Student debuts theater-dance piece “American Aromanticism”

Written By Nardos Haile

An atypical creative theater-dance piece, “American Aromanticism,” entranced the GRW Theater on Feb. 17.

Unlike other dance pieces, the Big Think: Art 4 Impact’s “American Aromanticism” incorporates dance and theater in a way that pushed the audience past their comfort zones. Ubannwa wanted his work to make people comfortable with their identities as minorities.

“American Aromanticism” is about celebrating the differences in people and taking the American stereotypes and allowing people to find comfort in those stereotypes and being okay with being different,” Ubannwa said.

Accompanied by a total of ten performers, six dancers and four actors , the piece opened with vibrant dancing to the loud thumping and thrilling beats of “DNA” by Kendrick Lamar.

Each actor had equal time to deliver spoken word-like monologues about various topics like masculinity, micro-aggressive racism and mispronunciations of ethnic names.

On the other hand, the dancers performed after the actors gave their monologues. The dance portions of the performance were visually enticing and well-choreographed. The dancers’ passion and pain were as evident as the jarringly heartbreaking monologues the actors delivered.

This wasn’t Ubannwa’s first time directing a show at Point Park. In fact, it was his fourth; however, this time around his process changed.

“It was a good [process] but also rough. I had to find the nuances within the show. It’s a theater dance piece. It is complex to put theater and dance together, in the way I did it at least. It was a challenge to find that balance, but I figured it out,” Ubannwa said.

Marissa Rossi, one of the dancers and a senior dance major, stated Ubannwa had a firm vision for the piece.

“It’s really interesting coming from someone who has both theater and dance background to see [Ubannwa’s] process, it’s like a mixture of both,” Rossi said. “It’s different from the traditional dance pieces that I’ve been in.”

The piece’s success was partly due to Ubannwa’s Assistant Director, Catie Newell, a freshman theater performance and practices major. With Newell’s help, Ubannwa constructed “American Aromanticism” from the ground up.

“We bounced off of each other. We clarified a lot of confusion we might have both had about certain pieces. We made it flow ultimately, with both of our ideas,” Newell said.

Ubannwa agreed with Newell and described how they made everything work.

“This one is different because we did everything from scratch. Plus, it’s through the new club. I started the Big Think: Art 4 Impact,” Ubannwa said. “We only do art that creates awareness or money for things that are important in the community.”

Newell wanted the audience to leave with a deeper understanding and sense of one’s self. It’s not always easy to live in discomfort, but it’s worth the try if the reward is bigger than the risk.

“We live in our comfort zone because it’s comfortable, but ultimately to be the happiest with ourselves and how we identify, is pushing ourselves outside of the comfort zone and making that realization and enlightenment,” Newell said.

To Ubannwa, “American Aromanticism” became his voice for the bigger discussion of representation in the arts, nationally and locally on campus.

“The sole reason I created the piece is because being at Point Park can be complicated as a minority student,” Ubannwa said. “There can be a lack of opportunities and lack of representation throughout the arts here, and I wanted to tell a story that touched on that and added to the conversation we are having at Point Park now especially after ‘Adding Machine.’”

Overall, Ubannwa’s “American Aromanticism” illuminated important struggles and hardships minority students endure. But most of all, life is not always about the struggle and difficulties.

“I hope people get the understanding that it’s okay to be different and sometimes it just is what it is. We have to fight to make change, sometimes it’s not going to change in that moment. It’s okay, everything is going to be okay. We’re still breathing ,” Ubannwa said.