PMA Podcast Episode 50: The Wild Gather

In this episode, Leah Ingalls, a junior in PMA major, and Chris Christensen, IT Support, discuss PMA's upcoming multi-day event THE WILD GATHER: on the floor, off the screen and through the body. We split this episode into two recording sessions. In the first part, we met with Assistant Professor Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz and assistant professor of the practice, Danielle Russo. In the second half, you'll be hearing from our student dancer, Kirah Evile.

PMA Podcast · Episode 50 - The Wild Gather

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Chris Christensen  0:00 

Hello, I'm Christopher Christensen. Welcome to the 50th episode of the PMA podcast. I'd like to take a moment to thank the various hosts and co- hosts who I've had the pleasure to work with as part of this project. And they are Matt Morgan, Lindsey White, Gary Gabisan, and last but not least, our current student co host Leah Ingalls. We also have Associate Professor Austin Bunn to thank for his contribution on a number of episodes of his landing series. And, of course, our sincerest gratitude to all of the guests who have participated over the past seven years. In this episode, we discussed PMA's upcoming multi-day event THE WILD GATHER: on the floor, off the screen and through the body. We split this episode into two recording sessions. In the first part, we met with Assistant Professor Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz and assistant professor of the practice, Danielle Russo. In the second half, you'll be hearing from our stu dent dancer, Kirah Evile. Without further delay, let's get right into the show.

This is our 50th episode.

Danielle Russo  1:15 

Oh, it's perfect, because we're gonna be commemorating the 50th year anniversary of hip hop

Chris Christensen  1:19 

Oh, wonderful. Wow, what perfect timing. Yeah. Excellent. And it's your first podcast, right, Danielle?

Danielle Russo  1:25 

Yeah, it's just in general.

Chris Christensen  1:27 

Right. Yeah. Excellent. Yeah. First things 50 Things, leaves things. Wonderful lining.

Danielle Russo  1:33 

Congratulations. You're welcome.

Chris Christensen  1:35 

Have you done a podcast before Juan Manuel? Well,

Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz  1:38 

I've actually set up a podcasting booth when I was in media lead in the university. Really? Yeah. Oh, cool. This is a very wonderful environment that I'm very familiar with.

Chris Christensen  1:47 

Allright, I might have to reach out to you. We'll reach out to you when we need some guidance on some other things that we're trying to deal with. OR, or NOT what we'd love to talk. Alright. Yeah, the space is fantastic. Well, why don't we get right into it? Let's talk about THE WILD GATHER. We just get a little briefly like, tell us what's, what's THE WILD GATHER all about?

Danielle Russo  2:07 

Okay, well, THE WILD GATHER. It's a three day event series that is also a call to move, honor and celebrate the living lineages of hip hop dance and breaking. It's part of a Cornell year long mission for freedom, freedom of expression, but also interview of the 50th year anniversary of hip hop. And we are hosting a featured guest which we're very excited about the legendary Rokafella. And we're also collaborating with a number of organizations, both on campus, but also off of campus and with international reach and scope. Okay.

Leah Ingalls  2:50 

And I was wondering if you could share a bit about sort of the layout of the event, my understanding is that it's kind of like a multi day sort of set up for this event.

Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz  3:02 

Yeah, so one of our desires with this event was to honor the five pillars of hip hop, which includes DJing, it includes dancing, it includes graffiti, MCing and also knowledge transmission. And so we wanted to have an event that honored at least some element of those five pillars. So the first evening on Thursday includes a share back, a Share-in share-out event that features some of the dancing that's come out of our department, students in all of prints this class was another colleague as well. And then also Daniel's classes and then students from my class. And it also features the event on Friday, which is a Cypher, hosted by Rokafella herself. And also featuring DJ, local DJ, DJ ha-MEEN. That Cypher is really a gathering of people forming a circle encouraging each other. It's very improvisational in nature, which can be alarming for some students, because they're coming in like, Oh, what am I going to do on the spot, but we want to cultivate that level of improvisation and community. And then the Saturday also features two events, one which includes a screening of dance films with the sociation directed by Shawn Bible, or the dance on film Association, and it's drawing a collection of films that have the hip hop gene from the hip hop genealogy, and then we're gonna wrap up our evening on Saturday with the lesbian dance theory party.

Chris Christensen  4:39 

It sounds like a really packed full weekend. It

Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz  4:43 

sounds wild. Yeah. The wild gather.

Chris Christensen  4:49 

So in regards to the cipher, so there's also a call for this as a is a community participation. Yeah, absolutely. So what's that all about?

Danielle Russo  4:59 

Well, But overall, at the heart of it, we really want to genuinely gather community here both within the Cornell community we're doing a lot of intentional reach out and engagement with on campus student groups, there's a really fabulous and rich culture of student dance groups and crews here on campus. And we want to, we want to engage and dissipate any perceived gap between our department and the dance courses and program that we have here and their programming and and just gather and dance together and to celebrate one another and to, to learn from one another. And so, you know, the dance floor being a democratic space really just like honoring that and making space for each other and to and to hopefully to foster relationships between students and organizations to do more gathering in the future. I think it's also important to mention that we're working with the local Ithaca High School, okay, working with the students, creatives of color who are creating graffiti murals for the event, which is really fabulous and exciting. So also trying to bridge that gap between the university and the local public school system as well.

