Spring semesters feel pregnant, somehow. Seniors are on their steady march back toward the Van Wickle Gates, toward the finish line, toward the verge of what they have longed for. A lot is in motion during this time. This semester, I went to as many dance and music performances as I could, having been deprived of them for more than a year due to the pandemic. But I was not prepared for the full beauty of these events. The fall and winter performances felt young, with a sense of unhurried ease that came from knowing that there would be a second act. But the spring performances carried the sound of a great departure, like the colossal reverberations of an ice shelf about to crack. Before the end of the semester and the graduation of our seniors, we should recognize how the dedication and perseverance of the creative performers on campus have symbolized and enriched our resiliency as a community.
Our four classes make for a strange student body. Seniors had one COVID-free year and have stored any institutional knowledge we have about galas, spring weekend and senior week. Juniors experienced not even semester and a half of college before being sent home. Sophomores are burnt out after packing four semesters of classes into slightly over a year. And first-years entered Brown when our community was still stuck with a number of COVID restrictions. Now, as we try to recover from the pandemic, juniors and seniors have been anxiously yet determinedly trying to make something special out of what time we have left at Brown. In the heat of this storm, the performances put on this semester reclaim the communal artistry that was lost during the pandemic, transforming a campus in drought to one that is flourishing once again.
From Attitude Dance Company’s “Celestial Bodies” and Mezcla Latin Dance Company’s “Revival” to Gendo Taiko’s “Resonance” and Aerial and Acrobatics’ “Asteria,” the stories told by these shows have vibrated with the jubilation of artists being able to perform together again in front of real audiences. But as much love as there was in each of the performances, there was also emotional reckoning with the end of an era that no other undergraduate body at Brown will be able to understand.
What performance groups are bringing to stages this semester has been an exertion deserving of the utmost respect. The love, strength, beauty and effort that they have compressed into these performances is not easily grasped. Each performance breathed with the campus: stages, like lungs, filling with air and life. “Celestial Bodies” never saw a period longer than two minutes without an explosion of thunderous applause. Gendo Taiko sent waves of energy through the RISD Auditorium and took the audience’s breath away. The video they played halfway through the show, a dedication to care and friendship in the group, was heartwarming. Meanwhile, Aerial and Acrobatics bathed in fearless glory, taking us on a journey through companionship that transcended time and place. And Mezcla’s “Revival” shook Alumni Hall. There were standing ovations at each of them.
Imagine the hours of clapping that have echoed and rippled across our campus in majestic rituals of admiring, appreciating and loving each other. However, when contrasting the months of preparation with the few hours of visible performance, the energy from these audiences would need to be greatly multiplied to even come close to matching the extent to which the performers are pouring their hearts out. So many of them have moved their audiences beyond words and will be remembered as having made space for community at a time when being a college student felt especially overwhelming.
Since we have returned to campus, there has been a desperate sense of trying to rebuild. The seniors who performed in their final shows at Brown endured a four-year saga of adapting to changing circumstances, leading their peers through tumultuous times while figuring out how to survive themselves. To be at the spring performances was to witness the performance groups express their overflowing appreciation for their seniors. From flowers to speeches to entire videos dedicated to celebrating their mentors, the depth of gratitude from younger students was stunning. I have heard the sentence “I love you, seniors!” more in the past few months than I believe I have ever heard anyone on stage say “I love you.” The expressions of genuine appreciation at the spring performances spoke volumes, and we should recognize the team leadership, crisis management, character and dedication displayed by this incredibly diverse class of performers.
This semester has seen an on-stage showering of tenderness that has cathartically given audiences the space to process the chaos that has marked much of our time at Brown. While these performance groups have been entertainers, they have also been chicken soup for many souls. Their upperclassmen, in particular, have been relentless and resilient role models. The Brown community owes a thank you to all the artists in our midst who have modeled a vision of what our community can be while enduring such difficult circumstances.
Amienne Spencer-Blume ’23 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send responses to this opinion to email@example.com and op-eds to firstname.lastname@example.org.