes that society is wrapped up in the materialism of beauty defined as youth. “In Native American culture we honor our elders,” Dyer-Deckrow said.
This respect for elders coupled with a heightened sense of community creates a tight social network for many native students.
“For a lot of native families, what they do is travel around and go to Pow-wows. It is a sort of bringing together of people…It is a big social event for people who are otherwise separated. It is just like a big community event where people can get together and celebrate shared experiences,” Lappe said. Pow-wows are traditional Native American events where Native American’s and non-Native American’s come together to dance, sing, and celebrate Native American culture.
The transition to university life can also be hard for students who come from reservations or have a strong tie to their native tribe. Sumbler, who has worked with many Native American students over the years, said that the sense of community that exists among Native Americans helps people cope with moving away from home. “Being away from that built-in support group is, I know, difficult for many native students,” Sumbler said. “That is one reason that we have NAISO.” NAISO is an MSU program that helps Native American students make the transition to university life.

The Generation Gap
Like many college students, Native Americans are still trying to fully understand their cultural identity. But the increased homogenization of American culture and interracial marrying of Native Americans make it difficult for many Native American students to distinguish their culture and identity from any other.
Dyer-Deckrow said this is of big concern for the Native American community. “My concerns with the upcoming generations are do they really know where they come from, who they are?” [Lappe2]
Some think moving to college is a threat to Native Americans’ shared culture. They fear that the younger generation of Native Americans will go off to school and leave their culture and values by the wayside. “We want our youth to be educated, but we always worry that they will never come home, or that they will distance themselves from their native culture,” Dyer-Deckrow said.
The tribal separation wrought by the dispersal of Native Americans away from reservations is also causing a cultural gap to develop. “I’m used to growing up in an area where I was more or less the only Native American in my high school, so I have always identified with the Native community,” said Lappe. “[However,] I’ve always felt an awkward separation [from my culture] growing up in metro Detroit; it is not really a cultural environment.”
Beard agreed and said, “There are still a lot of things that I don’t know about my culture.”

Bridging the Gap
This is where NAISO comes in. The goal of NAISO “is to promote education about Native American culture and heritage for both native and non-native students,” Beard said. NAISO meetings themselves are a unique blend of Native American students, non-native students, and MSU community members who are interested in learning more about Native American culture.
It also creates a social network for Native students still adjusting to life at MSU. “NAISO is a great way to meet people who have gone through similar experiences, and understand the challenges that come with [being a Native student],” Lappe said. “But it is also good to learn about other people’s culture.” Lappe, being a member of a tribe outside of the Three Fires tribes, or Great Lakes tribal region, has greatly enjoyed learning about different Native American tribes. []
NAISO promotes education about Native culture any way it can. It has a great resource in the Nokomis Learning Center, a non-profit Native American cultural learning center near Lansing, where Native and non-native students can go and learn about the Anishinaabeg, or “the people,” as the Three Fire tribes refer to themselves. The group also holds bi-weekly meetings with guest speakers who teach students about different aspects of native culture, such as birchbark biting, a Native American art form.
NAISO, in an attempt to break down the misconceptions of Native Americans and to create cultural understanding, openly encourages all students, regardless of their cultural heritage, to come and learn about Native American culture. “It is important that non-native students come and learn more about Native Americans and share it with others,” Dyer-Deckrow said. “Students didn’t learn about Native Americans in high school, and they will miss out on part of their college education if they don’t learn about the diverse cultures in the world today.” [native2]

The Next Generation
When it comes to dispelling stereotypes and misconceptions and producing a more well-informed and culturally sensitive society, the younger generation may have the key to change. NAISO has made great strides toward cultural education, but the rest of the MSU community has to meet them half way. It would be a shame for the culture of the original inhabitants of this land to be lost in the annals of history. But the growing interest in Native American history and the participation of native and non-native students alike shows that this culture is being saved from extinction.

Editor’s Note: In addition to being NAISO’s public relations chair, Melissa Beard is part of The Big Green’s writing team.

