Week of Dance! Dancer Spotlight: Monica of On Tap

By Rachel Vishanoff

In order to kick off the Arts Council & Robsham Theater Arts Center event Week of Dance, we have begun to explore the stories of the students that form Boston College’s various dance groups, so we would like to introduce you to BC Senior and tapper Monica Cosica of BC’s On Tap!

Be sure to check out the Week of Dance Facebook event for more info and be sure to get your tickets from the Robsham Theater Arts Center!

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On Tap is BC’s only all-tap dance group on campus, and it is also BC’s newest dance group! Since the spring of 2015, On Tap has grown tremendously and is now proud to perform in events like Week of Dance, Showdown, Arts Fest, and Dancing with bOp!

Monica Coscia, a dancer of 17 years, is a senior in On Tap and a member of the executive board.

“Watching On Tap grow through my transition as a member of the first e-board to a leader of the group has been one of my most formative experiences at Boston College: it has taught me that anyone with enough self-motivation and perseverance can turn his or her passion into a successful enterprise that has provided a community to dozens of dancers and entertainment to thousands of audience members.”

“Because I, like so many others at BC, am constantly expressing myself through complex conversations, discussions, and essays, dance allows me to self-express in a non-verbal, non-written way”

“Tap is my favorite style of dance because the possibilities for choreography are endless—there are innumerable combinations of each tap step that can be performed with any style of music or no music at all, mixed with other styles of dance like jazz and hip hop, and performed in traditional or modern styles.”

“Tap is its own language, and there is something unspeakably satisfying about many dancers speaking it in perfect unison.”

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Be sure to check out the BC Week of Dance workshops throughout this week (schedule below) as well as the Week of Dance Showcase shows on Friday Dec 2nd at 7:00pm and Saturday Dec 3rd at 7:00pm; tickets through at Robsham Theater Arts Center.

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Music Guild are November’s Student Arts Contributor(s) of the Month!

For our second installment of Student Arts Contributor of the Month, we’re spotlighting BC’s Music Guild and their volunteer program at Franciscan Hospital for Children. As part of our mission to support the arts on campus, every month the Arts Council blog is featuring BC students who are making a significant contribution to the arts beyond the classroom. Whether it’s volunteering, raising awareness, getting published, or just making some seriously cool art, we want to acknowledge the artistic endeavors of our students both on and off campus. The Music Guild are November’s SACM for their bi-monthly performances with pediatric mental health patients, who are battling self-harm tendencies and suicidal ideation. And I say “with,” because these performances are all about interaction, as the Guild’s John Guzzi, Matt Lipari, and Alex Navarro explained during a chat over coffee in Hillside.

Music Guild volunteers (l to r):  Lucas Brewington-Janssen, Alex Navarro, Thomas Harpole, Amanda Adams, Emma Nicholson, Elizabeth Cai, John Guzzi.

Music Guild volunteers (l to r): Lucas Brewington-Janssen, Alex Navarro, Thomas Harpole, Amanda Adams, Emma Nicholson, Elizabeth Cai, John Guzzi.

What’s the day-to-day experience for these children?

John: The unit works a lot like dorms — double rooms, a lounge. But they’re not allowed TV, the internet has so many filters on it you can’t go anywhere, and they jam the cell phone signal, so the idea is that everybody is focused on themselves and the relationships with people there. They don’t get very many chances to go home on weekends to see their family. Occasionally the family can take them out to dinner, but even that’s not very often. The whole point is to just make it as quiet as possible, and keep away any of the triggers that were causing their behavior. They take everything away and then slowly add things back in a way that they can deal with.

We recently interviewed Alumna Alison Davitt, a clinician in music therapy, and we’re just wondering if your performances at the hospital function in a therapeutic capacity?

John: We actually met Alison at Career Night for the Arts, and we’re hoping to connect with her, and see if she can give us some guidance on the program, because what we’re doing, we’ve worked out with the nurses there and what they think works best, what we think works best, and somewhere in the middle is what we do every week, but it’d be nice to get the professional in there; it’d be a lot of good feedback for us.

What’s a typical session like? Or are they all really different?

John: Everybody brings a few songs that they’ve prepared to play, and then, because we’ve gotten to know a couple of the long-term patients, they give us requests. It’s best when we learn the songs they want to play, so we’ll bring the guitar and they get up and do the vocals. It’s their chance to perform, and we’ve had people come up and play original songs that they wrote themselves, so it’s not really about us performing, it’s about them finding a way to connect with other people, whether it’s with us or each other.