Chris Christensen  6:15 

Where are those graffiti murals being created?

Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz  6:18 

So they're currently being sketched out and produced at the Ithaca High School? Okay, Jesse Wright is the teacher facilitating and advising this group creatives of color, and he is helping them develop a series of iterations and various sort of graffiti style, and they are being painted, designed there at the high school and then will be transferred over to the PMA building, oh, considered early on doing full longer fees on the wall outside of the PMA. In the Esplanade, we realized, oh, maybe too cold or that. And then a message. And for tourists, the you know, a friend Jesse, I talked to about the problem is okay, I'm the facilitator of this student group, and would they be interested, that's like a great idea. And so they're gonna have these graffiti panels. And we're going to bring them and they're going to be sort of designed as a backdrop for the cipher that happens on Friday. And we'll place those alongside of the DJ, and transforming one of our flex theaters into hopefully it has a little bit different energy, you know, colorful. And we wanted to do that largely because it because of honoring the five pillars of hip hop, and the name, the wild gather also extends from graffitis to be known as the wildstyle. And so we've drawn on those lineages and and I think it really involves having all of these elements together. Because it honors those the convening not just the people, but have different styles of expression. And that's as important.

Chris Christensen  7:55 

All right, thank you.

Leah Ingalls  7:57 

Wow, there is a very wide, wide breadth of this event that's connecting a lot of people it sounds like I was just wondering from sort of the professor perspective of preparing preparing students for for this event, if you could share maybe a bit about about that process.

Danielle Russo  8:14 

Well, while Rockefeller is in residence here, she'll be here for a few days, that particular week, and in addition to the wild gather, she'll also be working with some within the curriculum, she'll be coming into my dance improvisation course, she's going to be coming into Juan Manuel's dance in America course. And just being able to share her breadth of knowledge which is, which is both practice. Being really, somebody highly influential in the shaping of hip hop past and present. She's also she is a professor of dance as well, and also resisting the history of a very sort of problematic canon of dance and dance history and critical theory and seeking to, to redefine what that means. And so her oral history, her embodied history, pushing against what has and has not been put on the written record, and what's also been shared and spoken and included in dance curriculum. And so having her presence here in and of itself, I think is going to be really critical to students understanding an opportunity to have a direct conversation with her. Also, this, you know, hip hop is currently being infused into the Olympics. And she has been very vocal about that conversation as well. And I think that's going to be quite interesting. And she's also a B-girl. So I think the conversation we even get into like critical gender studies, I think is really important. So she's her breadth of knowledge and information and her educational practice. I feel like it's very accessible to a number of students. And so I think I'm just very excited to have her here and being able to have that offering and invitation of students who may or may not be directly in practice with her Dance curriculum does still feel in close proximity to her. To her knowledge. Yeah.

Leah Ingalls  10:05 

That's great. That's great. It sounds like an incredible opportunity. I was wondering if maybe you could just touch a bit on what it means for her to be a B girl. For listeners who might not be familiar.

Danielle Russo  10:16 

Sure. And feel free to jump in as well. Yeah. Well, I, you know, hip hop it historically, I mean, it's not a gendered form. But I feel like it has taken on some gendered connotations over the years, depending on the era, and depending on also who is potentially given representation in mainstream media. And so, being kind of a student of hers and witness to her conversations, and symposia past, she's spoken about having to really advocate for her space and to advocate for a safe space and for respect, even still to date. And so I think for a lot of female presenting students, her representation is very critical and crucial to their practice and being able to see her and to see what she's doing to hear her and to hear her story is not only inspirational, but I think quite formative and in Yeah, a she I think being a scholar of dance in and of itself, is being able to be an educational space is very important. In her and she's described that and I didn't want to kind of speak for her, but she's explained how like even being in those spaces for students who perhaps weren't coming to school to major or minor in dance back kind of found their way into it because of her representation in that space is it's really important. Absolutely.

Chris Christensen  11:43 

You touched on it earlier, the choreographing justice series. Do you want to elaborate a little bit more?

Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz  11:48 

Yeah, one of our guiding visions for for this year was to offer a panorama of ways in which movement broadly defined can help us think about justice equity concerns, and knowing that folks can come to dance from a variety of different practices, different techniques. But we also know that these dances circulate in various economies, right economies of power, gendered economies, and we wanted to attend to those. So the choreographing series, choreographing justice Series offers a panorama of class visits by guest choreographers who have come to our classes like Ishmael Houston-Jones, Rosy Simas, we just recently had Yvonne Meier. And then it also features some of our sort of marquee choreographers like, like Rokafella, who was visiting. And it will culminate at the end of spring of 2024, in collaboration with the President's or freedom of expression programming. And we want to use choreography as a lens to help us think about how people move in space or how they're made to move, and how dance can be a form of meaning making, but also shaping how we understand things. I think, just personally, Danielle, and I, and as well as our colleague Olive, all of our wanting to also shift the conversation that we have within our department and on campus of having choreography as an analytical tool for assessing the power politics at play, rather than thinking, Oh, dance is only something that happens on stages. But how we assemble in classrooms, how we, how we set up in meetings, who shows up to the table, those are all very much sort of amenable to thinking choreographically. And that's one of the driving sort of visions for for both presenting the artists but also what they teach us about how choreography functions outside of the dance disciplines themselves.

Chris Christensen  13:47 

All right, thank you.

Leah Ingalls  13:50 

I think that you did a beautiful job of summarizing the vision and the inspiration behind this event. In this similar vein, I was wondering if there was anything you wanted to share on how it came to being or the conversations around when this event was sort of first imagined into into existence? Well, if

Danielle Russo  14:10 

I just joined the faculty, this past fall, and

Chris Christensen  14:13 

yes, and welcome aboard.

Danielle Russo  14:15 

Thank you. Thank you. I'm very, very excited to be here. And what was really exciting was we found out in preparation for this semester that we had this opportunity with, again, the the President's campaign for freedom of expression, to highlight and really invested in dance and dance and performance as being a part of the campus wide programming and questions around like, Well, what do we want to do with it and being entrusted with an opportunity to program a series that could not only engage in terms of stage works, but like inner disciplinary workshops and community engagement opportunities and to have an opportunity to do Again, invest in artists who we admire, and artists, activists who we admire to, to come to campus and to work directly with the students. So we jumped up a list of folks that we not only want to have here this year, but hopefully develop like relationships with. So there can be ongoing relationships. Exchanges are making social practice with the students. And so that's how it began. But then we also were thinking about not just potentially adding to the program for the year, but how could we reimagine potential frameworks that were already in place. And so, you know, programming is a choreography in and of itself. And so we were looking at the fact that there was already on the calendar, these reserved dates for, for the dancing performance faculty, and we're like, Well, what can we do with this in a way that not only continues to support the PMA dance students in the works that they're making, but expands upon it, and like multiple facets, which is why it kind of what has multiple events have sprung out of it, but why not? Invest and engage audiences in multiple different ways while they're here. And so we looked at those three days as a way to program like a day long, multi, multi discipline as well serious because we are a multi interdisciplinary departments. We were also thinking like movement, in terms of movement on screen and movement and film. How do we engage also, like other embodied practices? And so it's been very Yeah, it's been exciting. And so we yeah, we kind of started to try to dream it up and reached out to Rokafella and also asked her opinion on what she wanted, and what she would prefer and to kind of collaborate with her in a way that felt genuine and also uphold her core values in terms of how she would want to engage this conversation as well. And we also reached out to the Cornell Hip Hop collections here to to be a part and a collaborator on this event. It's a very unique collection that we have here on campus. So how can we also engage students who perhaps were not aware of the collection here, and then vice versa, that maybe they're aware of the collection, but they're not aware of what we're doing here at PMA. So we've just been trying to really choreograph a way to, to build community and awareness.

Chris Christensen  17:23 

There are so many moving pieces here. And when you were talking about the speaking of those various pieces, Juan Manuel, you had mentioned that dance showcases their screen and film and then I'm looking lesbian Dance Theater party, can we break those down a little bit and kind of talk a bit more about those. So

Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz  17:42 

the, the Student Showcase is itself an event that is being facilitated principally by our colleague, Olive Prince. And she is gathering student works that have generated from as some of the dance classes, or students who are in history, theatre criticism classes, who want to generate work and are being involved in bursts. So that one is about an hour long showcase in a concert, blackbox proscenium where you will have, you know, sir, what we now identify as conventional lighting, we have some looks, we have some lights, we have some risers, so that event features student generated work. So we're really excited about that we want to honor different genres, of expressions, and also just students voices to come together and share their work and, and do sort of honoring the awesome work that gets created in the classes, right, because there's a lot of wonderful content coming out of these classes. So that's that event. And then the, the Cypher, we've talked a little bit at length about that, that we just interested in that genre of improvisation, especially within hip hop, the visual form itself, and we think about hip hop as dance has changed drastically in our cultural and popular imaginary for how we imagined it now, and students often associated as a concert dance form of expression where everyone's faces the front that everyone does a lot of unison together, you have 2015 people all kind of looking the same wearing like hoodies wearing tennis shoes that like but that's very unlike hip hop in the 70s and 80s, where there was an emphasis on individuality, on thinking on the spot on embracing conflict. And so they, that Friday evening really tries to embrace that energy of coming people together honoring their voices. And the obviously there's a screening honoring those voices that gets transferred through film. The Lesbian dance theory party is actually an initiative that emerged in connection with a dance Studies Association. So I am a I'm on the board of directors for the Dance Studies Association. I have served in that capacity for the past year and a half. And in August of 2022 US Congress, woman and resisting President, Biden's student loan forgiveness, responded by saying, Well, I don't want my tax dollars going to quote, Karen's daughter's degree in lesbian dance theory and a quote and sort of summon both dance scholarship and lesbian theory as sort of antithesis right to what she thought was something that she didn't want to contribute to as a culture. And so in response to that the dance dancers Association organized a lab, a lesbian dance three party in Vancouver, because that's when the event happened. And we want to bring that so this is actually a coordinated effort with dozens of universities, across the camp across the country, really, who are using these dance programs and dance events to say like, how can dance be a site of engaging these politics that are very much scripted into and here we have a congresswoman looking at dance at the center of politics, like well, we can also engage that politics and using quite literally our bodies to speak the body politic. And we're gonna invite people to come and and talk and we're going to read some lesbian dance theorist or lesbian theorists works is part of this performance as a way to engage him literally, in response to this public, these public ideas of freedom of expression, and really bring that to the foreground.