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Ballroom is the New Bump and Grind

[dance] When most students think about club dancing they think of the Cupid Shuffle, Soulja Boy and the regular bump and grind that you see every Friday night at Rick’s. But now, there is a new dance craze taking over the club scene – ballroom dancing.
With the recent advent of ballroom themed entertainment from the ABC hit show Dancing with the Stars to recent Hollywood blockbusters Shall We Dance and Take the Lead it is clear ballroom dancing is catching on. Everyone has heard of the waltz, salsa, fox trot and swing, but what is ballroom dancing really like? What is its appeal once the sequins and bright lights are gone? To answer these questions, and many more, I recently sat down the MSU Ballroom Dance Club, the MSU Social Dance Club and the MSU Salsa Club to find out what is so appealing about ballroom dancing.[]
The Dancer
For zoology junior Kristen Wolfe, ballroom dance was the next logical step in her dance training. “I’ve been dancing since I was 5. I had done all kinds of dance except for ballroom, so when I came to college it was basically the only kind of dance I hadn’t tried yet. I came to the MSU Ballroom Dance Club, really enjoyed learning something new, and have been with the club ever since. Wolfe is the Ballroom Dance Club’s vice president of finance.
For Wolfe, ballroom dancing is not just about the dance itself; it is about the skills gained from learning to work with so many different partners. “You learn a lot about trust in ballroom,” Wolfe said. “Because you need to dance with another person, you have to learn how they move and learn to move with them. It’s a great way to learn cooperation.” Compared to the other styles of dance she knows, Wolfe says ballroom dancing is one of the best styles to try to meet new people.
“My favorite ballroom dance is the tango. There is a lot of emotion in it, and you can also have a lot of fun with it. It’s not too fast, it’s not too slow; it’s a powerful dance just because of the manner in which you dance it,” Wolfe said. [Lu]
The Socialite
Accounting junior Roman Krivochenitser got into ballroom dancing because it looked like a great way to get to know people. “When I first came to MSU I had no previous dance experience. I had always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance, so I checked out the MSU Ballroom Dance Club,” Krivochenitser said. Through his ballroom dancing experience Krivochenitser said that he has made a lot of new friends and met a lot of interesting people.
After taking some slow traditional dance classes with the MSU Ballroom Dance Club, Krivochenitser, with his newfound passion for salsa, decided to start the MSU Salsa Club. “I really enjoy salsa because it is a very active dance and with a lot of room for improvisation. You can really add your own style, your own spice to the dance. It is a great way to get out and meet a lot of different people, and it’s a good way to meet girls. Salsa is also a sexy dance, so that is definitely a plus,” Krivochenitser said.
The Exerciser
Associate professor of food engineering Kirk Dolan was first turned onto ballroom dancing by the movie Swing Kids. “It just looked like a lot of fun. When I first came to MSU I was thinking, what can I do that would be good exercise, but at the same time could be social rather than just running on a treadmill?” Dolan said. For Dolan, the answer was ballroom dancing. “It’s something where you’re using your mind, you have to learn something, and at the same time you are using your body. Plus you get to meet a lot of people. I like it because it’s a social activity as opposed to just swimming laps on your own.”
Dolan, who is not the faculty advisor for the Social Dance Club, started his ballroom dancing education at MSU by joining the MSU Ballroom Dance Club. As Dolan became more serious about ballroom dancing, he decided that the club was a good start, but he wanted to learn more. “I also found lessons down town at Steppin’ Out,” said Dolan. “It is no longer around, but I just looked it up in the phonebook because I wanted to take additional group lessons each week. So I did both; Ballroom Dance Club and Steppin’ Out.”
Dolan’s favorite type of ballroom dance is swing. “The reason I really got into the swing area, such as East Coast and West Coast Swing, is because it is much more open and free for both the man and the woman. The girls have more freedom to move around [in swing] where as in the ballroom it is primarily run and controlled by the man all the time.” [Roman]
Diversity in the Ballroom
The MSU Ballroom Dance Club, Salsa Club and Social Dance Club boast a broad range of students from chemical and mechanical engineers, to James Madison majors, to theatre and Lyman Briggs students. There are also a lot of international students like human resources graduate student Mumu Yu, who is from China. According to Yu, the current president of the Social Dance Club, one encounters a lot of diversity through ballroom dancing, especially here at MSU.