Mike: It’s about the interactions, also.

John: Yeah, it get’s a lot of conversations going: we eat dinner with them after, then just from talking to us about songs they’d like us to play, they find other people at the hospital who have similar music tastes. Friendships form that way.

Mike: They can talk about what music they like, and then we bring a stack of guitar tabs and they can sort through that. It’s pretty freelance.

How did you guys set this up? Where did the idea come from?

John: I don’t like to give credit to the Bostonians… but this idea did come from the Bostonians. They were talking about a spring break trip they’d done, where they went to children’s hospitals and nursing homes in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, DC…

Alex: That’s awesome, I had no idea they did that.

John: …Yeah, they said it was a lot of fun, and I thought, wow, we have 600 people on our mailing list, if they can do that with 15 people we should be able to do this. So I asked around and a lot of people said they were interested. We did a testing trip last year, and it was a little awkward, but it went pretty well.

Mike: Really? You thought it was awkward?

John: I mean, it was awkward for me because I had been talking to everybody via email…

Alex: I think we just didn’t know what to expect.

John: Nobody knew…that was the first time I’d been to the hospital, and everybody expected me to know what to do when we got there, so I had to make it up as we went along.

Mike: I had a lot of fun that first trip.

John: It went a lot better than I thought it would… it definitely goes smoother now. We’ve built good relationships with the kids and the staff. There’s a few patients I’ve seen every time I’ve been this year; I know their favorite songs, so it’s nice.

What do you think the patients get out of your visits?

Alex: When we’re having fun with them, it’s really easy for us to forget why they’re there. They’re there for a reason, and really all we can do is just go and try to make it a good couple hours for the kids that we can. You can’t do more than that.

John: Everybody’s different. There’s one kid there, Wyatt, and he’s one of the kids we’ve seen every time this year, and he doesn’t want to leave the facility because he’s afraid of going back to school and people finding out where he’s been. He loves history, and we got talking because I was writing a history essay on something he really cared about, so I was asking him what I should write it on. When I came back, he was like, “How did your essay on the Black Death go? Did that work out well?”

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Volunteers in session at Franciscan Children’s Hospital

 

What’s a really stand-out moment for you guys so far, then?

Mike: I don’t know if it’s a specific moment for me, but I definitely think that when everybody is singing along with whoever is playing, that is the best. The whole trip is really about what goes on between the performers and the patients, and when everyone’s participating, it really makes my day. I feel like I’ve done something worthwhile when that happens. There’s isn’t one moment, but there have been several when I’ve sat there and thought, “Wow, these kids are really singing.” Then I feel like I’ve made a difference.

John: About the second week of September this kid, Matt, he’s fourteen, and it turns out he’s a huge Taylor Swift fan. He just knows all the words to all of the Taylor Swift songs. So we bring a different one every time and we play it and he…

Mike: …believe it or not, he belts it out.

John: He’s not a good singer, but nobody cares. He’s just so emotional with it and it’s so awesome to see him stand up and start dancing, lie down, sit on the ground, roll around, and do whatever. The best part was when he left, Brian, the head nurse, came up to us and said, “We have never heard Matt talk or express himself, and he just got up there and just blew our minds.” That’s what it’s all about.

Mike: And as many people as we can get through to, and get them to express themselves, there’s always some we can’t make a connection with, some who don’t seem able to let other people into their lives, but I’d say with about 95% of the kids there, it seems and it feels as if we’re able to make some kind of positive change in their day, in their week, and there are some kids that look forward to us coming for a week at a time. Friday comes, the BC kids come, and they get to listen to music, they get to sing, and they get to eat pizza.

As we were being shooed out of Hillside for closing time, Thomas Harpole, another volunteer, emerged at our table just in time to say that, for him, the sessions are all about going in with no agenda; he doesn’t see the residents of Unit One as patients, but as peers. “I thought we were going there to perform,” he said, “but really, it’s just about spending quality time with them.”

If you’d like to volunteer with the Music Guild, email music.guild@bc.edu to connect with the group and talk about ways you can get involved with the project.