Chris Christensen  17:42 

Where is everything production wise right now, like things are in motion right now in terms of rehearsals, all of that.

Danielle Russo  21:28 

the student works are in process. So we're going to be highlighting works that have been a projects that have been born out of courses, so those those are going to be fully cooked, or maybe not, because like also, not being fully cooked. It's quite interesting and important as well. But those will be student projects that will have been supported through curriculum. And so that is under underway. And all of our prints our colleague is she's helping really direct that particular portion, which is going to be Thursday night, and then a Saturday matinee. And then, with Rokafella coming in, for the Cypher in particular, Rokafella, I think it's important to mention she is going to perform a bit to kind of kick things off, which is a really unique and exciting opportunity. She's a remarkable performer. But the Cypher is improvisational. And so that is, we're going to honor that and to maintain that. We are trying right now in terms of production, I guess you could say it's the choreography of mobilizing word around it and awareness of it and trying to encourage students to sign up and so I just about 30 minutes ago was sending out some direct emails to students, student groups and crews and and also just making introductions to you say hello, like, you know, we want to include and highlight you here at PMA would you be interested in so hopefully, folks, you hear this podcast will also it's okay, if the deadline has passed, we still want you to join us and the site, you know, you can just survive the day of it's a really it's a place of, of inclusion and an open embrace. And so we're in that process of I think just trying to mobilize awareness and organize attendance. We are still in process, which I guess is the also very enjoyable process of screening and viewing a number of films that have been suggested by the dance films Association, they've given us permission to watch some films that we could screen here at Cornell. So we're, we're watching some really tremendous artworks, and then we're going to program an hour long series that will take place in the film forum. So I guess selfishly, we're in a fun moment of the production of being able to kind of immerse ourselves in a lot of just a lot of really interesting folks and a lot of interesting work. Sounds great. Yeah. Wow.

Leah Ingalls  23:52 

Wow. Yeah. You guys have done such a fabulous job of covering this. Is there anything that either of you have that you'd like to share that maybe we haven't touched on yet?

Danielle Russo  24:03 

Well, I think it's important to note that the wild gather is the collaboration not only between the Cornell department of Performing Arts and the dance and performance faculty and fall semester courses. They're also Rokafella, our featured guest, the Cornell Hip Hop collection, the dance films Association and Shawn Bible, the dance Studies Association, and Ithaca High School creatives of color. And we also want to thank and give gratitude for the Whaley-Aboaf fund, who is helping make this event possible for student groups who are interested in learning more about the Cypher and those events that they can reach out to either one of us. Also, if they decide last minute they wanted to, please still come please please be there with

Chris Christensen  24:49 

us and how do they reach out to you?

Danielle Russo  24:52 

My email address is D Russo. RUSSO? Very unoriginal. It's my last name, but I'm at All right, very simple, very, very obvious. Yeah. Or they could also just reach out to PMA. Or they can also reach out to Juan Manuel.

Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz  25:07 

My email is JMA377 at

Danielle Russo  25:13 

will happily connect you with all the information. I also want to plug that Rokafella made a request to engage privately with student groups. She's really interested in having conversations with on campus crews about their practice. And so we're going to have a preliminary event on Saturday, Friday, Friday, December first, from five to six here at PMA, where she's going to have a private session with them. And then we're going to have dinner afterwards, like a pizza dinner. So folks who want to come to that session, they can stay here and have dinner and socialize and interact and then we'll kick things off with the Cypher. And then we're gonna have a q&a, moderated by minorities of the Cornell Hip Hop collection for the second hour of the evening. So you can come and spend the whole night and be be fed it always.

Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz  26:07 

whole weekend. Really, really? Yeah, setup costs. Right. Yeah. I mean, yeah, it's a wild party. So we might as well just be prepared.

Chris Christensen  26:16 

Make it just like the big snowstorm and 93 here when people couldn't get off campus, and they all had to sleep on cots and Barton Hall. Oh, wow. Yeah.