“The student body here at MSU is very diverse. It seems like half of the students are international and half are domestic. We look at the Social Dance Club as a very international and global dance club, and now we are trying to increase awareness of diversity and inclusion through the dancing arts.” [dancepic]
But I can’t dance!
While there may be a lot of interest in ballroom dancing today because of its increasing popularity, there still seem to be a few barriers to getting started. A lot of people are concerned that they are incapable of learning how to dance, or that, even if they can dance, that they will not have a partner. Lu however said that in her experience as a certified salsa teacher even those without dance background have been able to pick up the art form.
“I may just be lucky, but I have never encountered a student who couldn’t learn how to [ballroom] dance,” Lu said.
Dolan agreed and said that everyone can learn how to dance; there are just different levels of proficiency. “Dancing is just like in speaking. Even in your own language, you’re going to have some people who are much better at speaking English than others. But everybody can speak. The same is true for dance.” He urges people who are interested in ballroom dance to give the dances some time and to keep practicing. “Come out and try it, and give it a semester. If you can just get started in something you like and you give it a little time you might be surprised by how much you learn. And maybe after a semester you might find out that you really love it. You just have to give it a chance.”
Partnerless
Since ballroom dance requires all dancers to have a partner, a lot of students are deterred from trying it because they do not have anyone to dance with. This, however, is not the case. All of the ballroom dance groups on campus are adamant in asserting that you do not need to bring a partner to learn to ballroom dance here at MSU.
“We have a strict ‘no partner necessary’ rule for the Salsa Club,” Krivochenitser said. “A lot of people e-mail me saying ‘Oh, I don’t have a partner,’ or ‘My boyfriend can’t come,’ and my response is always, ‘You’re here to meet people, you don’t need a partner.'”
Krivochenitser went on to say that even if you have a partner it is vital that you switch partners. “At Salsa Club we have people rotate partners at least every half hour. If you are going to be a good ballroom dancer you need to get used to different leads and different follows. The only way to get better at dancing is to broaden your range and your experience.”
Wolfe said that if students are interested in ballroom dance they should not let a lack of a partner or a lack of experience stop them. “We would like everyone to be able to try ballroom; we would like everyone to learn it; we’re trying to make it very approachable to everyone because I too believe that everyone has the potential to dance,” Wolfe said. That is why the MSU Ballroom Dance Club’s slogan is “No partner required, no experience necessary.” The ballroom dance club, like every other ballroom club on campus, ensures that everyone gets to dance by rotating partners every few minutes.[dancepic2]
Dance as if no one is watching
For some, ballroom dancing is a form of self expression. For others it is a social form of exercise. Regardless of the reasons that drive people to try ballroom dancing, it is clear that there is more to ballroom than just dancing. There are trust and cooperation elements to be learned along with the steps, and there is interpersonal interaction to be gained that is often lost in our technology driven society.
While the necessity of a partner and the ability to dance may be barriers for some students, they do not need to be. There are still hundreds of others without partners here at MSU who come out every week to socialize and ballroom dance. So what are you waiting for? If you are tired of doing the electric slide and line dancing to “Cotton-Eye Joe,” why not check out the latest dance club dance craze. Whether you’re a dancer, a socialite, or a exercise guru, in the ballroom there’s something for everyone.

Social Dance Club
Lessons every Friday from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at the Spartan Village Community Center ($2 per lesson).
Contact dolank@msu.edu for more information.
Salsa Club
Lessons every Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the Shaw Hall Basement.
Contact MSUSalsaClub@gmail.com for more information.
State Swing Society
Lessons every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Gilchrist Pub.
Contact swingers@msu.edu for more information.
MSU Ballroom Dance Club
Lessons every Sunday from 12:30 to 3:30 pm at Demonstration Hall Ballroom ($3 per lesson).
Contact ballroom@msu.edu for more information.

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