The Music Guild aren’t alone in sharing their musical talents beyond campus. Another cohort of BC students devote a couple of hours a week to providing music lessons for children from low-budget families who wouldn’t otherwise have access to music education. Read more about the scheme, coordinated by Barbara and Ralf Gawlick as part of the Music Outreach program, in the Chronicle’s feature on these dedicated volunteers.

Are you an arts faculty/staff member or student exec. of a BC arts group? Sign up for the SACM mailing list to nominate a BC student! Email hannawas@bc.edu with “LIST” in the subject header.

Katlyn Prentice ’14 is Student of the Month for October!

Introducing: the BC Arts Council’s Student Arts Contributor of the Month

This year, as part of our mission to support the arts on campus, the Arts Council blog is featuring one BC student a month who is making a significant contribution to the arts beyond the classroom. Whether it’s volunteering, raising awareness, getting published, or just making some seriously cool art, we want to acknowledge the artistic endeavors of our students both on and off campus. Katlyn Prentice, a senior in Film and Communications, is our Student Arts Contributor of the Month for October. We caught up with Katlyn in Devlin Hall’s film suite to talk about her work with the Directors’ Series, why studying film is important, and the ending of Breaking Bad

Katlyn's short films aim to convey mood, and focus on the individual in their world

Katlyn’s short films aim to convey mood, and focus on the individual in their world

Let’s talk about your film projects. What sort of films do you like to make? It’s  difficult to portray the relationships between people, so my short films tend to focus on the solitary person and their relationship with themselves. My first project here was literally just someone walking: it’s about this boy who walks to the reservoir. The underlying narrative is that he’s gay, and he commits suicide because he isn’t able to be who he is, so he jumps in the reservoir. It’s about representing those complex things in very simple formats. My thesis project was about a boy who wanted to be a model. You don’t know exactly what’s happening in it, but you can kind of infer — it’s more about the mood rather than the narrative. I think that’s important for a short film, because people want to put so much story into five to ten minutes and that’s very hard.

Would you say that short film is a genre in its own right, rather than a mini version of the full-length film? Do you need to approach it differently? Definitely. Sometimes when people are trying to make their short films, they have this whole screenplay of 100 pages that they want to condense into 10; I mean, how do you do that? So, instead — take a section of it, take the mood of it, take the main point, and present it in a way that isn’t a standard back-and-forth film, but make it this, sort of, mood attempt.

Do you think the short is more experimental than feature-length? I kind of joke about it being one big montage But not an ’80s themed montage… No, there were no costume changes, but it’s very much a glance at someone’s life; that’s what I’m trying to do. I think intention is really important. A lot of people just put a camera up, and, say you’re filming this conversation, you’d have a camera pointing to you, a camera pointing to me, but how do you manipulate that slightly to make it more interesting? How do you put the camera somewhere to change that basic set up? You’re literally and figuratively looking for a new angle? Yes. I don’t want it to be a straightforward movie, I always want there to be intention behind where I put the camera.

Katlyn and crew on a shoot last fall

Katlyn and crew on a shoot last fall

The big thing that came through with your nomination for SACM was the Directors’ Series. Could you explain to us what that’s all about? It’s a group of student filmmakers — and you don’t have to be a film major to participate  — and it’s out of class, and we just come together and make short films: we write them and then we film them, and they’re screened at the MFA. We have it scheduled for December, but it might be January depending on how busy everyone is this semester. [Editor’s note: keep an eye on the Arts Council Facebook and Twitter for updates on the Directors’ Series.] So we get to break out of the confines of the classroom narrative story or documentary that we’re required to do. You can literally just go film clouds if you want to film clouds. So it’s very much, what do you want to show as a filmmaker? I’ve been the lead organizer this year, recruiting people and scheduling meetings, and booking the MFA, that kind of thing. It was almost full last year, which is great, because it feels good to be supported by the community, especially when you’re in a major that people are like “oh, that exists?”

How did you establish a relationship with the MFA? It’s a great space for screenings. Carter Long, a professor here, actually works at the MFA. The Directors’ Series started as “BC I love You,” and we turned it into the Directors’ Series because we didn’t to limit ourselves to just BC topics. So, that continued relationship with Professor Long meant that we were able to work with the MFA.