Leah Ingalls  26:23 

I wasn't here, then. Better entertainment than that. Yes,

Chris Christensen  26:26 

it sounds much more entertaining. I did have one more question. I'm just thinking about what the student experiences in all of this. What are you hearing back from students who are involved? Are you getting any sort of reflection experiences that they're having right now?

Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz  26:40 

You know, there's this transitioning happening in a lot of dance programs, not just in PMA, but across the country, where a lot of dance form have been historically, and, and presently sort of demeaned as unproductive of knowledge. And they're sort of reckoning and be like, No, we have these Africanist aesthetics, like hip hop, that actually are very integral to not only just our entertainment industries, but how we do life. And one of the things that we're trying to do that is just honor some of those forms of knowledge production and bodily autonomy, you know, and community formation through activities of gathering and dancing and eating and watching together. And I've had the privilege of teaching this class dance in America for a couple of years now. And getting students from the dance groups on campus who are very active, I mean, I think those students spend more time in the rehearsal studio than probably in some of their classes, right? And they're devoted to their craft. And one of my desires has been for many years, like how can we create a space in PMA, that honors that if they want to be a part of it, if they want autonomy, like don't get close to our dance spaces, please give us we respect that, but to also know that they can see themselves here that the way that they move is accepted in this space. And so far, in talking about the wild gather, I see some excitement with some students in preparation for the promotional video, we took the class dance in America, that's principally history theory in course and criticism course. But students get a chance to try different forms in preparation for the promotion. We went into one of the dance studios, and we really had this impromptus cipher, we hadn't had that opportunity. And our wonderful videographer Youngsun Palmer was there and was recording the students were just getting wild. And a student was like, Oh, I can't play this music. There are 20 explicit words here. As a no play it. This is a classroom environment like No, no, this is what we're interested in. And we all laughed, honestly. And it was related to, of course, to the course content, talking about respectability, politics, how certain bands forms are accepted as appropriate for expressing yourselves for a certain forms or not. So it was perfect for the content. But we actually got to do it in the studio. And in the moment, the students like, oh, we can't use these words that we dance to, because you're gonna think something poorly about a second, and I'm like, let's hear the explicit words. This is a part of the engagement. So we had a good time. And I hope that they continue to see that this is this place that we can think critically, dance critically and have fun, critically.

Chris Christensen  29:21 

Okay. Thank you. I really appreciate that. Leah, anything left? Are we out of questions?

Leah Ingalls  29:27 

I think they've done a beautiful job articulating everything.

Chris Christensen  29:30 

There's nothing more than we could ask. Well,

Leah Ingalls  29:34 

there's something that Chris usually takes, but I'll ask it this time. So what are you guys hoping that the audience will walk away from this event thinking about in their mind or feeling in their mind?

Danielle Russo  29:50 

To tag off of what Juan Manuel just mentioned that they will reconsider what they expect to see here at PMA and what A stage Dance stage can be and what it looks like and how they engage with that, and, and also, to continue to come to see what we're up to here or to enroll in our courses. Or just to, you know, maybe just join our mailing list and see what we have going on. Because there's so many events happening here, across all disciplines. And so many when I first moved here I was I was told about the intentional location of PMA and in terms of our proximity to campus, and also to Ithaca and that we're on, really kind of that the entrance to Cornell, and also the kind of the exit of, you know, of campus, etc, like, and in the entrance into town, and I and I think just how we can embody that in our programming, and also in our audience engagement, that we are both here to serve not only their Cornell community, but also the community of Ithaca. And that all dance forms are all performance forms, have, are have embraced and have representation here. And that's partly our responsibility. But also, we're here to also hear and listen and interact and engage with the community and their needs and their desires and their, their ongoing practices that have been here for many years as well. And so, yeah, audience engagement, community engagement, student engagement. And also, you know, as Juan Manuel mentioned, that there is a reckoning happening overall, with dance curriculum, and hopefully that same reckoning of undoing a lot of years of problematic canon can also kind of maybe undo the biases that we bring into these concert spaces, whether for dance or for music, or for theater, even for film, so.

Leah Ingalls  31:56 

All right, beautiful.

Chris Christensen  31:57 

Yeah. Thank you so much. Thank you to both of you for being here.

Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz  32:01 

It was a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

Chris Christensen  32:04 

Looking forward to THE WILD GATHER.

Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz  32:05 

I look forward to the second episode when you bring the dance faculty and performance faculty back.

Chris Christensen  32:10 

Yeah, let's do that. Let's do it. Yeah. Part two. And now we move into the second half of this episode, where Leah and I meet with PMA dance student Kirah Evile. So welcome to the podcast.

Kirah Evile  32:24 

Thank you so much. I'm so glad to be here. Yeah, we're

Chris Christensen  32:27 

happy to have you here. And I think I'm correct in saying this is actually going to be the 50 of the podcast of the PMA podcast.

Leah Ingalls  32:35 

Oh my goodness. I

Chris Christensen  32:36 

think I don't know how we're gonna celebrate but something. Yes, definitely

Leah Ingalls  32:39 

you celebrate Happy anniversary.

Chris Christensen  32:42 

Yeah, well throw glitter everywhere.

Leah Ingalls  32:43 

My name is Leah, and I'm here with with Chris. And with Kirah today. Yeah. And we are going to be talking about THE WILD GATHER. So So Kirah, yeah. First question for you. How did you come to be a part of this? Yes.

Kirah Evile  33:01 

So I am currently taking an elective. It's called dance in America with professor Muñoz. So THE WILD GATHER is actually my final exam. So we actually had three options. It was one you either do a podcast and an essay. You either choreograph your own dance and perform or you do the wild gather and participate in the Cypher, and just freestyle, so I was like a dancer. I love freestyling. So I thought that the cipher was right up my alley. Like this is a great final. So that is how I became here and wild gather.

Chris Christensen  33:35 

Wow. So for those who don't know what a cipher is, who are listening, what's a cypher a cypher,

Kirah Evile  33:39 

it's basically like a dance battle. Or it's like a group of people that are typically in like a circle. And, you know, the DJ, he puts on a song. And then people, they can just go inside the middle. And they can either freestyle they can interpret, however, they feel like the song plays or whatever beats they hit. They're basically just freestyling. And that can also be a battle aspect. So if one person is in the middle, another person can just jump right in and start battling them. So it's basically just like a fun little dance freestyle. Mixture of like, I really don't know, it's, it's a really interesting thing. But it's basically a circle of people just freestyling

Chris Christensen  34:20 

Have you done a cypher before?

Kirah Evile  34:22 

I have not done a cypher before, but I actually, I've done a battle before over the dance battle. It wasn't like, where people were circling me. And like where you would just like, pop in whenever you want. It was more so like, we had numbers. And then you just go on when like your name is called.

Chris Christensen  34:39 

Do you get to do like rehearsal cypher beforehand, to kind of get a sense of what it's like, no, no, no. So it's gonna be all fresh. Yes,

Kirah Evile 34:47 

it is all fresh. Yeah, they were telling us that cypher. It's meant to be like freestyle. So like, you can definitely practice your freestyle like, turn on a random song and start just like freestyling to see like What moves you want to bring, but during the cypher, the song that they play, it will be completely randomized, so you can't really like prep for it, you can just prep, I guess, like your go to dance moves whenever you hear these types of songs. But as far as like, the cypher, it's whatever comes to mind right on the spot. And that for me is like really exciting since I'm a freestyler. And I really love just like, like God, play whatever song, and I'll just do whatever comes to mind. So I feel like it's a really fun thing. Okay, that's really

Leah Ingalls  35:28 

cool. Yeah, that's a really unique challenge. So we were chatting a bit before this, if you could just share a bit about the sort of dance things that you're involved with on campus because I think that gives a little bit of a background. Yeah,

Kirah Evile  35:40 

gotcha. So I am on the break free dance team here at Cornell. So I guess like a little background about like my dance experience. So I actually have no like formal training. Due to like my family's like financial situation. I wasn't able to like go to a studio and take classes, but I've always loved to dance ever since I was little. And I would just you know, freestyle dude like Tik Tok, or like, even dance like traditional dances like hula and Tahitian because I'm from Hawaii. So those are like Polynesian dancers. But I never really got to show like my hip hop or my freestyle dancing until I came to Cornell. Actually, the first time I danced in front of people was at the break free audition. Really? Yes. This semester. Yeah. Oh, actually, I audition freshman fall. Okay. So the audition process itself is also like, very intimidating, because, you know, there's people from Korea from New York from LA, and they're all like studio kids, they've all done dancing for, like, 1015 years. And here I am, like, I've never even danced in front of like my family before. So what was great about the audition process is that we learned like a routine, and that at the end of it, you are able to freestyle. So I think that is what really helped me get on the team. Because like, I've never actually had like formal training. So like picking up choreography, and like learning a dance and like 30 minutes was like, Really, like stressful. But I think I really got to showcase my, my moves and my, like, creative thinking during the freestyling process, because break free in general, like they are a very intense team, only maybe about like five to six people get on the team and have like 100 people at audition. Yeah, so it is very, like competitive. So I was like, very scared. I was like, I might as well just try it. Like I love dancing. We'll just see what happens. And then I got on the team. And I was like, Oh my gosh, so yeah, so that's why like now I'm really starting my dance journey through break free, like my choreo tension is getting better. I actually choreograph my own piece at our showcase last year. So it's it's really been a great experience on that is how I'm involved in dance here on campus.

Leah Ingalls  37:58 

Wow, that's really cool.

Chris Christensen  38:00 

What did you start dancing with? Like, we're like, Where was the beginning of it?