What would you say to someone who couldn’t see the value in an arts degree? And what’s important about the arts in general? I’m from Oregon originally, and I grew up in a “Government town,” where the standard is you get a degree to be an accountant, or to be a nurse; your degree = the job you’ll have. So I was very nervous about telling people I loved film, and that this is what I wanted to do, and it wasn’t until about junior year of high school that I admitted it to everyone It’s like coming out of the closet… Exactly. I’ve loved TV shows and movies since I was a little kid, but it wasn’t until then that I decided. Coming to BC and studying film and communications, I realized that how you see the world is almost always influenced by media. Even just walking through campus, there are posters and advertisements everywhere. People can’t just ignore it — every time you listen to the radio, every time you turn on the TV, every time you view, hear, or read anything like that, you’re receiving a certain perspective through media, film, television.

Yeah, the arts help us understand the world, and understand ourselves. Your short films, and this focus on the individual — this significant capsule moment, and them trying to figure out the world — have a direct correspondence with that idea. Yeah, definitely. You read behavioral studies and realize how much our perceptions have changed through media, and you study propaganda — the arts are what made your propaganda films! And that’s the negative aspect of it, of course, but when you’re killing creativity, you’re killing what the world could be in the future. I mean, science, obviously, drives that kind of human progress, but what conveys those ideas to everyone? It helps people understand those complex things. Exactly. Like, CSI, you know, made everyone want to be a forensic scientist. So, it’s kind of like, “hey, everybody, this is what you can do in the world,” and we’re showing you through all these different artistic mediums.

I like that idea — that TV and film open up these possibilities. I remember talking to a friend and they were like “why be a film major?” and I said, well, because you can work in a hospital, or a court of law, or you can be  a spy, all in film, without having the dangers of actually doing it. It’s kind of fun …It’s everything… Right. Someone made this argument, saying, “well, you don’t know what it’s like, you don’t know,” and I said, do you really think anybody knows what living in Game of Thrones is like? But people love it. I think if you’re creative you can imagine what it’s like to be someone in a situation you’ve never experienced.

Now that we’ve set the world to rights on why you should do an arts degree, there’s the all important question — what do you want to do after you graduate? The big goal is working for someone like HBO or Netflix, because I love film, but I think television now is taking the great aspects of film and making twenty-two episodes out of it. And I love that. Like, Breaking Bad just ended, right …Don’t tell us the end! I won’t. But the creators of that show knew it was going to be a very finite ending, and then you have really popular shows like Grey’s Anatomy that have been going for ten years, and it’s still a really good show, but they don’t know how to end. There’s something very lacking, in that respect. I’d love to work on stories that do have and end; I think they’re the most rewarding stories to tell — you have a long time to develop it, but it still ends like a movie would end.

You’re right —  recently TV has moved into a new realm, and it’s great to see big-name movie actors going for TV roles, like Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk. You’ve got this scope to investigate and explore all the nuances of the story, and open them up in a way you can’t in a film, but then you still have that narrative arc, that ending. Yes, like, House of Cards is awesome, but I’d hate to see it go past two seasons, because I think it’d be too much. And then there’s the whole money side of things — they want these successful shows to keep going so they keep just making more — but I hope to focus in the future on: what is the story? Make it great, end it when it needs to end, and call it a day. Why can’t something just last for 20 episodes — a great 20 episodes — and that’s it? The tension between art and commerce. It’s something that will always have to be negotiated. Maybe there’s an art to that negotiation. Exactly, yeah, in trying to figure out where you find that balance.

What’s your fondest memory of BC so far? What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned? I did look at some film schools, but what I liked about BC was that it had had this huge culture of learning about the world. And I think that’s so important — how are you supposed to go and make films about the world if you don’t know about the world? And that’s my mission, when getting an education, because I think you can teach yourself a lot of the technical stuff — you can figure out how to set up a camera, you don’t need school for that — and if you go to Emerson, for example, that’s what you learn. But you’re not going to get the worldly knowledge that’s going to help you write the next new screenplay or novel or whatever medium it is, and it’s very important to have a background to what you’re putting forth Couldn’t agree more… So, yeah, as far as experience here goes, being a small community of film majors, we’re able to help each other and learn form each other. There isn’t that competitive edge that I think exists in film schools, because they’re all trying to be the next Spielberg or something. We just like to make films, and, hey, if we end up Spielberg that’s great. It’s more about cultivating the self rather than trying to show off all our technical skills.

 Are you an arts faculty/staff member or student exec of a BC arts group? Sign up for the SACM mailing list to nominate a BC student! Email hannawas@bc.edu with “LIST” and your role/position in the subject header.