Kirah Evile  38:04 

Beginning I'm literally just me because like, my family, like, there isn't much dancers. And even in Hawaii, dancing isn't as popular or we don't have like that much competitive studios where we can like travel and all that. So that's why like we mainly focused on like sports and academics. But I don't know why I just feel like ever since I could walk. Like I always just love dancing. And like my parents would be like, Yeah, you're just always dancing on a why? Well, yeah, so I guess like, growing up, like, anytime that there would be like music on I would just love to dance and like I would make like I guess little skits with me and my cousins and my sister. But then I guess I feel like it's kind of like a natural thing because I never like actually took lessons or classes. It was kind of just I just I go into a different trance whenever I hear the music. And I guess what validated that, I guess I am kind of good at dancing is like when I actually gone to break free and I was like, Oh, wow, like, now this is a chance to do like real dancing, not just like tick tock dancing or like doing like skits, like being on break free was where I really got to, like do real dancing, learn choreography, collaborate with other dancers. So I feel like that is where now I'm like starting to grow as a dancer but before it was kind of just for like fun as a hobby. Like it was never really considered like a career choice for me or is more so seen as like a hobby. But I really do love dancing and like when I was I made just minor in it because I love PMA as well. Yeah, wonderful.

Leah Ingalls  39:44 

So do you feel like being that it just sort of comes naturally to you and you have that experience being self taught? Do you feel like that actually gives you sort of like a leg up in a sense in terms of being prepared for a freestyle event? Like like THE WILD GATHER?

Kirah Evile  39:58 

Yeah, yeah, definitely. I think yeah, yeah, the short, the short answer is yes. As far as like break free, like there's two types of dancers on our teams, there are the people who are like, purely freestylers. Like, you can turn on any song, and they can do that. So I feel like I go into that category. I can also do like choreograph pieces as well. But I think the people who are able to just naturally freestyle, that is kind of a hard thing to because yeah, like, like on our team, sometimes, like we freestyle, just for fun, but only, like four of us are like, pure freestylers. Most people like to just learn choreo. And that's it. So everything. So I feel like if you are like a natural freestyler it's definitely helpful in a setting where you're in a Cypher, and where you don't know what next song is coming, and you don't know who you're going to battle and you don't know what style of dance, they're gonna play. They may play like a rap song, they may play Taylor Swift one time they play to Swift. I'm like, This is not hip hop. But I guess I'll just freestyle. But But yeah, I think I think it's really helpful to be able to think so quick on your feet, and to just match whatever style or whatever song that they're giving you.

Leah Ingalls  41:09 

Absolutely. Yeah.

Chris Christensen  41:11 

I'm really interested. So you mentioned that when you're doing the freestyling, you said something about that sort of a trance feel? What do you think that is? Like? What is the difference between between someone who is more adept at that it's something that's been choreographed and that certain something that allows you to become detached from that? Yeah,

Kirah Evile  41:30 

I think there is a very strong distinction between choreography and freestyling. So like, within choreography, of course, like someone else is telling you like how to move your body, what moves you should do like formation. So I guess creativity wise, as the person being taught, you know, you don't have that much creative freedom, because it's like, they're teaching you exactly what to do, right. But I feel like for freestyling, that, it's like someone is telling you how to interpret the music, but for freestyling, you get to determine how to interpret the song. So I feel like for me, whenever I hear a song, I can like, just go into a trance, and like, just hear the beats, hear the little ticks here. Maybe think of like, what lyric they're gonna say next, and try to like, show that in my moves. So I feel like creativity really pulls through, and freestyling because there is no one telling you what to do. There is no one telling you what style the song is supposed to be. So I feel like freestyling is a very unique experience. And I feel whoever like does it, they do get to be in their own little trends. And they do get to showcase whatever they want. They get to be creative, they get to show who they are and how they interpret the song. And I feel like that is really special about freestyling.

Chris Christensen  42:48 

Is there a moment that you recognize is the moment in your life where you said, Yes, this is the thing that I can do, like does it? Does it jump out at you at all, something that's registered in your in your mental history?

Kirah Evile  42:59 

I guess like the thing that comes to mind was during the break free auditions. After we did a piece during the freestyling portion, you know, some people just like walk off. But for me, I just get once again, I would go went into a trance. And I just felt like fired up. And I was like, You know what, like, this is my chance to show them who I am. Show them what my style is. Because before I just did choreography that someone else taught me, but this is not my chance to show them how I interpret the song that they just choreographed to show them my skill show them like my little cool moves that I can do. So I feel like during that audition, that is when my freestyling really got to shine through. And it's cute because they gave us like a little poster after of like comments and a lot of people said that they loved my freestyle. They thought it was really refreshing and it brought something new to the team and like not to hype myself up, but like the way I was like really smooth and they're like, oh, like, like your freestyle was so sick and like, that was just like a really nice moment for me because I was never really like validated as like a real dancer. I was never really considered I didn't really consider myself a dancer since like, I wasn't like a part of a studio or I wasn't like competing. But like hearing like, like some people I'm breakthrough are amazing. Like they go to studios are from Korea, they do national competition. So like, just to hear them, like say that and like validate that, like that really meant a lot to me. And it really helped me grow stronger as a freestyler. And now as like a dancer who can learn choreography because I was definitely new for me as well. Yeah,

Chris Christensen  44:33 

very nice.

Leah Ingalls  44:35 

Yeah, yeah. That's incredible. So just going back a little bit, you mentioned that THE WILD GATHER is a form of final project for you guys. So in terms of preparing for THE WILD GATHER, is that something that takes place in class or is that just like

Kirah Evile  44:52 

that is outside of class. So yeah, so our class like we still follow like our normal schedule of going More like readings and doing discussions. But as far as like this final project, even for like the podcast and the essay people, they work on it outside of class or choreography group their work on the outside. And for us cypher people, since it is freestyling you can't really like prep, but me and my friend were both in break free. So we have been doing like freestyle runs, where we just have a playlist, you click shuffle, and then whatever song pops up, like, hey, go, go go. Dan's like, do whatever you want. Yeah, so then you really get to see like, Ooh, I feel like that move. That doesn't really look good. Or you're like, oh, when those types of songs come on, I feel like we should be more stronger and hit more beat something like that. So we've been preparing by doing freestyle runs, before practice or on our free time. Yeah,

Leah Ingalls  45:45 


Chris Christensen  45:48 

I'm curious, favorite, favorite style of music,

Kirah Evile  45:50 

favorite song,

Chris Christensen  45:51 

maybe dance to dance to or to listen to?

Kirah Evile  45:53 

Oh, well listen to I do love r&b music. Artists like ceza love her. As far as dancing, I feel like maybe rap. I feel like or like, just in general, like hip hop music. I feel like because the instrumentals in the background, those beats really hit as a freestyler. I love to hit beats and hit those textures. So I feel like those types of songs like hip hop songs, they definitely have that. And, you know, even like the lyrics, they can get you hyped up and they can get you like fired up. So I do enjoy like freestyling to those kinds of songs, but also even like, how is it maybe like, like r&b songs that are also very, like wavy, and flowy. And like calm, like, I also do love those types of songs because I do have a side of me to where I'm not hitting every single beat and everything is so sharp. I do have a side where I love to be smooth and do waves and like, be like that. So I feel like there's two different sides. There's like the hip hop side, and then the calm r&b side. Okay, I would say nice.

Leah Ingalls  46:59 

I love the way that you describe the music. Oh, it's awesome. Is this your first dance class? So you've taken here?

Kirah Evile  47:08 

Yes, actually, yes, this is yeah, I think I mean, last semester, I took a first year writing seminar. And it was race, gender and hip hop. But it wasn't much about dance. It was just about like hip hop and how it relates to like society and all that type of stuff. But this class dance in America, it's really great because we read articles that are specifically about dance. And we get to learn about like ballet, hip hop, salsa, like all forms of dance and how it is perceived in America and how like us as young adults perceive it as well. So I truly love this class. This is like my favorite class, every single every single day. And like, oh, I can't wait to go to this dance class, because it's what I love. Sounds awesome.

Leah Ingalls  47:54 

That's awesome.

Chris Christensen  47:56 

As  you're preparing for the performance, which is when is it?

Kirah Evile  48:00 

I think December 1. Okay,

Chris Christensen  48:02 

so we've, we've had some time to prepare. The one question we ask is, what do you hope the audience will take away from their experience in the

Kirah Evile  48:12 

wild gather? Yes, I feel like the people that are participating in it, I feel that they can really express, like their creativity, especially during the Cypher, because as I was saying before, like, they interpret the music however they want, they're able to hit whatever beat they want, they can do whatever style they want. So I'm really excited for students to be able to express themselves so freely, and just do whatever dance style they want, and just truly have fun. But I also think it's great because we get to celebrate the 50th year of hip hop, and that it's so special. And Hip hop has really changed our lives. It's really helped a lot of lives. So I feel that it's really great that we have that type of event here at Cornell, and that people like DJs dancers, they're all able to express themselves at THE WILD GATHER. And I'm also really excited to see the B-girl Rokafella and also do like artists talk with Ben Ortiz, here. He is He works in like the archives and he's taught our class multiple times. And I just love hearing him talk about hip hop. He's so talented, and so well versed about hip hop, and it just really inspires me to hear these people, especially at Cornell, like we're talking about hip hop, like, you know, we're an Ivy League people talking about like science, math, but it's like, it's so great that we have such a strong like performing and media arts community here, and hip hop community and dance community. So I really value how we value the Arts here at this school. So I really hope that people can be able to express themselves and learn more from our guest speakers during THE WILD GATHER.

Leah Ingalls  49:51 

Absolutely. Yeah. Have you got anything else Correct?

Chris Christensen  49:56 

Is there anything we didn't ask you that you want? We've talked about today.

Kirah Evile  50:00 

I actually think I covered everything that yeah, you guys did actually cover everything.

Okay, beautiful. Well,

Chris Christensen  50:09 

thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Kirah Evile  50:11 

Thank you guys for having me. Great experience, absolute treat. Thank you


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